JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s Natchez State Park has a new name.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill renaming the park in recognition of former state Sen. Robert Dearing of Natchez, who died July 30 at the age of 85. The park is now the Bob M. Dearing Natchez State Park.
Dearing’s daughter, Daye Dearing, said she and her family were both surprised and humbled when they heard the park would be renamed for her father, The Natchez Democrat reported.
She said her father served on the State Park Committee and was instrumental in establishing Natchez State Park, thinking it would be a great addition to the area.
“At one time, he hoped to establish a golf course there,” she recalled. “He was really happy when the state park was built. He would be just tickled to know that the state legislature has done this for him. It’s a big honor for us as his family that they did. He hoped that it would happen, not thinking that it would.”
Dearing served 36 years in the state Legislature, first being elected in 1979 as a Democrat and serving for eight terms until he was defeated in 2011 by Sen. Melanie Sojourner, a Natchez Republican. Four years later, Dearing defeated Sojourner to recapture the seat. Sojourner subsequently reclaimed the seat in 2019 after Dearing’s retirement.
“While I often disagreed with his policies, Sen. Dearing was a wonderful man who was loved by all he met. He loved Natchez dearly and his name will now forever be remembered and connected with the state park he helped make possible,” said Sojourner, who supported the change.
State Rep. Robert Johnson III, a Democrat from Natchez, backed passage of the bill, too. He said renaming the park after Dearing was an appropriate way to memorialize Dearing’s contributions to the city.
“He was instrumental in making sure the state park became a reality,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there was anyone more singularly involved in that project. After it was created, he continued to fight hard for it whenever improvements were needed. He continued to fight to make sure the Natchez State Park was never left out. Natchez lost a great leader and a great man and I’m glad we can remember him in this way.”