Photograph by Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr. · www.southernfocus.com
A Sportsman’s Sportsman
From the Spring 2009 issue
It’s an indisputable fact. There is no limit on the number of outdoor enthusiasts in the state of Mississippi. And thanks to the efforts of Charles Ray Nix, a higher hunting standard has been set for the sake of posterity. He has been called a “Sportsman’s Sportsman” and is credited for much of the professionalism now practiced by Mississippians and the modern day Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Because of his sixteen years of diligent service in the Mississippi Senate, nearly 4,000 acres of prime hunting property in Panola County have recently been named the Charles Ray Nix Wildlife Management Area in his honor by the commissioners of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Nix, a retired state senator, represented Panola, Yalobusha, Quitman and Tate counties in the Mississippi Senate from 1972 to 1988. During his tenure he served on numerous committees and was appointed Chairman of the Investigate State Offices Committee and Vice Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, of which he became Chairman in 1976. In his 1980 and 1984 terms, he served as Chairman of the Conservation Committee, which is now the Senate Committee for Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. It was during this service that he had a major impact on wildlife and conservation management in Mississippi. Nix was instrumental in passing important legislation such as placing a moratorium on landfills, authorizing paraplegics to hunt with crossbows, requiring hunter education courses as a prerequisite for a hunting license, authorizing designation on income tax forms for the Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, improving groundwater quality standards, and prohibiting hunting from public roads.
Also a noted family man, Nix met his wife, Pat, in Hawaii while serving in the Marine Corps. They have been married for 57 years and are the parents of three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He served at Pearl Harbor for three and one half years during the Korean War. Upon his return from military service, Nix farmed 17 years in the Curtis Station area near Batesville before being elected to the Mississippi Senate in 1972.
Friends and acquaintances tout Nix as not just a political force, but also as someone who has a heart for the sport of hunting in Mississippi. “I had the honor of serving in the Mississippi Senate with Senator Nix, and he has been my close friend for thirty years. Charles Ray Nix has been a true public servant and a friend to all. He always placed the citizens he represented first,” according to colleague Charles Pittman, a current and long-time Staff Member to Governor Haley Barbour. “He’s one of the best folks ever elected to public office, and sportsmen never had a better advocate for wildlife conservation and management. It did not matter to Charles Ray if you were the local bank president or a day laborer, if you lived in his beloved Panola County or in another county of his Senate district, he was available to you as your State Senator.” He continues, “Personally, I have never known a better husband, father, grandfather or friend than Charles Ray Nix. I have always valued his friendship and sought his advice. He has always been my true friend, through good and difficult times.”
“I had the privilege of serving in the State Senate with Charles Ray Nix for eight years. He hosted me on several good duck hunts, and he is a good friend. He is an outstanding conservationist and hunter and served Mississippi well during his long tenure in the State Senate,” says Charles W. Pickering, Sr., retired U.S. District Judge and father of former Congressman Chip Pickering. “As Chairman of the State Game and Fish Committee, Charles Ray made invaluable contributions that benefit all Mississippians who love to hunt and/or just play outdoors.”
“We’ve got a $1 ½ billion wildlife industry here in Mississippi,” comments Al Tuck, Deputy Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “We are the largest employer in the state, and it took people of vision to build this industry to what it is today. Charles Ray Nix was one of those people. He has always been a staunch supporter of improving the wildlife industry in Mississippi. When a bill was presented in the legislature, his first consideration was how it would affect the sportsman of Mississippi.” He adds, “Charles Ray was instrumental in also passing legislation that requires our conservation officers to receive law enforcement training, thus raising the standards of qualification. Mississippi standards are the envy of many states because of our qualified staff, thanks to Charles Ray.”
His son, Charles Ray “Chuck” Nix, Jr. comments, “Although my dad has spent a lifetime as an avid hunter of deer, turkey and quail, he is first and foremost a longtime, passionate duck hunter. There’s definitely an art to duck hunting, which he passed on to me and my brother Malcolm. His closest and most trusted duck hunting partner is Malcolm, whom he taught to call, set up, put out decoys and successfully shoot the limit of ducks from his teenage years up until now. He took us on our first duck, squirrel, dove and deer hunts. The ‘chief’ (as we called him behind his back) always made sure Malcolm, Bobby (son-in-law) and I were ready and well-equipped at the beginning of each season.” He adds, “He instilled in us a tradition of hunting that has now been carried down both my daughters, Olivia and Charley Ann and his grandson Christopher.”
As Chairman of the Conservation Committee, Nix had the opportunity to impact firsthand the hunting industry. The humble former senator comments, “Hunting has always been an extremely important part of my life, as it has to many Mississippians. When I was in the Senate, I tried to give each piece of legislation a good, common sense approach to improve standards of hunting in our state. The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks does an excellent job maintaining and improving the quality of hunting in Mississippi,” he adds. “It is a huge industry for us, but our main focus has always been the future of hunting in Mississippi. We must preserve our standards for future generations.”
In addition to providing sportsmen an area to experience the finest in hunting opportunities, including youth hunts and handicapped hunts, the Charles Ray Nix Wildlife Management Area has been also designated as a habitat for quail restoration. Outdoorsmen from Mississippi and beyond continue to flock to the thirty-eight Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state to enjoy a Mississippi trademark—a wide range of hunting on scenic land abundant in wildlife.