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“In interim, I plan to attack life with the gusto of a hound dog every day.” -Steve Holland

Nine-term Democratic Rep. Steve Holland, 61, said he’d finish out his final term in the Mississippi State Legislature despite a dementia diagnosis.

The Plantersville-based representative, known for his blunt, colorful oratory, announced the diagnosis on the floor of the Mississippi State House Friday morning, saying he would not run again in 2019.

“It has been an awesome journey, one for which I have few if any regrets,” he said, to an emotional crowd of co-workers. “I plan to retire at the end of this term, which will give me 36 years of engaged service.”

After suffering with illness for two years, Holland said doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center confirmed the diagnosis last week. After talking it over with his wife, they decided against keeping the diagnosis private.

“In our hearts, we hope this might promote greater understanding and public awareness of this condition which many of our fellow travelers suffer from,” Holland said.

“At this moment, I seem to be doing relatively well,” he said. “But I have days when my cognitive abilities suffer and diminish, especially in the short term.”

Holland said he would “face this head on” and continue his day-to-day activities “as best I can, for as long as I can.”

Holland said he was proud of his years of service.

“I have pretty much lived my life and politics in the cold, gray light of day, with uncompromised honesty and forthrightness,” he said. “The folks in Lee County have believed in my mission for over nine terms now, even if they haven’t always approved of my style or sometimes my warped display of passion and presentation.””

He said he did not fear for himself, but for his loved ones who “will bear the brunt of my ultimate fate in this painful experience.”

“Please understand, I do not fear the future. And my spirit is far from broken and defeated. I assure you, I am secure in my faith in the almighty sovereign grand architect of the universe.”

He asked “for your understanding and your patience” and for “continuing prayers for my family, my business colleagues, and all those who have made this life experience for me one of awesome joy and satisfaction.”

VIDEO: Holland’s emotional announcement

Holland, a Tupelo funeral home director, said he was ready to look death in the face.

“As a professional Southern undertaker, I have looked death in the face for forty years now,” said Holland, who works as a funeral home director in Tupelo. “I have no fear of the end game, and I expectantly look forward to the fulfillment of the promises of my faith and spirituality. But in the interim, I am going to attack life with the gusto of a hound dog every day.”

After the announcement, Holland’s Facebook page was flooded with supportive comments from friends from all over.

Calling Holland “the ultimate What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get politician,” Matt Wilson, a Republican from Spring Hill wrote, “If you think Trump is candid, you haven’t met Steve; he is so direct he makes Trump look downright secretive.”

Wilson then went on to tell a personal anecdote:

“What I will always remember is the time the Legislature’s redistricting committee had a special session at Mississippi State University one Saturday morning. The legislature wanted to hear directly from constituents. I got up to speak my peace. Next thing you know, the crowd started clapping. And then Steve did something crazy.

“The seat next to him was empty. So — while this legislative hearing was still going on, mind you–he took the paper name placard that sat on the table in from the adjacent empty chair, started writing on it like a Match Game panelist, and retuned the placard to its original spot. But instead of bearing the name of his absent colleague, it now read, “Rep. Matt Wilson.” Steve proudly pointed to it, making me laugh, yet again, from the audience. Even though that was just a gag, I still consider it one of the greatest honors of my recent adult life.”

“This guy will never be replaced in Jackson,” wrote Claude Clayton of Tupelo. “His passion, knowledge, experience, and wit are second to none. He is part of a passing era in which people can disagree and share a laugh afterwards.”

Chris Hussey of Tupelo, who said Holland had given him a job playing taps for military funerals when he was in high school, wrote that Steve Holland was his “favorite Democrat.”

“When my Dad passed away suddenly four years ago,” Hussey wrote, “Steve Holland went beyond his undertaker duties and showed the love of Jesus to my grieving family. I am forever in debt to him and yet he always tells me he is proud of me when he sees me. Steve the Hussey family is thankful for your ministry and your service to the State of Mississippi.”

To which Holland responded, “Chris, I love you and your family with an extraordinary passion and pride. You are such a wonderful soul. Let’s visit soon.”


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