by Rachel James-Terry
Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove patiently waits for the start of his Monday evening seminar in Mass Communications class at Jackson State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies.
While some students address him as “Mr. Musgrove,” others refer to him as “governor.” Either way, he casually answers to both.
Having taught at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, John Hopkins University and Mississippi College School of Law, the classroom seems second nature to the practicing attorney.
“Jackson State has a tremendous program and a tremendous facility, and it has access to media, to the Capitol and to agencies that, truthfully, more universities in the state should take advantage of by partnering with Jackson State,” he said. “The School of Journalism offers a lot of opportunities for young people to excel in a field that may not have been open to them in times past.”
A slow and steady procession of students trickles into the room, and Musgrove leads the class in a discussion on the Limited Effects Theory – which argues that the influence of mass media rarely directly affects people.
When he asks the students to apply the theory to the current presidential election the class becomes engulfed in an animated dialogue. Musgrove moves comfortably around the room calling each by name and speaking with his hands like – well, like a politician.
“I think about all the teachers I’ve had in elementary school all the way through high school and then college and law school and the profound impact that they have had on me,” Musgrove said in his amiable southern drawl.
He recounts a recent visit with a prior teacher who was retiring from years of instruction in his hometown of Batesville. He said, “I had an opportunity just to stop by and say ‘thank you’ for the inspiration and the impact she had on my life. Hopefully, I’ll have some small impact on the students that I have a chance to be around because it’s our future, and I get excited about looking at our future.”
A married father of four, Musgrove acknowledges the plausible benefits his government background and learned wisdom seem to offer. “Giving young people the opportunity to have a class with someone who has been through the political arena, who has experienced things, has a little gray hair now (laughs) – it gives them a chance to be exposed in ways that one may not otherwise have an opportunity,” he said.
Establishing the Musgrove Smith Law Firm in 2014, the attorney has little issue harmonizing work and his personal life. “When you do things that you’re passionate about and that you love it’s easy to balance. I enjoy doing that, so I don’t view it as strenuous or hard work when getting ready for a class and anticipating some of the discussions that would be had. I just enjoy it.”