STARKVILLE – University of Mississippi professor emeritus James Crockett, now an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Mississippi, may have had some luck putting his last book on the market the same year the whole nation saw a team from Mississippi win a legitimate NCAA National Championship at the 2021 College World Series in Omaha.
Crockett has written three fine books (all for the University Press of Mississippi) in recent years, books one would expect a gifted accountant with meticulous research skills to write. Its major subjects? Public corruption in Mississippi.
In 2003, Crockett wrote “Operation Pretense: The FBI’s Sting on County Corruption in Mississippi” which focused on public corruption in the state county government system – federal investigation uncovered bribes and bribes on county purchases of mundane items like culverts and grader blades. The “semblance” scandal propelled then state auditor Ray Mabus to the forefront of politics, positioning him to win a governorship.
The scandal further changed the atmosphere for county officials in terms of purchasing responsibility and transparency in county record keeping and sparked an extensive debate on the merits of the country unit system versus form. “beat” or district governance.
In 2007, Crockett focused his skills on a related topic in a book called “Hands in The Till: Embezzlement of Public Money in Mississippi”. The book focused on 37 public corruption cases involving Mississippi chancellery clerks, circuit clerks, court clerks, city clerks, sheriffs, tax collectors, school administrators, and Mississippi colleges and organizations that receive public funds.
The book was a response to a publication called the Corporate Crime Reporter which claimed Mississippi was “America’s most crooked state.” Crockett set out to test this hypothesis with rather depressing results. It was, like his first book, an important reference work on the public corruption front.
In 2013, Crockett wrote one of several books related to the judicial corruption scandal that rocked Mississippi and made national headlines. Crockett conducted a forensic examination by an accountant of the efforts of a group of talented and successful state attorneys to influence several state judges to rule in their favor in key cases.
The book examined the downfall of lawyers Paul Minor, Richard Scruggs, Joey Langston – all whose personal and professional lives were affected as in the Greek tragedy – and motivated in large part by the work of a bank examiner and the courage to ‘a rural judge who refused to be bribed. “Power, Greed, Hubris: Judicial Corruption in Mississippi” explained the complex story with the impartiality and candor of an accountant.
Now Crockett is back with another book published by University Press of Mississippi and there isn’t a corrupt official in sight.
“Rulers of the SEC: Ole Miss and Mississippi State 1959 – 1966” was a labor of love for Crockett. The book focused on the author’s achievement only during a brief brilliant period in the late 1950s and early 1960s. State and Ole Miss dominated the Southeastern Conference Championships won in baseball. , basketball and football from 1959 to 1966.
It’s one thing to claim athletic dominance in college sports, but quite another to document these feats in an accountant-worthy manner with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Ole Miss and a doctorate from MSU. The story is perhaps best told by Crockett in the book’s introduction:
“Over an eight-year period, the SEC’s three big sports – basketball, baseball and football – produced a total of 24 champions. In the calendar years 1959 – 1966, Mississippi universities combined to win 12 of the 24 available championships, exactly half of them. That left 12 championships for the other 10 conference members to share with each other, ”Crockett wrote.
Whether you’re a bulldog, rebel, or golden eagle – or attending one of the state’s other excellent public and private higher education institutions – Crockett’s new book celebrates a time when Mississippi universities had found a way to successfully compete for championships with limited resources. Crockett tells the story of the “X’s and O’s” and also more poignant stories of “Jimmies and Joes”.
This book would be a great addition to the personal library of discerning Mississippi college sports fans. Look in better bookstores or visit www.upress.state.ms.us.