The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Opposes Cuts to SNAP (food stamps) as Part of Budget Deal

Posted on April 26, 2023 at 12:13 PM

The Delta Caucus advocates for a resolution to the budget crisis that does NOT make sharp cuts in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which is a vital life-line for millions of low-income Americans across the country and is supported by many Republicans and conservative as well as centrist organizations.

The SNAP program is essential across the country, but especially so in the Mississippi Delta region, where we unfortunately have the worst food insecurity levels in the USA. The program prevents millions of low-income people from being hungry.

Six of the 10 states with the worst food insecurity rankings are in the Greater Delta/Alabama Black Belt region: Mississippi and Louisiana are second and third worst, Alabama and Kentucky fifth and sixth, Arkansas and Tennessee are ninth and 10th worst, respectively. (See figures below in this message.)

In addition to its vital role as a hunger and nutrition safety net, SNAP also has a multiplier impact on economic development: every SNAP dollar that is spent generates $1.67 in economic activity, according to nonpartisan economists at Moody’s Analytics.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s efforts to make sharp cuts in SNAP, the major anti-hunger life-line, contradicts the traditional bipartisan support for this program.

Throughout American history until recently, Republicans such as Sen. Bob Dole and many others supported SNAP on the grounds that one principle we can all support is that no one should go hungry in America. The stark departure from this nonpartisan consensus would be tremendously damaging if enacted.

SNAP has a low level of waste, fraud and abuse: There can always be improvements in such a massive program involving millions of people. But SNAP has a rate of waste and abuse of less than 3%–based on statistics from USDA as well as independent private sector organizations, and that is a solid record for any federal agency, and especially one with such a massive scope.

Any waste and abuse is bad and we should work to reduce it even further. But claims that this program is “riddled with fraud, waste and abuse” are just factually erroneous.

Today, even many Republicans disagree with McCarthy’s effort to cut SNAP as part of a budget deal.

For example, Congressman Marc Malinaro (R-NY) says his family relied on food stamps during his childhood While he has indicated support for improving the program and removing some inefficiencies in it. But he has thus far declined to support proposals to expand work requirements that his colleagues have been pushing for months.

Molinaro sounded a note of support for SNAP but indicated only the most needy should get aid — an argument Republicans have used in their campaign to reduce the size of the program. (Fact check: the program is already based on making only very low-income people eligible for food aid.)

“Yes, those that struggle the hardest need to know that they have the support, not only of SNAP, but of other wrap-around services,” Rep. Molinaro said.

Similarly, Rep. Derrick Van Orden R-Wisconsin), who is a supporter of President Donald Trump on most issues, spoke of his family’s struggle with poverty and reliance on food stamps when he was a child. While he acknowledges some flaws in the current system, he said, “I’m a member of Congress because of these programs.”

“There’s a lot of people who have not gone to bed hungry at night, and I have. And there’s no place for that in America,” Van Orden said.

Even organizations regarded as basically conservative, such as some state branches of the American Farm Bureau Federation (America’s leading agricultural lobby) are supportive of SNAP.

Eric Ooms, vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation in New York, urged his colleagues not to think of SNAP as a “city thing,” emphasizing that the program is a key lifeline to low-income Americans in rural areas where food insecurity “is higher than it’s ever been.”

Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas said this proposal is unlikely to be passed into law, given widespread, traditional support for SNAP.


Food insecurity is when people lack reliable access to an affordable, nutritious food supply.

West Virginia 15.1%

Mississippi 15%

Louisiana 14.8%

Oklahoma 14.6%

Alabama 14%

Kentucky 13.8%

New Mexico 13.4%

Texas 13.3%

Arkansas 12.6%

Tennessee 12.5%

Figures from USDA Economic Research Service averaged over three years from 2019 to 2021.

Delta Caucus Moved to November 16-17, 2023 Due to Recent Storm Damage

Posted on April 06, 2023 at 01:41 PM

Due to Storm Damage, Delta Caucus Postponed from May 26 to November 16-17, 2023

The Delta Caucus conference has been postponed to November 16-17, 2023 in Little Rock due to the recent storm damage.

Many partners of the Delta Caucus–including Caucus Director Lee Powell–suffered damage from the recent series of storms in the Greater Delta, the Washington, DC area and other regions.

Opening session will be on Thursday evening, November 16, 2023 from about 4:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at a central Little Rock location, (probably the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda but they do not take reservations this far ahead of time).

Clinton Library Great Hall session is set for Friday, November 17, 2023 from 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m.

GROUP HOTEL: The group hotel is the Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential in Little Rock. To get the group rate call the hotel at 501-687-7700 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.


You register by paying the $100 registration fees.

(For those few people who had paid their registration fees and a couple of sponsorships, those will be applied to the November 16-17 conference.)

GROUP DISCOUNTS: If you can bring a group of three or more, we will give a group discount down to $50 each, and for a group of four or more we will reduce it to $30 each.

The easiest way to register is to go on the website at and go to the Paypal link that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

We plan to invite President Bill Clinton, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, US Sen. John Boozman, Congressman Rick Crawford, Congressman French Hill, Congressman Bruce Westerman, state legislators, mayors and other elected officials, nonprofits, community-minded business leaders, experts in transportation, health care, hunger and nutrition, job creation, Delta Heritage tourism and related regional issues.

We will give attention to the long-term task of rebuilding after the storms and look at ways to warn people of storms and other ways to reduce the damage.

We will also have speakers on the issue of police violence. We know most law enforcement officers are dedicated, reasonable public servants, but we need to improve our efforts to prevent those with violent tendencies from being hired and/or punish those who are violent on the job. This problem exists for everyone, but unfortunately is most acute for African Americans and other minorities.

Please join us in Little Rock on Nov. 16-17, 2023. Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

Please RSVP for Delta Caucus Conference at Clinton Center in Little Rock on May 25-26, 2023

Posted on March 08, 2023 at 12:40 PM

Delta Grassroots Caucus

Contact: Lee Powell, Director, (202) 360-6347; or by email at

“Please RSVP for the Delta Regional Conference, May 25-26, 2023 in Little Rock

Please RSVP for the Delta Caucus Regional Conference set for May 25-26, 2023. You RSVP to Lee Powell’s email or phone above.

Registration, schedule, group hotel and other information are below in this message.

The Delta Caucus Regional Conference main session is set for Friday morning and lunch, May 26, 2023 at the Clinton Library Great Hall in Little Rock from about 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The opening evening session will be on Thursday May 25, 2023 from about 4:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in central Little Rock (site TBD, possibly the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda, but they don’t reserve space this far ahead of time).


We will invite Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Bill Clinton, Members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation, state and local elected officials, nonprofits, community-minded business leaders, and professionals in health care, education and workforce development, transportation, job creation, USDA and DRA programs, and other community and economic development issues in the 8-state Greater Delta.

Of course, most partners do not confirm this far ahead of time. To give a general idea of the make-up of the group from people who have sent in RSVPs thus far, we will mention the following (of course, there are always some last-minute changes when people have unexpected issues with their schedules):

–Mayor Marco McClendon of West Memphis, Arkansas;

–Mayor Jaylen Smith of Earle, AR (at 18 years of age we believe he is the youngest mayor in the USA;

–Harvey Joe Sanner, American Ag Movement of Arkansas;

–We believe we will have a representative from Arkansas State University, possibly Chancellor Todd Shields or another senior official from ASU;

–Kyle Miller, Executive Director of the Delta Cultural Center based in Helena;

–Ben Burkett, State Director for Mississippi of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives;

–Wilson Golden, former Clinton administration Presidential appointee, one of the four managers of President Clinton’s Delta Regional Initiative, native of Mississippi now based in Georgia;

–Herbert Simmons, professor at Grambling State University and executive director of the Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corp.;

–Janice Simmons of Greater North Louisiana CDC;

–Mahandra Singh, former head of the Dept. of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University;

–Marcie Lawson, President/CEO, Sikeston Missouri Regional Chamber and Economic Development Corp.;

–Mike Marshall, Sikeston, Missouri, former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman, Delta Regional Authority;

–Heather Collier, Communications Manager, Southeast Missouri Food Bank;

–INVITED– Al Cross, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky;

–INVITED–a speaker for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University

–Appreciation for Billy McFarland and his colleagues at SmithMack LLC based in Birmingham Alabama for a generous Major Co-Sponsorship. Billy has been one of our stalwart leaders from Alabama for many years now.

–Appreciation for generous Sponsorship contribution from AvanTech Services LLC based in Marion, Arkansas.

We have invited many others and will continue to do so as we put the agenda together.

Information on schedule, registration fees, and likely group hotel are below.


You register by paying the $100 registration fees.


If you can get a group of three or more people together we will discount it to $40 each.

For a group of five or more we will discount it to $30 each.

The fastest and easiest way to pay the fees is to go the website at and click on the link that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601


OPENING SESSION: 4:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening, May 25, 2023 (site TBD, at either the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda or another central Little Rock location)

MAIN SESSION: 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Friday morning and lunch, May 26, 2023, at Clinton Library Great Hall

Opening evening informal networking session: We have an informal networking session at the group hotel lobby and bar where they serve food and drinks, right after the opening session from about 6:50 p.m. to 8 p.m.


The group hotel is Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential.

To get the group rate of $129 call the hotel at (501) 687-7700 and say you are with the Delta Caucus.

Most people check in to the hotel in the afternoon of Thursday May 25, the opening session, Then they check out in the morning of Friday, May 26, go to the main session and are on their way back home starting early Friday afternoon.

We look forward to convening after absences due to the pandemic. We will take whatever precautions are necessary depending on what the situation is with the various Covid strains on May 25-26, 2023. Look forward to seeing everybody then.

Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

Caucus Director Lee Powell's Experience with Memphis Police Brutality; & Need for Reforms

Posted on January 31, 2023 at 02:29 PM

“Caucus Director Lee Powell’s Experience with Memphis Police Brutality & the Needs for Comprehensive Program of Reforms”

Jan. 31, 2023

We need a comprehensive program of police reforms in the aftermath of the tragic murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. As a former victim of Memphis police violence myself, I can speak from experience on this painful issue.

This is in-depth and intensive. If you are interested, glance over it when you have some time.

Memphis police brutalize African Americans more than any other demographic group, so we need to emphasize the need for intensive screening and eliminating racial prejudice and violent tendencies in all police officer candidates. However, the fundamental problem is the culture of violence among far too many police officers, and that challenge involves all of us.

The five officers who murdered the African American victim are all African Americans, although at least one of the officers at the scene–possibly more–is white.

Memphis is a majority black city with a majority black police department. It is certainly plausible that black officers may believe that they can avoid punishment for beating an African Amerian or other minority as opposed to a white man. But this is not exclusively a racial problem.

The problem is broader than just racial prejudice. While many police officers are responsible, hard-working citizens, there are too many who enjoy inflicting violence upon people, particularly those they dislike for reasons of ignorance and prejudice.


I happen to be white, but years ago I was shoved around, thrown in jail on false charges even though I had committed absolutely no offense, thrown without a shirt on into a freezing, isolated cell they infamously called the “cooler” in the Memphis jail, kept there all night and denied the right to make a phone call.

I was respectful and compliant to the police throughout my experience, but it made no difference. They had made up their mind to brutalize me from the beginning.

**Luckily, I hired a good lawyer, the charges were dismissed; because of my connections at Rhodes College in Memphis and elsewhere; my lawyer lambasted the Memphis Police Department both to the judge and later to the Mayor of Memphis, who agreed with us and was clearly embarrassed.

Did our objections from influential people in Memphis make any difference? I don’t think it changed anything at all. There have been many cases like mine or worse over the decades since then.

For those interested there is a detailed report on my experience below in this message.

I can just hear the redneck, violent officers who shoved me around and threw me in the cooler laughing about how they may have had the Mayor verbally slap them on the wrist and say “naughty, naughty,” on the other hand they made one of those uppity long-haired college students at the elite academic institution spend the night in jail.

Realistically speaking, most of the low to middle income police officers did not have the intellectual or financial resources to get admitted to a Rhodes College–along with Tulane and Vanderbilt generally considered the top three undergraduate institutions in our region. From the obnoxious comments they made about Rhodes people being “too big for their britches” and a “bunch of over-educated sissies,” here was the officers’ chance to act out their mixture of contempt and envy on the prestigious intellectual institution.

I had many positive interactions with police officers as a reporter earlier in my career, so I am not “anti-police”: Before anyone jumps to the incorrect conclusion that I am generally “anti-police,” I should emphasize that I was a newspaper reporter in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier in my career and my beat was covering the police and the courts.

My experience with those officers was that they were largely dedicated, thoughtful people who just wanted to help the community and my overall view of them was strongly positive. Their quality apparently declined by the time of the Charlottesville demonstrations a few years back, but that’s another story.

These incidents have persisted over the decades, sadly.


1) Intensive screening of police officer candidates for any record of violence or any tendencies toward racial bias to prevent them from becoming officers in the first place.

2) Pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was blocked in the Senate in 2021, to that body’s great discredit. This Act would limit qualified immunity policies that protect officers accused of misconduct, create a national registry of officers who have been given disciplinary actions, limit no-knock warrants, ban chokeholds and other measures

Ongoing training for both candidates and officers already on the force on policies regarding restraints on the use of force. In general, all other alternatives should be exhausted before resorting to deadly force. Alternatives to arrest should be enhanced in cases involving people with mental illnesses.

3) Oversight and accountability need to be strengthened, so that officers who engage in violence and misconduct receive appropriate punishment and serve as a deterrent to others’ engaging in such behavior.

The District Attorney, police chief and other authorities are to be commended for quickly firing the officers involved and charging them with second-degree murder and other serious offenses, as well as firing emergency medical technicians who failed to take any meaningful action to treat Nichols.

5) Special units like the Scorpion should be disbanded.* It is constructive that Scorpion was terminated. If there are any legitimate reasons for special units for “high-crime areas,” the officers need to be experienced veterans, regularly rotated, and subjected to strict accountability.

6) Enhancing communications between police and each local community: If police and local community leaders could hold public meetings on a regular basis where officers could explain their policies and challenges and citizens could voice their concerns, this could de-escalate the level of tension between law enforcement and the community.

7) Police have a responsibility to intervene against their colleagues’ abusive actions–this must be done by the force of public opinion and condemnation as well as the passage of laws: Tennessee state law already required officers to intervene to stop abuse and report excessive force by colleagues. Clearly laws cannot solve all these problems in every case–the officers ignored the law in this case–but we can do our best to hold them accountable and enforce legal punishments. Public condemnation of these actions, strict discipline and legal enforcement and punishment need to be toughened.

8) Increase funding to the police for equipment, training, screening, and salaries: Officers are going to perform better if they have good equipment, received high-level screening and training, and receive good salaries as an incentive to recruit high quality officers and keep good morale for veterans.

“De-fund the police” is the most ludicrous suggestion imaginable: The notion that we can get better conduct by sending out officers who are underpaid and have sub-par equipment will only make matters worse and will lead to a deterioration in police conduct.

No, you can’t solve the problem by “throwing money at it,” but you can’t solve it without resources for training, screening, equipment, and good salaries. Providing them with inadequate pay is a recipe for having more low-quality, disgruntled officers.

These suggestions are minimal requirements that should be passed expeditiously and there are certainly other actions and reforms that need to be taken. But we need to start now and not let the naysayers who excuse all police conduct stand in the way.

The many good police officers are likely the people who are most disturbed by the minority of bad actors in law enforcement. Reform needs to be passed by the community at large, however, and the police associations and lobbyists should not be allowed a veto over any of these reforms.

Memphis police abuse data: Black men and women were clearly targeted for rough treatment in 2019-2021. They suffered 86% of all recorded uses of guns, batons, pepper spray, physical beatings and other violence in 2021, with the total that year nearly doubling to 1,700 cases.


My experience as a white, affluent (if long-haired at the time) college student with police brutality: When I was in college at Rhodes College in Memphis (then Southwestern at Memphis) I once was subjected to police violence. I was studying for exams early on a Saturday night when they closed the library, and I just wanted to get another chapter finished up for the exams the next week.

A college dorm on a Saturday night, even right before finals, is not a place conducive to higher learning, so I drove across the street very close to the campus to a well-lit, prosperous, very low-crime area with a large street light over it, with the lights on inside my car, and thought I would just do a little more reading. This was about 8 0’clock at night, and I wasn’t planning to be there long.

Well, I had been there a few minutes when three white police officers pulled up. They accosted me and were loud, belligerent and insulting from the start, even though I was trying to be respectful and compliant. They concocted all manner of verbal and psychological abuse like “You ain’t gonna be no successful professional.” “You ain’t ever gonna amount to nothin,’” and worse.

I had fairly long hair at the time, and while many Memphis police officers then and today are fine, many other Memphis police included a good many people who did not have much education and regarded long-haired college students from an elite academic institution with a mixture of contempt and envy.

Realistically speaking, very few people in their families had the intellect or finances to get admitted there. I knew of the police prejudice against people like me of that era and was determined to not do anything that would give them a legitimate cause to give me any problems.

I had done nothing wrong, was of course sober as a judge and had not consumed one drop of alcohol. I immediately said that I was just under pressure with exams coming up, and while I was not hurting anyone or anything by being there, I saw that I needed to go back to the dorm. That was the only time I ever did that, and all they needed to do was to warn me not to do that and told me to get back the few feet it would take to be on campus, and that would have been the end of it. I was not breaking any laws–except for perhaps a parking ticket—and I’m not even sure there was even a parking problem.

But they wanted to take this opportunity to unjustly throw in jail and bash the long-haired college kid and make a lot of derisive comments like “You’re never going to amount to anything,”etc. I said I just wanted to go back to my dorm.

Then they started shoving me around. I did not strike them in any way, of course. I played college basketball for Rhodes (full disclosure–the team I played on was awful) and was in good shape and managed to avoid getting any injuries from the physical abuse.

One of them thought it would be hilarious to trick me into thinking that they were administering an alcohol breath test and had me breathe into the back end of a radar gun. He turned it around and turned it on so that it was flashing like it does when speeding was being ticketed, and said to me “Look, this shows you are heavily inebriated.” They laughed uproariously.

They refused to give me a breath test because they knew I was sober. They dishonestly charged me with public drunkenness and after I stated that there was no need to take me to jail, one arrogantly shouted “Oh you’re going to jail, so be quiet.”

The experience at the jail was even worse. I was thrown into a large cell with 25 or so others, most of whom were very intoxicated.

Police ridiculing of constitutional rights–referring to my “constipational rights”:

I repeatedly called for my right to make a phone call. They ignored the call, and one of the officers contemptuously dismissed my request saying, “You want to call for your constipational rights.”

After I kept requesting my right to a call, they got even more angry, came and jerked me out of the cell, roughly shoved me down the hall to an isolated cell they called “the cooler.” I had to stand without a shirt on in a very cold cell for what seemed a long time. My guess is it was 45 minutes or so.

Then they came and put me back into the larger cell. I had to stay there all night with the rowdy drunks yelling and singing (they weren’t very good singers😠!) I was not allowed to make my phone call until the next morning about 7 a.m. to one of my professors. He came and got me out of jail and reported that “there were no signs of drunkenness on him.”

I got out and other than the pushing and shoving, the time spent in the freezing room, the psychological and verbal abuse, I came out of it without any physical injuries. I was not going to let this go without a strong objection—and luckily for me I course could hire a good attorney and in fact one of my classmates at the college was the son of one of the best if not the best lawyer in Memphis.

The lawyer showed up with me at traffic court, and the judge—who of course was much lower in the legal world’s status than the famous lawyer—was surprised to see him there. He also looked surprised when I pled “not guilty” and said I had not had anything to drink. The judge dismissed the charges so I was at least legally exonerated.

The police claimed that they had not allowed me to make a phone call because I was so inebriated I could not talk. This was a lie worthy of fascists. Again, I had not had a drop to drink and they knew it.

The judge did not believe the police allegations. After hearing from me and my lawyer, he immediately found me not guilty.

*The lawyer was not finished, however. He said, “It’s a legal principle that once you’ve won your case, sit down and stop talking.” But in this case, that was not enough, and he proceeded to ream out the Memphis police department for failing to train their officers and prevent this kind of abuse from happening. *

The judge was in agreement, although other than dismissing the charges there was not a lot he could do to reform the corrupt culture of the Memphis police department.

My lawyer and I were still not satisfied. The mayor of Memphis of course knew the famous lawyer and wanted to stay on good terms with one of the city’s most influential citizens. My father, James O. Powell, happened to be the editor of the largest newspaper in the state of Arkansas just across the river from Memphis and he was there as well. The Mayor would not want to offend a student from the city’s most prestigious academic institution, of course.

So we went to the Mayor’s office, and my lawyer reamed out the Memphis police in detail to His Honor. I reiterated that “The Memphis police department is prejudiced against long-haired college students.” The Mayor agreed and was clearly embarrassed.

My treatment was brutal, but I shudder to think what would have happened to me on the street, and even moreso in the jail, if I had been an African American instead of an affluent white person.

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A Tribute to the Late Sam Brannum, a True-Blue Trooper for the Delta--December 26, 2022

Posted on December 26, 2022 at 02:33 PM

Our region has lost a dedicated and dynamic leader with the passing of Sam Brannum, a senior Congressional aide who fought for economic progress and social justice in the First District of Arkansas, a US Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, and a consultant providing services for individuals, businesses and agencies seeking assistance with federal loan programs.

Sam Brannum died on Dec. 9, 2022 at John McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. He was truly a compassionate, amiable and generous soul who is mourned by countless friends in Arkansas, Washington, DC and elsewhere.

Sam was born in 1951 in the heartland Delta community of Osceola, Arkansas. After graduating from Jonesboro AR High School in 1969, he served in the US Navy on two combat tours to Vietnam in what he called “the smallest destroyer in the US Navy.” In serving his country he contracted the chemical Agent Orange, with the inevitable destructive damage to his health over the years. He waged a courageous battle against his health issues and maintained his sense of humor and strength for his family and friends until the end.

In later years he often emphasized to everyone how grateful he was when the US finally pulled out of Vietnam.

After his military service, he earned a degree in Business and Economics from Arkansas State University and served as a US Census Regional Coordinator in northeast Arkansas for the 1980 census.

Sam is best known to the general public for his stalwart and effective service as senior Congressional aide for Congressman Bill Alexander of the First District of Arkansas.

Congressman Alexander was Chief Deputy Majority Whip and a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, and Sam was his point man for bringing water projects, job creation, transportation and other infrastructure improvements, public safety, and other beneficial gains for the economic development and quality of life for the people of east Arkansas, one of the most economically distressed areas in the country.

This may be difficult to understand today, but in that era large numbers of people in Arkansas did not have safe drinking water. Due to the tireless efforts of Rep. Alexander and Sam Brannum, literally thousands of Arkansans gained access to safe drinking water for the first time in their lives.

Among the infrastructure projects Sam played a key role in was the Grand Prairie water district, the largest water project in America. People in Arkansas continue to benefit from these projects today.

These infrastructure and quality of life initiatives provided real help in the lives of many lower income and minority people in Arkansas who badly needed them. Far from being “pork barrel” projects as some naysayers on the right claimed, the works Sam and his boss engineered were a classic example of the potential for positive governmental impact in the lives of everyday citizens.

Those enlightened initiatives helped then and now many people who may never have heard of Sam Brannum’s name. But he wasn’t doing it for recognition, but to help the people of his homeland.

Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell served on Alexander’s Washington, DC staff and worked with Sam Brannum for many years.

There were many memories of those years, but what stands out most in Powell’s mind was the courageous, creative and ultimately successful effort in Congressman Alexander’s 1990 Democratic primary election against Mike Gibson, a talented, very conservative lawyer from Osceola. Powell took a leave of absence from his government job in DC to work on the campaign.

The 1990 First District primary between Alexander and Gibson was one of the great battle royales in the history of Arkansas—and American—politics.

Alexander faced many opponents over his 24 years in the US House of Representatives, but none more formidable than Gibson, an engaging speaker, a lawyer like Alexander from the heartland Delta community of Osceola, and although a Democrat, someone who appealed to the more hard-core right wing sentiments of some voters in Arkansas. Early on Gibson was making impressive showings in polls, but Alexander’s team made a huge comeback and returned him to Congress.

Powell remembers a campaign staff meeting where Alexander’s campaign manager, the distinguished northeast Arkansas attorney H. T. Moore, was grimly realistic and told the group that “We know we’re in trouble.” That was when Sam and the team became energized and went to work.

There were some advisers who thought the best strategy for Alexander was to portray the congressman as a “warm and fuzzy” personality. Brannum and Powell were convinced that this would never work; Ronald Reagan might win an election on his personality, but Alexander would win based on the substance of his accomplishments for infrastructure, civil rights, job creation, and quality of life for his constituents.

Brannum and Powell went to work with an intensive communications and political strategy documenting the many substantive projects Alexander had brought to his district. In local media and campaign communications in every county of the district, the facts of how many jobs, water and sewer projects, transportation improvements, federal aid to education, and other benefits for the people of the district.

The strategy began to pay off, and the contrast between Gibson’s negative campaigning against Alexander as allegedly an “out of touch congressman who was focused on the Washington, DC culture” and the substantive record of accomplishments by Alexander began turning the tide in favor of the no-nonsense incumbent.

Powell remembers vividly how energetic and up-beat Sam Brannum remained in the teeth of this stressful campaign. At stake was the career of a moderately progressive, national and local leader of Democrats, against a staunchly conservative Democrat who was not far from the positions of the Republican Party.

“We were driving through rural east Arkansas one day in the middle of the campaign, and Sam seemed as energetic and amiable as ever,” Powell recalls. “His amiability was even rubbing off on me and somehow I was enjoying the intensity of the campaign in spite of the electric and unceasing pressure to pull off the comeback. I asked Sam how in the world he stayed so positive when many people at the time were predicting an Alexander loss,” Powell said.

Sam replied, “Well, it’s hard as hell, but we might as well find a way to enjoy it while it lasts.” Powell didn’t know whether he was crazy, blowing smoke to put the best face on a dire situation, poorly informed, or courageous. He decided to be charitable and say he was both crazy and courageous.

After his service in Congress ended, Sam founded his consulting firm, Capital Ventures, Inc., providing services for many agencies, businesses and individuals who needed help in gaining access to federal loan programs. He and his devoted wife Lisa divided their time between homes in Little Rock, Jonesboro and Mountain View, Arkansas.

He was an avid hunter and fisherman, and once went duck hunting with President Bill Clinton and a few others. He loved the natural beauty and majestic sights along the White River and many other outdoor attractions in the vast Delta lands of the First District.

Today, let’s celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Sam Brannum.

A great way to honor his memory would be to make contributions to two causes that he supported in particular: the Arkansas Food Bank ( and Disabled American Veterans

Rest in peace, good ol’ Sam.

Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347