Moran McLelland Pope, Jr., a prominent University of Southern Mississippi alumnus and former mayor of the city of Hattiesburg, died March 2 at his home in Hattiesburg. He was 94.
A memorial service for Pope will be held Saturday, March 18 at 3 p.m. at University Baptist Church, located at 3200 Arlington Loop in Hattiesburg, with visitation from 1:30-3 p.m. at the church prior to the service. Moore Funeral Home in Hattiesburg is in charge of arrangements.
A native of Columbia, Miss., Pope grew up in Hattiesburg after his family moved to the city in 1927. He attended the Demonstration School, located on the campus of Southern Miss (then Mississippi State Teachers College), from grades 1-12. After earning his high school diploma there in 1940, Pope obtained his bachelor’s degree from USM (then renamed to Mississippi Southern College) in 1944.
Pope worked for decades to advance his collegiate alma mater in a variety of capacities, with a tireless devotion rarely matched. An incorporator of The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, Pope served as its president for more than 20 years from its inception in 1959. He twice served as president of the USM Alumni Association, and as honorary chairman of the successful USM $7.5 million ARTS 2000 CAMPAIGN.
In 2010 during USM’s centennial, Pope, along with former fellow Hattiesburg mayor and USM alumnus Bobby Chain and other Demonstration School alums, worked to secure a historical marker for the Demonstration School, which was located in the University’s George Hurst Building. The Demonstration School was a teaching laboratory for USM student teachers until it ceased operations in the 1960s. Pope and his fellow “Demons” (the nickname for the school’s sports teams and students) also secured monuments honoring Demonstration School students and faculty who died serving their country in military service, along with an information kiosk.
Pope was a recipient of the USM Inter-Fraternity Council Outstanding Alumnus Award; the USM Athletic Department’s Distinguished Service Award; inducted as a member of the USM Alumni Association's inaugural Hall of Fame in 1987; and in 2009, the Alumni Association fittingly renamed its most prestigious honor, the Meritorious Service Award, to the Moran Pope Jr. Meritorious Service Award.
“Moran Pope was one of the most instrumental figures in shaping The University of Southern Mississippi into the dynamic institution we know and love today. Having served in almost every volunteer capacity available, he has left an undeniable mark on the University he called his own,” said Jerry DeFatta, executive director of Southern Miss Alumni Association.
“While his legacy of service to our University will not be forgotten, I will most remember Mr. Pope as one of the kindest and most encouraging individuals I’ve had the opportunity to meet during my time at the Southern Miss. I’m proud to have been able to call him a friend.”
As an undergraduate at Southern Miss, Pope was an honor student and president of the sophomore class; a member of Kappa Alpha Tau social fraternity; vice-chairman of the Student Christian Federation; associate editor of the Student Printz; and manager of Wimpy’s, the campus social center. He was selected the school’s Best Citizen in 1943 and was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities for 1942 and 1943. He was a charter member of USM’s chapters of Omicron Delta Kappa and of Phi Kappa Phi.
A military veteran, Pope entered the U.S. Navy in 1943, attending Mississippi College under the Navy V-12 Program and later received his ensign commission in January 1944 from Columbia University in New York City. He drew attack boat duty in the South Pacific, until discharged in February 1946.
Pope entered the University of Mississippi School of Law in July, 1946 and graduated with a Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree in May 1948 and opened his law office in Hattiesburg a month later. In 1953 Pope was elected mayor of Hattiesburg, serving until 1957. While in that post, Pope was selected as Mississippi’s Outstanding Young Man by the Jaycees for his innovative accomplishments in the fields of municipal finance and administration, law enforcement, parks and recreation, and industrial development. In September of 1957, Pope joined the law firm of Simrall, Aultman and Pope, a predecessor firm to Pope & Pope, P.A.
Pope’s activities included memberships in many civic groups and professional associations. He served on the board of directors and as president of the Hattiesburg Area Chamber of Commerce. He also served on the Industrial Development Board, and on the boards of the Hattiesburg Kiwanis Club and the Hattiesburg YMCA. A member of the Mississippi and South Central Mississippi Bar Associations, Pope also served as director of the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association. His peers - other attorneys - awarded him an “AV” rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, indicating preeminent legal ability and very high ethical standards.
Pope served as Hattiesburg City Attorney, City Judge, and attorney for the Hattiesburg Public School District, as well as for the Pat Harrison Waterway District and Hattiesburg Redevelopment Authority. He also served as a member of the board of directors of Trustmark National Bank. In 1984 he chaired a community committee to stage the first week-long “Good Life Down South Festival,” which continues as the highly popular annual “Hub Fest” in downtown Hattiesburg.
Among Pope’s many lasting contributions to the Hattiesburg area was his service on committees for the restoration and renovation of downtown Hattiesburg, the Forrest County Chancery Court Building, and the Forrest County Courthouse, and as co-chair with Dr. Fred Tatum of the Library Bond Issue Committee. In recognition of his many contributions to the city of Hattiesburg, Pope received the Hattiesburg Rotary Club’s Hannah Award for Outstanding Community Service, and the Hub Award.
As an active member of First Baptist Church in Hattiesburg for more than 50 years, Pope twice served as its chairman of deacons and as chairman of two pastor search committees. He also served the church as Sunday School Superintendent, taught classes, and was a member of many of its other committees. He later became an active member of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg.
Pope directed and produced more than 100 30-minute shows for local cable television, and wrote articles and book reviews for the Hattiesburg American. He also chaired a local C. S. Lewis Festival Committee which sponsored two “C. S. Lewis Down South Festivals” in Hattiesburg.
Pope was preceded in death by the love of his life, his wife Yvonne, whom he met at a dance while a freshman at USM. He is survived by two children, Moran III (Randy), his partner in the law firm Pope & Pope, P.A.; and Melinda Pope DeRocker of New York City, a singer and music director; and granddaughters Lucy Pope Schultze and Valerie Pope Cullaton; and great-grandchildren Jacob and Eliza Schultze and Emma Cullaton.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to the Moran Pope endowed scholarship at The USM Foundation, 118 College Drive #5210, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001.