- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

JACKSON, Miss. | President Obama will nominate former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus to be secretary of the Navy, a person familiar with the discussions told the Associated Press on Friday.

Mr. Mabus, 60, is a Democrat and campaigned extensively for Mr. Obama last year. He had been talked about as a candidate for a place in Mr. Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of education. The person with knowledge of the Navy nomination requested anonymity because the White House has not yet made an official announcement.

Mr. Mabus served in the Navy from 1970 to 1972 as a surface warfare officer on the Newport, R.I.-based USS Little Rock. Before then, he was in the Naval ROTC while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Mississippi.

He was governor of Mississippi from January 1988 to January 1992. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1994 to 1996 under then-President Bill Clinton. Mr. Mabus’ name surfaced as a possible Navy secretary soon after Mr. Clinton was elected president. Mr. Mabus’ term as governor overlapped part of Mr. Clinton’s tenure as governor of neighboring Arkansas.

Mr. Mabus’ nomination would need to be approved by the U.S. Senate. The secretary is the civilian leader of the service and is responsible for a wide range of duties, from recruiting and mobilizing to overseeing the construction and repair of ships, equipment and facilities.

If confirmed, Mr. Mabus would succeed Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, said Friday that he had been made aware of Mr. Mabus’ pending selection.

“I have been made aware of it and fully support the nomination,” Mr. Wicker said as he boarded a commercial flight from Washington to Mississippi. “I look forward to working with him.”

Mr. Mabus was an early supporter of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, endorsing the Illinois senator in 2007 and surprising some political observers who had expected Mr. Mabus to support Hillary Rodham Clinton because of his past political ties to Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Mabus launched his state government career in 1980 as an assistant to Mississippi Gov. William Winter. He was elected state auditor in 1983, and angered many county officials by demanding greater accountability in their handling of public money.

He used the corruption-fighting platform to emerge from a crowded Democratic primary field in the 1987 governor’s race, then defeated Republican Jack Reed, a Tupelo businessman. Mr. Mabus sought a second term as governor in 1991, but lost to Republican businessman Kirk Fordice of Vicksburg.

Mr. Mabus has a master’s degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Harvard University.

From June 2006 to April 2007, Mr. Mabus was chairman and Chief executive of Foamex International Inc., and helped move the manufacturer of polyurethane foam products out of bankruptcy. He has served on the boards of several corporations and charities.

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