Presidential candidate Fred Thompson will be a special guest at a tribute dinner for state Republican Party Chairman Jim Herring on Nov. 19 at the Jackson Hilton on County Line Road.

Thompson will join Herring and other state GOP leaders at the event beginning with a 5:30 p.m. reception. The dinner is being hosted by the Mississippi Republican Elected Officials Association.

When he considers the position of the Republican Party in Mississippi, Herring thinks the hard work in the past is paying huge dividends in the present.

"The most satisfying part of it is seeing your organization grow and prosper, and seeing good candidates getting elected to office," said Herring, a Canton attorney who has led the state Republican Party since 2001.

Herring, who also serves as the official leader of all 50 state GOP chairmen, said that the credit really belongs to all the local and state Republicans who worked hard in the early years from the grassroots up.

He cited local GOP stalwarts like Linda Bynum of Ridgeland and Canton resident Ebbie Spivey, who previously served as the party's state chairman.

Herring is particularly intent on keeping his back yard, Madison County, in the Republican column, especially since it has become a flagship for the party in Mississippi.

"You have to do a lot of different things - hit the road, raise money, encourage Republican leaders across the state," he said. "We've seen that happen in Madison County. It's a relatively new phenomenon that all of our county wide officials are Republican. A few years ago this was not the case."

John Taylor, chairman of the Madison County Republican Party, first met Herring during an entirely different era, when Herring sought the Democratic nomination for governor in Mississippi in 1979.

During the early years of the GOP's growth in the area, he noted, it was often difficult just to find and convince local Republicans to staff the polls on election days.

"They've had to build it surely and slowly over the years," Taylor said. "It didn't happen overnight."

The key to the party's success in recent years, Herring noted, was finding good candidates who were not necessarily lobbied to run by GOP leaders.

"You see good candidates just appearing without recruitment," he said, citing State Treasurer Tate Reeves as one example. "It just seems these people keep appearing. It's not an orchestrated thing."

Looking at the national level, Herring said that he and other Republicans are excited to see Fred Thompson at the dinner.

Thompson, who remained unclear about his White House ambitions for several months before officially entering the race, is only the latest Republican presidential candidate to visit the state.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney have also made stops in Mississippi.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) was the keynote speaker at the county's annual Republican Party banquet in February.

Herring thinks people in the state are ready to listen to Thompson's message.

"We have a strong field, and I think they want to hear from Thompson," Herring said. "This event is going to give a lot of Mississippians a chance to hear what he has to say. I think he'll have a lot of support in Mississippi."

Herring said he isn't sure how much longer he'll remain the state chairman, but says he still enjoys the work despite the demands on his time.

"The best part about the job is when you believe in the cause," he said.