If you attended the American Legion's Boys State or Girls State program (or had a child do so) in the past two decades, then you likely know Steve Guyton. If you received an appointment to one of our nation's service academies - like West Point - or had a child interested in those opportunities, then you likely know Steve Guyton. If you have been involved in Mississippi politics or Ole Miss Athletics at all over the past forty years, then you likely know Steve Guyton. If none of these things describe you, chances are, you still have met Steve Guyton.

On Oct. 29, the University of Mississippi Department of Political Science will honor Guyton with its 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker will keynote the event. Additionally, the University has created the Steve Guyton Endowed Student and Faculty Development Fund made possible through gifts to the institution by Guyton's friends in his name. The program will support faculty mentorship of undergraduate research projects.

"It is with great pleasure that we recognize Steve Guyton's public service with our 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award," said Richard Forgette, chair and professor of political science."Steve is richly deserving of this recognition. He has positively influenced hundreds of young men and women's lives through his longtime association with Boys State and Girls State, as well as service to our senators and other elected officials."

Forgette said Guyton applies "great enthusiasm and zest for life" as he guides young people toward life-changing opportunities in higher education, military service and politics.

As a student at Ole Miss, Guyton served as a senator in student government and had already begun making connections with the established political networks of the day includ

ing those of Senator Jim Eastland. And during those turbulent times, a well circulated clipping from the student newspapers features Guyton in an iconic picture railing against the "subversives" that were "Peter, Paul & Mary" who were coming to perform on campus in Oxford.

Guyton's outrage against the hippies was not shared by the event coordinator - then student senator and now Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour - who had arranged the concert. Today, Guyton and Barbour are much closer on the same political page, helped along by Guyton's conversion to the Republican Party during the 1990s.

In fact, Guyton can thank the nephew of his then nemesis for assisting with this honor. Austin Barbour of the Jackson government affairs firm Capitol Resources serves on the University of Mississippi Political Science Advisory Board and took a leading role in raising money for the Guyton Endowment. Barbour said, "Steve Guyton has made a positive impact on the lives of hundreds - maybe thousands - of young people in Mississippi. He believes educated and civics oriented citizens make good politics.  His dedication to finding scholarships, promoting Boys State and Girls State, and helping Mississippi students find a place in our nation's military academies is unequaled.  When they graduate, they may or may not share his own political beliefs, but he knows they care about the future of their state and country."

A fixture in political circles from the Cliff Finch gang to the congressional offices of Mike Parker, Chip Pickering, Wicker, and now Gregg Harper, Guyton has ushered in a generation of young politicos and civic minded college graduates. Pickering said, "No one has done more to help develop a generation of Mississippi leaders than Steve Guyton. Through Boys State, Girls State, scholarships to our universities and through Congressional nominations to national military service academies, Steve promoted, encouraged, advised, and persistently placed our young people where their talents and potential could be fully realized. This honor is well earned. His contributions and legacy will continue to multiply."

Long before Twitter or MySpace, Guyton was a social network within himself. Friends and colleagues call it GNN - Guyton News Network. If you are friends with Guyton, and political news breaks, expect to hear from him. It could be a phone call at 5am, or him walking into your office with a hastily folded newspaper, or now as GNN evolves with technology, broadcast texts and a Guyton fan page on Facebook. The degree of confidentiality (and sometimes accuracy) is related by established lines like "keep me covered on this but" or "you heard it here first."

I spoke to Guyton about this column and as usual, he focused the attention not on himself but on the mission of the endowment. "This is going to help students, help faculty research and teach students." Guyton is excited about the program, but more excited about what it could accomplish. After years of promoting scholarships and opportunities in the names of others, it is fitting that now people will be promoting this opportunity in the name of Steve Guyton. And it will ensure that for years to come people will continue to know Steve Guyton.



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.