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|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Mississippi's 4th district
July 7, 1981 - January 3, 1989
Charles Wayne Dowdy
July 27, 1943
Fitzgerald, Georgia, U.S.
Charles Wayne Dowdy (born July 27, 1943) is an American politician and lawyer from Mississippi. He was first elected in a 1981 special election and served four terms in the United States House of Representatives. He later served as chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party.
Dowdy was born in Fitzgerald, Ben Hill County, Georgia. He grew up in the Methodist Church and is a graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He set up a law practice in Mississippi and purchased two local radio stations. He entered politics and was elected as mayor of McComb, Mississippi, serving from 1978 to 1981.
On July 7, 1981, Dowdy was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat in a special election for the 4th District. In this election the Democrats recaptured a Southern district from the Republicans, in a period when the white electorate in the South was shifting to the Republican Party. Dowdy carefully managed to avoid drawing strong Republican challengers in the general election or African-American opponents in the Democratic primary.
He won re-election narrowly in 1982 and 1984, with 53 percent and 55 percent of the vote, before being re-elected with 72 percent of the vote in the 1986 elections. He was notable for being a rather progressive Democrat by Mississippi standards of the time in a district with a 37 percent African-American population; in 1982 he voted for renewal of the Voting Rights Act.
In 1988, when John Stennis retired from the Senate, Dowdy won the Democratic nomination. His opponent was Republican Congressman Trent Lott. Dowdy was unable to implement his rural strategy and lost to Lott by a 54 percent-45 percent margin. He was severely hampered by George H.W. Bush carrying Mississippi with a 59 percent to 39 percent margin. He also lost badly in Lott's congressional district, taking only 30 percent of the vote.