Daily Journal - Childers: 'I've lived the challenges' - (This is the first in a series profiling the candidates in Tuesday's Democratic and Republican runoffs for the 1st District U.S. House seat. TODAY: Travis Childers - THURSDAY: Steve Holland -
FRIDAY: Greg Davis - SATURDAY: Glenn McCullough Jr.)
Childers was 16 years old when on Christmas day 1974 his father committed suicide. It left the family in shock - mostly because no one had expected it from the handsome and talented auto mechanic who seemed to have everything in life. Looking back, Childers said it's clear his father suffered from depression. But no one talked about the mental illness back then, not the way they do today. So, the family struggled to understand why its patriarch wanted to die, leaving behind a wife, son and 9-year-old daughter.
"I've lived the challenges facing north Mississippi," Childers said while on the campaign trail Monday. "And I believe one person can make a difference. If you don't believe that, you shouldn't be in public service."
A Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives 1st District seat, Childers spent the afternoon greeting supporters in his hometown of Booneville, where he also serves as Prentiss County's chancery clerk.
He faces Democratic challenger Steve Holland, a man he called "larger than life," in the April 1 runoff after both men garnered a majority of the vote in the March 11 primaries. Childers was the front-runner in that election, having won about 10,000 more votes than Holland.
"Prentiss County gave me 87 percent of the vote in the primaries," Childers told one of his supporters at Anderson Elementary School, "and I don't want you all to think I take it for granted. I need you to come back out and vote again."
"I'm running for Congress," he told students lined up for recess.
"What's Congress?" one boy asked.
"It's in Washington," said Childers.
Since qualifying for the election in January, Childers has kept a grueling schedule of campaigning while still working as chancery clerk and helping his wife, Tami, run the family's two businesses - Landmark Nursing Center and Landmark Community. The first is an 80-bed skilled-care facility; the second is an independent-living home with an on-site staff. He also owns Travis Childers Realty, but leaves the day-to-day operations to an associate.
But he didn't realize his lifelong dream until 1991, when he narrowly won a countywide election to become chancery clerk.
"Many, many, many, many years ago, I knew I wanted to run for chancery clerk," Childers said. "I never wanted to be sheriff, never wanted to be mayor, never wanted to be circuit clerk." A strange obsession for a child, perhaps, but Childers explained that former Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Gene Gray was a family friend and a positive influence on him.
The old building that used to house Booneville High School faced the wrecking ball unless someone bought and renovated it. Childers, it turned out, was that someone.
He and his family converted the 70-year-old structure into an independent living community for seniors. Then they partnered with Joey and Tracie Langston to build a new 80-bed nursing home next door. The Childers bought out the Langstons' business interest in 2002, becoming the sole proprietors years before Joey Langston pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a judge in one of the most sensational scandals in state history.