By MARY PEREZ - firstname.lastname@example.org
BILOXI -- Tom Wall, who has served on the Biloxi Council since 1993, died a day before his 74th birthday.
Wall was completing his fifth term and had announced he wouldn't seek re-election as Ward 5 Councilman. He was the longest serving councilman since Biloxi switched to the mayor-council form of government in 1981, according to Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel.
Mayor A.J. Holloway will recommended a candidate to serve the time left on his term, which expires in less than 6 months. The Biloxi Council must confirm the candidate, under state statute.
Holloway said, he always appreciated that Tom was a straight shooter. "He let you know where he stood on things," Holloway said. "He was his own man and would not cave in to anyone. He looked at an issue, analyzed it, and he voted the way he thought was best. He was a good councilman, and I will miss him. He always had a good sense of humor, too, which was important."
The Harrison County Board of Supervisors observed a moment of silence during Monday's meeting when they heard about Wall's
death. Supervisor Windy Swetman made the announcement.
"Tom has been a rock of leadership for the people of Biloxi for many years," Swetman said. "I've considered him a good friend for years."
He and his wife, Biloxi realtor Arlene Wall, were married for more than 50 years and frequently traveled. The couple has two sons, Bob and Jeff, four grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.
Wall battled three bouts of cancer and rarely missed a Council meeting, even while undergoing chemotherapy.
He was the owner of Classy Chassis in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.
Fellow councilman Clark Griffith said he was shocked to hear this morning that Wall had died.
"Tom Wall was a character in a lot of ways," Griffith said.
There wasn't any question where Wall stood on an issue, said Griffith, but said he always was a gentleman.
Griffith said when the Council voted to require furloughs for city employees, the furlough didn't apply to Council members. Wall reimbursed the city for six days of furlough, saying "I wouldn't vote for something I wouldn't do myself."
Councilman George Lawrence said he's served on Council for 12 years with Wall, and sometimes they worked together and sometimes on the opposite side of an issue.
Wall was great for comic relief, Lawrence said. Right in the middle of a heated discussion he'd throw out a comment, and Lawrence said, "He said it at just the right time."
In 2008, Wall said the Council should tell Gov. Haley Barbour to "get off his butt" and get relief money to Biloxians still without homes three years after Hurricane Katrina.
Wall served on many charitable boards in Biloxi in addition to sitting on Council. He was a member of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce, Edgewater Rotary Club
and Joppa Shrine Temple and served on the boards of Biloxi Bay Chamber, Boys & Girls Club of the Gulf Coast and Salvation Army.
He was retired from the U.S. Air Force
as a senior master sergeant.
"He's just one of those good guys," Lawrence said.
Councilman Edward Gemmill said Wall beat cancer so many times, nobody expected his passing today.
In spite of his cancer, he led a very successful life, said Gemmill. "I know I'm sure proud of him.Gemmill said he was pleased to be part of the 50th wedding celebration with Tom and Arlene.
"He lived life to the fullest," he said.
Lucy Brashier, clerk of Biloxi council, said the staff at City Hall was mourning his passing Monday morning and realized, "He wouldn't want us to be moping around."
She said those who knew Wall were blessed after he beat cancer three times.
"He was one of a kind," she said. "We're going to miss him."