Ray Mabus

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Ray Mabus
75th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
May 19, 2009 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyRobert O. Work
Janine A. Davidson
Preceded byDonald C. Winter
Succeeded byRichard V. Spencer
United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
In office
July 5, 1994 – April 25, 1996
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byJohn Frank Bookout Jr.
Succeeded byWyche Fowler
60th Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 12, 1988 – January 14, 1992
LieutenantBrad Dye
Preceded byWilliam Allain
Succeeded byKirk Fordice
37th Auditor of Mississippi
In office
January 10, 1984 – January 12, 1988
GovernorWilliam Allain
Preceded byHamp King
Succeeded byPete Johnson
Personal details
Raymond Edwin Mabus Jr.

(1948-10-11) October 11, 1948 (age 73)
Starkville, Mississippi, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Julie Hines
(m. 1987; div. 2000)

Lynne Horecky
(m. 2007)
Alma materUniversity of Mississippi (BA)
Johns Hopkins University (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1970–1972
RankUS-O2 insignia.svg Lieutenant (junior grade)

Raymond Edwin Mabus Jr. (/mbəs/; born October 11, 1948) is an American politician, diplomat, and member of the Democratic Party who served as the 75th United States Secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2017. Mabus previously served as the State Auditor of Mississippi from 1984 to 1988, as the 60th Governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992 and as the United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1994 to 1996.

Early life and education[edit]

Mabus was born in Starkville, Mississippi, and is a fourth-generation Mississippian; he grew up in Ackerman, the only child of the owner of the local hardware store. After attending public schools, he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science. He earned a Master of Arts in political science from Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. He had been offered a Fulbright Scholarship, had held a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and had traveled widely throughout Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Latin America[1] Prior to attending law school, he also served two years in the Navy as a surface warfare officer from 1970 to 1972 aboard the cruiser USS Little Rock (CLG-4), achieving the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade[2] and worked as a law clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.


Mabus began his professional career working in Washington, D.C., as legal counsel to the United States House Committee on Agriculture. Following the election of Governor William Winter, he returned to Mississippi to work in the governor's office, where the youthful staff, which included Mabus, Dick Molpus, John Henegan and Andy Mullins—earned the nickname "Boys of Spring" from a rival state legislator.[3]

Mississippi State Auditor[edit]

In 1983, Mabus was elected state auditor and served from 1984 to 1988, during this time, he participated in a large FBI sting operation which recovered millions in misspent or stolen public funds.[4] By the time it was finished, "Operation Pretense" had ensnared 57 county supervisors in 25 counties, and all but two of those supervisors served time in prison.[5]

Governor of Mississippi[edit]

Mabus as governor.

At 39 years of age, he defeated Tupelo businessman Jack Reed in the 1987 gubernatorial election by 53% to 47%, becoming the youngest governor in the United States. He won "on a wave of black votes" (black voters made up about 30 percent of the state's registered voters)[6] and lost the white vote "by about 3 to 2" despite support from what a coalition one Democratic state chairman described as "poor whites" and yuppies.[7] Mabus, who ran on the slogan "Mississippi Will Never Be Last Again",[6] was billed as "the face of the New South", much like his counterpart in Arkansas at the time, Bill Clinton. Mabus was featured in a 1988 New York Times Magazine cover story titled "The Yuppies of Mississippi; How They Took Over the Statehouse".[8]

During his time as governor, he passed B.E.S.T. (Better Education for Success Tomorrow),[9] gave teachers the largest pay raise in the nation;[6] and was named one of Fortune Magazine's ten "education governors".[10] Mississippi also had record growth in new jobs, investment, tourism and exports.[citation needed]

Because of the gubernatorial succession amendment ratified in 1987, Mabus was eligible to become the first governor to serve two successive terms in more than 100 years, and he ran for reelection in 1991. He was defeated 51% to 48% in the general election by Republican Kirk Fordice, a former Vicksburg construction executive, who portrayed him as "arrogant and out of touch with Mississippi politically", with a New York Times article describing him as a "Porsche politician in a Chevy pickup state".[6]

Ambassador to Saudi Arabia[edit]

Mabus was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be the United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and served from 1994 to 1996. During his tenure, a 1994 border crisis involving Yemen was defused,[11] a 1994 crisis with Iraq was deterred,[12] he presided over the embassy during the 1995 terrorist attack,[13] child abduction cases were addressed,[14] and contracts worth more than $16 billion were signed between Saudi Arabian and American companies such as Boeing,[15] and AT&T.[16]

Mabus's residence and embassy office in Riyadh were decorated with items of interest from his home state including an Ackerman phone book on his office coffee table and the Mississippi flag next to the American flag.[citation needed]

Secretary of the Navy[edit]

Mabus meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office in June 2010.
Gen. James T. Conway, Sec. Mabus, and Adm. Gary Roughead testify before Congress in February 2010.
Vice Adm. Walter E. Carter Jr., Adm. John M. Richardson, Sec. Mabus, Deputy Sec. of Defense Robert O. Work, and Gen. Robert Neller at the 117th Army-Navy Game in December 2016.

On March 27, 2009, Mabus was nominated by President Obama as Secretary of the Department of the Navy.[17] He was sworn in on May 19, 2009,[18] and held a ceremonial swearing in at Washington Navy Yard on June 18, 2009, where he was re-sworn in by the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.[19][20][21]

Ship naming controversies[edit]

In April 2010 a furor arose when it was reported that Mabus made the proposal to name a United States Navy warship the USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) after the late Pennsylvania Democratic congressman John Murtha. Additional naming controversies occurred due to the naming of the auxiliary ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) after civil rights activist Cesar Chavez who has described his service in the U.S. Navy as "the worst two years in my life,"[22][23] and a littoral combat ship the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) after former Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, after she suffered life-threatening wounds in the 2011 mass shooting in her home district of Tucson, Arizona.[24]

On April 16, 2012, the Navy Secretary returned to Naval tradition of naming certain warships after former U.S. presidents, announcing the next Zumwalt-class destroyer be named the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. Even this action represented somewhat of a change to previous norms, since with the exception of the current attack submarine, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) and the since-decommissioned USS George Washington (SSBN-598) class of Polaris/Poseidon fleet ballistic missile submarines, all recent U.S. warships named for presidents have been aircraft carriers.

Subsequent ship namings include his January 6, 2016, announcement of his naming of another auxiliary ship after civil rights activist and sitting incumbent Georgia Democratic Congressman John Lewis (i.e., USNS John Lewis (T-AO-205)). Mabus further stated that this particular class of auxiliary ship, of which the John Lewis would be the lead ship, would all be named after civil rights leaders.[25] Mabus followed this action with his July 14, 2016, naming of the subsequent after gay rights icon and former San Francisco Democratic politician the late Harvey Milk,[26] who had served as a naval line officer for four years prior to resigning his commission and honorable discharge as a lieutenant, junior grade (LTJG).[27]

Gulf Coast restoration plan[edit]

President Obama has asked him to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, Native American tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents.[28]

2013 Navy Yard shooting[edit]

On September 16, 2013, gunman Aaron Alexis entered the Washington Navy Yard and killed 13 people and injured 14. Alexis was a 34-year-old military contractor.[29] A Pentagon internal investigation found that the shootings could have been prevented with stricter oversight of security clearances and increased security at the Navy Yard facility.[29] A ceremony was held to mark the one-year anniversary of the Navy Yard massacre, honoring those who were killed and injured. Mabus stated, "We know that their lives are defined not by how they died, but by how they lived and what they lived for, and will be remembered for that always."[30]

Budget controversy[edit]

After a January 2015 report by the Defense Business Board and McKinsey & Company discovered DoD was spending $134 billion, 23% of its total budget, on back-office work, and that the back-office bureaucracy staff of over one million people was nearly as great as the number of active troops, the Board recommended a plan to cut $125 billion in waste over five years.[31] However, when Ash Carter became Defense Secretary the next month, he replaced the Board chairman, the McKinsey results were classified as secret, and its report was removed from public websites.[31] Mabus then gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute highlighting the McKinsey report, calling the back-office costs "pure overhead" and particularly criticizing the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency.[31] Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall III then wrote to him asking "please refrain from taking any more public pot shots" and "I do not want this spilling over into further public discourse."[31]

USMC integration[edit]

On January 1, 2016, Mabus ordered the United States Marine Corps to devise a plan on co-integration of male and female recruits in basic training, giving top brass a two-week planning period, along with requesting a subject matter expert, to report the best method of said plan.[32]


Mabus stepped down as Secretary of the Navy in January 2017 upon the inauguration of Donald Trump. He was succeeded by Assistant Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who became acting Secretary[33] until Richard V. Spencer was sworn in as Secretary in August 2017.

Business ventures[edit]

He was Chairman and CEO of Foamex International and helped lead it out of bankruptcy. Ray Mabus serves as a Google Ventures Advisor.[34]

Awards, honors, community service[edit]

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presents the Navy Distinguished Public Service Medal to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Mabus has been awarded the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, the U.S. Army's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Responsibility Award from the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, the King Abdulaziz Award from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,[35] and the Mississippi Association of Educators' Friend of Education Award.

He was included in Glassdoor's 2013 list of "Highest Rated CEOs" at 43rd place with an 82% approval rate.[36]

He is active in many community activities, primarily focusing on education. Following Hurricane Katrina, he founded the Help and Hope Foundation, which works to meet the needs of children affected by the storm.

He was a member of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy[37] and the Council on Foreign Relations, and is the Distinguished Lecturer on the Middle East at the University of Mississippi.

Personal life[edit]

Mabus has been married to the former Lynn Horecky since 2007. He was previously married to the former Julie HInes until their divorce in 2000.[38]

Mabus is a fan of the Boston Red Sox having first followed the team during the 1975 World Series while a student at Harvard Law School.[39]

In 2009, and again in 2014, Mabus made cameo appearances on the TV drama NCIS in the Season 7 episode "Child's Play", and in the Season 12 episode "Semper Fortis", as an NCIS Agent named "Ray".[40] He also made a cameo on NCIS: New Orleans in the episode "Insane in the Membrane".[41]

In 2012, he appeared in the movie Battleship as the commanding officer of USS Ronald Reagan.

Mabus made a cameo appearance as himself in the "It's Not a Rumor" episode of the TV series The Last Ship, issuing orders to the crew of the Nathan James via a recorded message; in the storyline, by the time the ship received the orders, Mabus had succumbed to the "Red Flu" virus.[42]


  1. ^ "Mississippi History Now | Ray Mabus: Sixtieth Governor of Mississippi: 1988-1992". www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov.
  2. ^ "USSLittleRock.org". Archived from the original on August 13, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2007.
  3. ^ Nash, Jere; Taggart, Andy (2009). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976–2008. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. p. 144. ISBN 978-1604732665.
  4. ^ Karahan, Gökhan R.; Razzolini, Laura; William F. Shughart II (August 2006). "No Pretense to Honesty: County Government Corruption in Mississippi". Economics of Governance. 7 (3): 211–227. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10101-005-0006-4. S2CID 154168647.
  5. ^ "Newspaper Archive". nl.newsbank.com. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Applebome, Peter (September 16, 1991). "Mississippi Governor's Record at Issue". New York Times.
  7. ^ Dionne, E. J. Jr. (November 5, 1987). "Voting Produces Strong Evidence of Importance of Race in Politics". New York Times.
  8. ^ Boyer, Peter J. (February 28, 1988). "The Yuppies of Mississippi: How They Took Over the Statehouse". New York Times Magazine.
  9. ^ AGENCY GROUP, 05. "Doe Announces More Key Administration Posts". FDCH Regulatory Intelligence Database (n.d.): Regional Business News. Web. November 3, 2011.
  10. ^ "HOW WASHINGTON CAN PITCH IN George Bush wants to be Education President. He gets A for rhetoric; Incomplete for action. States must lead, but there's much for the Administration to do. - May 28, 1990". money.cnn.com. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  11. ^ Inventory of Conflict & Environment, Saudi-Yemen border dispute
  12. ^ "Operation Vigilant Warrior". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  13. ^ "Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program (OPM-SANG)". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  14. ^ "State Dept. press briefing, August 6, 2002". Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  15. ^ "Saudi Arabian Airlines completes fleet renewal with 23rd Boeing 777" Saudia Online, August 12, 2001.
  16. ^ "TEP6 telecommunications project". Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  17. ^ Emily Wagster Pettus (March 27, 2009). "Obama chooses ex-Miss. governor for Navy post". Navy Times.
  18. ^ Staff reporter (May 19, 2009). "Mabus Sworn in as New Navy Secretary". NNS. Retrieved May 20, 2009. Ray Mabus, former Mississippi governor and U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was sworn in May 19 as the 75th secretary of the Navy (Archived by WebCite at webcitation.org)
  19. ^ Barfield Berry, Deborah (June 19, 2009). "Former Miss. gov. sworn in as new Navy secretary". The Clarion-Ledger.
  20. ^ Harrison, Darren (June 18, 2009). "Secretary of Navy Committed to Sailors, Families". Official Website of the United States Navy.
  21. ^ Ewing, Philip (June 18, 2009). "Well sworn, SecNav praises traditions". Navy Times.
  22. ^ Tejada-Flores, Rick. "The Fight in the Fields – Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Struggle". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on August 17, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  23. ^ Robbins, Gary; Aguilera, Elizabeth (May 18, 2011). "Navy secretary names ship after Cesar Chavez". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved March 7, 2012. Mabus' remarks came amid controversy. On Tuesday, Hunter issued a statement saying, "Naming a ship after César Chávez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navy's history and tradition."
  24. ^ Ewing, Philip (February 15, 2012). "Navy Plays it Safe With New DDG and LCS Names". Military.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012. Less than a week after drawing traditionalist ire for naming a Navy warship after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus returned to standard convention Wednesday in a batch of new names for forthcoming warships.
  25. ^ "SECNAV Mabus Names First T-AO(X) Next Generation Oiler After Rep. John Lewis". January 6, 2016.
  26. ^ "Navy to Name Ship After Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk". July 28, 2016.
  27. ^ "Navy Officer Ranks". Military.com. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  28. ^ "Remarks by the President to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill" Archived January 25, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, White House Press Office, June 15, 2010
  29. ^ a b Starr, Barbara; Shoichet, Catherine E.; Brown, Pamela. "Navy Yard shooting rampage: 12 killed, dead suspect identified". CNN. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  30. ^ "Washington Navy Yard Honors Shooting Victims During Anniversary Ceremony". Archived from the original on January 12, 2015.
  31. ^ a b c d Craig Whitlock; Bob Woodward (December 5, 2016). "Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste". The Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  32. ^ Sweeney, Heather. "Marine Corps Ordered to Make Boot Camp Coed, Remove 'Man' from Titles". Military.com. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  33. ^ "Document: Pentagon Acting Leadership Memo After Trump Inauguration". January 19, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  34. ^ "Secretary Ray Mabus". Google Ventures. Archived from the original on May 6, 2017.
  35. ^ "Saudis Honor Outgoing Mabus". The Associated Press. April 28, 1996. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  36. ^ "Glassdoor's Highest Rated CEOs 2013". Glassdoor. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  37. ^ "CMEPP Advisory Board". RAND. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  38. ^ Rutenberg, Jim (March 30, 2009). "Navy Secretary Nominee Drew Notice Over Divorce (Published 2009)" – via NYTimes.com.
  39. ^ Shachtman, Noah (July 17, 2012). "How the Navy's Incompetence Sank the 'Green Fleet'". Wired.
  40. ^ "Ray Mabus to guest star on 'NCIS'". United Press International. November 9, 2009. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  41. ^ "NCIS: New Orleans - Season 2, Episode 6: Insane in the Membrane". TV.com. October 27, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  42. ^ "San Diego stars in TNT's 'Last Ship'". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved January 3, 2016.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Auditor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Mississippi
1987, 1991
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States
Within Mississippi
Succeeded byas Former Governor
Preceded byas Former Governor Order of precedence of the United States
Outside Mississippi