Clarksdale, Miss. - Academy-Award winner Morgan Freeman says Mississippi is "starving" for the right leadership, so the actor is using his celebrity status to help his friend run for governor in 2011.
Freeman has written a fundraising letter and is one of the hosts for a cocktail party in Los Angeles next week for Bill Luckett, an attorney seeking the Democratic nomination. Term limits prevent Republican Gov. Haley Barbour from seeking a third term.
“Reform in Mississippi is hard because the base stock of this state is a mule-headed bunch of farmers,” Freeman told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Those farmers have ruled the roost for so long because this is an agricultural state.”
Freeman lives in Charleston, a small town in the Mississippi Delta where farming is the main economic engine. The area has been plagued by poverty, illiteracy and racial tensions.
Freeman said in the fundraising letter that Luckett, who co-owns the Ground Zero Blues Club and the upscale Madidi restaurant with the actor, will help the state improve education, health care and economic development.
“Holding on to the old politics of race, class and region has starved Mississippi for too long," Freeman wrote in the letter released to AP. "... Bill Luckett will work diligently to see that the rhetoric that has divided us will never again keep us from tackling such problems."
Freeman spotlighted the race issues in "Prom Night in Mississippi," a documentary that aired on HBO about the first integrated senior prom at Charleston High School in 2008.
Next up for Freeman is a role as Nelson Mandela in the post-apartheid drama "Invictus." The film opens Dec. 11.
Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and businessman Dave Dennis, a former member of the Federal Reserve Board in New Orleans, have said they'll seek the Republican nomination for governor. No other prominent Democrats have publicly said they'll run.
Morgan Freeman Helps Friend in Miss. Gov's Race