Harrison County

Funeral services set as Coast remembers former Biloxi Mayor Danny Guice

Former Biloxi Mayor Danny Guice Sr., left, and his son, retired state Rep. Daniel Guice Jr., visit at Biloxi City Hall, when the former mayor was honored on his 90th birthday. Guice Sr. died Thursday at age 92; his funeral will be Tuesday.
Former Biloxi Mayor Danny Guice Sr., left, and his son, retired state Rep. Daniel Guice Jr., visit at Biloxi City Hall, when the former mayor was honored on his 90th birthday. Guice Sr. died Thursday at age 92; his funeral will be Tuesday. meperez@sunherald.com File

Flags across the city are lowered to half-staff and funeral services will be Tuesday for former Mayor Daniel “Danny” Guice, who died Thursday.

Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home on Howard Avenue in downtown Biloxi. The funeral service will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday at the Biloxi Civic Center on Howard Avenue, followed by the service at 1 p.m. Interment will be in the Biloxi City Cemetery on U.S. 90.

“He was Biloxi 100 percent,” said his son, former state Rep. Daniel Guice Jr. The elder Guice lived in the city all his life except while attending college at Ole Miss and Tulane Law School and when his wife, Margaret Barrett Guice, spent six months in Jackson for cancer treatments before she died in 2006.

“I had dinner with him last night,” Guice Jr. said Thursday. His father then drove home from dinner. “He drove himself where he wanted to go. No accidents.”

He went to sleep and just didn’t wake up, his son said.

Guice, 92, served from 1955 to 1960 as Harrison County’s only representative in the state Legislature; as Biloxi mayor from 1961 to 1973; and as Harrison County judge from 1977 to 1998.

“Three branches of the government. I’m proud of that,” he said in November 2014, when the city honored him on his 90th birthday.

In April 1977, he was sworn in by Harrison County Court Judge Gaston Hewes Sr. and Guice promised to “sit on the bench with integrity and fairness to all.”

People who remember that may have forgotten Guice also had a role in the Charlton Heston movie “Number One,” a fantasy film about the New Orleans Saints, or that the Guice family went undefeated on the daytime television game show “Family Feud” in 1980. They won $28,659 during six episodes and were the show’s ninth undefeated champions.

“It was a great opportunity to do something together as a family,” he said at the time. “This did give us an opportunity to brag about the Coast.

“I gave (host) Richard Dawson a plaque and some canned shrimp, a letter from Gov. Winter and other mementos. The Coast got some real exposure.”

He also saw Biloxi through turbulent times during the civil rights movement and the disaster of 1969’s Hurricane Camille, and still, the word most people used to describe him is “gentleman.”

The first two beach wade-ins in 1959 and 1960 — organized by Dr. Gilbert Mason and fellow black residents who believed the sand beach, then exclusive to whites, should be open to all — turned violent. By June 1963, many of those residents had helped elect Guice as mayor and with his cooperation a peaceful wade-in was held.

“Daddy has always been just a little ahead of his time,” his son said.

He was a Southern Democrat, which his son said is pretty much equivalent to a Republican today. Guice was known to say people can get a huge amount accomplished as long as it doesn’t matter who gets credit.

After Camille devastated Biloxi, Guice went to work cleaning and rebuilding the city and encouraging the residents.

“We have sustained a terrible blow by this unusual storm, but we must keep our spirits high so we can rebuild our city,” he said a week after the storm. He spent an inordinate amount of time in Washington after Camille, his son said, and brought home lots of money for Coast recovery.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left the Guice family home “nothing but a slab,” his son said, though the property was 2 feet higher than Camille’s surge. Guice’s wife died the next year, after 58 years of marriage.

When he retired as mayor in 1973, Guice was presented with the Mississippi Municipalities Association Distinguished Service Award. He said in the 12 years he and his family represented the city in its official business and functions, they dedicated their lives and efforts toward the improvement of Biloxi in attempting to provide greater opportunities for their fellow citizens.

A party was held in his honor, organized by Biloxi attorney Clare Sekul Hornsby, who died earlier this year. A letter was read from then-President Richard Nixon and many accolades were given. Fannie Nichols, a Biloxi school teacher for 53 years, rose and spoke for the black community, saying although she had no gifts or plaques, she offered “a presentation of love from my people.”

State Sen. W.J. Caraway of Leland was among the many who praised the mayor and said, “Danny is a man who has enormous vision. He thinks big, he acts big, he is big.”

His life left a big impression and his passing a big hole in the community, his son said.