Former head of Mississippi wildlife agency Bevill dies

Vernon Bevill served as the executive director of Mississippi’s state wildlife agency from 1987-1990.

He served three years during time of controversy, turmoil

Vernon Bevill, the executive director of Mississippi’s state wildlife agency during a turbulent period from 1987-1990, died Tuesday (April 30) in an automobile accident not far from his home in Kyle, Texas. He was 69.

A Louisiana native who earned his B.S. and Masters degrees in wildlife at Louisiana Tech, Bevill is remembered in Mississippi for his intelligence, his wit and his dedicated work ethic.

“He was a very smart man, a lot smarter than people gave him credit for,” said Bill Quisenberry, of Clinton, a former administrator at the agency who served as an interim executive director both before and after Bevill’s term. “He was extremely dedicated, too. Vernon loved being a wildlife biologist, and was proud of it.”

Jack Herring of Brandon, who served as chief of wildlife and fisheries under Bevill and succeeded him as executive director, called Bevill a good man.

“He was my friend,” Herring said. “He was smart. He was very personable, very likable. He had a great sense of humor and was a lot of fun to be around. But, he was also a little bit hardheaded when it came to running the agency. And as political as things were, I think that is what cost him his job.”

Bevill was a rare hire as an executive director, having no previous ties to wildlife in Mississippi. That put him behind the eight ball.

“He was the head of the turkey program in South Carolina and one day he guided this fellow from North Carolina on a turkey hunt,” Herring said. “A few years later, that same fellow was elected governor of North Carolina and he brought Vernon in as head of that state’s wildlife agency. Of course, North Carolina was like Mississippi back then in that the governor named his agency heads and when that governor left, Bevill was gone, too.”

But at that time, 1986, Mississippi’s wildlife agency was embroiled in political turmoil. Joe Stone of Hattiesburg had just started his second, but non-consecutive, term as executive director. Between his two terms, the job requirements changed. Shortly after he took the position, Stone’s qualifications were called into question, and he was subsequently fired for allegedly falsifying his job application.

As political as the position was — the average term was less than three years, none of the state’s high-ranking wildlife officials wanted the job. Quisenberry was named interim director and led the search for job candidates.

“That’s how we found Bevill, and he came in and got the position,” Quisenberry said. “He didn’t understand the politics, and it eventually cost him his job.”

During Bevill’s time in Mississippi, he had to deal with three key wildlife issues, two with deer and one with waterfowl, and pulling the agency back together after the Stone debacle.

“Road hunting and the dog hunter/still hunter controversies were the big deal with deer back then,” Herring said. “Oooh, those were hot issues. He was also involved in some of the waterfowl stuff, too, where Mississippi was going head to head with the Feds (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) over limits and frameworks.”

His hardest task, however, was dealing with the politics of the job, something Herring and Quisenberry said Bevill struggled with daily.

Bevill was unsuccessful in that respect and was fired after three years.

But Bevill’s highly successful career in wildlife was far from over. He moved to Texas in 1993 and was named Director of the Small Game Program for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It was a job he held until his retirement in 2010.

“During his tenure at TPWD, Vernon served proudly, tirelessly and actively, as Texas’ representative on the Central Flyway Council his entire career,” TPWD executive director Carter Smith wrote Wednesday in announcing Bevill’s tragic death to agency staff. “He was the author of the agency’s strategic plans for Upland and Migratory Game Birds and was a significant force behind the creation of the Department’s Quail Council.

“Vernon loved his chosen profession and all that came with it. As a biologist he worked on an array of species from waterfowl to dove to quail to deer to black bear, and his beloved wild turkey. His happiest days were with good friends on good hunts in good habitat.”

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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