Life well lived
Cameron’s resume includes athlete, intelligence officer, attorney and book author.
Championship tennis player. Military intelligence officer. Attorney. Book author.
Mack Cameron could soon have one more title added to his resume, as an author with a book turned into a Hollywood production.
Not bad for a guy who at six years old could barely walk.
In first grade, Mack was diagnosed with a condition that would gradually cause his bones to disintegrate.
When doctors caught it, his right hip was nearly gone.
His condition was so bad, in fact, he was put on crutches in hopes that they would slow the disease’s progression.
The crutches didn’t work, and by fourth grade, doctors were insisting on surgery.
Mack’s mother, Dorothy, who served as organist of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Laurel for 63 years, wouldn’t let them, and in a few months, the boy was healed.
“I walked out of the bone clinic with a normal hip and no sign of the disease,” Mack said. “The Lord healed me.”
Perhaps the healing was meant to be, with Mack going on to achieve great things.
After ditching the crutches, the Laurel native went on to be a successful junior tennis player and later won four individual Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles at Mississippi State University.
His team, which won team titles in 1965 and 1967, was honored by the Mississippi Legislature in 2012. And recently, he and his fellow teammates attended a reunion at the college, where they met with current coaches and players, and watched a couple of matches.
“We beat Tulane my sophomore year. I won the key match,” he said. “It was the first time they lost in the SEC in years.”
After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science, Mack went to intern for Sen. John Stennis before joining the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer.
After active duty, he went back to school to get his law degree from the University of Mississippi.
While there, Mack coached tennis, leading the men’s team to its best win-loss record (21-9) in 1974. That record stood for years, until it was broken by now retired tennis coach Billy Chadwick in 1995.
“Some people wanted me to stay and coach, but I had interviews in D.C.,” he said.
Mack went on to serve as an attorney for the U.S. Secret Service, working for three presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
“I was one of three attorneys working for the secret service. I handled a lot of documents concerning the Freedom of Information Act, including (requests) on the Kennedy assassination file and Watergate,” he said. “The two attempts on (President) Ford’s life, I handled hearings on all of that.”
After his time in the service, Mack returned home, where he landed a job in the state attorney general’s office.
“I decided if I wanted to get in politics I would have to come back here,” he said, referring to Mississippi.
Mack worked under A.F. Sumner, Bill Allain and Ed Pittman.
While at the office, he went on to coordinate the state’s efforts to block the Tatum Salt Dome from being used for an atomic waste storage site.
The dome would have been used to dump state, national and international atomic waste, which would have had adverse environmental consequences for the state, not to mention, lead to numerous deaths.
Through Mack’s investigations, the state learned that at least 18 people a year would die as a result of the waste and fallout from it.
“We also found out that you couldn’t clean up the groundwater if that got contaminated,” he said. “Numerous water aquifers go by (the dome). It was just a matter of time before that happened.”
Mack worked with Sen. John Stennis to organize the state’s Congressional delegation to address the matter and plans to build the facility there were stopped.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I did,” he said.
He also worked to end corruption in local government’s dealings with 16th section land. At the time, numerous county governments were awarding long-term leases on the government-owned land for far less than market value.
“I was tasked with writing an AG’s opinion on the 16th Section Land Act and had to try several cases after that,” he said. “People would receive leases for a very small amount and turn around and lease them again for a significant amount.”
As expected, numerous leaseholders were angry, with one landowner making a not-so-veiled threat against Mack on television. That individual, holding a shotgun in the interview, said he would not have his lease renegotiated.
“I called the guy (to) our office and told him, ‘you can go get your gun and I can get mine, and I’m a pretty good shot. Whether you win or not, you’ll still have a bad lease,’” Mack recalled. ‘And he said, ‘really?’”
That lease, as well as 200 others, were re-written to the benefit of the state.
“Sixteenth-section land (was) generating $32,000 a year in Rankin County when we started. When we finished, the annual rentals went to over $1 million a year in Rankin County (alone),” he said. “That means a lot to me.”
Mack, later went into private practice, but has since returned to the AG. In addition to his law work, he’s also written three books, two of which have been published, and one of which has caught the eye of television producers.
The novel, “The Bluffs of Devil’s Swamp,” was written based on his experience investigating a case in south Mississippi. He and his team were investigating the Tidelands Case, when they came upon an abandoned site hidden away in a swamp.
Legend has it that it was previously used by smugglers during Prohibition. Mack’s story is based on that legend, as well as interviews he’s had with several people about it.
One producer, who wished to remain anonymous, has produced numerous documentaries over the years, including some for History channel, is hopeful the series will become reality.
“We’re speaking with major studios and networks,” he said. “I’m hopeful someone will pick it up.”