September 10, 2011 1:47:00 AM
JACKSON -- A temporary restraining order was issued Friday in Panola County to stop the sale of photos, official correspondence and other items from the estate of the late Mississippi Gov. Cliff Finch.
The populist Democrat from Panola County was governor from 1976 to 1980, courting working-class voters by carrying a lunch box and driving heavy machinery and bagging groceries while campaigning. He died of a heart attack in April 1986.
Court documents sent to The Associated Press show that Finch''s daughter, Ann Finch Walker, obtained a chancery judge''s order to block a Memphis, Tenn., firm from selling photographs, letters from U.S. presidents, state seals and political memorabilia.
Walker said in court papers that ownership of the items was in dispute and some items "may actually be property of the state of Mississippi."
The sale of some items, such as clothing and furniture, was allowed to continue.
Walker also filed a lawsuit against Jerry Copeland and his Memphis-based company, Copeland Estate Sales.
Copeland told AP he was hired by a 25-year-old granddaughter of the former governor, who was also a niece of Walker. Copeland dismissed the claim that any items in the estate sale belonged to the state.
"That''s a big joke," he said. "It would''ve never gotten into the possession of the family if it belonged to the state of Mississippi."
Copeland declined to release the name of his client. He would only say that she lives in Mississippi and is about to get married. He said she thought she would be able to sell items she inherited from her grandparents.
"This is her inheritance. She''s getting ready to get married. Her aunt has just completely broken her heart," Copeland said.
Walker claims in her lawsuit that some of items in the estate sale had been taken from her by her late sister, the mother of Copeland''s client.
Among the items the granddaughter intended to sell were campaign buttons, photographs and letters from several prominent political figures, including President Jimmy Carter, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton, who was Arkansas governor part of the time Finch was Mississippi governor and later became president.
"Great, great stuff," Copeland said.
He said that because of the court dispute, he packed the disputed items and moved them to a secure place. He said a few items that weren''t in dispute were sold, but he believes the restraining order ruined the sale.
Finch briefly ran for president in 1980.
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