Angel Eaves Profile in the Clarion Ledger
ANGEL EAVES AT A GLANCE
Education: graduated from Forest Hill High School; attended Hinds Community College
Family: married to John Arthur Eaves Jr.; four sons
Hobbies/interests: writing, singing, classical music (including Mozart and Bach) and video games (Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man)
By Gary Pettus firstname.lastname@example.org
She was 12 years old, lying on her back, her eyes hurting from the lights in the ambulance.
Moments earlier, she had been at a neighbor’s house, jumping on a trampoline, where she slipped and fell on her neck. Now, it felt like her legs were missing.
Inside the ambulance, she started to blink, until a voice, coming down between her and the lights, stopped her cold.
“Don’t close your eyes, sweetie,” the voice told her. “You might not wake up.”
Angel Ainsworth began to pray – her eyes wide open.
Rain is falling on a Wednesday morning, 13 days from the general election. The campaign bus is shooting north on I-55, its tires slinging mist and mud.
It’s the kind of day that can be bad on her neck.
When the weather turns cold, she can feel it sometimes, a loose piece of cartilage, or something, touching a nerve.
Angel Eaves – born Ainsworth – is on the bus with her husband, John Arthur Eaves Jr., the Democratic candidate for governor, who will comb north Mississippi for votes on this day.
They probably won’t see the children again until late that night – the kind of disruption in the family routine their four boys call “campaignful.”
Angel Eaves, who says she enjoys campaigning, still has to laugh – appreciating the pun and the truth wrapped inside it.
They are the underdogs.
The overdogs are popular Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife, Marsha.
As expected, the two men in this race have attacked each others’ records. Not as expected, maybe, was a “campaignful” moment when Barbour made an issue of Angel Eaves.
“I got my trophy wife the first time,” he said at the Neshoba County Fair in July.
It was a reference, it seems, to another marriage and to Angel Eaves’ youth.
She is 30, about 11 years younger than her husband who, like Barbour, is an attorney and a millionaire.
She was married twice before – her first husband was also an Eaves, although not related to John. Brady, 11, is her son from that marriage. As for John Arthur Eaves Jr., he has three sons from his first marriage: John III, 13; Sterling, who turns 12 on Thursday; and Christian, 9.
The four boys live with them in their home in Madison, which features a room decorated with posters from favorite movies.
Angel Eaves’ is Gone With the Wind.
“I’m a Mississippi girl,” she said.
In a way, that’s one reason her second marriage ended.
“My husband was a wonderful man,” she said, “but we were more like business partners. We kept moving for his job; we were supposed to come back to Mississippi at one point, but he was transferred again. That wasn’t the life I wanted for my son.”
It was Brady, and all the boys, she was thinking about, she said, after Barbour’s comment.
“They were with us at the fair and heard about it,” she said. “I had to explain what it meant.
“The comment from the governor was true to his character. I was embarrassed for him. I don’t want anything to ever bother the children. As long as it’s not directed toward them, I’m fine.”
For her part, Angel Eaves refers to her and her husband’s previous marriages as “the circumstances we both have been through.”
“I believe God gave us a second chance,” she said.
John Arthur Eaves Jr.’s “second chance” is the daughter of Daryl and Kristie Ainsworth of Jackson, who named her Angela.
“I’m the one who started calling her Angel,” says her father, “maybe as a faith confession – that she would live as one.”
Thanks to her parents, she, and older brother Rob, attended church as often as one. As a young girl, she sang in the Word of Life Church in Jackson. She also sang at home, using the hearth for a stage and a candlestick for a microphone.
Her “Bible” was a huge automotive manual that belonged to her father, a Corvette buff. She preached from it.
“I don’t even think she could read,” Kristie Ainsworth said.
When she did learn to read, it was in Jackson Public Schools. She attended Forest Hill High, where she was class president, a Future Business Leader of America, “and,” she said with a laugh, “bat girl for the baseball team.”
Exploiting her love of singing, she entered beauty and talent contests – rehearsing, over and over, tunes such as Saving All My Love for You, Greatest Love of All and I Will Always Love You.
“To this day,” she said, “I believe my mother gets sick to her stomach when she hears a Whitney Houston song.”
She was on the school dance team, sponsored then by one of her teachers, Rusty Bridges.
“One day when he was giving us a pep talk, he gave each of us a real pearl,” she said. “He said that each of us, separately, is special. But when we combine as a team, like a string of pearls, we are so much more beautiful.”
Over the years, she has literally worn Bridges’ lesson around her neck. It’s a good lesson for anyone in politics.
Politics: She had plans for herself at one time. Instead, after attending Hinds Community College, she worked for two TV stations, WAPT and WDBD, selling ads. That gave her the confidence to start her own agency, which she still runs, performing marketing work for law firms.
Among her clients was John Arthur Eaves Sr. That’s how she got to know his son, she said.
“We were friends before we dated, so I’m not sure what the first date was, exactly. Probably dinner – Amerigo’s, maybe.”
Wherever they ate, politics was back on the table.
“John stole my heart,” she said. “He always called himself the Coke Bottle-Glasses Kid – he’s a visionary.
“But, you know, he trips sometimes,” she said with a laugh. “He drops things. He has imperfections, but he’s perfect.”
She talks like a newlywed, and she pretty much is one. She has been married to Eaves a little more than a year. She has been wedded to the Democratic Party longer than that.
Growing up, she was a Republican.
“The belief was if you were a Christian, you had to be a Republican,” she said. “I believe a lot of people feel that way. But now I believe we are Democrats because we are Christians.”
Angel Eaves attends Pinelake Baptist Church with her husband and their sons.
“Jesus came to heal the sick and help the poor,” she said.
And that’s what the governor’s race is about, she said.
“People in this state have huge hearts. They have hope. People in this state are desperate for so many things.”
On her own, she has tried to help the luckless and poor – to her mother’s distress. She gives money to strangers at gas stations. And she gives rides to strangers (women only) she spots walking alone on the road.
Angel Eaves’ husband said this habit proves his wife “has a heart bigger than Mississippi.” But then he shakes his head and smiles.
“The only thing about that is we have people calling the house saying, ‘I need a ride.’ ”
He calls her his “treasure wife” – mostly as an antidote to Barbour’s barb.
But his admiration for her extends to her willingness to go with him deer hunting, the fact she knows about cars (especially Corvettes), that she can sing, that she enjoys classical music, that she “makes the best vegetable soup and spaghetti.”
At a campaign stop at the Batesville courthouse, the couple shook hands with Rubert Morgan of Pope.
“You’re the first person I’ve ever met,” he said, after he was introduced to Angel, “whose name fits her.”
John Arthur Eaves loves repeating that line.
Soon after she “broke her neck” – as the doctors said – the numbness in her legs disappeared, and the X-rays cleared up.
“They didn’t show a break anymore,” Kristie Ainsworth said.
Over the years, during medical exams that have required X-rays, the evidence has reappeared.
“A guy at MEA,” Angel Eaves said, “told me I shouldn’t be walking. He said he was going to carry my X-ray in his wallet.
It’s been 18 years since that moment came for her. But her eyes are still open, she said, even on days without pain that slips back in with the cold.