‘That’s why they fear me’: Chris McDaniel, with ground to make up, is sticking to a familiar blueprint


Chris McDaniel knows the power of fear as well as anyone.
In the summer of 1999, when McDaniel was a 27-year-old federal judicial clerk, he went to Jackson to help his father buy a new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
On the trip home, between Collins and their hometown of Ellisville, McDaniel, driving separately, turned behind his father onto Highway 588. The McDaniels had driven the narrow, two-lane highway hundreds of times. But at 11 p.m., even the most familiar country roads can surprise you.
McDaniel has replayed the scene thousands of times in his head: The darkness ahead of his father’s headlights pierced suddenly by a white wall. An 18-wheeler with no lights on backing into a driveway blocking the highway. The collision between his father’s SUV and the truck. McDaniel swerving to avoid hitting the wreck then climbing out and sprinting to the accident. His father’s final, “I love you.” McDaniel’s realization that his dad was gone.
For years after the accident, which McDaniel considers a defining moment in his life, he was gripped by fear of life without his father Carlos, a locally beloved professor and basketball coach at Jones County Junior College, and of what might lie ahead.
“I asked, ‘How could he be taken?'” McDaniel remembers thinking after the accident. “More importantly, why was I there to be part of it? I questioned God, I questioned my existence, I questioned the need for pain and why we had to go through these things.”
Since that night, fear of unknown and unknowable perils out on the horizon has shaped McDaniel’s life and, eventually, became a hallmark of his political philosophy.
Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi TodaySen. Chris McDaniel with his sons, Chamberlain (left) and Cambridge, greets supporters after his announcement that he is running for the U.S. Senate.
It’s why he first ran for public office, the state Senate