Charles C. (Cliff) Finch, 59, who was born to a poor farm family and rose through the political ranks to serve as the governor of Mississippi from 1976 to 1980, died April 22 at a hospital here after a heart attack.
He was elected governor in 1975 on a populist platform. During the campaign he carried a lunch pail around the state to symbolize his affinity with working people, and as governor held monthly "work days," serving as a supermarket bagger or driving a truck to keep in touch with the average person.
During his administration, Gov. Finch nearly tripled the amount of federal money coming into the state, succeeded in saving the state's savings and loan industry from collapse, worked with lawmakers to provide flood relief after spring floods in 1979 and helped revamp the state corrections system.
His most bitter conflict with the legislature came in 1977, when he and his backers pushed unsuccessfully for a bill permitting a governor to serve more than a single term in succession. Blocked from seeking a second term, he leaped into the 1978 Senate race to succeed retiring Sen. James O. Eastland, but lost a primary run-off.
Before winning election to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1959, Gov. Finch had been a lawyer in Batesville. He left the legislature to serve as district attorney for northern Mississippi, a post he held from 1964 to 1972. He used that five-county base of support as a springboard into state politics.
In 1971, he was defeated by William Winter in the Democratic race for lieutenant governor. Four years later, he defeated Winter in the Democratic primary for governor, then beat Republican Gil Carmichael in the general election.
His wife, Zelma, filed for divorce in 1979 after 25 years of marriage. They had four children.