A Life in Motion

A Life in Motion
Words by Dee Gladden
Photos by Wes Frazer
In the 1970s, Bill served as an officer of the National Guard in the engineering unit. He went to law school in 1971 but stayed in the National Guard while studying for his degree and during his first few years of practicing law in Mississippi. 

When Bill takes on a task, he does it with excellence. He is Senior Partner at Luckett Law Firm in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and he receives the rating of super lawyer in entertainment law by Martindale-Hubbell, a global, peer-review organization of more than one million lawyers.

While practicing law has been Bill’s lifelong bread and butter, and he enthusiastically says that he receives much satisfaction from his career, it has not been his only pursuit. He has also been a politician, serving as mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi, and running for governor of the state of Mississippi. He has owned a fine-dining restaurant. Bill also owns a blues club, serves on numerous boards, is involved in restoring historic buildings, and has even acted in such films as All About Us (2007) and Battlecreek (2017).

When asked which of his jobs has been his favorite, Bill says, “That is like asking someone which of your children is your favorite! I’ve liked them all for different reasons.” And he has shown that in his intentionality and passion with each pursuit.

Two of Bill’s passions dovetail nicely—law and film. Bill speaks passionately about both, but especially within the context of the South.

The film industry is a multibillion-dollar industry that impacts the lives of nearly every American. While many enjoy the simplicity of watching a new movie or anticipate their favorite weekly television show, the business itself is anything but simple. In the 1990s, state governments began to realize that much of the potential revenue they could earn from the film industry was being lost to other locations, other nations. 

Filmmakers, for instance, hoping to reduce the cost of creating their films, were taking their productions to different countries, such as Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, and Canada. These nations were offering enormous tax incentives to lure filmmaker dollars, making the cost of movie production much lower than anywhere in the United States.

In response, state governments began enacting legislation that allowed for movie production incentives, such as tax credits or exemptions, cash grants, and fee-free locations.  Bill is a proponent of such incentives, specifically for Mississippi, and points to increased numbers of in-state jobs and economic activity as justification. 

To the question, “Why is offering movie production incentives a good idea for Mississippi?” Bill responds, “It’s a notion in economics 101 called the ‘multiplier effect.’ If I give you twenty dollars to mow my yard, you may pay $10 to buy a hamburger. Then the hamburger place can pay its workers. This money gets spent and re-spent and re-spent. You pay something, but you get more in return, namely, added jobs.”

While most states now offer some form of film production incentives, some Southern states have had particular success, such as Georgia and Louisiana. Mississippi has also seen some modest success in this area, but that came to a halt in 2017, when the bill that granted these incentives was allowed to expire.

But according to Bill, it’s not merely the tax incentives that bring filmmakers to the South.  The region also has great locations—Cypress tree swamps, miles and miles of cotton crops, breathtaking views of water and land, and a good climate, just to name a few. Indeed, the South is a perfect option for filmmakers looking to make their mark.

While law and film may be Bill’s two biggest passions, one can recognize another passion in a very short time when conversing with him. Bill is a servant-leader. He is asked to do more service than he could ever accomplish.

When asked how he chooses his volunteer or humanitarian projects, he responds, “What inspires me to say yes is if I can help. I want to make a definitive contribution. I won’t get on a board if I can’t make the meetings and don’t have something unique to offer.” For one, he speaks fondly of serving on the board of St. Jude’s Hospital and working to raise funds to keep the hospital’s vision going. Similarly, he enjoys giving back to his community in a tangible manner through service on the Mississippi State alumni board, Regions bank board, city planning board, and others. 

It is truly beautiful to see Bill make a lasting impact on his community in the areas where he is passionate and excellently trained. It is exciting to see his contributions expand from his local community in Mississippi to the film industry. And it is interesting to see his intentionality and passion in contributing to his field and our world.