Dick Molpus is founder and president of The Molpus Woodlands Group (MWG), a timberland investment management organization headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi. MWG buys and manages timberland investments across the United States for clients.
A Philadelphia, Mississippi, native and a 1971 business administration graduate of the University of Mississippi, Molpus served for a number of years as vice president of manufacturing for Molpus Lumber Company.
In 1980, as Mississippi Governor William F. Winter's first appointee, Molpus began service as executive director of the Governor's Office of Federal-State Programs, an agency then in disarray from the previous administration. For his success in bringing managerial efficiency and accountability to that troubled agency, Molpus was selected in 1983 as Mississippi's Public Administrator of the Year by the American Society of Public Administrators.
Molpus was among several young gubernatorial staff members known as the "Boys of Spring" who helped guide to passage Governor Winter's historic Education Reform Act of 1982. In 1983, in a race involving seven opponents, Molpus was elected secretary of state of Mississippi; he was re-elected by significant margins in 1987 and 1991. During his tenure Molpus converted the secretary of state's office from an agency that was a tax drain of $200,000 into one garnering a profit of over $2 million per year.
As secretary of state Molpus also served as lands commissioner of Mississippi and in that capacity supervised over 600,000 acres of 16th Section commercial, residential, and timber property that had been set aside in the early 1800s to be used in support of the state's public schools. By forcing renegotiation of some 5,000 below-market leases, he increased by more than $24,000,000 annually the amount of revenue from those properties to the public schools.
He also successfully led efforts in the Mississippi legislature for sweeping lobbyist law reform that required lobbyists to report all money spent on public officials. In addition, he proposed and led to passage substantial election law improvements, including a measure allowing citizens to register to vote by mail.
In 1993 he was recognized by his peers through his election as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. As president of that organization, he founded Project Democracy, an effort chaired by former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to increase voter participation in the United States.
In August of 1995 he won the Democratic nomination for governor of Mississippi. In November, after a strongly contested race, he was defeated in the general election by the incumbent governor.
On January 8, 1996, after completing his third term as secretary of state of Mississippi, Molpus began a timberland investment management organization. Today, The Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC manages for its investors approximately two million acres of timberland valued at two billion dollars in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington. The Molpus companies employ 107 people with eighteen offices located strategically across the U.S. Molpus Woodlands is a vertically integrated management company with in-house CPAs, attorneys, foresters, biometricians, and GIS specialists, along with silvicultural and harvesting experts.
Molpus is a lifelong advocate for this country’s public schools. He and his wife, Sally, founded Parents for Public Schools in 1985, which now has seventeen chapters in twelve states. He was chairman in 2006 of the highly successful Jackson public school bond campaign that raised $150 million for renovations and new schools in Jackson, Mississippi.
For his work in public school advocacy, in 2004 he received the National Education Association’s H. Council Trenholm Memorial Award. Additionally, in 2005 he was inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and was honored by the Mississippi Center of Justice as a Champion of Justice in 2008.
He became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Education Foundation, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2012. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of MDC, located in Durham, North Carolina, which helps organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from economic opportunity. He also serves as a board member of the New York City-based Andrew Goodman Foundation, which focuses on voting rights and justice issues. He has his own personal foundation which supports systemic transformative improvements in public schools in Mississippi and across the U.S.
In 2007 he was appointed by President George W. Bush as the founding chairman of the United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities, a $200 million endowment funded by the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement. The endowment is focused on improving forest health and assisting timber-reliant communities in the U.S.
In 2016 Molpus became Chairman of the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), which represents some eighty million acres of timberland properties in forty-seven states. NAFO is the group that speaks for large timberland owners and is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic and environmental values of privately-owned forests through policy advocacy at the national level.
In 2013 he was inducted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame for accomplishments in the business and civic arenas.