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Nielsen Cochran, a former Orioles minor leaguer who served 24 years as a utility regulator on the Mississippi Public Service Commission, died Monday. He was 78.

Cochran family friend Brad White said the former commissioner died after a long illness.

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A third baseman and shortstop, Cochran played his entire professional baseball career in the Orioles organization. The right-handed hitter started at short-season D Bluefield in 1959 and worked his way up through Aberdeen (South Dakota), Fox Cities and Elmira before joining Triple-A Rochester in his final season, 1965. He was a career .247 hitter with 62 home runs, including a career-high 18 in 1964 at Aberdeen.

Cochran, a Republican, was elected in 1977 and 1981 to the Jackson City Commission, the predecessor to the current City Council.

He was elected in 1983 to the three-member Public Service Commission in a district that encompasses the central part of the state. Cochran took office in January 1984 and served on the commission until January 2008.

He was the younger brother of longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who died in May.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said on Twitter that he and his wife, Deborah, were saddened to hear of Nielsen Cochran’s death.

“We pray the Good Lord will help assuage the pain of this loss to his wonderful wife Connie and all who loved Nielsen,” Bryant wrote.

The current public service commissioners — Democrats Brandon Presley and Cecil Brown and Republican Sam Britton — said in a statement that Nielsen Cochran served with distinction.

“The Cochran family is known for a legacy of public service, and Nielsen’s notable service to the people of the state of Mississippi is a strong part of that legacy,” Presley said.

Brown said that Cochran “was a kind and good man and a dedicated public servant.”

Nielsen Cochran was born in the northern Mississippi town of Pontotoc, and his family moved to Byram in central Mississippi when he was a child. He graduated from high school in Byram and later played minor league baseball for teams affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles. He attended Mississippi College and Northern State College in South Dakota.

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