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Mississippi honors man who struggled to integrate university

Photo: WDAM

The state of Mississippi is recognizing a man who sought to integrate a segregated university until he was falsely imprisoned and denied treatment for the cancer that claimed his life.

Posted: Feb 2, 2018 2:59 PM

The state of Mississippi is recognizing a man who sought to integrate a segregated university until he was falsely imprisoned and denied treatment for the cancer that claimed his life.

On Friday, the Mississippi Freedom Trail Task Force dedicated a historic marker acknowledging Forrest County native Clyde Kennard, a black man who repeatedly tried to enroll at the all-white Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, from 1955 to 1959 as part of an effort to desegregate higher education. It's the trail's 26th marker.

Ultimately, Kennard was falsely charged with stealing chicken feed and whiskey and sentenced to seven years at Mississippi's State Penitentiary at Parchman. While there, he was diagnosed with cancer but was denied proper treatment until he was critically ill. Under pressure of bad publicity should Kennard die at Parchman, Gov. Ross Barnett ordered his release in spring 1963. He died that summer at age 36.

"He is most worthy to receive this recognition," said Eddie A. Holloway, USM dean of students. "He plays such a significant role in the desegregation of schools in higher education in Mississippi. His life and legacy remains and should be marked or connoted by future generations."

Leslie Burl McLemore, chairman of the task force, said Kennard's role in Mississippi's desegregation history should not be overlooked.

"He tried to gain admission before James Meredith was admitted to the University of Mississippi" in 1962, said McLemore. "That's truly significant. What he endured was monumental and a human tragedy. It's only right that the university would honor him in this way."

On March 30, 2006, Kennard was declared innocent of the crimes that sent him to Parchman. USM ultimately renamed its student services building in honor of Kennard and Walter Washington, the first African-American to earn a doctoral degree from Southern Miss. The university also established a scholarship program to continue Kennard's legacy. More than 40 students have benefited from the program.

Friday's ceremony was held outside the campus building that bears Kennard's name.

"This provides closure to a number of people still alive who remember those dark days of our history," Holloway said. "Time tends to reveal and, in many instances heal. This recognition speaks volumes about the university, the legislature and the civil rights commission."

The Freedom Trail is a series of state-funded signs at noteworthy civil rights sites. The trail's first marker, erected in 2011, recognizes Emmett Till, a black youth who was killed in 1955 in Money, Mississippi, after a white woman said she was offended by him.

Historic markers have also been placed in honor of Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Meredith and others.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67649

Reported Deaths: 1912
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5613118
DeSoto365831
Harrison252036
Madison242266
Rankin228334
Jackson227642
Jones189958
Forrest180656
Washington166341
Lee146241
Lauderdale141292
Neshoba128692
Lamar122014
Oktibbeha112239
Bolivar111334
Warren109333
Lowndes107737
Panola105913
Sunflower103925
Scott100320
Lafayette97316
Copiah95428
Pike93636
Leflore93363
Holmes89248
Grenada84721
Yazoo83112
Pontotoc8278
Lincoln81741
Monroe79655
Simpson79630
Leake78825
Wayne76721
Coahoma76013
Tate73429
Marshall6959
Marion67720
Union63616
Adams62325
Winston62016
Covington61213
George5815
Pearl River55039
Newton54211
Tallahatchie53110
Attala52225
Walthall50220
Chickasaw46219
Noxubee45711
Alcorn4285
Calhoun4189
Tishomingo4175
Prentiss41210
Claiborne40713
Smith40513
Clay39614
Hancock39014
Jasper3869
Tippah36613
Itawamba35910
Tunica3377
Clarke32726
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3238
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29311
Quitman2691
Carroll26111
Greene25012
Perry2367
Webster23412
Kemper23314
Amite2326
Jefferson Davis2316
Wilkinson21213
Stone1995
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1967
Benton1441
Choctaw1344
Franklin1272
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99390

Reported Deaths: 1733
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13109243
Mobile9947207
Montgomery6835148
Madison537834
Tuscaloosa421373
Unassigned359961
Baldwin354425
Shelby328335
Marshall316736
Lee267845
Morgan239318
Etowah212131
DeKalb181913
Calhoun178414
Elmore172338
Walker152664
Houston139812
Russell13682
St. Clair133817
Limestone133313
Dallas132323
Franklin127420
Cullman122512
Colbert118113
Autauga116921
Lauderdale116719
Escambia108217
Talladega102614
Jackson9894
Tallapoosa85579
Chambers84138
Dale83424
Blount8004
Chilton7926
Butler76436
Coffee7616
Covington73520
Pike7097
Clarke6629
Barbour5755
Marion57424
Lowndes57224
Marengo55215
Hale47626
Bullock46411
Winston45311
Perry4424
Bibb4385
Wilcox42910
Monroe4214
Randolph40110
Pickens4009
Conecuh39310
Washington39112
Sumter36018
Lawrence3491
Macon33514
Crenshaw3185
Choctaw28312
Cherokee2737
Henry2633
Geneva2611
Clay2585
Greene25111
Lamar2222
Fayette2075
Cleburne1271
Coosa1012
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