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.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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