2006 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Horhn, Harden, Williamson, Dawkins, Jordan, Thomas, Butler, Jackson (11th), Jackson (32nd), Turner, Simmons, Frazier, Walls
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION REMEMBERING THE LEGACY OF THE LATE CLYDE KENNARD, THE FIRST BLACK STUDENT TO APPLY FOR ADMITTANCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI, FOR HIS SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY AND FOR HIS SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN MISSISSIPPI.
WHEREAS, on February 16, 1993, the University of Southern Mississippi dedicated its Student Services Building in honor of two African-Americans who played significant roles in the university's history; and
WHEREAS, the dedication of Kennard-Washington Hall during a special afternoon convocation paid tribute to the late Clyde Kennard, a decorated Korean War veteran and farmer, who unsuccessfully attempted to become the first African-American to enroll at USM in 1959; (and to Alcorn State University President Walter Washington, the first black to receive a doctorate from USM in 1969); and
WHEREAS, "we are saying to the world that we apologize for the indignities he (Kennard) suffered," USM President Aubrey K. Lucas said during the dedication, which was a part of the university's "Celebration of Diversity" and African-American History Month activities on the Hattiesburg campus. Twenty-two past and present black students, faculty and staff who achieved "firsts" at USM over the years were recognized during that ceremony, which included a special tribute to the memory of Clyde Kennard from the Reverend John Webb, who was his brother-in-law; and
WHEREAS, born in 1927, Kennard's early life foreshadowed a grim future; at the age of 4, his father died. He grew up helping his mother run the family farm. In 1950, Kennard began attending college in Fayetteville, North Carolina, during the Korean War. Kennard served as a paratrooper and rose to the rank of sergeant, receiving three medals including the Bronze Star; and
WHEREAS, after the Korean War, he came home to run the family farm in Mississippi, and the 28-year old joined the NAACP. Kennard served as President of the local NAACP youth chapter and he served on the local school board and was outraged the area's 125 black students had to travel 11 miles past the all-white school to attend classes. He circulated an unsuccessful petition to have children attend the closest school; and
WHEREAS, Kennard wanted to finish college and in 1956, he approached President William D. McCain at the then segregated Mississippi Southern College, but was denied. By the time he tried to enroll again in 1958, he enjoyed the support of Medgar Evers, Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP. When his intention to attend college was made public, the state's segregationist spy agency, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, compiled an extensive dossier on the small-framed farmer; and
WHEREAS, when Clyde Kennard refused to give up his quest to become the first black student to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi, authorities sent him to state prison in 1960 for seven years based upon a conviction for burglary; and
WHEREAS, on March 6, 1961, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a new trial on reckless driving and liquor charges for Kennard, but it did him little good. He remained behind bars, where he'd been since his September 1960 burglary arrest. Less than a month later, the same justices upheld Kennard's conviction, sending him to the State Penitentiary at Parchman; and
WHEREAS, Clyde Kennard wrote a letter to the Hattiesburg American in 1958 challenging the idea of separate but equal. Kennard suggested people work together to build up one another: "When merit replaces race as a factor in character evaluation, the most heckling social problem of modern times will have been solved"; and
WHEREAS, in March 1962, he underwent colon cancer surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Kennard died July 4, 1963, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that promised, "All men are created equal"; and
WHEREAS, The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board stated that the 1993 ceremony at USM renaming the Student Services Building after Clyde Kennard was a significant event in the history of the civil rights movement. "This institutional apology was delivered--not out of a sense of guilt but out of a sense of obligation"--representing a great breakthrough and healing process for the United States of America and the State of Mississippi:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby remember the legacy of the late Clyde Kennard, the first black student to apply for admittance at the University of Southern Mississippi, for his significant role in the history of the university and for his significant role in the history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution shall be presented to the surviving family members of Clyde Kennard and be made available to the Capitol Press Corps.