WHEREAS, the late Clyde Kennard, the first African-American to apply for admittance to the University of Southern Mississippi, played a significant role in the history of USM and a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, born in 1927, Kennard lost his father at the age of 4 and 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, Kennard came home to run the family farm in Mississippi. Then 28-years-old, Kennard joined the NAACP and later served as President of the local NAACP youth chapter. He also served on the local school board and circulated an unsuccessful petition to have children of all races attend the closest school to their home; 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 enrollment. 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 Mississippi Sovereignty Commission began to document the activities of Kennard; 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, during the time in which Kennard refused to give up his quest to become the first black student to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi, he was tried and convicted for his alleged role in a burglary of the Forrest County Co-Op in 1960; and
WHEREAS, Kennard died July 4, 1963, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that promised, "All men are created equal"; and
WHEREAS, the University of Southern Mississippi, in a ceremony lead by USM President Aubrey K. Lucas held in 1993, "apologize(d) for the indignities he (Kennard) suffered" and held a dedication of Kennard-Washington Hall; and
WHEREAS, Johnny Lee Roberts, the key witness to testify against Kennard in his 1960 burglary conviction, gave statements to The Clarion Ledger in 2005 which reveal that Kennard was not involved in the burglary of the Forrest County Co-op; and
WHEREAS, there is other compelling evidence that Clyde Kennard was not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted; and
WHEREAS, Clyde Kennard, if he were living, would be entitled to have his rights restored, and, were he still living, his rights would have been restored during this Administration;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Haley Barbour, Governor of the State of Mississippi, hereby proclaim March 30, 2006 as
CLYDE KENNARD DAY
in the State of Mississippi and urge all citizens to remember the legacy of the late Clyde Kennard, the first African-American to apply for admittance at the University of Southern Mississippi, for his determination, for the injustices he suffered, and his significant role in the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi to be affixed.
DONE in the City of Jackson, on the thirtieth day of March in the year of our Lord, two thousand and six, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and thirtieth.
Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741