COLLEGE GRADUATE: The late Clyde Kennard is being awarded a posthumous honorary degree after being denied admission to the University of Southern Mississippi in the 1950s.
Clyde Kennard applied several times between 1955 and 1959 to what was then called Mississippi Southern College. His applications were blocked by state, local and college officials.
In 1960, Kennard was falsely charged with taking part in the theft of chicken feed and was convicted and sentenced to seven years at the Mississippi 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 early 1963. Kennard died July 4, 1963. He was 36.
“This will be an important day for The University of Southern Mississippi as we award Mr. Kennard, albeit posthumously, with a degree representing the education he sought and so rightfully deserved,”
Rodney D. Bennett, who has been USM president since 2013, said in a news release. “As president of the university, and especially as its first African American president, I am honored to be part of our institution’s progress in moving toward this outcome.”
A Mississippi Freedom Trail marker telling Kennard’s story was dedicated in February on USM’s main campus in Hattiesburg. The Freedom Trail is a series of state-funded signs at noteworthy civil rights sites.