War Vet­eran Clyde Ken­nard awarded post­hu­mous de­gree

South Florida Times - - OBITUARIES | CLASSIFIEDS -

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - The Univer­sity of South­ern Mis­sis­sippi will award a post­hu­mous hon­orary de­gree to a black U.S. Army vet­eran who was re­jected when he tried to in­te­grate the school decades ago.

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.

Ken­nard's legacy will be rec­og­nized Fri­day dur­ing com­mence­ment on the USM cam­pus in Hattiesburg.

“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.''

On March 30, 2006, Ken­nard was de­clared in­no­cent of the crimes that sent him to prison. USM ul­ti­mately re­named its stu­dent ser­vices build­ing in honor of Ken­nard and Wal­ter Wash­ing­ton, the first African Amer­i­can to earn a doc­toral de­gree from the univer­sity. The univer­sity also es­tab­lished a schol­ar­ship in 2014 to con­tinue Ken­nard's legacy. More than 40 stu­dents have ben­e­fited from the pro­gram.

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.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CIVIL RIGHTS TEACH­ING

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.

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