Prof. Emeritus John Dittmer and Julian Bond Urge Mississippi Governor to Pardon Legendary Civil Rights Figure

Prof. Emeritus John Dittmer and Julian Bond Urge Mississippi Governor to Pardon Legendary Civil Rights Figure

April 14, 2006

john dittmer.jpgApril 14, 2006, Greencastle, Ind. - John Dittmer, professor emeritus of history at DePauw University, is among those calling on Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to posthumously pardon a decorated black Korean War veteran. Clyde Kennard, who was the first African-American to apply for admission to the University of Southern Mississippi, was arrested and jailed 45 years ago; recent evidence confirms longstanding suspicion that he was framed.

Clyde Kennard died of cancer in 1963, but his family has been working to clear his name. The state's parole board will consider his case next week, but the final decision rests with the governor.

An article by Jerry Mitchell in the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi reports, "John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, told Barbour an order of executive clemency would 'not right the wrong, for nothing we can do or say now can erase that stain on our history. But in so doing you will send a clear message that the state of Mississippi is officially recognizing that a great injustice was done to this good and courageous man nearly a half century ago.'"

Julian Bond, chairman of the national NAACP, is also calling on Gov. Barbour to pardon Kennard. "You have the opportunity to erase yesterday's shame through your action. I hope you have the courage to take it," Bond says.

"A three-month investigation by the Clarion-Ledger revealed the Army veteran was locked up in 1960 for a crime he never committed after refusing to give up efforts to attend the all-white University of Southern Mississippi," writes Mitchell, an investigative reporter who appeared at DePauw November 14, 2005.

clyde kennard.gifGov. Barbour proclaimed March 30, 2006 as Clyde Kennard Day and urged "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." Mitchell notes that the University of Southern Mississippi named a building after Kennard in 1993, "but Mississippi has never taken steps to clear his name."

Access the complete story at the newspaper's Web site.

Read more about Dr. Dittmer in this previous article.

Source: Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger