Mississippi Honors Clyde Kennard, a Man Framed and Sent to Jail in 1960 for Trying to Racially Integrate the University of Southern Mississippi

Clyde Kennard was a decorated war hero who in 1956 sought admission to the then all-white University of Southern Mississippi. Kennard was denied enrollment because of his race. But he nevertheless persisted in his efforts to be admitted to the institution.

Then, in the Jim Crow tradition of severely punishing Negroes who tried to rise above their assigned station, Kennard was accused of receiving $25 of stolen chicken feed. In 1960 he was sentenced to seven years at the notorious Parchman Prison Farm. He died three years later from colon cancer.

Late in 2005 the chief witness in the case against Kennard recanted his testimony and stated that Kennard had been framed. Legal efforts are now under way to overturn Kennard’s conviction and clear his name.

Thirty-six students from the University of Southern Mississippi recently traveled to the state capital for a ceremony in the state Senate chamber honoring Clyde Kennard. A resolution was passed honoring him. Governor Haley Barbour said that it was clear that Kennard was not guilty of any crime and proclaimed it Clyde Kennard Day in the state of Mississippi.