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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 7. Tuesday, June 18, 1963

Clyde Kennard's Story

Clyde Kennard's Story

James H. Meredith was not the first Negro to seek admission to an all-white, state university in Mississippi. Clyde Kennard, a native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, had tried earlier to enter the University of Southern Mississippi. Meredith made it and today attends classes in Oxford; Kennard is serving a seven-year sentence at Parchman Penitentiary, 67 miles to the southwest.

Kennard had studied at the University of Chicago for three years, but in 1955 he returned home to support his mother and disabled father on their small farm, a 15-minute drive from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Kennard hoped to continue his education there. He first applied for permission in 1958. whereupon he was summoned to Jackson, the state capital, for a meeting with the then Governor J. P. Coleman, and University president W. D. McCain.

Kennard was told that if he withdrew his application he could select any college in America which would accept him and the State of Mississippi would pay his expenses. He refused.

Governor Coleman then asked Kennard to withhold his application until after the elections. He did.

The next fall, 1959, Kennard formally applied for admission. After a brief interview with President McCain, attended by the chief investigator for the state's segregating-enforcing Sovereignty Commission, he was rejected on the ground of "deficiencies and irregularities" in his application.

From the interview. Kennard returned to his parked car and was met by two waiting constables and arrested for reckless driving.

Questioned at the police station, Kennard was suddenly confronted with five pints of whiskey, claimed to have been found in a search of his car.

Illegal possession of liquor was added to the charges. A Justice of the Peace found Kennard guilty; he was fined £200 and costs; an appeal was later denied.

After the 1959 application had been rejected, Governor Coleman is reported to have said that. "If Clyde did reapply, there'd be no way of holding him out because his record was sufficient. There'd be no alternative but to close the school." That proved unnecessary.

On September 25, 1960, the Forrest County Co-operative Warehouse was burgled of five sacks of chicken feed, valued at £1/10/-each.

An illiterate 19-year-old Negro, Johnny Lee Roberts, confessed to the theft. As witness for the state he claimed that the burglary had been instigated and planned by Kennard.

He attributed to Kennard knowledge of the warehouse and the watchman's schedule that Roberts's own testimony showed Kennard never possessed.

Roberts received a five-year probation sentence. But on his testimony Kennard was convicted of being an accessory to burglary and sentenced to seven years.

In a year and a half, James Meredith may receive his degree from the University of Mississippi.

Clyde Kennard however, will never receive a degree from any university in Mississippi, for state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from enrolling in a state institution. Kennard's reward will be another five years in Parchman Penitentiary.