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The University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History

Copyright Date: 1999
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    The University of Mississippi
    Book Description:

    "There is a mystique about Ole Miss," David G. Sansing says in his new bookThe University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History(University Press of Mississippi, cloth $37.00).

    Sansing, a professor emeritus of history, says the University and its story hold a special attraction for those who have learned there. "Some have called it holy ground, others hallowed ground. During a recent Black Alumni Reunion Danny Covington called Ole Miss addictive."

    Few Southern institutions have such a storied past. After its founding, the University assembled one of the finest scientific collections in the antebellum South. Closed during the Civil War, the University endured and re-opened to expand from a liberal arts institution to one with highly developed professional schools. In the civil rights struggle Ole Miss became a battleground. Since 1963 the University has made remarkable progress in serving the racial and ethnic diversity of its constituency.

    Working with the university libraries, the Department of Archives and History, and countless alumni, Sansing unfurls this 150-year history inThe University of Mississippi, a book he labored on since 1995.

    Capturing dramatic changes was key to Sansing's efforts. The University that began with four professors and boasted electric power in 1901 is now listed by the internet site Yahoo! as one of the nation's most "wired" universities, referring to the University's level of hardware and internet access.

    African American historian John Hope Franklin, who had visited the campus during the civil rights struggle, visited again in 1998 and found "a complete revolution in race relations on campus" and declared, "we don't have quite as far to go as we thought we did."

    Sansing says, "In a world of ravishing change, when Ole Miss Alumni come back to Oxford, they do not just stroll across the campus and through the Grove, they retrace the steps of their forebears, not just over place and space, but back through time as well.

    "For many alumni Ole Miss is more than their alma mater; it is a link, a nexus to who they were and are, to where they came from," Sansing says. "This sesquicentennial history is written for them, the students, faculty, friends, patrons, and alumni of the university."

    David G. Sansing is the author ofA History of the Mississippi Governor's Mansion(with Carroll Waller),Making Haste Slowly: The Troubled History of Higher Education in Mississippi, andMississippi: A Study of Your State(with Ray Skates). In 1990, he was named Teacher of the Year at the University of Mississippi.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-847-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. Chapter 1 FOUNDING THE UNIVERSITY, 1802–1844
    (pp. 3-19)

    He was not even old enough to vote when he built his log cabin in the land of the Longtown. Thomas Dudley Isom, perhaps the first white settler in Lafayette County and one of the founders of Oxford, was only nineteen years old when he came to work in his uncle’s trading post among the Chickasaws who lived in a hundred villages scattered across northeast Mississippi called the Longtown. Isom had not come to trade with the Chickasaws, who were being removed to Oklahoma, but with the white settlers who would soon appear by the thousands to clear the land,...

  5. Chapter 2 OXFORD AND THE UNIVERSITY, 1844–1848
    (pp. 20-44)

    In early February 1840, Representative James Alexander Ventress, chairman of the house committee on the seminary fund, introduced a bill “to provide for the location of the State University.” The house passed the bill on February 10 and sent it to the senate. The upper house quickly passed it and Governor Alexander G. McNutt signed the bill into law on February 20. Ventresss’s bill did two things. First, it provided that “all sums of money belonging, or hereafter accruing to the seminary fund, be appropriated for the use and benefit of the University of the State of Mississippi.” Second, the...

  6. Chapter 3 THE FORMATIVE YEARS, 1848–1856
    (pp. 45-74)

    On January 11, 1848, the board of trustees of the University of Mississippi convened in Jackson to “devise and adopt a system of learning” for the nation’s newest state university. When the Reverend John N. Waddel, chairman of the committee to design the “system of learning,” recommended a traditional classical curriculum that included a course on the evidences of Christianity, Edward Wilkinson “offered a very strenuous objection” and refused to discuss the matter further. John J. McCaughan, who also had a strong interest in the university’s curriculum, was not at that meeting, and the issue was laid on the table...

  7. Chapter 4 UNIVERSITAS SCIENTIARUM, 1856–1861
    (pp. 75-105)

    President Longstreet’s resignation excited “a great scramble” for the presidency. The Methodists supported Reverend George W. Carter. The Presbyterians thought Reverend John Waddel should be and would be appointed. The Episcopalians endorsed Reverend Frederick Barnard, the parish priest of St. Peter’s in Oxford. Though small in number, the Episcopalians dominated the board of trustees, which gave Barnard an advantage over Carter and Waddel. The primary obstacle to Barnard’s appointment was Lewis Harper, professor of agricultural and geological science. As the board was considering various candidates, Harper published a pamphlet questioning Barnard’s credentials as a scientist and accusing him of immoral...

  8. Chapter 5 STUDENTS AND SOLDIERS, 1861–1870
    (pp. 106-124)

    “No one knows how the University Greys began. Most likely it was in a dormitory room in December 1860,” writes Howard Bahr, “before a meager fire lit against the cold; a circle of lads… pledging fealty to one another and to a cause [that] would consume them all, one way or another in the end—but this was the beginning and they couldn’t know that yet.” The student soldiers first called their company the University Blues, but later changed the name to the Greys in favor of the color of the Confederacy. The Greys elected 19 year-old William B. Lowry...

  9. Chapter 6 A REPUBLIC OF LETTERS, 1870–1887
    (pp. 125-149)

    In 1871 the University of Mississippi was transformed from a liberal arts college with a prescribed classical curriculum to a university with an elective curriculum, an undergraduate college, and several professional schools. That transition began with the inauguration of Chancellor Waddel. In his address opening the fall session of 1865, the chancellor urged the board of trustees to restructure the institution and make the university a “republic of letters.” The board eventually accepted his recommendation, and in the summer of 1869 Waddel visited Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Princeton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown, Michigan, Georgia and other institutions of higher learning....

    (pp. 150-182)

    At its commencement meeting in June 1887, the board of trustees commended the faculty for their cooperation during the difficult year following Chancellor Stewart’s resignation. The trustees were especially pleased with the harmony and good will displayed by the faculty, at least on the surface. The student magazine also commended their professors, saying, “and last of all, there seems to be no discord.” The magazine attributed that good will to Chairman Mayes and suggested that he be named chancellor, but the professors preferred the new administrative arrangement and reelected Edward Mayes chairman of the faculty. Even in this harmonious state...

  11. Chapter 8 A DEMOCRATIC UNIVERSITY, 1907–1927
    (pp. 183-214)

    Andrew Armstrong Kincannon was installed as the university’s seventh chancellor on September 19, 1907, in an elaborate ceremony attended by collegiate officials, faculty, students, alumni, and public officials. John W. T. Falkner, a local banker, a member of the board of trustees, and the grandfather of William Faulkner, presented Kincannon to the audience. In his inaugural address, Chancellor Kincannon gave his solemn pledge to transform the old aristocratic university into a new democratic institution. “Aristocratic or Democratic, which rule shall we have here at the University…. I, for one,” he said, “shall ever be the supporter of the latter. I...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. Chapter 9 BILBO AND THE GREATER UNIVERSITY, 1927–1935
    (pp. 215-246)

    In the 1927 governor’s election Dennis Murphree, the former lieutenant governor who succeeded Governor Henry Whitfield, was seeking a full four-year term. Also running were Representative Albert C. Anderson, Martin S. Conner, and former governor Theodore G. Bilbo. Anderson and Conner were eliminated in the first primary, and Bilbo then defeated Murphree in the run-off election. Bilbo’s original platform, which he announced in July 1926, did not include the consolidation of the state’s three white colleges or the relocation of the university to Jackson, and it is not known when Bilbo added educational reform to his legislative agenda. He was...

  14. Chapter 10 A MODERN UNIVERSITY, 1935–1960
    (pp. 247-280)

    Alfred Benjamin Butts was the University of Mississippi’s best educated and most visionary chancellor since Frederick Barnard. The forty-five-year-old North Carolinian moved with his family to Starkville, Mississippi, when he was a small child. He earned his baccalaureate degree at Mississippi State in 1911. After receiving a second degree at Mississippi State in 1913, Butts earned a Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University in 1920 and a law degree from Yale in 1930. Law was his primary academic interest, and, during his tenure at Ole Miss, Chancellor Butts taught a course in constitutional law and published several articles in...

  15. Chapter 11 CONFLICT, CHANGE, AND CONTINUITY, 1960–1968
    (pp. 281-313)

    In a speech at Greenwood in early July 1962, Chancellor J. D. Williams asked Ole Miss alumni to help him preserve academic freedom at the university. Six months later he was asking them to help him save the university itself. Ten days before his Greenwood speech, the fifth circuit court of appeals had ordered the admission of James Howard Meredith, an air force veteran from Kosciusko who was then enrolled at Jackson State College. Chancellor Williams and other university officials accepted the verdict of the court and began preparations for Meredith’s admission in the fall of 1962.

    Important though it...

  16. Chapter 12 ON THE EVE OF A NEW MILLENNIUM, 1968–1995
    (pp. 314-342)

    In the aftermath of the Meredith crisis Chancellor J. D. Williams conceded that “riot and lawlessness” is America’s image of Ole Miss. “I will not try to brighten that picture,” he said, “but… that is not the whole picture.” The public perception of the University of Mississippi, shaped during a long night of racial violence and reinforced by three decades of controversy over the Rebel flag, is not inaccurate, but it is incomplete; it is a truthful image, but it is only part of the truth. Some students did riot on the eve of Meredith’s admission, but the elected editor...

  17. Epilogue A GREAT PUBLIC UNIVERSITY, 1995–1998
    (pp. 343-352)

    As the board of trustees was initiating a traditional search for a new chancellor in the spring of 1995, Robert Conrad Khayat emerged as a consensus candidate. As soon as Khayat’s name surfaced, he received nearly unanimous support from the state’s political establishment, including Mississippi’s two United States Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, both of whom are Ole Miss alumni and Khayat’s former classmates, the general public, the legal profession, the business community, the alumni association, the board of trustees, the student body, and, most significantly, from his colleagues on the university faculty. Khayat’s appointment in June 1995 was...

  18. Notes and Sources
    (pp. 353-386)
  19. Index
    (pp. 387-412)