Pine Belt

Civil Rights trailblazer to be honored with doctoral degree

HATTIESBURG, Miss.(WHLT) - Even after his death Civil Rights Pioneer Clyde Kennard is still being recognized for attempting to defy the odds in the 1950's. 

At the University of Southern Mississippi's Spring 2018 Commencement, Kennard will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. 

Kennard was born in Hattiesburg, but left the area to go to the military. He landed in Chicago where he enrolled in the University of Chicago, but he had to return to Hattiesburg in the early 1950's. 

Doctor Eddie Holloway, Dean of Students and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, says when Kennard returned he wanted to finish his education. 

He attempted to enroll into the then, Mississippi Southern College, multiple times between 1955 and 1959, but he was denied by local, state and school officials. 

Shortly after his attempts, Kennard was sent to prison based off false criminal allegations. 

"Sentenced to seven years in Parchman, the state penitentiary. Upon his diagnosis of cancer, and shortly thereafter, after still requiring him to work, he was released and he returned to Chicago where he died," Holloway said. 

Kennard passed away at 36, never obtaining a college degree, and he was found not guilty of the false crimes in March 2006. However, this Friday Kennard will be honored as a brave man who tried to pave the way for African-American students and minorities. 


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