Hall of Fame: Stephen Dill Lee

On September 8, 2011, in Artifacts, Portraits, by Amanda
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Nominations are currently being sought for the 2011 class of the Mississippi Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors women and men who made noteworthy contributions to the state. Consideration for the Hall of Fame takes place only once every five years and any Mississippian—native or adopted—deceased at least five years may be nominated. The deadline for nominations is October 1, and elections will be held at a special meeting of the MDAH board of trustees in December. Click here for complete nomination guidelines.

This series recognizes members of the Hall of Fame, whose portraits hang in the Old Capitol Museum. Special thanks to Anna Todd, University of Southern Mississippi student and MDAH summer intern, for researching this post.

Stephen Dill Lee, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1978.88 (Museum Division Collection)

Stephen Dill Lee, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1978.88 (Museum Division Collection)

Stephen D. Lee (1833-1908) was born in Charleston, South Carolina. A graduate of West Point, Lee was originally a lieutenant in the United States Army before resigning his commission to join the Confederate Army in 1861. During his Confederate career, Lee was involved in firing the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. He then went on to assume the command of Confederate troops in a number of battles including those of the Vicksburg Campaign in 1863. Lee was eventually promoted to lieutenant general in 1864 at age thirty, making him the youngest Confederate to hold the title.

After the war, Lee settled in Columbus, Mississippi, and made his living as a planter until 1878, when he was elected to the Mississippi state senate. In 1880 he became the first president of the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College, now Mississippi State University, where he served until 1899. He was acclaimed as a pioneer in the fields of agricultural and industrial education. An active member and prominent leader as commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, Lee played a major role in establishing Vicksburg National Military Park and served as its first superintendent.

Lee spent the final six years of his life as president of the Board of Trustees of the Department of Archives and History. After giving a speech to former Union soldiers whom he had faced years earlier at the Vicksburg campaign, Lee fell ill with what was believed to be a cerebral hemorrhage. He died in Vicksburg in 1908 and was buried in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus. A statue is dedicated to Lee at Vicksburg National Military Park, and a bust was erected of him in the center of the Drill Field at Mississippi State University. His portrait was presented to the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1903 by the faculty and alumni of the Agricultural and Mechanical College (Mississippi State University).

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Hall of Fame: Laurence Clifton Jones

On September 6, 2011, in Artifacts, Portraits, by Amanda
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Nominations are currently being sought for the 2011 class of the Mississippi Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors women and men who made noteworthy contributions to the state. Consideration for the Hall of Fame takes place only once every five years and any Mississippian—native or adopted—deceased at least five years may be nominated. The deadline for nominations is October 1, and elections will be held at a special meeting of the MDAH board of trustees in December. Click here for complete nomination guidelines.

This series recognizes members of the Hall of Fame, whose portraits hang in the Old Capitol Museum. Special thanks to Anna Todd, University of Southern Mississippi student and MDAH summer intern, for researching this post.

Laurence Clifton Jones, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1981.50 (Museum Division Collection)

Laurence Clifton Jones, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1981.50 (Museum Division Collection)

Laurence C. Jones (1881-1975) was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1882. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1908, he accepted a teaching position at Utica Institute in Utica, Mississippi, hoping to improve the educational opportunities for disadvantaged black children in the area. Inspired by the achievements of educators such as Booker T. Washington, Jones founded the Piney Woods School in Rankin County in 1909.

Beginning with only three students, he built Piney Woods into one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the nation. Today, the school enrolls more than two hundred fifty students from twenty-four states and three countries. During the sixty-five years he directed the institution, Jones was its most visible representative and a tireless fundraiser. The unprecedented national publicity following Jones’s 1954 appearance on the popular television show “This Is Your Life” resulted in the creation of a large endowment for the school.

Jones’ accomplishments beyond Piney Woods School include work with the State Board of Education on issues pertinent to the instruction of black students. Jones earned doctorates from several colleges and a Masters in Arts from Tuskegee Institute. The author of several books, Jones was also active in the Mississippi Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and the state Y.M.C.A. In 1970, he received the highest honor of the Boy Scouts of America, the Silver Buffalo Award. He died in 1975 and was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1981.

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Hall of Fame: Nellie Nugent Somerville

On September 1, 2011, in Artifacts, Portraits, by Amanda
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Nominations are currently being sought for the 2011 class of the Mississippi Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame honors women and men who made noteworthy contributions to the state. Consideration for the Hall of Fame takes place only once every five years and any Mississippian—native or adopted—deceased at least five years may be nominated. The deadline for nominations is October 1, and elections will be held at a special meeting of the MDAH board of trustees in December. Click here for complete nomination guidelines.

This series recognizes members of the Hall of Fame, whose portraits hang in the Old Capitol Museum. Special thanks to Anna Todd, University of Southern Mississippi student and MDAH summer intern, for researching this post.

Nellie Nugent Somerville, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1981.47 (Museum Division Collection)

Nellie Nugent Somerville, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1981.47 (Museum Division Collection)

Nellie Nugent Somerville (1863-1952) was the first woman to be elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1923. She was born on a Mississippi plantation in 1863. Her father was a Confederate soldier and her mother died shortly after her birth, so the young girl was raised mostly by her grandmother. She attended Whitworth College in Brookhaven as an adolescent and went on to graduate from Martha Washington College in Virginia in 1880. She was married to Robert Somerville in 1885 and the couple had four children.

During her life, Somerville was a pioneer in Mississippi politics and a leader in the movement for women’s voting rights. In 1894 she became corresponding secretary for the Mississippi Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and she organized and directed the Mississippi Women’s Suffrage Association in 1897. She also served as vice president of the National American Women Suffrage Association beginning in 1915. While in the Mississippi House of Representatives, she served as Chair of the Committee on Ellemosynary (charitable) Institutions and supported several pieces of legislation relating to child labor laws and the improvement of conditions for the blind, deaf, and mentally ill. Her daughter Lucy S. Howorth also served in the state legislature from 1932 to 1936. Following her husband’s death, Somerville moved from Greenville to Cleveland and she died in Ruleville in 1952. She was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1981.