Hall of Fame: Medgar Evers

On September 20, 2011, in 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.

It is the responsibility of the nominating entity to fund the portraits, thus some members of the Hall of Fame, including Medgar Evers, do not have portraits.

Medgar Evers (1925-1963) was one of the most prominent and effective leaders in the civil rights movement. Born in 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi, Evers was the son of a farmer and sawmill worker. In 1943, he was inducted into the United States Army and fought in the European Theater of World War II. After being honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1945, he enrolled at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1946. Evers majored in business administration and was involved in sports, choir, and the student government. He married his classmate Myrlie Beasley in 1951.

Evers joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1952, and two years later became the organization’s first field secretary for Mississippi. In his position, Evers recruited new members, organized local NAACP chapters, and investigated instances of racial injustice. He played a crucial role in bringing the civil rights movement in Mississippi to the nation’s attention through his work in attempting to desegregate the University of Mississippi.

During his years with the NAACP, Evers’s public support of James Meredith and Clyde Kennard and his investigation into the riots following Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi and the murder of Emmett Till led to numerous threats on his life. On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was assassinated at his home. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on June 19, 1963, with more than 3,000 people in attendance. Today Evers is memorialized in Jackson with a statue erected in his honor, and his name has been given to a major thoroughfare in the city, as well as the state’s largest airport. He was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1991.

Hall of Fame: Annie Coleman Peyton

On September 15, 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.

Annie Coleman Peyton, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1978.91 (Museum Division Collection)

Annie Coleman Peyton, Hall of Fame portrait. Accession Number: 1978.91 (Museum Division Collection)

Annie Coleman Peyton (1852-1898) was a driving force in the establishment of the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College (now Mississippi University for Women), the first land-grant college for women in the country. She was born in Madison County and educated at Whitworth College in Brookhaven, where she taught for two years before marrying E. G. Peyton in 1872.

Beginning in 1879, she petitioned the state legislature to establish a state-funded school for girls at Whitworth College. However, the school would not be chartered until 1884. Columbus was selected as the location because the city offered to house the new school in the former Columbus Female Institute and promised $50,000 for improvements to the facility. Peyton, who was recently widowed, became professor of history at the school and taught there until her death in 1898. Her portrait was presented to the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1912 by the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Hall of Fame: Greenwood Leflore

On September 13, 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.

It is the responsibility of the nominating entity to fund the portraits, thus some members of the Hall of Fame, including Greenwood Leflore, do not have portraits.

Greenwood Leflore (1800-1865), son of a French trader and a Choctaw woman, was born in 1800. His mother was the niece of Choctaw chief Pushmataha. At age twelve, Leflore was sent to Nashville by his father to receive a formal education. Despite being generally disliked by the tribe’s full-blood men, he was elected chief of the Choctaw Nation while he was still in his twenties due to his maternal heritage. As chief, Leflore supported “civilization,” and he encouraged dramatic legal, religious, and educational reforms to the tribe. Leflore’s role in the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which arranged for the sale of the remaining Choctaw lands in Mississippi to the United States, lost him support among the Choctaw.

Shortly after negotiating the treaty, Leflore settled in Carroll County, where he won election to the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. He was a prominent man in society, and close friend of Jefferson Davis. By the 1850s, he owned more than 15,000 acres of land and was one of the state’s wealthiest cotton planters. His mansion, Malmaison, was one of the most elaborately decorated in the state. Lefore occupied the mansion until his death in 1865, despite having lost his cotton crop, slaves, and other property during the Civil War. The city of Greenwood, Mississippi, and Leflore County are named in his honor. He was inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame in 1996.

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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