Librarian Leaves Impressive Legacy at University

Gift provides access to vast database of government documents

Veteran librarian Laura Harper has established a Government Publications Fund to give Ole Miss students access to a broader scope of information. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Veteran University of Mississippi librarian Laura Harper may have left campus, but her legacy remains in the form of a treasure trove of information older than the Titanic and far below the surface of Google.

Harper recently retired after 45 years at the J.D. Williams Library, but she continues to have such a strong desire for students to be able to access government information that she personally paid for subscriptions to databases that contain such documents as the unpublished transcripts of congressional hearings dating back to 1824, congressional research from 1830 forward and interactive, digital maps of Mississippi as early as 1867 through 1970.

“Laura’s gift will provide added depth to our already extensive collection of government information,” said Ashley Dees, research and instruction librarian and longtime co-worker of Harper’s. “Her gift highlights Laura’s longstanding commitment to providing students and the UM community with access to government information.”

The recent database subscriptions plus her previous financial support for the library’s Information Commons, Art Store, STUDIOone and Friends of the Library bring Harper’s total giving to Ole Miss to more than $150,000.

Harper takes her gift in stride.

“I thought, ‘Why not?'” she said – modest words for this “extraordinary librarian” known for her “helpfulness and her ability to find anything you’re looking for,” according to letters from colleagues who recommended Harper for the prestigious 2011 Bernadine Abbott Hoduski Founders Award, which she won.

The American Library Association’s award recognizes librarians who may not be known at the national level but have made significant contributions to the field of government documents. Other recommendations describe Harper’s work as “second to none” and laud her knowledge as “extensive.”

Those comments are all true, said Cecilia Botero, library dean.

“From my perspective, Laura’s gift to the university is the manifestation of her deep devotion to promoting access to government information and her desire to ensure that the UM community and the people of the state of Mississippi are offered the best opportunity to make use of that wealth of information,” Botero said.

So what’s available? Oliver North, Iran-Contra, the different impeachment investigations, Watergate, Supreme Court nomination hearings, and the Lincoln, Kennedy and McKinley assassinations, just for starters.

“Even the documentary, day-by-day, most detailed history and correspondence of the Civil War is there in full text,” Harper said. “All of the words in the reports are searchable – people, places, battles.

“By searching the text of hearings in the early 1950s, for instance, you can trace the rise of McCarthyism … and its fall in 1954 during the historic, 36-day live telecast of the Army McCarthy hearings, when the senator was asked by lawyer Joseph Welch, ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?’ You can also type in the names of witnesses such as Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett or Will Geer to read their testimony in earlier investigations of communism in Hollywood.”

Students researching these and other topics may be tempted to turn first to Google, but they’ll be hard pressed to find the most in-depth information, Harper said.

“Government documents are by their nature a sort of difficult area, requiring a little more effort to try to research them,” she said. “You need to invest some time and get people to help you.

“I would hope that students who graduate from Ole Miss would learn to value the library and the librarians for their expertise as professionals, and that they realize they can do a better paper and learn to do their research in a more sophisticated manner if they will go and talk to a librarian.”

Harper witnessed thousands of students succeed in her tenure at Ole Miss, which included 17 years in the Reference Department, 11 library directors/deans and six chancellors.

“When a faculty member chooses to make a financial gift to the university, it speaks volumes about their commitment to the meaningful work that we do and the endearing qualities of this institution,” said Noel Wilkin, interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “For more than four decades, Laura Harper was committed to helping our students broaden their educational opportunities.

“Now, through her gift, she will continue to reach generations of students as they work to realize their educational goals through study and research. For her time and for her generous contributions, we are very grateful.”

After earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University, Harper’s first professional job as a librarian was in the public library in her hometown of Monroe, Louisiana. Then, she and her late husband moved to Oxford.

“A newlywed, I thought I would work here only two years or so and we would move on after my husband finished his doctorate,” she said. “But we stayed here when he got a job at Blue Mountain College. Later, after his death, I had the opportunity to become a department head, when the legendary Annie Mills retired as head of Government Publications.”

As the regional depository for Mississippi, Government Documents provides guidance to smaller depositories and serves the entire state. The library’s catalog provides access to almost a million volumes of government publications, 40 percent of which are available in full text online.

Before retiring, Harper moved to Technical Services, where she managed processing and cataloging of documents, as well as answered reference referrals.

“It has been a privilege to have been part of the library and the Ole Miss family for so many years,” Harper said. “I will miss being a part of the next chapter in the library’s history but hope to watch from the sidelines as a member of the Friends of the Library board.”

The Laura G. Harper Government Publications Fund is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations; mail a check with the name of the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or visit online at For more information, contact Angela Barlow Brown, development officer for the J.D. Williams Library, at or 662-915-3181.

Randalls Establish Endowment for AICPA Collection

Fund will help UM to preserve materials and make them available online

Lee and Kathy Randall established a $30,000 endowment for AICPA collection support.

OXFORD, Miss. – Lee Randall loves the University of Mississippi. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Ole Miss in 1971 and after retiring from Entergy as vice president and general auditor, Randall wanted to give back to his alma mater.

Randall and his wife, Kathy, of New Orleans, have created the Lee and Kathy Randall AICPA Collection Support Endowment for the J.D. Williams Library in the amount of $30,000.

“I’m a graduate of Ole Miss and wanted to give something back to the university,” he said. “The collection is a bridge between the library and accountancy, my first love. Hopefully our gift will encourage others to provide support as well.”

The National Library of the Accounting Profession at UM houses more than 200,000 accounting items. Included in this impressive count is the huge library of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the national organization for practicing accountants. This constitutes the largest collection of accounting materials in the world.

“Lee and Kathy Randall’s generous gift will allow the library to increase our digitizing efforts with the AICPA collection,” said Cecilia Botero, UM dean of libraries. “Once digitized, the library makes these resources freely available through the library homepage.

“Making these resources digitally available enables greater access of this important information, not only to our students, but to anyone in the world with online internet access.”

The AICPA donated its century-old collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts and periodicals to the university in two installments, one in 2001 and the last in 2014. These materials document the social, political and regulatory history of a profession critical to the development of the modern world economy.

The accounting standards set by the AICPA have governed how wealth in the American economy is defined and reported. Such an important responsibility has involved the country’s accountants, business leaders and politicians in long and contentious debates, and many of these discussions are archived in the Ole Miss Accounting Library collection.

The gift from the Randalls will help fund the hiring of a graduate assistant to preserve parts of the collection and support ongoing maintenance of the collection, which is viewed by students and researchers more than 100,000 times each year.

“We are grateful to Lee and Kathy for their generous gift to enhance the AICPA Library,” said Mark Wilder, dean and KMPG Chair of Accountancy. “Through the support of the Randalls, the AICPA Library holdings will be more readily accessible by practitioners, researchers and students throughout the region, nation and world.

“This library has been on our campus for 15 years now and has generated unprecedented national and international visibility for the university and School of Accountancy. The library has played a key role in the Patterson School becoming a mainstay as one of the top 10 accounting schools in the nation.”

By agreement with the AICPA, Royce Kurtz, associate professor and AICPA research and instruction librarian, is digitizing and making freely available older AICPA publications on the internet.

Other items he is digitizing include the Accounting Historians Journal of the Academy of Accounting Historians, an enormous historical collection published by agreement with the accounting firm Deloitte, and a large collection of items that are old enough to be out of copyright. The library’s full-text digital accounting collections contain 400,000 pages from some 8,000 books, pamphlets, and journal articles.

Working accountants, scholars and students from around the world access the library’s digitized accounting materials online more than 90,000 times a year.

Ole Miss doctoral students in accounting regularly use the collection for their research, as do accounting scholars around the world. Their research has been published in some of the top journals in accounting. This service to international scholars is one of the most important benefits of the collection for the university, helping bolster its status as a Carnegie R-1 institution, identifying Ole Miss as a university of highest research activity.

“Processing and digitizing is an ongoing task,” Kurtz said. “The Randalls’ generous donation will enable me to begin preservation of the VHS video tapes, replace aging scanners and employ accounting students to more speedily digitize and process the collections.”

Having this collection at Ole Miss helps the accountancy school maintain its reputation and ranking as one of the nation’s top schools, Randall said.

“I hope our donation will allow students and researchers to better utilize this collection and that it will be there for many years to come,” he said.

J.D. Williams Library Celebrates State Bicentennial with Exhibit

Observance also includes lectures, video series and more

Greg Johnson arranges a new exhibit featuring the Mississippi bicentennial at the Department of Archives and Special Collections. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Department of Archives and Special Collections in the University of Mississippi‘s J.D. Williams Library will celebrate a historic anniversary of the state with the exhibit “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood.”

Mississippi was admitted as the 20th state on Dec. 10, 1817. The library will commemorate that recognition with an ongoing exhibit focusing on the history and culture of Mississippi, opening Jan 9.

“The Department of Archives and Special Collections has pulled together some of our rarest items documenting the state’s 200-year history,” said Jennifer Ford, head of special collections. “Commemorating this bicentennial year has been the focus of the department’s faculty and staff for several months.”

The exhibit will feature a wide variety of items that helped define the state, including 18th century maps of the South by European cartographers, historical Mississippi textbooks, early territorial documents, materials related to the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement in Mississippi, sound recordings, photographs of the state through the years and Mississippi-themed sheet music.

The archives will showcase various items from the display in a monthly video series through the end of the exhibit on Dec. 11, 2017. The department also will host several brown bag lectures and events throughout the year.

Patrons are invited to check the J.D. Williams Library website, as well as the university’s events calendar, during the year for details.

“We are very pleased to be able to reach out to those interested in the history and culture of the state through a physical display, the video project, online media, lectures held in the Faulkner Room throughout the year, instruction, as well as through other programming,” Ford said. “We invite all the public to come experience what our collections have to offer during this seminal year.”

The Department of Archives and Special Collections is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, except for university holidays. For more information, contact Jennifer Ford at 662-915-7408.

UM Presentation Focuses on Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore’s Ties

Literary researchers to examine authors' literary and family connections

The J.D. Williams Library features a new exhibit available to the public in their Department of Archives and Special Collections, including items from Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The J.D. Williams Library features a new exhibit available to the public in their Department of Archives and Special Collections, including items from Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Scholars will explore the literary and family connections shared by Mississippi authors Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore during a brown bag event at the University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library.

The event, set for 11:30 a.m. Oct. 6 in the Faulker Room, features a discussion by literary scholars Suzanne Marrs and Annette Trefzer about Welty and Creekmore, an accomplished poet and author from Water Valley.

The library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections organized the examination of “Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore: Literary and Family Connections.” Selected items from the department’s Welty and Creekmore Collections are featured as a part of the exhibition “Hot Off the Press: New and Newly Available Archive Collections,” which is on display in the Faulkner Room through December.

“We are honored to have two such accomplished scholars speak about the connections between two outstanding Mississippi literary figures,” said Jennifer Ford, head of the department. “The Creekmore Collection is one of the treasures of the department, and the current exhibit offered a wonderful opportunity to display items from it for the first time.

“I hope this lecture will spark even more interest into Welty and Creekmore’s work, as well as draw even more attention to the department’s literary collections.”

Marrs, friend and biographer of Welty, is a retired English professor from Millsaps College. She met Welty in 1983 and they were close friends until the author died in 2001. The two met on nearly a daily basis to discuss literature, travel and politics and to welcome visiting writers and scholars to Jackson.

“Eudora Welty and Hubert Creekmore lived just a block or two apart on Jackson’s Pinehurst Street after the Creekmores moved there from Water Valley,” Marrs said. “They read each other’s work, shared an interest in photography and had a family connection: Eudora’s brother married Hubert’s sister.”

Trefzer, an associate professor of English at UM who has taught graduate and undergraduate classes on Welty, has studied American and Southern literature and also has extensive knowledge of Creekmore.

Marrs will discuss connections between the Creekmore and Welty families, and Trefzer will focus on the literary achievements of both authors.

Creekmore, although not as well-known as Welty, was an editor, translator, author, poet and reviewer known as an overall “literary man,” Trefzer said. Besides being the brother of Welty’s sister-in-law, Creekmore served as the aspiring author’s literary adviser when she began writing fiction, Trezfer said.

“When thinking of Mississippi authors, usually William Faulkner comes to mind,” she said. “But Eudora Welty, the award-winning writer from Jackson, also tells fantastic stories about her home state, and she is equally accomplished and prolific with a distinguished achievement of more than five decades of literature.”

Creekmore studied at Ole Miss and graduated in 1927. Welty and Creekmore’s relatives donated some of his works to the Department of Archives and Special Collections. The library is working to digitize Creekmore’s collection, and Ford hopes it will be available online by the end of 2017.

Visitors are welcome to bring lunch to the lecture and can view the “Hot off the Press: New and Newly Available Archive Collections” exhibit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays through Dec. 16.

For more information, contact Ford at or 662-915-7408.

Best-Selling Author Michael Blanding to Visit UM

Lecture, book signing set for Monday evening


Michael Blanding

OXFORD, Miss. – The life of a map bandit will be the topic of a free lecture Monday (March 21) at the University of Mississippi when New York Times best-selling author Michael Blanding comes to campus.

Blanding will discuss his latest book, “The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps” (Gotham Books, 2014), at 6 p.m. in the Overby Center auditorium. The free lecture and book signing is sponsored by the UM Lecture Series, the Department of English, the J.D. Williams Library and the Mississippi Geographic Alliance.

The book tells the true story of a desperation-driven antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley III, who betrayed his friends and family by stealing more than $3 million worth of maps from various rare-book libraries around the country. Blanding will explore the history of the maps Smiley stole, including those of the Deep South, and the importance of library security.

“I look forward to strolling the grounds at Rowan Oak, and I hear that there is a nice Faulkner exhibit in the library’s (Department of ) Special Collections that I am eager to check out,” Blanding said.

“The Map Thief” was named a New York Times best-seller, an NPR Book of the Year, a New England Society Book Award winner and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize and the Massachusetts Book Awards.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about the importance of primary documents to scholars and the role of libraries in our current culture,” said Jennifer Ford, UM Libraries’ head of archives and special collections.

For more information about the lecture, contact Ford at or 662-915-7639. For more information on upcoming events hosted by the J.D. Williams Library, visit the library’s website at or follow @UMLibraries on Twitter.

Oxford Conference for the Book Brings Variety of Authors to UM

Poets, journalists, scholars and readers coming to campus March 2-4 for free event

Ed Larson

Ed Larson

OXFORD, Miss. – Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, as well as first-time novelists, are part of the variety of legendary and debut writers hosted at the Oxford Conference for the Book, set for March 2-4. Poets, journalists, scholars and readers will visit the University of Mississippi for the 23rd conference.

The three-day event, which is free and open to the public, includes readings, panel discussions and lectures.

The conference is a great way for Oxford visitors and locals to explore the town and the university, said James G. Thomas Jr., conference director.

“We try to open doors with this conference, both literally and metaphorically,” said Thomas, associate director of publications at the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“By that I mean the sessions open up doors for thought and inquiry, and the venues we’re hav­ing them in are places that some Oxford residents, stu­dents, and visitors may not have had the opportunity to explore, such as the Lafayette County courthouse, the Barksdale-Isom House, the UM library’s Faulkner Room and even the University Museum.”

This year’s writers include novelists Rick Bass, Bobbie Ann Mason, Margaret McMullan, Robert Gipe, Taylor Brown and UM Grisham Writer in Residence Kiese Laymon; Mississippi historians Minion K.C. Morrison and Dennis Mitchell; historian and gender studies scholar LaKisha Michelle Simmons; poets Richard Katrovas, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Caki Wilkinson, Jericho Brown, Katie Peterson, Chiyuma Elliott and UM professors Beth Ann Fennelly and Derrick Harriell; histori­an Mark Essig; literary scholar Vereen Bell; and Pulitzer Prizewinners journalist Sheri Fink and historian Edward J. Larson.

Larson, professor of law at Pepperdine University, is the author of nine books, the most recent of which, “The Return of George Washington,” was on The New York Times bestseller list in 2015. He has lectured on all seven continents.

“I love Oxford, I have been for tailgating in the Grove since back when I was on the University of Georgia’s athletic board and the SEC was a 10-team conference,” Larson said. “Oxford has the best catfish anywhere. What I want to do next in Mississippi is to bike the Natchez Trace.”

Margaret McMullan

Margaret McMullan

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events will take place in the auditorium of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, and the conference will begin with a lecture and free luncheon, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, in the Faulkner Room in Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library, also on the UM campus. Friday’s panels and readings will take place in the main courtroom of the historic Lafayette County courthouse on the Oxford Square.

Lyn Roberts, general manager at Square Books, calls the conference a celebration of books for everyone.

“The Oxford Conference for the Book has a history and tradition of bringing authors, both debut and established, to Oxford and the University of Mississippi, allowing everyone in the community and anyone who wants to travel the opportunity to hear them read from their works and discuss books,” Roberts said.

Conference panels will explore a wide range of topics, in­cluding Mississippi history; childhood in the South; mem­oir writing; youth, activism, and life in the Mountain South; poetic responses to Langston Hughes; Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman”; the Hurricane Katrina crisis; America’s continuing debate over science and religion; and a cultural and culi­nary history of the pig.

“I’m excited to introduce Mark Essig to the OCB audience,” said Sara Camp Milam, who will moderate Friday’s 10:30 a.m. panel, sponsored by the Southern Foodways Alliance. “His work is as engaging as it is educational. ‘Lesser Beasts’ was one of my favorite food studies books of 2015. For students thinking about how to make their academic work accessible to a general audience, I’d recommend attending this session.”

A new event this year is a poetry session paired with an art exhibition by photographer Youngsuk Suh. At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, following the “Poetic Responses to Langston Hughes” session, the University Museum will host a free recep­tion.

“Thacker Mountain Radio” will host a special Oxford Conference for the Book show at 6 p.m. Thursday at Off Square Books, 129 Courthouse Square, featuring conference authors and visiting musicians. The day’s authors will be there to meet conference attendees and sign books. Each afternoon following the sessions, Square Books will host book signings for that day’s authors.

Mark Essig

Mark Essig

The Children’s Book Festival will be held March 4 at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, with more than 1,200 first- and fifth-graders from area schools. Laurie Keller, author of “The Scrambled States of America,” will present at 9 a.m. for first graders, and Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of “Counting by 7s,” will present at 10:30 a.m. for fifth graders. The Lafayette County Literacy Council sponsors the first-grade program and the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford spon­sors the fifth-grade program.

Four special social events are set on the Ole Miss campus and in town. On March 2, the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library will host an opening lunch beginning at 11 a.m. in Archives and Special Collections. The lunch is free, but reservations are appreciated. That evening is the gala opening-night cocktail reception-dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the historic Barksdale-Isom House, 1003 Jefferson Ave. A portion of the $50 ticket proceeds is tax-deductible.

At noon March 4, the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library will host a poetry talk and lunch with poet Richard Katrovas. Both the lunch and talk are free, but reservations are appreciated.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Square Books, Southern Documentary Project, Southern Foodways Alliance, Living Blues magazine, University Museum, Lafayette County Literacy Council, UM Department of English, J.D. Williams Library, Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writers Fund, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, Southern Literary Trail and the Pulitzer Centennial Campfires Initiative.

The conference is partially funded by the university, a contribution from the R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council and promotional support from Visit Oxford.

To see a full schedule of events, visit or contact James G. Thomas Jr. at 662-915-3374 or

Retirees Association tours library

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.41.14 AMUniversity Libraries hosted members of the University Retirees Association on Saturday, Oct. 3. Library faculty members Jocelyn Tipton, Alex Watson and Brian Young, along with Dean Julia Rholes and development of officer Angela Barlow Brown, welcomed the group. Watson presented a slideshow of the libraries’ history, and Young offered a demonstration of STUDIOone, the new video recording and editing service in the J.D. Williams Library. Watson and Tipton then led the group on a “hidden treasures” tour of the library.

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B.B. King continues to inspire through Blues Archive

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.09.29 AMCelebrated Mississippian and blues legend B.B. King died in his sleep on May 14. The winner of 15 Grammys and a Presidential Medal of Freedom passed away peacefully at 89 after a half-century career of moving audiences with his music and live performances. But the thrill isn’t gone; it can be rediscovered in the Blues Archive at the University of Mississippi.

Between 1982 and 1983, King donated almost 10,000 sound recordings from his personal collection to UM’s Blues Archive, one of the world’s largest public collections of blues recordings, publications and memorabilia. Established in 1985, the archive, which is now a unit in the Department of Archives & Special Collections, is located on the third floor of the J.D. Williams Library. It features more than 70,000 sound recordings, 40,000 photographs and 1,000 videos. This noncirculating collection serves not only UM students and faculty but also researchers worldwide.

Brett Bonner, editorial director at Living Blues magazine, worked for a short time at the Blues Archive and has seen his fair share of King’s monstrous collection.

“You can tell a lot about a man by his record collection,” Bonner said. “While working on the radio show ‘Highway 61’ with Bill Ferris (first director of Southern studies and the Blues Archive), I was able to look and pull from B.B.’s collection. It featured thousands of LPs. I felt I learned more about him looking through his collection; I could figure out what kind of music excited and influenced him.”

King was regarded as a kind and gracious man, always treating people the right way, and he was also an avid learner. It is fitting that UM is able to house and chronicle his unique collection since it features not only recordings of other musicians but also books, manuscripts and materials signifying how King never stopped learning.

“He always tried to better himself,” said Greg Johnson, blues curator at the J.D. Williams Library and associate professor. “In his collection, I found foreign language books that he would study to learn common phrases in order to speak to audiences when he would tour around the world.”

“I found a pilot book because B.B. was a trained pilot,” Bonner added. “And you wouldn’t believe it, but I also found a copy of a book detailing how to play the guitar!”

King made it a point to return to Mississippi. In 2004, the university gave him the title of Honorary Professor of Southern Studies, one of many distinguished titles he had received from numerous universities. Johnson interviewed King for the ceremony.

“It is a testament to the various universities honoring him with degrees and doctorates,” Johnson said. “When I got to publicly interview him, he was such a gracious and kind man, very down to earth.”

“B.B. would always come back to give concerts,” Bonner said. “Whether it was his homecoming concert in Indianola or the Medgar Evers Memorial Blues Concert, B.B. felt it was really important for him to be there.”

King performed and recorded decades of musical hits such as his signature “The Thrill Is Gone.” Among his honors, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991, and is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2008, his hometown of Indianola opened the $14 million B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.

King influenced millions of people with his music. Musical genres, such as rock ’n’ roll, R&B, gospel and jazz, can thank the work of King and his beloved Gibson guitar, Lucille.

“The number of people he influenced and the reach of his music is unbelievable,” Johnson said. “Blues is the biggest cultural export of the state, and B.B. truly was an ambassador. He wasn’t one just for the blues or Mississippi but for the entire United States.”

For more on B.B. King, read Johnson’s blog at

First English Ph.D. Recipient Honored

Kenneth Holditch lectures at Faulkner conference

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.09.08 AM The University of Mississippi honored its first doctoral recipient in English, Kenneth Holditch, during his presentation at this year’s Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference.

Holditch, a professor emeritus of English at the University of New Orleans who earned his doctorate at UM in 1961, presented his lecture, “Growing Up in Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha Country.” He spoke to an enthusiastic audience in the Faulkner Room of the J.D. Williams Library during the 42nd annual conference.

At this program, Jay Watson, UM Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and professor of English, announced the Holditch Scholars Award, which will be given annually to a graduate student in the Department of English.

“The creation of the Holditch Scholars Award is exciting news indeed for the English department,” Watson said. “This award will be an important source of support for deserving graduate students in our program, and a lovely way to honor the distinguished career of the man who received the very first Ph.D. granted in English at the University of Mississippi.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.09.17 AMIvo Kamps, UM chair of English, praised the efforts of Holditch and the university for the timely announcement.

“The English department is proud and pleased to recognize its first Ph.D. graduate, Dr. Holditch, with the creation of a graduate student award in his name,” Kamps said.

Watson noted how appropriate it was for Holditch to present his lecture at this year’s conference.

“That the announcement of the award fund came during this summer’s Faulkner conference was a wonderful bit of serendipity, since Professor Holditch pursued his Ph.D. studies at a time when Faulkner was still living in Oxford and since he went on to become an accomplished scholar of Faulkner’s works in his own right,” Watson said.

To contribute to the Holditch Scholars Award, contact Angela Barlow Brown, UM director of development for special projects, at 662-915-3181 or 

Archives gains addition to James Silver Collection

The University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library has acquired a unique collection of notes written by author and former UM faculty member James Silver.

Silver began teaching at the university in 1936 and served as chair of the Department of History from 1946 to 1957. He is perhaps best known for his work on the history of race relations in the state, especially the 1964 publication of Mississippi: The Closed Society. That same year, Silver took a leave of absence from UM and continued to teach at Notre Dame and the University of South Florida.

The collection of notes includes newspaper clippings about race relations as well as handwritten notes, thoughts and underlined sections in the articles relevant to him.

“This gift provides an important glimpse into the research process used by Dr. Silver in conjunction with this seminal work,” said Jennifer Ford, head of Archives and Special Collections and an associate professor. “These notes survive due to the noteworthy efforts of Doris Bain Thompson, and we are deeply indebted to her family for this donation.”

In 1968, Thompson was a teacher working on her master’s degree in American history when she took a course taught by Silver in Innsbruck, Austria. Following a class seminar, Silver discarded his research notes. Thompson gathered and kept what she believed to be 90 pages of research notes for the enlarged edition of Mississippi: The Closed Society, published in 1966.

In a letter to her family while in Austria, Thompson wrote that she was taking a “great course in race relations which I think I have already explained is being taught by James Silver, the author of ‘Mississippi: The Closed Society’ and Thursday he threw out on the seminar table his research notes on the added 120-page addition that was included in the book. … I picked up all that were left after the others had left since he was leaving them for the janitors to clean up. Must have about 50 or 60 pages on yellow foolscap. Should be great to show a class how a researcher goes about writing such a book.”

Thompson’s daughter, Mary Margaret Hansen, said her mother was a teacher who spent many summers taking courses to gain more knowledge about American history.

Thompson taught American history and English to students at Lago Oil and Transport Co.’s school in Aruba and was also a director of choral music. Hansen said her mother was multitalented and also had an intellectual curiosity that drove her to keep learning.

She added that Thompson was a very visual teacher and likely saw these notes as an opportunity to incorporate an example of original research into her own American history courses.

While looking through family belongings, Hansen came across the notes, and she and her siblings decided to donate them to the university.

“We thought they would be more useful in archives, contributing to the subject matter, than they would be for us to keep them,” Hansen said. “We’re happy the papers are where they may be looked at as a small piece of a larger puzzle.”

This collection is a great asset to faculty, students and researchers studying topics dealing with race relations and Southern history, Ford said.