University to Name Plaza in Memory of Civil Rights Figure

Outgoing Chancellor Jones to speak Sept. 11 at ceremony honoring the Rev. Will Davis Campbell

The dedication will take place near the Paris-Yates Chapel.

The dedication will take place directly behind Paris-Yates Chapel.

OXFORD, Miss. – Outgoing University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones is the lead speaker for a Sept. 11 plaza dedication ceremony on the Oxford campus.

The Rev. Will Davis Campbell Plaza, directly behind Paris-Yates Chapel where the event will occur, will be officially named during the 2 p.m. program. Acting Chancellor Morris Stocks will moderate and make remarks. The dedication, a highlight in UM’s third annual Racial Reconciliation Week Sept. 7-12, is free to the public.

“We are thrilled to honor an important figure in Mississippi and UM’s civil rights journey,” said Susan Glisson, of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, which co-sponsors the week with the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Rev. Campbell inspired so many of us to question the status quo of racism and encouraged us to embrace each other despite these differences.

“He set a high standard of faithfulness to the idea of the beloved community, and honoring him allows us to understand the important and complex history of our campus and our state so that we might go and do likewise.”

This event is Jones’ first official duty at the university since he took leave in mid-June following the decision of the board of trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning not to renew his contract last spring. Stocks said it is fitting that the outgoing chancellor return to campus for this occasion.

“Chancellor Jones has told us on many occasions that the life and writings of Will Campbell greatly influenced him to understand, accept and love people who hold differing backgrounds, perspectives and opinions.” Stocks said. “Because Dr. Jones has served to influence our entire campus community to come together to understand and love each other, it is tremendously appropriate that he join in this wonderful occasion and share his thoughts.”

Other participants scheduled to share reflections during the dedication are Charles R. Wilson, UM professor emeritus of history and Southern studies, and two of Campbell’s children. Webb Campbell is an attorney in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bonnie Campbell is art director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

A native of Amite County, Campbell served as UM’s director of religious life from 1954 to 1956. His efforts to steer the university toward integration resulted in threats against his life, so Campbell left his university post and joined the civil rights movement, one of the few whites involved.

He also appealed to Southern Christian churches to desegregate and actively fight discrimination. Because of their silence and resistance to integration, Campbell abandoned organized religion, though not his faith. Upon Campbell’s death in June 2013 at age 88, President Jimmy Carter called him “a minister and social activist in service to marginalized people of every race, creed and calling.”

Launched in 2012, Racial Reconciliation Week is dedicated to promoting racial equality and encouraging dialogue throughout campus and the Oxford-Lafayette County community. The observance concludes Saturday (Sept. 12) with in-game recognition of Racial Reconciliation Week at the Ole Miss vs. Fresno State football game, where Peggie Gillom-Granderson, this year’s recipient of the Nathaniel Northington Groundbreaker in Athletics Award, will be recognized.

For a complete Racial Reconciliation Week schedule, go to