The People

Stories of overcoming latent and overt opposition

Image: 1971 Yellow Jacket yearbook of black and white students in the Bi-racial committee, with a caption that reads “The Bi-Racial Committee was a very active and decisive factor in our success as a unitary school.”

Joyce Allen

Starkville Native; Daughter of MSU Employees

“When Starkville integrated the schools and boycotted stores so that blacks could have jobs in the banks and retail establishments, that was accomplished, from my memory, through a lot of boycotting.”

Bobby Bardwell

Henderson High School Alumnus

“You know, we’re tired, we wanna register, we ought to be registered…but we pay taxes and we ought to be registered.”

Nancy Bardwell

Graduate of Starkville High School’s First Integrated Class

“When I was growing up the only white children that I knowed were the ones where my mom worked.”

Larry Box

Former Principal of Henderson Junior High and Sudduth Elementary Schools; Starkville School District Superintendent, 1991-2002.

“The ultimate decision [of how to integrate the city’s teachers] came down to a game of chance.”

Rex Buffington

Former Director, MSU Stennis Center; Promoted the 1990s and Current School Consolidation Plans

“I think one of the things that sort of dawned on me early on in the process was that my African American classmates were not any happier about it than we were.”

Douglass Conner

Physician; Leader of Starkville’s civil rights movement (d.1998)

“[To] African American students, know that we have come a long way trying to beat the odds. One person can not change the world, but can change something. And if everyone changes something, it would eventually become a domino effect to climbing the ‘ladder of success’.”

Earlie Fleming

English and French Teacher at Henderson and Starkville High Schools

“Even though they were a different color from … my color, that didn’t make any difference. They were students.”

Boyd Gatlin

MSU Alum, Former Editor of the MSU Reflector

“Dr. Colvard wanted to make sure it [integration] was done right. Whether or not Richard Holmes was hand-picked and recruited, I don’t know. Um, if he was, then it was a perfect job.”

James Graham

Freedom School Volunteer in the Late 1960s; Helped Integrate Maben High School

“I can tell you that I was there in the movement because of some things that have happened to me as a young person when we were growing up.”

Fred Haley

Columbus Native; Former Mississippi Educator

Shirley Hanshaw

Associate Professor of English & African American Studies at MSU; Henderson High Alumna

“I found out after I returned to Mississippi in 2005, that when the schools were desegregated here, there was a huge backlash. Someone literally trashed our legacy.”

Carmen Haynes, Pam Hunt, & Rosemary Cuicchi

Former Starkville High School Teachers

“And we all taught in this little white building and … we were very enthusiastic about going in, but the facilities were just pitiful.”

James (Jim) Hemphill

Former Starkville Teacher and Principal

“This experience of integration, and the opportunity that Fenton Peters and Paul Armstrong offered me, was one of the most important experiences of my life.”

Richard Holmes

Practicing Physician; First African American to Enroll at MSU

“I feel that Mississippi State University was a different university, the community was different, the university was different, and the administration was different.”

Willie & Letha Johnson

First African American Fire Chief in Oktibbeha County; Henderson High School Alumni

“I’ll never forget the chief went out, bought a cot for me to sleep on. We had a dormitory that was 6 beds, and it was 3 of us on, and we had 4 beds in the dormitory that was empty, but I was not allowed to sleep on them.”

Cathy and Wesley Jones

Pictured: Wesley Jones, owner of Jones Shoe Shop

“I remember students coming from State bringing shoes to Jones Shoe Shop and he didn’t have separate facilities, you know, like, whites on one side, blacks on the other. It was just open.”

Sam Love

MSU alum, Class of 1969; Editor of the Reflector

Emil Lovely

Starkville Native; Retired Salesman

“One of my profound memories is … that when I graduated high school there was no choice about where I was going to go to school. … I couldn’t attend Mississippi State [and] I didn’t understand why.”

Charles and Susan Lowery

Retired History Professor & Dean at MSU; Actively Discouraged “White Flight” to Academies

“That was the attitude of fear; everybody, the merchants especially, were so afraid of misstepping …”

Minnie McCarter

Member of the First Integrated Class at Starkville High, 1970-71

“We went to the Post Office with Momma, begging her to let us go march. She said, when we come out of this Post Office, if they’re still up the street, we can get in the back of the line and I’m a gonna let y’all march to the red light…When we came out of the Post Office, the street was clear, and everybody had been arrested..”

Cam McMillen

Retired food scientist; Starkville resident

“We marched in parades, not formal parades, but we walked down Main St. … in favor of integration.”

Dennis Nordin

Retired; Chicago Native; Earned Ph.D. in History from MSU.

“I was present when Richard Holmes was brought. I was there with another fellow Yankee student and we, as history students, wanted to see this whole thing take place [Holmes registering as the first African American student at MSU]. But the bottom line was nothing took place. It was totally uneventful.”

Deloris Perry-Powers

Starkville native; Attended the city’s segregated schools

“Those teachers [and] the principals [at Henderson High] were really trying to make sure that you got what you needed; pushing you to be educated; pushing you to go forward”

Gail Peyton

Retired Associate Dean of Public Services at MSU Libraries; Grew up in West Point; Mary Holmes College Graduate

“My uncle…with his company, the chicken company…the Ku Klux Klan visited him and burned a cross in front of his house and that sort of thing.”

Janette Self

JANETTE SELF Retired Nurse, Bank Teller; former Starkville Alderman

Cattie Taylor

Retired Starkville High School Librarian

“He [the school superintendent] wanted a good school for every child and he saw this [integration] as the way for all of this to come about.”

Chris Taylor

President of Oktibbeha County NAACP; Arrested for Protesting for Equal Rights in Starkville

“What led up to the protests was when you went shopping you’d see no black faces.”

Charles Ware

Henderson High Alumnus; Retired U.S. Army Colonel

“I’m a product of Starkville. I’m proud to be a product of Starkville, and that’s one of the reasons we came back home—to call this home.”