Clyde Kennard was an American civil rights pioneer and martyr from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and a Korean War veteran.
- June 12, 1927: Clyde Kennard is born.
- 1955, 1958, 1959: Years that Kennard applied for enrollment to Mississippi Southern College.
- September 25, 1960: Kennard is arrested on a false charge of stealing.
- July 4, 1963: Kennard dies from cancer after his release from prison.
- December 31, 2005: Investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell publishes his interview with the “witness” to Kennard’s crime who recants, clearing Kennard’s name.
- May 16, 2006: Kennard is exonerated in the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Mississippi.
Clyde Kennard (June 12, 1927 – July 4, 1963) was an American civil rights pioneer and martyr from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and a Korean War veteran. In the 1950s, he attempted several times to enroll at the all-white Mississippi Southern College (now theUniversity of Southern Mississippi) to complete his undergraduate degree started at theUniversity of Chicago. Although the United States Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, USM rejected him. Kennard was among the thousands of local activists in the 1940s and 1950s who pressed for their rights.
After Kennard published a letter in the local paper about integrated education, theMississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a state-supported agency, conspired to have him arrested on false charges. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years atParchman Penitentiary, the state’s notorious high-security prison. He became terminally ill with cancer. The state governor refused to pardon him, but released him on parole in January 1963. Kennard died that year in July. After publication in 2005 of evidence that Kennard had been framed, supporters tried to secure a posthumous pardon for him, but Governor Haley Barbour refused.
“What happened to me isn´t as bad as what happened to the guard [the prison guard who abused me], because this system has turned him into a beast, and it will turn his children into beasts.”
Supporters gained Barbour’s cooperation in petitioning the court to review Kennard’s case, and in 2006 his conviction was overturned completely.