In 1955, Clyde Kennard applied to attend Mississippi Southern University at Hattiesburg. Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been a routine admission. Kennard had grown up in Mississippi and served honorably in the army from 1945 to 1952. In service, he was certified as a high school graduate. After his honorable discharge, Kennard completed three years as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago before returning to Mississippi. There, he hoped to finish his degree at Mississippi Southern University. Twice, he applied, in 1955 and 1958. Clyde Kennard was not admitted – not merely refused admission, but he and his family were pressured to withdraw the application, which became a matter of interest to the state's newly established State Sovereignty Commission. When he sought admission a third time, Kennard was arrested and convicted of illegal possession of whiskey and reckless driving. In 1960, he was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing a $25 bag of chicken feed. In 1963, Governor Ross Barnett saved Mississippi taxpayers the expense of housing and feeding a dying man by releasing Kennard from prison. Six months later, he died of cancer in Chicago. Two years later, Mississippi Southern admitted its first African American students.
In 1998, when the files of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission were opened, they revealed discussions of whether it was preferable to kill Clyde Kennard for his repeated applications at Mississippi Southern or to frame him. Subsequently, the witness who actually stole the chicken feed admitted that he had lied about Kennard having put him up to the job. By then, Mississippi Southern had named a building for him and begun observing"Clyde Kennard Day." Governor Haley Barbour issued the proclamation for it and now believes that Kennard was grievously"wronged." So, why does this case have implications for any hope to save Cory Maye's life? Governor Barbour's spokesman, Pete Smith, says that it makes no difference whether the state's parole board recommends a posthumous pardon for Clyde Kennard."The governor hasn't pardoned anyone, be it alive or deceased," said Mr. Barbour's spokesman."The governor isn't going to issue a pardon here." See also: Radley Balko's The Agitator.