Student Government Association Senator Jarrod Colley seeks to change the name of the McCain Library and Archives after investigations into the deceased President’s beliefs.
The McCain Library was named after fifth Southern Miss President William David McCain, who was president from 1955 to 1975 and oversaw the desegregation of the university.
Colley said when he crossed the Clyde Kennard History Marker, which tells the story of Kennard’s life and time at Southern Miss, he felt the university sent mixed signals on its views.
The plaque states Kennard, a Forrest County native, was a pioneer in the desegregation of high education in Mississippi, but President William McCain and state officials obstructed him in his pursuit of learning.
“I believe it is best that we send a unified message across campus if a historical assessment is made to find the sins of the man to outweigh the good done,” Colley said. “We as a university should not honor someone who overwhelmingly was against the ideals of the institution if research into the topic proves that he was an issue.”
Colley said he encouraged the SGA to form an ad-hoc committee during the State of the SGA, where executive officers update the senators on developments in SGA. An ad-hoc committee is generally a committee formed for one purpose. In this case, it would be to research all available information on McCain and make a decision concerning the building bearing his name.
“Investigate Dr. McCain’s life and weigh the importance of why he was given titular name for our archives,” Colley said. “Should we allow the good to outweigh the bad or the bad to outweigh the good?”
Colley questioned whether McCain was acting under societal pressure or had mal intentions. He said that would be the crux of the investigation.
“As usual, with most affluent Southern men, we find a history of good and evil,” Colley said in his State of the SGA speech. “We as posterity must be the ones to judge the intentions of man.”
Colley said the committee would be charged with determining whether a new name would be needed and possible replacements as Colley will be leaving the SGA Senate next semester for an internship opportunity in Washington, D.C.
Senior biological sciences major Andrew King said he would be working on the task of changing the library’s name in Colley’s absence.
“It just feels like the right thing to do,” King said. “Former [Southern Miss] President McCain was involved in [the Clyde Kennard incident], and I am sure was involved in many other incidences in the past.
“It does seem a bit inappropriate to have a sign next to Kennard-Washington Hall explicitly stating that President McCain was instrumental in what happened to Clyde Kennard and not a few hundred yards you have the building that is dedicated to [McCain],” he said.
King said the process could take several years to complete.
Colley brought McCain’s private journals to King’s attention. King said McCain’s journals are integral to the investigation.
“[Colley] really wants those [journals] declassified, so that we can know what [McCain’s] thoughts were,” King said. “Ironically, we are going to be using the archives.”
King said that one of the things the committee would work on is to make Kennard’s story more visible to students. King had not heard the story until his junior year himself. He said he thought exposing students to the situation was a good first move.
“We all know in the back of our minds what might have gone down in the 1950s and 60s, but if we knew the actual people involved, it could really visualize this in a way that people aren’t used to,” King said.