Wyatt, Kent 11/3/99 1 of 2 OH# 272
By Tara Zachary
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program. The interview is being recorded with Dr. Kent Wyatt in the Capps Archives and Museum building on November 3, 1999. The interviewer is Tara Zachary.
TZ: First off will you tell me your full name and when and where you were born?
KW: Forest Kent Wyatt, I was in Berea Kentucky on May 27, 1934.
TZ: And who were your parents?
KW: Forest Earl Wyatt was my father. Ameta Hammer Wyatt called Duttie was my mother.
TZ: And what did your family do?
KW: Well my dad was when I was born he was a coach, high school teacher, and teacher. He moved into high school coaching and principle and administration type activities in high schools in Kentucky. Then my mother did not work, and my father got a position with a college in Ohio. Ryo Grand College in Ohio where he was a basketball coach, and also taught physical education, health physical recreation. From Ohio we moved in 1941 to Lynchburg, VA where my dad was a coach and a physical education teacher at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA. During the war years he was in charge of the housing and activities of a pilot training program for the Army Airforce. Then we moved to Cleveland and went to Delta State University in December of 1945. At that time I was ten or eleven. I entered the Hill Demonstration School in the last half of the fifth grade. At that time I had a brother that was five years younger than I am, and a sister who is ten years younger than I am. She was a baby at that time. Delta State at that time had few buildings. It had Hardy Hall, which is the men’s dormitory. It had the Hill building which were the demonstration school and some other classroom facilities. Taylor Hall a girl’s dormitory. It had Cleveland Hall a girl’s dormitory and Ward Hall a girl’s dormitory. It had Scott Dining Hall. The Broom building was the main academic building and the Library. We had Whitfield Gymnasium, a swimming pool, a power plant to hit the facilities, a shop building, and a garden where they raised food to serve in the dining hall. We stayed in the boy’s dormitory. My family stayed in the boy’s dormitory, Hardy Hall. Since there was only two boys on campus at that time we came. At the end of WWII there was almost totally women here at Delta State. We resided in Hardy Hall until G. I. 1, what it was originally called which is now Woolfolk Hall, when that dormitory was built my parents, my brother, sister, and I moved in it. They were the dormitory residence, and they looked after the dormitory as well as dad doing his work here at Delta State. He came as a football coach and health physical education recreational teacher here at Delta State. He remained a football coach for a couple of years, and then he got into administration. He was dean of men and dean of students and that kind of position for several years. I lived in G. I. 1, the men’s dormitory until I was in high school. We probably moved either my sophomore or junior year in high school into a house in Cleveland. Up until that time it was for me ideal. I had a gymnasium right there by me. I could play ping-pong against these college guys. The swimming pool was there. Tennis courts were there. Even though we didn’t have TV back in that day in time I was certainly was very busy with recreational activities and sports. So I grew up in a very loving family and educated family. I could not of had a better childhood and youth during my early years.
TZ: Let me ask you where was your mother from?
KW: My mother and dad are both from Barieha, KY. My mother was considerably younger than my dad. I think she was eighteen when they were married. My dad would have been about twenty-five. Both are from Barieha, KY, and they both knew each other’s families. My dad was coaching there at one of the high school in Barieha.
TZ: What were, you said you always had played with the college student’s cause you lived in the dorm. What other children did you play with? And what else did you do?
KW: Well let’s go back. When I first came to Cleveland I was in the Hill Demonstration School for half of the fifth grade, and sixth grade was the highest grade they had at the Hill Demonstration School. A lady named Ms. Maud Cane was my teacher there. We only had like seven or eight or nine students in the sixth grade. Johnny Ouzts was there who later worked here at Delta State, Dr. Utes. He was a very good friend and classmate throughout high school. Also I had a lot close friends that played ball with me at Cleveland High School: Bobby “Slick” Macool, Durall Howel, Bob Whitshire, John Worthyton, Roy Brock, and Billy Hartley. I could just go on and on naming good friends through high school years. The Hill Demonstration School of course it was torn down for the location of a new library, same thing done to the Taylor Hall and Hardy Hall. They were both torn down and were adjacent to the Hill Building. The Library now stands where those three buildings were. This archives building is very close to that location.
TZ: Do you remember any incidences that your father dealt with when he either dean of men or as a PE coach with all the G. I’s coming back from the war?
KW: Well I guess the enrollment at Delta State was probably three hundred or something like that back in ’45 or ’46, and then the G. I.’s started coming back. We grew to about 600 to 700 students, and of course that was pretty rapid growth for us. They were all kinds of involvements when you have older men coming back who have been at war. Now coming back and having to fall under certain guidelines that Delta State Teachers College had established. I remember living in the dormitory growing up there would be all kinds of tricks that these older guys would play on the younger normal freshman and sophomore students. I remember they even had cows brought into dormitory. They would take some youngster out, a young freshman out, to some place out in the country, and act like one of those who took him out there got shot. He would come running back in to get help for his buddies. Of course nothing had happened to the individuals, just all kinds of pranks. Nothing was very serious. It was a great environment for me to grow up in. Particularly since I did enjoy sports so much. The gymnasium had a trampoline and other gymnastics equipment. I would go over and watch them. At that time we had the Golden Glove Boxers here. I watched some of that. We played tennis against the college guys and competed against them. It really help me as an athlete because the more you play against better competition the better you get. Then Delta State had the golf course. So as I got older I moved from ping-pong to golf and those kinds of things. I had a great love for Delta State. From the Hill Demonstration School I went to the Junior High School here in Cleveland. From that I went to Cleveland High School. I graduated from Cleveland High School. Actually no one had a better high school experience than I had. It was just a wonderful time in my life. Cleveland High School at that time had some outstanding athletic teams. My senior year my football team went undefeated, and it is the only undefeated team Cleveland High School has ever had. My basketball team took third in the state. I was fortunate to make All-State Basketball team. My baseball team did well. I had some opportunities to have partial or full athletic scholarships to some institutions. I visited about five or six, but I always wanted to go to Delta State. That is where I had grown up. I just felt so comfortable. I knew Delta State had a wonderful math department. Mathematics was my interest in high school. Dr. ElenorWalters as a major professor here in mathematics was what appealed to me as well as coming to Delta State and playing athletics.
TZ: Well let’s back up a little back to when you first came. What was Cleveland like at that time?
KW: Cleveland was this in 1945, and it was very small. Seems to me it was like 4000 population. There were no four-lane roads. The main street was Sharpe Avenue. That was the only place we had many stores. It was quite different from the way it is now. We had very little traffic. I can remember at Delta State when the men started coming back to school there was still very few automobiles on campus. These guys started coming back and getting the G. I. Bill, and some of them could have a car. It was highly unusual for a student back in those days to have an automobile. Today, you about have to have an automobile in order to go to college. Coming to Delta State was very natural and easy for me. While my high school had been so great, my college experience was also. I served as president of my class for several years. My freshman year I played and lettered in football under Gene Chadwick. Then I played basketball under John Ray Ricks and lettered in basketball. I played tennis since my dad was coaching tennis. I decided to play tennis instead of baseball. I played baseball in high school. I certainly enjoyed playing tennis. After my freshman year though football and basketball seasons overlapped so much I had to make a decision. I chose to play basketball instead of football. Well, that gave me some free time that fall, and up until then I had seen Janice Collins on campus. We were both freshmen together, but we did not date. So of course she was elected cheerleader. The cheerleaders were all elected, and one of the men or boy cheerleaders was declared ineligible because of some reason. So they were going to have a selection for somebody to replace him. I was elected to be a cheerleader for the football only. I think I had underlying motives so I could get to know Janice better. That was the start of our relationship our sophomore year here at Delta State.
TZ: What kind of social activities did you all have both in high school and in college? What kinds of things did you do for fun?
KW: Well the delta has always been a social area. There was a lot of dances and parties, and back in our time when you went to a dance you danced with a lot of people. You didn’t just dance with whom you took to the dance. In fact if a girl if she had to dance with the same guy for a whole dance she felt that she was stuck with him. You broke at dance and had a good time. We also had a lot of parties in homes. Of course we did not have TV during my high school years. We did have socials together. You really kind of had a group of ten or twenty close boys or girls that were friends, and we all kind of socialized together. College was pretty much the same way. We had a lot of “sock hops” back and those kinds of things in high school. In college they were a little bit more formal dances, but we still broke and danced with other people when you went to a college function. They tried to have a lot of different things on Fridays and weekends because back then students didn’t have the transportation necessary to go home every Friday and every weekend and come back on Monday. There was usually something going on campus that would be of interest. A lot of athletic events were social events to attend the athletic events.
TZ: What kind of relationship when you were a student even though you are from Cleveland. What kind of relationship did the students have with the town as far as going maybe to the movies and going to the churches? What kind of relationship was that?
KW: The churches in Cleveland have always been highly supportive and sought after Delta State students. They provided transportation for us to Sunday night, Sunday, and Sunday evening activities at the churches. We had our BSU and Methodist Student Union. So we had those on campus at that time. They were pretty active. They would have noonday services, and a lot of people would attend. We have always been well served by the churches in Cleveland. Then the Cleveland community supported Delta State back then as it does today. I said many many times no institution that I know of anywhere has a better report with the community than Cleveland and Delta State has. That is a real plus for the University and a plus for our students. The Chamber and the businesses and every entity I know of is very proud of the University, and pleased to have the student body here.
TZ: What kind of rules were there that you all had to abide by especially that may be different from now?
KW: Well another area I guess we can talk about a little later would be well let’s talk about the rules. The boys had a very few rules, but the girls had very stringent rules. For example, a freshman girl living in the dormitory, and there was very little place in Cleveland for people to live. There were very few apartments. Students did not just live off campus unless they had relatives or parents in Cleveland area. Almost all the student body lived on campus. The freshman girls could have one night a week in which she could have a date, and she had to be in by ten thirty. Then a sophomore could have two nights a week in which she could have a date. The junior could have three nights and a senior four nights. Then you would have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you could have dates. There were a lot of restraints there on the activities of the girls. Therefore it also had an affect of the boys. Hopefully that was to help us study. Now if you were going to the Library or something of that nature or some other school function you could check out and that didn’t count as one of the nights out for the girls. The girls also had some type of demerit system. If they had left a coke bottle in the room, for example, they would get a demerit. If they did something or didn’t keep the rooms right, or didn’t come in on time. If you got in after the door closed they were in bad bad trouble. They could not ride in a car unless it was a double date, and if they went any place outside of Cleveland they had to have special permission and written notification from home that it was okay for them to do that. They were a lot more requirements on the women at Delta State than there are today.
TZ: Well did you live in the dorm? Or did you still live, your parents were living by this time they probably have a house?
KW: Yeah, by then we had a house. My last couple of years in high school we had a house. I lived at home. I commuted back and forth.
TZ: Who were some of the most influential teachers that you had?
KW: Dr. Elenor Walters of course had a tremendous impact on my life because she was head of the mathematics department, and she taught most of the upper level courses in mathematics. I was a double major. I got two majors one in mathematics and one in health physical education and recreational. Of course my dad taught me some course in health physical education and recreational, but Ethel Cane was head of that department. She also taught me many courses, and she was a very strong strict teacher. You learned an awful lot in her courses. Roy Wiley taught me some courses, and he was a good teacher. Dr. Young taught in Psychology. Dr. Williams taught me history. Dr. Wart Williams’ son Wart Williams was a great writer. He wrote many books, and some were made into movies. Not only were good teachers, but they set good examples for us to learn from and follow. They had a lot of interaction with us as students, and that is still what we want at Delta State is for faculty to have that opportunity to be with students outside just the classrooms situation.
TZ: What about Dr. Kethley? Do you remember him? What was he like?
KW: Of course, Dr. Broom is the only president that I did not have the opportunity to know because he died the first year he was president of Delta State in 1925. Dr. Kethley, I got to know very well particularly as class president. I had an opportunity to interact with him. Then he seen me grown up here on campus. In fact his daughter, Brookie Kethley Dossett, was teaching some swimming classes in the swimming school when I was in the eighth grade, and she ask me to come and help her teach some of these little kids classes. Through that opportunity I started working the swimming pool and worked there as a lifeguard and teacher every summer in high school through college. So I was at the pool every summer, and I enjoyed that. That was a great oppurtunity for me that President Kethley’s daughter involved me in. Dr. Kethley my last two years or so at Delta State was a very sick person. He had bad arthritis, and he was confined to bed for quite a bit of that time. Of course he retired the following my senior year, 1956. Dr. Ewing came then in 1956. So I had a relationship with Dr. Kethley, but because of his health he wasn’t involved, as most presidents would be during my junior and senior year. Ms. Virginia Thompson was his secretary, and she took on a big load of his. Hugh Smith was the business manager at that time. He did also. The administration took over the slack that might of happened because of his illness. He did resign or retire after that year.
TZ: What kinds of things did you do as class president?
KW: We would have different activities during the year. We would have dance and some different kinds of programs that the class would sponsor. We had an advisor, and normally our class had H. L. Nowell for our advisor. H. L. would always help get involved with us. If we wanted to put on some kind of program or dance it would be the best on campus, and in anything that might come up that the administration wanted input from about what’s going on, on campus.
TZ: Was there when you were a freshman was there hazing? What kinds of things did you all have to do?
KW: Oh there was bad hazing. In fact my freshman year I was going out for football, and I was not staying in the dormitory. So this was before college started, and I was going out for football. Then they cut all of our hair. They would cut everything except one long strand right in the middle of my forehead. It looked like you had a pigtail on the front of your head. Cleveland High School was playing their first football game. So three of four of us guys that had gotten through with football practice, and we went down to see the ballgame. My mother was sitting by my dad at the ballgame, and my dad had told her that they were shaving heads. I walked by and she said I hope he doesn’t look as bad as he does and that was me. So the guys got their heads shaved. The reason why they shaved the freshman’s head was in order to give the upperclassman a better chance with the new freshman girls coming in. Make the guys look bad so that the upperclassman could have the first shot at the freshman girls. The biggest initiation that we had at Delta State was the M club initiation. It was quite long, and it actually it was too severe. Of course we did away that many years ago. If you lettered in a sport then you would be eligible to be inducted into the M club, which was our athletic club. Then they would have initiation one night, and they would take you to the Whitfield gym. They would have the windows covered, and they would strip you down. They would run you through different kinds of gymnastics. They would pop you with belts and paddles. Then they would let you put shorts on, and they would blindfold you. They put glue in your hair and all kinds of stuff. Then they take you all in a big truck, and they would start out. They would put one person out here, and another out there, and another out here. I thought well I have lived in Cleveland, and they were not going to lose me. When that truck turned the corner I was going to know exactly where I was all the time. They got out on the highway, and they went in a circle. Then they went some place else. Then went back in a circle. I was lost. They put F. L. Stephenson and I out together. We got out and took our blindfolds off. I had no idea where we were. We were in a cotton field. There were no lights anywhere. They were on a kind of old dirt turn road. So we decided we better follow this road a little ways. It has to go somewhere. We finally saw some electric line. We said, “oh my goodness, there has to be a house somewhere around here. So let’s go find out where we are.” So we walked I guess a mile or so, and came upon a house this was near midnight. The dogs started barking. We were scared, and it was cold. We hollered at the house, and a guy came out. Thank goodness the parents lived there and this guy was there was too. He had gone to Delta State, and he knew what was going on. They let us come in, and let us use the phone. They let us sit by a fire for a minute or two and warm up some. We were by the Greenville Airport. That is where we were. Then of course if you made it back home then every thing was fine, and you were a member. Next day you had a dinner, a banquet something of that nature. That was some of the hazing that took place.
TZ: So they were not fraternities and sororities?
KW: No fraternities or sororities at Delta State at that time. They did not come until the mid 60’s, and Janice, my wife, and I were both honor initiates. As they were starting fraternities and sororities. The group that I was initiated with became Kappa Alpha, and Janice was KD, Kappa Delta.
TZ: Now didn’t H. L. Nowell have a lot to do with getting the KA?
KW: Yes he did. It was the first group that was organized, and it had some outstanding men in it. You have from a colony first, and then you petition some fraternity or sorority after your colony is up and going and well organized. This group decided to go Kappa Alpha.
TZ: So you graduated in ’56.
KW: Graduated in ’56. The biggest tale I could tell was that Janice and I then decided we would get married our senior year. At that time Delta State was on a quarter system. So between quarters you had a week off. The quarter was the first week in March where the spring quarter started and the winter quarter ended. The basketball season ended a week before that. Of course I was playing basketball. I would go to talk to Coach Ricks, and I tell him that Janice and I planned on getting married. After Christmas in 1956 our basketball team at Delta State really came together. We won almost all of our games, and by so doing we were invited to play in the regional NIA tournament or SIAA. I can’t remember now. It is equivalent to the NCAA today. It was Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama regional. Well the regional tournament was going to be played on Friday and Saturday night, and I was scheduled to get married on that Sunday. Well that meant if it was played in one of the other institutions, it was going to be four teams in it. I would not be there for rehearsal. I don’t know what I was going to do. Anyway the tournament was selected to be at Delta State, and Troy was in it. University of Southern Mississippi was in it, and Southeastern Louisiana was in it. The first game on Friday night we played Troy, and if we had lost then we would have been out of the tournament. Then we would have had the rehearsal dinner, and everything would have gone fine. But we won, so that meant I had rehearsal dinner at about four or five in the afternoon on Saturday. We had rehearsal for the wedding, and then our game was at eight o’clock. I think that was one of my best games. I think Janice was pulling for us to get beat, because if we had gotten beaten then we would have got married on Sunday and gone to Mobile for our honeymoon. Though if we won then I had to be back here on Monday to practice basketball to get ready to go to the National tournament. We won. We beat University of Southern Mississippi pretty heavily that night. So I get married on Sunday, and we have a short honeymoon in Greenwood, and then back to Cleveland. While school is out I am practicing basketball every day. After practice on Friday the coach says “Okay you guys in the morning be up here at eight o’clock with you clothes packed. We will load up we have a bus that is going to take us to Memphis, and we will fly to Kansas City. We will be playing on Monday night in Kansas City in the national tournament.” So all of us get there, and we have our girlfriends and our wives. They are glad to see us go, but they are unhappy to see us go too. So it was kind of mixed emotions there. The manager comes out and said “Coach said don’t you all pack up any of the playing gear just come on in and sit on the benches.” We said what. He said just come up and sit in the bleachers until everyone gets here. So we did, and Coach Ricks came in and told us that we were not going to be able to go to play in the national tournament in Kansas City. The governor has forbidden us to go, because if we win the first round then we would be playing a team that would probably had a black athlete on it. The governor was not going to let us go and play against a black athlete. You were talking about some unhappy folks. We did everything we could to try to get that changed, but the governor would not let us go. The president would not let us go, and Dr. Kethley was a very sick person at that time. The team met with Hugh Smith and some others, and we contacted some board members. We were still not allowed to go. I remember the coach saying, “Now we will do anything you all want. We will have a big banquet. We will give you jackets.” It’s over it’s over, and it was very disappointing. So we were the first public institution in Mississippi that was not allowed to participate in a national event because it would have put us against a black athlete. After that for ten years State, Ole Miss, Southern, none of them were allowed to go. Mississippi really missed out on a lot of great opportunities. Then Dave McCarthy had a basketball team that was supposed to go play in the national tournament one year, and they did not get to go. The next year they were supposed to go play in the NIT, and he took his team over in Alabama. He hid them out. The governor had a summons for his arrest, but they could not find him to give the summons to him in Mississippi. They flew out of Alabama to New York, and played in the NIT. That was the first time Mississippians had played against black athletes since 1956 when we were prohibited from doing something. Thank goodness that ended all of that problem. So that was kind of an historic thing. It was not a good thing but a terrible thing. The athletes were very unhappy about it.
TZ: I could image. Anything else about being a student that we haven’t touched on?
KW: Oh gosh I am sure there a lot of things there that we could reminiss about another time. Delta State was small, but it had a great faculty. It provided to those students that were here with a spree decor. It is a very close group today because of the relationships that were developed here, and because of the faculty we had that worked with us and provided us with a very quality education that helped us be highly successful.
TZ: So after you graduated what did you do?
KW: Janice and I were married, and then we were back at Delta State for the remainder of the semester. I am employed in Mobile at University Military School there. It was a college preparatory school, and Janice taught elementary school in the Mobile public school system. So we go to Mobile for four years, and I am coaching junior and varsity football, varsity basketball, and tennis. I was teaching mathematics. The school that I taught in was one of the finest prep schools anywhere in the south. We were there for four years, and enjoyed Mobile. We had our daughter, Tara, born in Mobile in 1957. During that period of time, I had to serve six months in the military. That was during the summer of 1957 to December 1957. I had a six-month obligation, and I was in the military during that period of time. Janice stayed in Mobile and taught while I was in the military.
TZ: Where did you go?
KW: I went to Fort Benning and Fort Jackson. Fort Jackson was in South Carolina, and Fort Benning is Columbus, GA.
TZ: And then in 1960 you left?
KW: While I was in Mobile I also commuted back in forth to University of Southern Mississippi working on my masters degree in mathematics, and I finished that in the summer of 1960. Also we were contacted then, well actually Janice and I were in Cleveland for Mardi Gras, and Mobile had a Mardi Gras vacation. So we had a week off, and we came home. My sister gets back to school, high school, a little late. The principle asked her why is she late, and she said “Well my brother, Kent, is here and we just got here. We were really not late back”. He said, “Tell Kent to call me I want to talk to him.” So I did, and he wanted me to come down and talk to him about being the basketball coach at Cleveland High School. There is something very special about coming back to alma mater, even though I was in a perfect situation down there. I made more money down there. It was still a big enticement to come back to your alma mater as a coach and teacher. We also had Tara was a year old then. We felt like it would be good to bring her back with the grandparents. Janice’s mother was still here in Cleveland. My mother and dad were here, and Janice of course they worked it out so she could teach also. So we did come back in 1960 to Cleveland High School. I was in the Cleveland school system as a coach, teacher, and an administrator for four years before being offered the Alumni Secretary at Delta State.
TZ: Now is this during the time you went to Ole Miss? Or was it after?
KW: No while I had my master’s degree in Cleveland High School. I did not continue my studies until I came to Delta State as the Alumni Secretary, and I came to Delta State in 1964. Pretty much immediately begin going one night a week over to Oxford. There were three of four others on the faculty that were going over. We would carpool. We would pick one night like Tuesday night or Thursday night. Where we could go over and take a course, and get started in it. I would go over in the summer time, and take four courses in the summer. Work it out like that. On a doctrine agree, you have to do a residency of half a year. I was able to work that; Dr. Ewing was very accommodating to me. He had some federal money for any university enhancement. Some of that was to be used for degrees for the faculty and staff. He allowed me to have one of those which allowed me to gave me a kind of a sabbatical even though I have only been at Delta State two or three years. So I did spend the time necessary on Ole Miss campus to do my residency. I finished my doctrine in 1970.
TZ: Well how did you come back to Delta State as an Alumni Secretary?
KW: Delta State was growing. After Dr. Ewing came to Delta State he had been a president of a community college, Copiah-lincoln Junior College. He started recruiting junior college students and the baby boom and all that. Delta State was growing pretty rapidly. Got to the place where we needed someone to full time to look after alumni activities and alumni events. H. L. Nowell was doing that kind of part time as well as all of the other functions on campus. So they decided to hire a full time person. Dr. Ewing had a committee, and they recommended me or he contacted me. He ask me if I would be interested, and I was certainly was. So that is the way I got to Delta State and work in higher education was as an Alumni Secretary at Delta State. They funded the office well. Dr. Ewing provided a secretary, and he got us going. That was back in 1964.
TZ: What did you do as Alumni Secretary?
KW: First we started trying to communicate with all those alumni we had out there and find them. No one really had a real good record system on the alumni that were out there. So we set up a record system. We started the publication, a quarterly publication. Then we of course we had the chapters established all over Mississippi, and throughout the south. We had a number of Delta State people. We would go and have a chapter meeting with them there. We developed Homecoming more extensively, and we adjusted the business meeting on Homecoming to a business luncheon. Which helped draw the crowd and it got us a big turnout. So those are some of the things we did. The main thing was supporting the graduates of the institution making friends with them and keeping in contact with them about Delta State. Then a few years later we formed a foundation. Dr. Ewing ask me to work with Billy Alexander, a lawyer here in Cleveland who also had a lawyer, Johnson, who worked with me in drawing up all the guidelines that were necessary to establish a foundation to have it legal. So with the foundation on board we started a bigger drive for fundraising. Of course Boo Ferris was hired as the first foundation director in addition to the Alumni person at Delta State. That is kind of the way it grew. That was between ’64 and 1970 that those activities took place.
TZ: Okay so then how long were you an Alumni Secretary?
KW: Okay I was an Alumni Secretary for four years. It might have been five. It was ’64 to ’69. I guess it was five years. Dr. Ewing as Delta State continued to grow had a position administrated assistant to the president position. Let me back up and tell you a couple of things. I was as the Alumni Secretary of course I traveled quite a bit. Dr. Ewing would go with me to some of these events with me. He got to the place where he had to go to Jackson, and he would like me to go and drive him. While he was in meetings I could contact Alumni and do some Alumni work too. That worked well. That is the way we got to know me better, and I got to know him better. One day the dean of students, dean of men, dean of student’s position was open. He called me in and said “Mr. Wyatt would you like” this was before I finished my doctrine. He said, “Would you like to be the dean of men, dean of students.” Dr. Ewing, I really enjoyed being Alumni Secretary. I love what I am doing, and if you were asking me to take the dean of men position I would certainly do it. But if you are asking would I prefer to stay where I am or be the dean of students or dean of men, I would rather stay where I am. He said, “I thought you were too smart to want this dean of men position.” Too many problems dealing with the dean of men, dean of students. So that was an opportunity he offered me, and about a year later the administrative assistant to the president came open. He offered that to me, and of course I jumped at that. So I was his administrative assistant for two years, and it was during that time, well the first year that I finished my doctrine in 1970. I got to work with him very very closely for two years. He retired, and Dr. Lucas comes in 1971 as president.
TZ: What was Dr. Ewing like?
KW: Dr. Ewing, many describe him as being from the old school. That was a hands on approach to administration. He was very involved in almost all the decisions, certainly all of them that were importance to the university. He was a hard worker. He expected others to work hard to. He did a wonderful job at Delta State. He took Delta State when it was really going down. As I said Delta State’s enrollment back in 1948 or so was six or seven hundred. The time I graduated in 1952 we were down to four hundred students. Dr. Ewing came in with a lot of drive and good judgement. He made a lot of great decisions that helped in making Delta State grow. He also knew how to work with legislators. I learned a great deal from him about what to do to establish relationship with legislators and the leadership within the legislator. Of course that is very beneficial to the university.
TZ: Do you think, I have seen stuff in the Sillers papers and letters to and from Kethley, but do you think Ewing was more the as the way we think of it today the relationship with the political leaders started with him or? Do you see that develop?
KW: Well of course I didn’t have much involvement with the legislators, neither did my dad during Kethley era. Actually I would say Dr. Ewing enhanced significantly Delta State’s repore with the legislators when he became president at Delta State.
TZ: What are some of the changes you saw from when you were a student to about 1969-1970 as far as student body, expectation of conduct, behavior, rules?
KW: Of course the biggest change, and most positive is we went from an all white institution to a racially mixed institution. I am very proud of the way Delta State went through that period. We had a couple of incidences that are regrettable. We came through it far better than any institution that I know of that during that crisis time. So that is the biggest change that I have seen. As far as behavior the worst thing that happened that I have seen was the drug culture. The drugs coming into the college age group. When I was in school there were no drugs. There was alcohol, but there were no drugs. There was no marijuana or hard drugs. Drugs came from the older group down through the colleges to the college age group. Now it is in the of course the high school and the junior high school. By the time a kid comes to college he has had the experience with it, or he doesn’t want to have an experience with it. If he has an experience with it, he probably is not going to go to college. There is some decision made now before knowledge about drugs takes place before a student comes to college. As that was coming down through the college age group from the older age group. I saw some really sad things take place when the student’s involvement with drugs when they did not know how bad they were going to be. That they needed to watch them, and they didn’t know what the problems would be with drugs. That was a bad time too. Student behavior and the students had so much latitude now. Of course back when I was in school, the school was held to be in place of the parent. Therefore, the schools, the elementary-secondary, and colleges could do certain things because they were standing in place of the parent making the young person behave. Then as that was declared illegal and you no longer have that protection by the law. As the women got comfortable rights, which means same regulations and rules as the men had, that is when I saw a lot of change in behavior patterns and what institutions could do or try to have students to behave the way they should behave.
TZ: So everybody knows what happened at Ole Miss. It was a big thing when it was integrated. Do you remember the first steps of how Delta State had African American students? How that came about? You were Alumni Secretary then.
KW: I think the first, yeah I was Alumni Secretary when that took place. The first was through recruiting athletes. Some other students wanted to come for a better education, and that was fine. At the time well a couple years after we had African Americans on campus there was a time in our country during the Vietnam War during political activities and so forth. That is just became a mandate that the black students do some kind of demonstration on behalf of the rights of not just their rights but all black rights. We did have one set in activity in which most of the black students on campus participated in at that time. We would have a hearing, and all kinds of legal ramifications there to make sure that everything was done appropriately. I am very pleased with the relationship that has developed since then with our black students and all students. They get along well together.
TZ: What about maybe do you remember what happened on campus both when Martin Luther King was assassinated and John F. Kennedy? Do you remember what the reactions were to those? ’64 or ’63 you would not have been here?
KW: Well ’63 when he was I think
TZ: I think it was ’63 because he was starting to campaign.
KW: Four yeah
TZ: or ’64.
KW: I don’t remember on campus anything taken place then. When Martin Luther King was assassinated there was some services and that kind of thing, but no bad behavior no disturbances of any kind.
TZ: Well let’s see, and so you became an administrative assistant to Dr. Ewing?
TZ: And tell me again some of the things you did as that?
KW: Okay legislative activities would be one of the main things that were assigned to me, but I also had a lot of areas reporting to me. The Alumni Foundation reported through me. The Public Information reported to me. Anything that was kind of external that didn’t fall under regular place would report to me. The new computer systems were in. We did not have much computer going on then, but it reported to me. Institutional Research reported to me. Police and Security reported to me. I had those kinds of responsibilities in addition to most anything that Dr. Ewing wanted to give me to handle. Legislative activities were one of the biggest ones.
TZ: Do you remember any particular issues, activities, or incidences that you dealt with in that position? Maybe with the legislature or anything you dealt with?
KW: In that position not when Dr. Ewing was there but later on we dealt with name change. When I was at Delta State we were Delta State Teachers College. Then my senior year it was changed to Delta State College. My class was the first class to graduate from Delta State College. Janice was the first Miss Delta State. I was proud of that. I when I was administrative assistant to Dr. Ewing we felt that we needed to be an university. We put a big effort into getting that done. We took students to Jackson. We did a pretty lobbying effort on that. The vote to make us an university was unanimous. That was big back then. In addition to that all the other four-year institutions that were still colleges they rode in on our coattail. They said well if Delta State was going to be an University than we should to. They all became universities to. Getting a person from Delta State on the board of trustees was one of the biggest pushes we had. This was when Dr. Lucas was president. Bill Waller , Governor Waller, was elected, and we worked with him. Of course Travis Ede, and Red Parker was a ’56 graduated with me. He had been a very strong supporter of Bill Waller, and was able to be appointed to the board of trustees of higher learning. He was the first Delta State graduate that would be on that board. That was very important to Delta State to have someone there. When Dr. Ewing retired, and Dr. Lucas came. He came to us from the University of Southern Mississippi where he was an administrator. He was a shining star a leading young administrator in Mississippi. So we were very fortunate to have him. You talk about Dr. Ewing’s style. Dr. Ewing was a wonderful administrator, but Dr. Lucas had a totally different style than him. I enjoyed working with Dr. Lucas. When Dr. Lucas came as presidency I was assistant to the president, and the about the first week he was there I went in and talked with him. I told him that if there is any one position that a president ought to be able to name who he wants in that position it ought to be his administrative assistant. While I didn’t want to leave Delta State and I would hope that he would have some place else on campus for me. I was certainly ready to step down and let him pick a who he wanted to be administrative assistant. He would not listen to that, and he wanted me to stay on. I did. I was his administrative assistant then for four years. While he was here. Then when he goes to the University of Southern Mississippi I become president of Delta State.
TZ: We were last talking about Dr. Lucas.
KW: Aubrey was a wonderful administrator. He was very bright. He was knowledgeable in so many different ways. Many people refer to him as the Renaissance Man, and he certainly is. We had a great repore right from the start and developed into the closest friendship. He was certainly instrumental in my becoming president at Delta State. When he left to go to the University of Southern Mississippi. I learned an awful lot from him by working with him during the four years that he was president at Delta State.
TZ: What do you think he taught you?
KW: Well, he taught me how to get along with people. He helped me establish priorities in ways of administrating the university. He was very disciplined person. He kept a diary daily of the activities that took place.
Tape 2 of 2
KW: I think Aubrey helped me grow in my administrative techniques and learning how to administer a university. He taught me how to hire good people and put them in the right place. Then how to allow them the freedom to do their work. He was just a bright, brilliant person, and who I enjoyed association with.
TZ: So he left in ’75?
KW: Dr. Lucas left on July 1, 1975. I was named president back in January or February of ’75. I decided it would be good training to go to the Harvard Institute on Education Management, and that was taking place right during the transition in June and the middle of July. So I was gone some of the last month that Dr. Lucas was president of Delta State to Harvard. I came back, and for the first few days of my presidency. Then I went back to Harvard for a couple more weeks. Then I returned to Delta State.
TZ: How were you, what was the process by which you were selected?
KW: The board of trustees established a sub-committee of their board to make the decision, and to recommend to the full board for their vote or concurrence. Travis C. Red Parker was the chair of that committee since he was a Delta State graduate on the committee. It was certainly appropriate that he chair it. Then they established on campus student groups and faculty groups, and alumni groups to provide information to their committee. Then of course I went down there to be interviewed for the position, and fortunately was selected to be the president.
TZ: Before we get into your presidency, I wanted to ask you what were some of the events or things that happened during Dr. Lucas’s term that you remember?
KW: We talked about the name change from college to university. Of course the women’s basketball program was started during Dr. Lucas’s reign at Delta State as president. That first year, well 1974 or “75, his last years as president was the first year we won the national championship in women’s basketball. Those were some wonderful times. It made great memories for that athletic department at Delta State. Aubrey Lucas also was very strong in the academic field. He helped Delta State become a lot better respected academically through his leadership. That would be part of his legacy on how he strengthened the University academically.
TZ: What kind of things did he do added programs? During his term they added the educational specialist degree?
KW: Right, we did add some new programs, but I think the main thing was his ability to work the accrediting agencies. I know that one time we were having a difficulty with NCATE, National Council Accreditation for Teacher’s Education. During their review he was able to work with them. He put in place programs that would make us stronger. He was hiring faculty that was qualified in different fields. He just provided better and stronger academic program.
TZ: What do you remember about Margaret Wade?
KW: Well Margaret Wade I have known and loved since I was in junior high school. Margaret Wade was the coach at Cleveland High School, and always Cleveland High School’s girl’s basketball team was one of the finest women’s basketball team in Mississippi. Back in 19, I am going to mess up the years, but in the late or middle 40’s, in the middle late 40’s her women’s basketball team played in the finals, girl’s state championship three years in a row. They lost all three years and came in second all three years by some total of five points. I believe that is correct. They lost one game by one point and two games by two points. It might have been they lost two games by one point and one game by two points. Anyway all those games were very close. So Cleveland High School had a great reputation in women’s basketball. As I came up to Cleveland High School in the ninth grade I am starting on the boy’s basketball team. Of course she had an office full of pictures and memos of wins that the Cleveland’s girl’s teams, and men’s teams, and others that had performed. I used to hide out in her office. Well visit her office, and visit with her quite a bit. I just got to know Margaret Wade very well. Then when my dad as head of the health physical education and recreational department at Delta State was in need of someone to teach primarily women’s sports, he hired Margaret Wade to come and teach for us at Delta State. Then when women’s basketball started back up in 1972 or 3, Margaret Wade was already working for us and had a tremendous coaching experience. My dad, Dr. Lucas, others, and I talked with her about whether she would like to continue to coach in college. She did want to. Thank goodness what a phenomenal success she was. The first two years of my presidency she won the nationals championship both those years too. So that was three years in a row we were just the dominant power in women’s basketball in this country in the world. Margaret was a wonderful lady. We used to call her queen because the city of Cleveland had recognized her many years ago at the Charity Ball as the Queen of the Charity Ball. So we called her not just coach but Queen Margaret also. She was a very good friend. She was a wonderful individual. She was a tough disciplinarian with her basketball team. She expected them to perform the way she asks them to, and they did. She knew basketball in and out, inside and outside, and she was a wonderful coach. She has the Wade Trophy named for her. The Wade Trophy is the equal to the men’s Hiesman Trophy for football. It goes to the most outstanding women’s basketball player in the country. It is awarded each year. I have been to different wonderful events in New York City at the Plaza, at the Waldorf-Astoria, at great hotels where the banquet is held that this trophy is awarded at. It is just a tremendous event great recognition for Delta State, Cleveland, for Mississippi.
TZ: What were your expectations or thoughts, as you became president? What was your plans or vision for the University?
KW: As I look back on that time as one progresses up from one position to another position particularly one of this magnitude of leadership you have some concerns about capability, preparedness to do this role to handle this role. While I had the greatest of love for the Delta State and knew I had the vitality and energy to put forth whatever effort was needed there was some concern as to how I would be received and that type thing by others at Delta State and in Mississippi. Going to Harvard for that month and half was a big help to me because there we were interacting with other presidents of other institutions, and other vice presidents from all over the country. You come away knowing you are as well prepared as any of them. That was reassuring to me. I guess some of the things I thought would have be important would be try to keep in perspective that the decisions that I made as president would be made in what I perceived to be in the best interest of Delta State University. An institution that I love, and an institution and a position to me there was no higher position. There were opportunities to have my name like that of Dr. Lucas of The University of Southern Mississippi had his name go forward to other Universities throughout the country for different positions, but I never wanted that. The presidency of Delta State to me was the premier position in higher education. So my desire was to make Delta State the best it can be, and involve those who knew Delta State and were knowledgeable about the institution in those decision-making processes.
TZ: Do you remember at what point before actually going or applying or being in the process of being chosen president that you realize that is what you wanted?
KW: Well my position even at the time that I was being considered was that I really wanted what was best for Delta State, and if there was someone else that was better and perceived to better than I was certainly going to support that individual. Though if I was the one that most people thought should be president then I certainly was going to do all I could to live up to that opportunity.
TZ: What were some of the early challenges that the University had that you had to deal with?
KW: Well the first big challenge I had was I guess about November. Mr. Smith came to me and told me that the revenue generated by student fees we had not met. Therefore we were going to have to make some budget adjustments in mid year in order to live within the revenue we had. Of course we had to call a faculty-staff meeting at the first of the second semester and explain to them the situation. Of course that is never pleasant thing to do when you have to reduce budgets in the middle year, cut out travel, cut out equipment, and cut out any supplies or money that might still remaining. Something though had to be done in order to get within our revenue. From then on our budget projections were such that we would be within our revenue. Except the years that the state of Mississippi had terrible short falls in their revenue, and therefore they had to reduce their allocations to the institutions of higher learning, particularly Delta State during the middle of the year. That was some really tough times, but that was later on in my presidency in 1986 or 7 along in there when we had those terrible budget cuts. In fact we had to delete from our budget fifty-six professional positions in one year because of the short fall in state revenue, not because of student fees or student enrollment. It was because the state just did not have the money to live up to the allocation that was alloted to us. When you have to terminate people that is the toughest job anybody could have particularly people that were productive and doing just what you wanted to happen. Though you just don’t have the money to continue that position. To do that we involved all aspects of the University, we had a pretty large committee. We had some sub committees. We talked about the direction of the University, and did a lot of long range planning. We decided on certain areas that at that time were felt that we could probably do without. Without decimating the University. Those position then were eliminated. Thank goodness we have been able to replace most of those in the past few years.
TZ: What were some of the areas that were cut? And the flip side of that what were chosen or deemed to be the primary the core purpose?
KW: Well we wanted to protect the integrity of the academic programs first of all. Maintain the accreditation by the various departments in academic areas that have national accreditation. We did all we could to maintain those. Educational quality at Delta State is the most vital thing to the institution. If this institution is going to continue to grow and prosper that has to be the number one concern, and it was. We did away with such things as continue education, off-campus instruction. We pulled back in and did that. We terminated some positions in Library. We terminated positions in Public Information. All those kinds of things that we felt like while it was important to the institution, it was not as important as the detriment to the actually class enrollment, class size. Class size did get a larger, but it was still manageable. So we froze a lot of positions. We were able to eliminate several of them. Then some people just were not employed back the next year. Also some people were of the retirement age, and they chose to go on and retire. Then stay and work at the University half time. That was a big savings to the University. Those were some of the things that were done during that very terrible time for all aid institutions in Mississippi.
TZ: When did your father retire? What was the relationship with you being president?
KW: Well that is a good story. Of course my dad was working at Delta State as head of the health physical education and recreational department when I was employed as Alumni Secretary. Then when I became assistant to the president he was still in that position. When I was named president of Delta State he was still employed here. I jokingly would like to say I retired my dad, but actually he intended to retire the year after I was president. So I was president one year while he was still head of the department. Then he retired the next year. He was sixty-seven years old, and he was ready to retire. I think that is pretty unusual. You know my dad had taught me here at Delta State when I was a student here, and then I come back. I was president, and he had to report to me.
TZ: Let’s see so the budget cuts, the budget problems were a major concern. What do you think what improved the situation? And what was the relationship that you had with the legislator at that time in working through that?
KW: Well first of all as we went in to all of that you froze such things as any kinds of capital improvements, any kind of repair or renovations, any kind of equipment purchases, any kind of supplies that were not necessary for the classroom to operate. It was a tough time for Mississippi and for all of us. We of course worked with the legislator trying to impress upon them how severe it was affecting the institutions. At first there were some concern. “Well you all had some fat anyway. It was a good way to down size and get you leaner.” After a year or two of that there was no fat in any of our budgets so the legislator did come back and there was a tax increase that was beneficial certainly in helping stabilize where we were not continuing the downward drain from the institution. We lost some faculty members during that time that we would have liked to have kept. I think with higher salaries we could have kept them. We didn’t have salary increases for a couple of years. One year we decided we just had to give a least three- percent salary increase, and we raised fees significantly. So the student cost were going up up up, and the state share was going down down down. So with no additional state funding we did give a three- percent raise across the board to our people. That made us increase some class sizes and do some other things. So people were doing more than what would normally would be expected of them in the administrative positions, and the secretarial positions, and all that type thing. We just felt like we had to increase salary some.
TZ: During that time was the foundation able to kick in and help some? What was the situation with that?
KW: The foundation was helpful, but if you look at a salary increase that is not something that is not just a one time shot in the arm. The foundation could help in purchasing some equipment, some needed travel, or some one-time event. To put a salary increase on the foundation would mean that every year it would have to come up with that same amount of money. That is not wise utilization of the usually of foundation’s funds. The foundation was pretty young in ’87. While they have done very-very well in the last five years or so well that was not that much money being given to Delta State through the foundation.
TZ: What has been during your presidency the relationship of the University to Cleveland and to the delta? What was the role you kind of saw it was fulfilling in this region?
KW: Well I would say that is one thing I am really proud about is how the delta and even Mississippi now recognizes Delta State as an outstanding quality university. When we were a small teacher’s college it seems like most of the delta felt like we were just a teacher’s college up there. They didn’t look upon us as having the same quality in our instructional programs as perhaps some of the larger universities did. Now that has changed. That perception of Delta State now is that I feel any place I go is that Delta State is a quality institution. That is where I would like for my son and daughter to go. I know there are going to get as could if not better training than would at “X” institution. I very very proud of that. I am not sure if that was you question, but that is an answer to something.
TZ: Well I wanted to know maybe what you, we hear a lot now about being a good neighbor in the delta and just the leadership?
KW: Well in the last fifteen years we have had an opportunity to become more involved in economic development through the delta. Actually when I was back in school here the economic development was all agriculture. Of course Delta State does not have any role in agriculture because of Mississippi State and the Experiment Center in Stoneville which is run through Mississippi State University. The board of trustees want allow us to do anything in agriculture. We didn’t have much of a role there, but as the delta has become more diverse and with more employment opportunities for our people. Different kinds of businesses, corporations, and industry we have become part of that through Delta Council and through the Chamber of Commerce’s in different towns. So we are providing opportunities and leadership in that area now that we haven’t been involved in before. We have gotten several huge grants to assist. We have a facility now that primarily that is all that it is doing is working to improve the delta through training for elected officials and other economic development opportunities. We have branched out from being just a school to train teachers and a school that was just teaching academic courses to doing a lot of other things to benefit the area, which we live.
TZ: What about the Ayers’s case? When did it start? And when did you become aware of it? And what has been your experience in the resolution?
KW: The first year I was president, 1975, was the first year that depositions were taking for the Ayers’s case, and they took mine that first year. The Ayers’s case is still going on. Of course it is a shame that the Ayers’s case was ever needed. We should have had open access to all who were qualified from the start, but we didn’t. So the Ayers’s case was filed. I think the problem that I had with the Ayers’s case is that it has changed through the years. When they first talked with me and took my deposition, the Ayers’s case was about admissions, open access for all equal opportunity for all. Now of course access is available, and it has changed from this amount of money for this institution to this amount of money. It seems to thrive on itself. The opportunity to settle the Ayers’s case does not look to me in the immediate future. It has been several tries to settle the Ayers’s case, but you could not get the plaintiffs to say what it would take to settle it. What ever you say was not enough. We have had several opportunities; the board has through their attorneys to try to settle the case. It has cost Mississippi untold millions of dollars not only to money going to various historically black institutions, but also what it has cost the other institutions and the historically black institutions to provide data and sources and that kind of thing for the law suit. Of course the lawyer’s fees are certainly up in the many millions of dollars. I believe I am the only president that has testified both times before Judge Biggers that the Ayers’s case has appeared before him. The first trial of course Judge Biggers made a ruling on that, and it went to the fifth circuit court of appeals. It was upheld there, and then it was sent to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court turned it around and sent it back to Judge Biggers court again. So then several years later we has another hearing before Judge Biggers, and at that time Judge Biggers handed down the decision that we are operating under right now. While I am certainly for equal access and equal opportunity for everyone, it just looks like the Ayers’s case is been alive longer than it was needed. What settlement that is required needs to be worked out done.
TZ: What were some of the proposed resolutions? I know at some point there was talk of combining institutions and eliminating institutions.
KW: Well the board with the advise from its attorneys looked at ways to meet to what the Supreme Court when they handed back down the decision to Judge Biggers what the lawyers felt the Supreme Court was saying. One way to do that they felt was to eliminate some of the institutions. Then you would not have duplications of programs and duplications of institutions. So the one way was to take Mississippi University for Women and merge it into Mississippi State. Mississippi Valley and Delta State would both be closed, and a new institution would open named Delta Valley University in Cleveland. Judge Biggers and the plaintiffs did not buy that. I think those options are all dead now, and the various eight institutions are recognized as needed by higher education in Mississippi.
TZ: What were the thoughts and reactions of the folks here about the possibility of combining?
KW: Well I know Valley didn’t like that, and I know Delta State people did not like that. It wasn’t a really workable and an acceptable solution.
TZ: What have been some of the things that you felt were most important and significant contributions of your presidency?
KW: Well after twenty-four years on the spur of the moment I think that as a university grows you have to have programs that attract students to your institution. So a big success that we had in my administration is bringing new academic programs to Delta State, and then getting them accredited by their national professional association. We have been successful in getting all of our programs accredited by their national professional association. There are very few schools our size that can make that claim. That is saying the quality in our program is the same as those any wherein the United States. They meet the requirements of these national professional associations, and some of them are very stringent. So that means a awful lot to me that the qualities here and the students coming here can know they are going to get the best education that they could get anywhere in the United States. I would say that is one of my proudest accomplishments. I can go into the music department and be very proud of the band and where it has come from to where it is today. The choral groups are the same thing. Athletics, this past year we won the Gulf South Conference Trophy for the strongest men’s program in the conference. I am very proud of that. Women’s basketball has brought such a claim. Men’s basketball is doing very well. Baseball at Delta State has always has been an outstanding Division 2 program. Then if you look at facilities. Delta State when I was here as a student was woefully behind in facilities. Now I don’t know if a major need that this university has or will have in the near future that it will not meet. Those are things I think that Delta State people and graduates should be proud of. You know you look at where we were with the computers and technology seven or eight years ago to where we are today, and what we have on line for the library is totally finished. We are just way ahead of where we were, and that is good.
TZ: What did you do with the legislator as far as the mid eighties when everything was so bad and then to where we are now of really boom funding of what I can see? How did you all work with the legislature to ensure that? And what conditions helped that?
KW: Of course Dr. Leroy Morgan has been my main contact with the legislature. I was working with him. I think what we have stressed since I have been president we always wanted them to know that we tell them is absolute truth. We are not trying to provide them with any information that is anywhere out of line. What we tell them they can believe. They like that. So they have confidence in what you tell them. Through the years we have been able to gain that confidence in the legislature. Also since we have been here for a while and some of the leadership in the legislator has been there for a while they have gotten to know us pretty well, and we have got to know them pretty well. They understand, if we say this is a real need we have at Delta State they are going to do what they can to help us because they want Delta State to be strong too. It is just like all aid institutions. I think that is the accredability of our request to the legislator. Then the interaction we have had with the leadership in the legislature has been vitally important with us.
TZ: What changes have you seen in higher education in Mississippi during your participation in administration at that level?
KW: Well of course I have been going to the legislators since Dr. Ewing which would have been since 1966 or so. I also have been going to the board meetings with the Dr. Ewing and Dr. Lucas, and now my own. The board structure has changed a little bit. In that they had one member that was a kind of a quayside member that is no longer on the board. They have changed the title, and to some degree the responsibility and power of the executive officer from executive secretary to commissioner of higher education. We have a wonderful system to work through that all eight institutions report to one board. So we do have a central controlling board that can mandate what is necessary to each eight institutions. At the same time since we do have only one board for all eight institutions that gives the institution a lot of autonomy. It allows us to go ahead and do things on campus without having the control of the board at all times. It is a good system, and I think Mississippi’s IHL system is the best in the country.
TZ: One last question, what went into your decision to retire when you did?
KW: Okay, why did I retire when I did. Well I was sixty-five and normally sixty-five is considered retirement age. I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that probably was planning in my mind if I could go to the year two thousand and twenty-five years at Delta State that would be a wonderful opportunity and thing to do. As the year progressed last year everything was so good. Delta State was in the best financial situation that it has ever been in. We got the buildings coming. The student body was great. The athletics was good. Music was good. Everything was at a high, and my feeling was that my goodness this is a great opportunity to bring someone in here to Delta State. It was just an attracted position. We would have the best applicants you could find anywhere. I guess my wife says I am a creature of timing, and I felt for Delta State’s own good that the timing was really right last year to begin a search. I think that is certainly has come out that way with Dr. David Potter as president. I think we have a wonderful, capable new leader. After twenty-four years I guess it is time for new leadership. Let me tell you something, this probably has nothing to do with it, but each year we have a group of freshman that we have in different groups. They will come around and visit different parts of the campus. Each groups comes by the president’s office. A year ago I was talking to a group. They ask me how long I have been president, and I would tell them since 1975. How many were you all born in 1975? Not a single hand went up. So I thought then you know it is about time for me to consider stepping down and allowing new leadership to come to Delta State. I just felt like Delta State could not be better off than it is now, and it would attract good applicants and it did. It was just time for me to retire.
TZ: What are your plans now?
KW: Stay active, play golf.
TZ: You are involved in the Chamber.
KW: I am on the Chamber board still. I am still on some NCAA committees and activities. Dr. Potter has asked me to work as we bring the new Greenville Center on line to help with that. I probably will be helping with some of the legislator activities this year.
TZ: Was there anything else today that you want or we might come back another time on a few things.
KW: Let’s come back on another time.
Tape 3 of 3 November 9, 1999
KW: I recall that during the first year as president in 1975 that my address to the faculty. We emphasized how important quality at Delta State was, and how we must stand against great inflation even if we have to stand alone. We must maintain the academic integrity and quality of the University. I think that was well received by faculty. I think they worked hard during my twenty-four years as president to maintain those standards that the we outlined back in 1975. During that first year, I remember thinking how busy things were getting set up and getting started. Then things kind of smoothed out during the year. Then at graduation time, I thought well boy the week and two weeks after graduation when the campus is pretty much shut down. That will be a down time for me, and the time I will have to play golf and so forth. Actually it turned out to be just the opposite. Since the faculty was not busy that was their opportunity to come visit with the president and to tell the president of their concerns and their desires for the University. So actually the week or so after graduation was probably one of the busiest times for me. That was a surprise. The relationship with faculty was very very important to me. Not having come from the faculty to the presidency, but coming through the administrative position to the presidency, I felt that it was important that I give faculty a major say in the decision making process of Delta State. We developed a administrative advisory council, which had elected faculty of each area of the institution. They were elected by their department and school, and they met with the president and the cabinet at least once a month usually more frequently. That was a group that helped guide the University in policy decisions and direction that it should go.
TZ: You mentioned the cabinet. Is that something as far as you know the other presidents had done? Or was that . . .?
KW: Well Dr. Lucas started with a group of the administrative leaders that met with him about weekly. I guess the name cabinet while it was pretty much an informal group at first that we just met ever Monday morning at eight thirty or nine. The name grew to be the cabinet even though it is not officially such a body. It was an opportunity for me to have all the administrative heads of every area of the campus meet for an hour or more each week. We made sure we had communications between different areas for example the academic area and the student personnel area and the same thing for the business area and athletic area. It was so we can iron out any problems that we might we were going to face that week, and it turned out to be very productive.
TZ: How would you describe your management style?
KW: You know I guess it is how people perceive you and how you perceive yourself is many times different. I have tried to be very open with my administration at Delta State. I had, I guess, what is normally called an open door policy. People can drop in and visit with me. I certainly encourage students to do that too because I felt like that the input that I could gain from these kinds of opportunities were very important in decision making for Delta State. I enjoyed the interaction with students, faculty, and a more of a recreational setting and social setting. I think that also shows to the students and the faculty that you are available. They can come and visit with you. In some of my speeches to the faculty and staff, I would make a point that my door was always open to them. They found that they were stymied in their position, and they were not being heard. They were certainly okay for them to come and talk with me about a decision. I would listen to them. If there were some need that needs to be made, changes needed to be made, we go through the more formal process of doing that. At least it gives the person an opportunity to come and talk with the president and tell them of their concerns. They don’t feel like they are locked in and no where to go.
TZ: What is the most difficult aspect of being president, administratively for you?
KW: Well, I guess tough decision involving personnel. If you have to terminate someone, that is tough because they have family. They have others that are depending on them. When you have to make decisions that are negative toward the individual, that is hard to do. I will tell you the way I was able to handle that in my mind and feel very good about those kinds decisions that had to be made during the years was that I tried to always look at what was best for Delta State. If it was best to make a change, then it was in the best interest of Delta State. It would make Delta State better by making that change. Then I could make that change, and go with it.
TZ: Describe a typical day in the life of you as president?
KW: Well I guess a typical day would be, I would wake before six. I would be over to the Wyatt Building for exercise somewhere between six fifteen or six thirty. I would exercise for thirty minutes. I would home to the president’s home. I would get dressed and be at office by seven. I am not a big breakfast eater. I would get to the office by eight o’clock. Then during the day, if it was a Monday, we would always have Cabinet meeting at eight thirty or nine. Most days there would be people who had made appointments with me for one reason or another. Then normally during lunch time there would be some luncheon that I would attend whether it would be ODK, Student Government Association leaders that I would have lunch with. It might be downtown with some foundation people usually there was a luncheon engagement with Lyon’s club at noon on Fridays. I was seldom home for lunch. Then back to the office in the afternoon. I was home by five. Then usually there would be some activity at Delta State that we would attend, whether it would be choral group, band performance, athletic event, student government event, Renaissance, some performance put on at the Bologna Performing Arts Center after it was constructed. It was very active. It was something that we enjoyed a lot. I would probably be gone from the campus five days a month. That would include board meetings in Jackson, maybe legislative activities in Jackson, or meeting with alumni in different places throughout the state, or other types of business activities that would take me away from the campus.
TZ: You mentioned the president’s home. What was it? I don’t know if this is common any more for there to be a president’s home on campus. What do you think that affect maybe that had on your presidency? You know living on campus, being in the middle of things.
KW: I think the president’s home has great value by being located on or very close to the campus. It means that you are more totally involved with the activities that are taking place there. I think the faculty, staff, students look upon you as more of an interval part of the institution even during off hours when the presidents live on campus. I am aware of a new trend in new institutions where the president’s home are built off campus. As far as having University activities in the president’s home is more difficult to do when it is off campus than it is on campus. So I think there is a real need in a place for the president to be living real close to campus if not on the campus.
TZ: What kind of activities would you host in your home?
KW: Well we have hosted everything from student groups, Student Association Leaders, athletic teams, cheerleaders, music groups, we had a big Christmas open house, which is not only faculty and staff, but many in the community were invited during the Christmas season. We have had and hosted events that will be entertainment for legislators and for board members. It was seldom a week would go by that there wouldn’t be some activity in the president’s home.
TZ: If you could talk about some of the academic changes that were made during your presidency, I think whenever you took over there weren’t. There were the EDD.
KW: No there wasn’t an EDD.
TZ: Oh okay, I thought that was in the early seventies. So really it became offered more graduate degrees during your presidency.
KW: Right I would say that, you know the one thing that I am very, very proud of is the academic quality of Delta State. I think as I said early, that you have to have the programs that people want in order to attract students. You have to have quality in those programs. We had at Delta State when I became president the master’s in several areas. The masters in Business Administration even. Later on we added the Executive MBA in Business Administration. There is a tremendous need in the delta for doctoral degrees in education. Because of our under graduate education program and our master’s level in educational specialist level program was so strong. The consultants that visits all eight institutions evaluating these programs. Agreed with us that we had the strength there to offer a doctoral program. Therefore the board allowed us to move the EDD degree. Therefore an institution our size that is kind of unusual that you would be abeto doctrine. The need in the delta is so great. The quality of our programs are so good, the board agreed to that. That has been a big program for us. Some other things that we had started that we are very proud. The aviation program, that was a term would be good for us to be able to get that program at Delta State. Actually we were the first institution to go to the board and request that we be allowed to have the Commercial Aviation Program here. That has three tracks to it. One you are actually pilot training. You are teaching people to fly. Second it teaches people to work as a fixed based operator just in the aviation industry. Third, you have the program with the F. A. A. It is a program that the students will go through, and when they come out they would have an opportunity to work in the summers with the F. A. A. Therefore they don’t have to go through the civil service to move into that field. We have a lot of students that choose that. It is a good program. It is not only flight training. It has other majors for it. When we went to the board. The board said well this is kind of a new degree, we will take it under advisement. Well the next month the University of Southern Mississippi came in and requested the same program. So the board said we will have to study and see where it would be best suited. We were able to convince them over the next couple of months that the flying environment in the Mississippi Delta was safer. It would be better to house that program here than at another campus. That is the only unique program that we have at Delta State compared to all the other institutions, eight institutions in Mississippi. It brings students in not only from the Mississippi delta and Mississippi, but all over the nation. So that is a program that we are proud of, and we have been a very safe program. We have never had an accident or any consequence at all. So I am proud of what they have done there. Then the other program is the nurse’s school. We didn’t have nursing. I had a delegation of hospital administrators in the delta come to me and tell me the need for more nurses to meet the health needs of the delta. We went to the board and requested it. We had the president of there association come down and meet with the board. Finally we were able to convince them of the tremendous need that we have. So we were allowed to start a nursing school. Now we not only have the nursing program, but we have the master’s degree in nursing also. So those are a few of the degrees that were added. We have added many more in most every school or college at the University now. Of course we have upgraded the institution from an institution that has schools and departments to colleges, schools, and departments. That also is a strength academically. Those are some things that I am very proud that has taken place during my administration.
TZ: Speaking of reorganization, there was a reorganization in 1969 under Dr. Ewing. Were you around whenever that was done?
KW: Yes I was here in 1969.
TZ: Do you remember anything about that reorganization?
KW: Yes, that time we just had departments and we went to schools. He established deans and departments. That was a good move. At that time we were growing pretty rapidly, or had grown for the last three or four years pretty rapidly. We needed those divisions at the institutions.
TZ: So what we into the thinking of the latest reorganization, going to the colleges?
KW: Well the same thing. We are growing academically. Some of our areas needed that separation from college to school. We still have the school of nursing. We have some of our areas that have multi-discipline areas in there. It just fit better. It is more prestigious to be a college than just schools.
TZ: What has been your experience and relationship with Delta Council during your presidency?
KW: Well delta of course is the area kind of like the Chamber of Commerce. It has primarily been inactive in agricultural kinds of things, but it has been very active in assisting education, bringing business, bringing highways, bringing the infra-structure that the delta needed to grow and to prosper like we have done like we have done the last several years. I have been connected and participating in Delta Council events because it is always held here on campus since well since we first moved here back in 1946. I can remember some of the great speakers that they have had. I participated in some of those things. Even when I was a student here, there was quite a big event that one day. Then after I became president, I became more involved. I was on the board some. I have been on committees every year. I was a Vice President a year or two. I am pleased with the Delta Council and what it does for the Mississippi delta. They have been very helpful to us in Washington when trying to get new programs and funding for our on going programs. We appreciate that association there. B. F. Smith was of course the long time executive director of Delta Council. He was our graduate. Upon his retirement, we were looking there for an opportunity to do something to recognize B. F. Smith. Also do something for Delta State University Foundation. Ed Kossman and I went down and met with Morris Lewis in Indianola. We talked with Morris about some ideas about giving to Delta State. Through that conversation, I felt it would be something he felt that Morris Lewis felt that Delta Council members would all support would be to establish a chair, a B. F. Smith Chair for economical development here at Delta State. It was very easy for us to raise that million dollars for the B. F. Smith was. So that was another way that Delta Council has really benefited Delta State University. Then since B. F. Smith retirement I have had the pleasure of working with Chip Morgan. Chip has been highly supported of different things that we have done (?) to do at Delta State.
TZ: You have talked a little bit about giving money, endowing the chair. What about the Performing Arts Center? How did that come? Who had the idea for that? How did it get started?
KW: Well I have had the Performing Arts Center as the number one need on our campus building construction oh for more than ten years before we were able to get it funded. The legislature and the building commission, Building Bureau and Grounds kind of looked past to other kinds of needs that we would have on campus, but not look favorably upon the Performing Arts Center. After several years of it being on our top list, finally it got on the Board of Trustees top ten list. Then when those were funded that the board had. It was funded also. That was a great, great day for us for Delta State. My feeling was that the delta has such fantastic cultural activities. People who have been involved in theatre, singing, blues, and other things. We needed to have some place here in the delta that all Deltains could kind of come to for different kinds of cultural activities. The Performing Arts Center has certainly drawn those people together. The delta people has supported it tremendously. At the time the building was completed. Our foundation was having its first capital campaign. The building was constructed of course with state monies. Part of the capital campaign we thought it would be good that if we could raise money to supplement the cost of performances. That would be a big boost to what kind of programs we could bring into the delta, and still not have to charge $75 to $100 dollars for a ticket. We very, very fortunate in the way that drive was accepted and responded to by the people of the delta. The chairs that were sold for thousand dollars a chair was a tremendous success. Certain parts of the building were available for fifty to twenty-five, hundred thousand to half million dollars. The building would be named for two million dollars. We were having such great success with that. We contacted. We let people know that some of the things in the Performing Arts Center were available for naming. Of course the Tims here in Cleveland named part of the building for Ms. Tims. McPhersons in Indianola part of the building for there. It was just a great response. Then Roger Malcolm came over. He was talking to me about making fifty thousand dollar gift to the University to the Bologna Performing Arts Center. We were looking for naming opportunities. I took him into the theatre. I told him that the Delta and Pine Land Theatre would be a good fit. Would he consider a half million dollars in naming that for Delta Pine Land, the theatre part. He liked that idea. He said well let me think about it. We had a performance that evening. He said I will tell you before the performance starts. I said well okay. I will see you then. He had came back to the performance. I had told a few people that Roger Malcolm had said that he would give us a fifty thousand dollar gift for the Performing Arts Center. We were working on that. So before the performance, I go up on stage to make the announcement of some gifts. I said, “Roger Malcomn of Delta and Pine Land is going to give five hundred thousand dollars for the naming of the theatre. Charlie Capps was sitting by my wife. He said, “Oh my goodness, Kent has made a mistake. It is supposed to be fifty thousand dollars.” Of course the half million dollar gift was very, very well received by all in attendance. Then as we talked to Roger Malcolm about this with the press. He stated that how he would like to see that be a catalyst to get others to give and to continue to give. Then following that. I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Boo Ferris about his good friend, Nino Bologna, Dr. Bologna in Greenville who might be interested in doing something with the Performing Arts Center. I immediately contacted Nino. He told me that he for a long time had the desire to do something in the performing arts way, and perhaps fund a structure in Greenville for theatre of some type. We talked about how if you do it at Delta State this is something that is going to be here. We are going to maintain it. We are going to have a professional staff. It is going to be well done. We have money to support it. We can just enhance it even more if he would make a gift to it. As we talked about it. The naming of the facility was something I thought would be good. We had established it would be a two million dollar gift to name the facility for someone. I talked with him about that. He had some tragedies in his family with his daughter’s death and his son’s death. This was a way to recognize them. We were very fortunate that Dr. Bologna and his wife decided that they would contribute two million dollars to the fund so that we could have a tremendous endowment that is there forever in order enhance the opportunities for performances in the Bologna Performing Arts Center. That was a great day when we named that facility for Dr. Bologna. I think we are still getting a lot of gifts and financial contributions to the theatre. It has just been a tremendous addition to the delta.
TZ: Another development that has had impact all across the delta is the center for Community Development. If you could talk a little bit about how that got started, and the idea behind it?
KW: The center for Economic Community Development that was part of the out growth of the B. F. Smith chair. We had funding in order to do a national search for the chair holder. We looked at many through out the country. We had consultants to help in that search. We had a couple of people that we interviewed. Some came and worked a little while. Then Jerry Robinson was the person finalized on. Dr. Robinson when he came to Delta State, he was able to get a large grant. We got so involved with the things that were going on with community development aspect that we decided to separate the Economic Community Development into just community development and economic development. B. F. Smith Chair being the economic development area and Dr. Robinson and his grant being the community development. From that we were able to get the Ameri-Corp activities and just all types of funding and other activities taking place that will help community development. We were able to buy a building just adjacent to the campus and renovate it. That is where it is housed.
TZ: Who, when was the first idea of it developed? Did somebody come to you with the suggestion, or was it something that you saw a need for in your planning?
KW: The economic and community development?
KW: Well it was when we talked to Morris Lewis, really. We talked about how B. F. Smith had been so involved that type thing. If you are going to have a chair named for individual, you know it would be good to be in the field that he is in that he has done his life’s work. So instead of it being in English or something in that nature, it was pre-appropriate that we look for that chair in economic and community development. All that every bit of this is an outgrowth of that effort.
TZ: In some of the strategic planning that is going on now there is a lot of emphasizes on what is been termed culture of Delta State. What do you think, how would you describe that culture?
KW: Be more specific with me.
TZ: Well I think one of that something is idea that they want to develop as a way to recruit and a way put out there with the organizations, values, or how people are treated. How things are done.
KW: I think it is very important the way that people perceive an institution. If parents are going to trust their children to us for education, I think it is great that they know about us and understand who we are and what we are about. Through the years I have seen Delta State always touted as a friendly school. One time, a long time ago, in the fifties and forties, they had the slogan the “Friendly School in Dixie “. I think that the relationship of faculty to students is one of congeniality of friendship. It is almost family like. In fact, I know several faculty have students who come to their homes and study there and eat with them. It is a good atmosphere. I have had the opportunity, of course when I was at Harvard for a summer, to attend and visit many of the elite schools in the North East, the private schools. Most of them are the size of Delta State. They are smaller, undergraduate schools where there is a low student teacher ratio. It is similar what we have had through the years at Delta State. The relationship there is a good academic environment. That is what we want at Delta State. So I think that is the way I have seen Delta State through the years. It has quality education, small class sizes, and interaction of faculty with students, and I think that is where learning takes place. I think it is a good environment.
TZ: Was it like that when you were a student?
KW: It was definitely like that when I was a student. Faculty members were very caring. They worked with us. Dr. Eleanor Walters is a good example of that. So I have of course seen Delta State grow so much that some people think you can’t continue to have that kind of environment. I think we do to a great degree. You passed the students on campus. They still speak to you. They speak to each other. I like that.
TZ: Another development during your presidency was the Greenville Center. Could you talk a little bit about why that was put as a priority? What all it has entailed?
KW: Well since W. W. II, Delta State has been teaching courses in Greenville. These have been housed in facilities that were not really the best even though they had been in the public school system buildings. We did not have the equipment needed. We didn’t have the library holdings and those kinds of things that would make the academic offering down there comparable to what you would have on campus. Greenville has for many years talked about that it is the largest city in the country that does not have a two or a four year private or public institution in its city limits. Of course the community college is located about fifty miles away. We are located about thirty-five miles away. I guess the community college is about thirty-five miles away. We are all so, they taught in Greenville. They have an extension there, but it is not the same as having on going institution. So there has been a push for that for many years. The volume of prospected students are there. After a survey was done, Greenville decided to make a real push for a facility there. There legislative leaders from Washington County and Greenville were able to pass a bill in legislature to construct this about twelve, thirteen million dollar facility there. Delta State, we plan to be the lead institution there. Of course the community college, Mississippi Delta Community College, will have to teach the freshman and sophomore courses. Then we and Mississippi Valley will teach the upper level and the graduate courses. I really see this as a win-win situation for Delta State while we might lose some of our students to this facility. I think at the same time some students will start there, and then they will want to come on campus to finish their degree. I think most students who want a college environment will still come to Delta State for that. We will be teaching courses there in the year 2001. The construction is pretty much on time table that was projected for it. We will be hiring a director sometime in February or March of the year 2000.
TZ: What has been some of the civic organization and activities that you have been involved in?
KW: Oh me, I better get out my biographical information sheet. Well I have been a member of the Lion’s Club for well since 1962, I guess. I have also been on the Chamber board. I have been on the Industrial Development Foundation Board for Bolivar County. I was on the board and Vice President for several years for the Mississippi Committee for the Humanities. I have been President of Mississippi Association of Colleges. I have been on the Key Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. I have been in athletics. I have been on the N. C. A. A. council. I have been on there president’s council. I was on the committee that selected the new executive director of the N. C. A. A. I have been president of the Community Way Drive.
TZ: United Way
KW: United Way Drive, I have worked on the drive many years. I don’t know. I just can’t remember all these things.
TZ: Why did you get involved with these sorts of things?
KW: Well I felt like as a Cleveland native first. I have always wanted what was best for Cleveland and certainly for Delta State. I guess like people. I like to interact with people. If they ask me to do something, it is very difficult for me to turn someone down. I hope in my retirement years. I can learn to say no better. I have enjoyed that. I have enjoyed that interaction with people. It is a feeling that you are doing something good for the community or for an organization. Oh gosh, I was president of P. D. K., Phi Delta Kappa. I got to get out my list.
TZ: Well, in those roles you had opportunities to see Cleveland change over the years and the delta change probably over the years. What changes have you seen, both in the town and the larger region?
KW: Now the most significant change has been integration. African Americans having access to what whites had previously. Seeing how they have enhanced there economy and most everything else in the delta. That is certainly the biggest change I have seen in the delta. Then of course in Cleveland, I have seen in go from a very small community to a very vibrant, thriving probably the most progressive community in the delta. Then all the new construction and everything in Cleveland and at Delta State has certainly been a big boost to this area.
TZ: Why do you think that Cleveland has survived when so many of the other towns in the delta haven’t?
KW: That question has been asked many times. Of course my response is that Cleveland is very fortunate early on that we did have a couple of very good strong industries in Cleveland that continued to grow and expand, which gave some job opportunities there. Certainly Delta State is the unique aspect of Cleveland. You can look at communities like Indianola that has had similar kinds of industrial base and industry there that significant growth, but they haven’t been able to do what Cleveland has. I think the reason for that is the University is here. I think you can look around at most University towns in Mississippi and other places, Starksville and Oxford and how they have grown because of the Universities are there. I think most anyone would say that Delta State is the catalyst and probably the main reason that Cleveland and the Bolivar County area has done so well. When I grew up for example, Drew and Cleveland were comparable. They were big competitors in the athletic events and that type thing. Then look at what has happened to Drew, and look what has happened to Cleveland. It has been tremendous shifts in population trends and growth. Cleveland has been very fortunate there.
TZ: Is there anything, I have a few questions that I wanted to ask from earlier, from your earlier life. Is there anything else from Presidency that maybe we haven’t talked about?
KW: Then my retirement, we have talked about that. The process of Dr. Potter being selected, I am very pleased with that. My major, honestly, my major concern what really is best for Delta State. I think Delta State is just couldn’t be better off than what it is right now.
TZ: What are you most? You have answered this not in a direct way just because the way we have gone about. What are you most proud of?
KW: Well my family, my marriage, then my two daughters and their successes in life, and how they have adjusted and well adjusted. I enjoyed life to the fullest. Their accomplishments, Tara she has just done fantastically well. Her husband, Henry (?), and they have two children. She has worked at the University of Mississippi Medical Center since her graduation with a medical library science degree. She has a master’s degree. She is very active in the community. She has been president of the Junior League. Then Elizabeth has been a wonderful, outstanding student. She has been Mississippi’s Ms. Hospitality. Then going through med. School. Now she is an othomologists. She and her husband, Blate Mitchell, are both doctors. I am just very, very of my family. I enjoy them emisely.
TZ: Well that gives us back a little bit to some of the questions that I was going to ask about earlier. Getting back on a personal side, what do you remember? You were about nineteen or twenty when the Korean War ended. Do you remember, was there any thought that you might ever have to go? What was it like being a teenager while that was going on?
KW: Well I remember when the Korean War started. The concern then of a lot of the college students they were going to have to go to war again. Of course I was too young at that time. I was only fourteen or thirteen. I was young. Then growing up through the draft. The draft was the only. All the men had to register for the draft. I did that. In fact, we had two bus loads that left from Bolivar County that went to Jackson for the physical. I was put in charge of these. I guess there was about eighty men, guys. I had to get them to Jackson. We had the papers and all that kind of stuff. I don’t know why in the world I was picked, but I was. We spend the night in Jackson, and then we came back the next day for a physical. You know yeah the war was part of life, the men or boys all realize they might have that obligation facing them. Thank goodness the Korean War ended before my time came. I still had the draft to face. I chose, because I was teaching mathematics. That was a critical skill. Did we talk about this earlier?
TZ: You mentioned briefly that you were in the service.
KW: Because I was teaching mathematics, a critical skill, I didn’t have to be on active duty but six months. I chose that. I was married at the time that I did go in. Every male had to face that responsibility. It was part of growing up. You accepted it.
TZ: What about, you were on campus during Vietnam. Do you remember people, students leaving to go to be in Vietnam? What people in Cleveland and at the University thought about the involvement there?
KW: Well I guess I remember more people leaving going to Korea because of the draw up unit of the National Guard. That was a pretty big spread. Where as the Vietnam War was more of drafting people. They had a lottery of who would get drafted and who wouldn’t so forth. Vietnam War wore everybody out. It just kept on going, kept on going, and kept on going. It was so much criticism of it. It got to a place where most every university was supposed to have some kind of demonstration against the war. You would have some students who would get involved. Each institution had to (?) up what they can do and what they couldn’t do. I would say Delta State probably wasn’t affected nearly as much as most other institutions. Usually middle income parents, there children, I am not going to say more patriotic. They accept that better. It seemed like our students not supportive of the war, but accepted as a responsibility. They weren’t nearly as boisterous and outgoing as some other institutions.
TZ: Okay, I really don’t. I think we have covered most everything.
TZ: Is there anything that you would have liked to have gotten accomplished in your presidency that you weren’t able to?
KW: Well always have would have wished we could have had better salaries for faculty and staff. Mississippi has been a poor state most of time that I was a president. Now things are looking a lot better. We are paying better salaries. I think that is going to be a real plus for the university. I can’t really think of a major concern that right now about the university. I think we are in good shape. Did we talk about the Capps Building.
TZ: No, why don’t you tell me about that. How that came to be.
KW: Well, we Mr. Capps and me had talked several times about the need for us to preserve the rich heritage of the delta someway. It seems with the new times a lot of this was getting away from us. The site on the Delta State campus would be the appropriate place to have a museum and archives to preserve this heritage. So we had talked about it several times. I had the opportunity to play golf with Mr. Capps and the speaker of the house, Tim Ford, the chairman of the Ways and Means, Charlie Williams. I brought up the idea that it would certainly be good if we could have a building here on campus in order to do that. We really had such other needs right now for other kinds of construction on campus. I couldn’t make it a number one priority. It was something that I really did want, and we really needed badly. There could be some other way we could go about getting this building constructed without having necessarily going through the higher learning process, which means it has to go through them. It has to be put on their list. So we talked about it some. Then they kind of said something to the effect, well you know that is something you all really need badly. Maybe we can help you. They said well just leave it to us, and we will see what we can do. I think that is how it was handled. At the end of the next legislative section we had funding to construct the building. I think it would be most appropriate that it will be named to represent Charlie Capps. All he had done for the university through the years and is still doing for Delta State. We have other buildings named for Walter Sillers, Roberts, and other legislators who had strong impact on the university. Certainly it would be deserving that he had one named for him too. Then we took that request to the board. The board approved it. That is how you have your facility named for Representative Charlie Capps.
TZ: How did. . . When was it decided that there would be somebody hired outside the history department or was that a decision? How did the decision of who and what?
KW: Well I knew all along I wanted a professional person there who had some experiences in archivist. There was some talk as to where it should be located, whether that person should report through the history department or through the library, or report some other way to the Vice President of Academic Affairs directly. The feeling was that it probably would be more appropriate for it to report through the library. That is pretty much connected with the new edition to the library. We were one time talking maybe have some walk way between the two buildings. They are close in proximity. That is kind of the reason we went that way. Of course we wanted a professional person in that position. We were going to let them get after it. Let you get after it, Tara. Then we heard about Tara Zachary, this young lady from Louisiana from L. S. U. that was available. We hired her, and she is doing a good job.
TZ: Well I am glad this project is part of that. Anything that you can think of that we haven’t covered?
KW: I can think of a hundred things, but I don’t know where to start. You know I have had a lifetime here. You can figure out other topics sometimes, and we will talk about some more topics. Delta State has changed significantly in facilities, campus, and that type thing. As far as friendliness and quality of programs it has stayed very much the same.
END OF DOCUMENT