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Delta State to fly university flag at half-staff in honor of Dr. Elbert Riley Hilliard

By March 20, 2024

The Delta State University flag will fly at half-staff from Wednesday, March 20, through sunset on Friday, March 22, in honor of alumnus and DSU’s first honorary doctorate recipient, Dr. Elbert Riley Hilliard, of Madison, Mississippi. Hilliard passed away on March 17, 2024. He was 87

Dr. Elbert R. Hilliard, director emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) and longtime Secretary-Treasurer for the Mississippi Historical Society, was an educator, historical administrator, historic preservationist, and dedicated public servant who spent 39 years with MDAH. At the time of his retirement on December 31, 2004, Dr. Hilliard was the longest serving State Historic Preservation Officer in the nation.

In 1958, Dr. Hilliard graduated from Delta State College with a bachelor’s degree in social studies and physical education. During his freshman year, Dr. Joseph O. Baylen, a Delta State professor of history, told him that he should major in history. When Dr. Baylen accepted a position at Mississippi State University in 1957, he recommended Hilliard to Dr. John K. Bettersworth and Dr. Glover Moore for acceptance into graduate school, an action that had a major influence on Hilliard’s life, for it was there in Dr. Moore’s class on historiography that he first learned of the existence of MDAH. Dr. Hilliard became director of MDAH in July 1973 and served in that capacity until his retirement.

Through the years, Dr. Hilliard remembered the influence that Delta State had on his life. In 1976, he was recognized as Delta State University’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. In May 2005, he received the first honorary doctorate presented by Delta State University, and in 2007, he was named to the university’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

In honor of Dr. Hilliard’s retirement, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History established the annual Elbert R. Hilliard Oral History Award that salutes the most outstanding oral history project in the state. Delta State received the 2020 Elbert R. Hilliard Oral History Award for the in-progress DSU Sit-In Documentary that examines a 1969 demonstration to advance race relations on campus.

A visitation will be held at the Madison Methodist Church beginning at 9:30am on March 21, with a memorial service to follow at 11:00am, along with a brief graveside service at the Montgomery Memorial Cemetery, 500 Locust Lane, Madison, MS.

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