Friday, May 05, 2006


Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi and former chairman of the National Republican Party, stands to distinguish himself as “the first governor in U.S. history to refuse to pardon a man he has publicly proclaimed as innocent." I could hardly believe my eyes as I read this tonight on The New York Times website. The report quotes Barbour’s spokesman, 'The governor hasn't pardoned anyone, whether they be alive or deceased.''

Trumped-up charges of selling $25.00 worth of stolen chicken feed landed Clyde Kennard in jail for seven years. The NYT story explained the only witness against Kennard in the chicken feed case recanted his testimony.

What lies beneath the chicken feed is the story of Clyde Kennard’s offense of trying to enter the University of Southern Mississippi in the late 50s.

So what lies beneath Haley Barbour’s thinking in this case?

The Governor of Mississippi, of all places, must be responsive to the calls of justice.

My experience on Wednesday, May 3 at the University of Memphis intensifies my concern for this matter. Jerry Mitchell, reporter for the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi, spoke of his experiences in uncovering evidence leading to 20 convictions of Klansmen and others involved in civil rights era murders. I left inspired not simply because of the justice done in these cases, but in Mitchell’s unequivocal witness to the power, grace, and redemption of God in these affairs.

In government class today at the private Christian school where I teach in Memphis, I challenged my students to see themselves as able to work for justice and to be witness to the grace of God in any number of fields. I told them about Jerry Mitchell the journalist.

Two weeks ago we listened to voice of John Kamm who, while president of the Hong Kong Chamber of Congress, began speaking truth to power in China regarding oppression of religious persons. NPR reports that scores of political prisoners have been released.

Thursday we read about the Governor of Montana, Brian Schwietzer ending the “silence—and for some families, the shame” connected to the convictions of their parents and grandparents on charges of sedition during War War. He posthumously pardoned 75 men and women this week.

A journalist, a businessman, and a governor. All in secular jobs. All acting in the spirit of the prophets and of Christ.

I baited my students, “Why should politicians and others bother with these acts? Why not let the dead be dead?”

One 17 year-old boy suggested it would increase the legitimacy of the government if leaders took steps to right wrongs. Another young man said it could change generations of those families who might always be sad, silent, or cynical.

I mentioned hearing Jerry Mitchell’s voice on a Memphis radio interview Wednesday quoting Solomon, “When justice is done, it is a joy.”

From the mouth of babes-Justice creates legitimacy for the generations.
Justice, says the sage, fosters joy.

Barbour's distinction among America's governors and his alliance with Mississippi's governors-none of whom have given a posthumous pardon-begs the insight of children, the wisdom of Solomon.


elaine x said...

>>So what lies beneath Haley Barbour’s thinking in this case?<<

the status quo. the most dangerous thing on the planet that prevents fearful people to remain silent, do nothing and let 'things take their course.'

peace & harmony,
'freedom must be exercised to stay in shape!'

elaine x said...
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Anonymous said...

There is currently an ongoing debate here in Waco if the city needs to apologize for the lynching of a man back in 1916. Dubbed the "Waco Horror" it was this town's nadir in race relations. There should be no statute of limitations for doing the right thing, for being redemptive. For owning up to the sins of our past.
Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


I am the schoolteacher whose students are spearheading the movement to get the pardon for Clyde Kennard. As a fellow teacher, parent, citizen and Christian, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your insightful post about our efforts.

I'd like to give you a challenge as well. The Governor of Mississippi needs to hear the voices of those who want him to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly. Please show your students the website ( and ask them, if they agree that Clyde Kennard deserves a pardon, to go to the "You Can Help" link and send a prewritten e-mail to Gov. Barbour asking him to grant the pardon.

Again, my students, who are representing the Kennard family, thank you for being a voice for justice.

Barry Bradford

P.S. Jerry Mitchell and I have been friends for a number of years. He is a great and humble man who is doing God's work.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

The computer lab was open today, so our government classes are checking out the website. Students have the option of writing on Kennard's behalf or writing a brief essay giving their reflections on the case. I am hoping for many emails on Kennard's behalf.

Its a privilege to make even a small effort to right such a wrong.

Anonymous said...


Your students have been sending letters by the dozens!

Be sure to read Jerry's article today - every living former Governor of Mississippi endorsed the call for a pardon. Each of them say that if they had the information about Kennard's factual innocence that they would have granted a posthumous pardon!

Thank you for involving your students in this great crusade for justice. Please let me know if you'd ever like me to speak to your class via speakerphone!

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

It would be great to communicate. Several students were quite concerned and seemed pleased to communicate.

I would be delighted to set up some communication with you. A speaker phone conversation would be great. Since we recently received new computers with iChat we might be able to engineer video conference. Is there a possiblity on your end to do that?

Anonymous said...

Good blog, interesting discussion. I'll contact the governor.