Pardon Unlikely for Civil Rights Advocate
By ADAM LIPTAK
Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi acknowledges that Clyde Kennard suffered a grievous wrong at the hands
of state officials more than 45 years ago. But he says he will not grant a posthumous pardon to Mr.
Kennard, a black man who was falsely imprisoned after trying to desegregate a Mississippi college.
Mr. Kennard moved home to Hattiesburg, Miss., after seven years in the Army in Germany and Korea and
three years as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He wanted to finish his education at the
But because that college, Mississippi Southern, was reserved for whites, state officials not only
rejected Mr. Kennard's repeated applications but also plotted to kill him.
They kept him out of college by convicting him of helping to steal $25 of chicken feed based on what
the sole witness now says was perjury1. The 1960 conviction drew a seven-year prison term, and Mr.
Kennard died of cancer in 1963.
Last month, Mr. Kennard's supporters asked Governor Barbour, a Republican, for a pardon. The state
parole board2 must first make a recommendation, but Mr. Barbour has already said he will not consider
"The governor hasn't pardoned anyone, be it alive or deceased," said Mr. Barbour's spokesman, Pete Smith.
"The governor isn't going to issue a pardon here."
Mr. Smith added that a pardon would be an empty gesture.
"The governor believes that Clyde Kennard was wronged, and if he were alive today his rights would be
restored," Mr. Smith said. "There's nothing the governor can do for Clyde Kennard right now."
Mr. Kennard's case, which was the subject of a recent three-month investigation by The Clarion-Ledger
of Jackson, Miss., has also been pursued by students at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire,
Ill., and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's law school, in Chicago.
Several of the students involved said they were baffled by Mr. Barbour's response.
"Please," said Mona Ghadiri, 17, a senior at Stevenson High, addressing Governor Barbour, "if you are
going to say no, at least give us a decent reason."
The only evidence against Mr. Kennard was the testimony of a black man named Johnny Lee Roberts, then
19, who said that Mr. Kennard, 33, had asked him to steal the chicken feed. Mr. Roberts, who did the
stealing, received a suspended sentence. Mr. Kennard, convicted as an accessory4, got a year for every
$3.57 of feed.
Mr. Roberts has recanted4, first to Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger and then in a sworn statement
before a judge.
"Kennard did not ask me to steal," Mr. Roberts said in the sworn statement. "Kennard did not ask me
to do anything illegal. Kennard is not guilty of burglary or any other crime."
"I have always felt bad about what happened to Clyde," Mr. Roberts continued. "He was a good man."
Joyce A. Ladner, a sociologist, remembered being mentored by Mr. Kennard when she was a teenager.
"He was a quiet, very dignified guy, a real gentleman," Ms. Ladner said of Mr. Kennard.
Aubrey K. Lucas, the director of admissions at the college when Mr. Kennard applied, recalled in
an interview that it was the governor, J. P. Coleman, who decided against admitting Mr. Kennard.
Source: The New York Times, May 4, 2006
PS. After Clyde Kennard was jailed, police officers also claimed to have found five half pints of
whiskey, along with other liquor, under the seat of his car. Kennard was subsequently cited for illegal
liquor possession. This again was false accusation, as it later turned out. He had been framed by officials.
1. perjury - Meineid, Eidbruch
2. parole board - Kommission für Haftentlassungen
3. accessory - Helfeshelfer
4. to recant - widerrufen
1. Describe some stages in the life of Clyde Kennard up to the time when he applied to his local college.
2. Why was his application rejected and what was he eventually accused of?
3. What arguments were brought forward when Gov. H. Barbour was asked to exonerate Clyde Kennard posthumously?
4. What did the only witness involved in the case, Johnny L. Roberts, confess?
5. Describe any other famous case during the civil rights movement in which some black was refused to attend
a segregated school.