By Atty. Alvin O. Chambliss and Kathy Sykes
Jackson Advocate Guest Writers
Black people commended Mississippi’s recent promotions of Blacks to Institutions of Higher Learning/IHL circles and had hoped that this would lead to introducing an enlightened evolutionary discussion of inequities and disparities in higher education. Although we had hoped that our saying so would not be the kiss of death for our institutions of higher learning, history would say otherwise. When Ray Cleere, former Commissioner of IHL, announced to the world that Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) would not be closed, Cleere pointed to the new president, Dr. William Sutton, and recent improvements made at the institution. Dr. Cleere even traveled to the university and told all that Mississippi Valley State was here to stay.
Yet, MS Valley’s degreed programs were reduced from 31 to 17. A little time later, Ray Cleere was on television presenting the MS Valley closure plans. An action or event that seems good but is certain to make something else fail. Although the university escaped the closure axe with the proposed “one degree” General Studies Program, other programs and activities negatively impacted the university’s viability. Two of these were the closing of the Nursing program and the designation of the University’s “Area of Interest.” The closure of MVSU’s Nursing program in 1980 left Mississippi Delta Community College and Delta State University as the only two institutions in the Delta offering Nursing education. This resulted in a significant blow to MVSU’s standing in prestige and enrollment capabilities.
To this day, Black people drive the Delta economy. Businesses like Dollar General, Double Quick, and Walmart receive the major portion of their retail business from the Black community. Over time, MVSU has been the greatest contributor to the economic progress of Leflore County and the East Delta area.
Rumors of Jackson State University (JSU) hiring Deion Sanders (Prime Time), world renowned, best ever to play the game of football, to coach was just that – a rumor. Then, “Prime Time” showed up and brought his sons to JSU and committed to full-time coaching and leveling the playing field. The entire South, and not just the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and Paul Westblum really got worried. Up pops the stadium issue. The last president of JSU that proposed a 50,000 seat domed stadium for JSU was fired for doing so – although other issues abound.
It should be noted that Dr. James Lyons of JSU said in pre-court appearances and in the Clarion Ledger newspaper that he supported the JSU alumni, students, Faculty Senate, Black Mississippians Council for Higher Education, and private plaintiffs positions on issues related to:
- JSU being given the MS Veterans Memorial Stadium in Fee Simple
- JSU having a $50-million-dollar Engineering program with multiple PHD programs
- JSU being given the Research and Development Center in Fee Simple
- A law school at JSU
- JSU being given less than four-year degree programs in the Medical Center such as “Nuclear Medicine,” a medical specialty involving the application of radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
- A school of Public Health
- JSU becoming an equal partner with the University of Mississippi in future endeavors involving the medical school that was moved to Jackson to pre-empt JSU from becoming a medical provider in the Capital City.
After the newspaper article quoting Dr. James Lyons as being in full accord with the Black popular position, lead counsel for Mississippi, Atty. Bill Goodman, told federal Judge Neal Biggers in open court that Mississippi agreed to give the stadium to JSU in Fee Simple. Goodman stated that the stadium needed repairs, several sections posed a hazard, and that the burden was on JSU to get the repairs done. Judge Biggers seemed shocked, as were private plaintiffs, at the tendering of the stadium to JSU. Private plaintiffs accepted the offer and Judge Biggers said we needed to move on to other issues.
A short time thereafter, Dr. Lyons gave JSU, its alumni, Faculty Senate, students, Black Mississippians Council for Higher Education, and private plaintiffs the kiss of death by recanting or taking back previous statements. The retraction was very damaging to JSU’s future and landed Dr. James Lyons a prevalent position in the California Higher Educational System. Dr. Lyons’ failure to communicate his change of heart hurt the private plaintiffs’ case, who called him as a witness not an abjurer!
The Geier v. University of Tennessee (6th Circuit, 1970) was the leading case on merger as a remedy. Basically, the case law supported Tennessee State taking over the white University of Tennessee Nursing and Health Care facilities in Nashville and all programs and directives being under Tennessee State’s leadership in Nashville.
Dr. Lyons’ essential recanting on the stadium issue was due to JSU not having money for repairs. There was also the issue of insufficient staff or expertise to handle University of Mississippi Medical Center, low interest in establishing a law school, and Research and Development was left hanging in the wind. Dr. Lyons said he had a discussion the previous night with Walter Payton who spoke about a Walter Payton Complex. He didn’t want a law school, engineering school (soft), and this notion of a 99-year lease for the e-Center was forced on private plaintiffs by powers that be.
The kiss of death for “Prime Time” is Black skin but white minds – Colored People acting as Judas to undermine and sell out the race and the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Black people from 1619 till 2021. It will end when Black People call out pseudo-intellectuals, lumpenproletariat scums who don’t mind giving the kiss of death to its people.
A “March to Save HBCUs” will be held Saturday,nAugust 14, 2021 outside the MS State Capitol (400 High St., Jackson).