Thursday, July 7, 2022

Not Your Dad’s Chancellor

Photo: Chancellor John D. Williams - By J. R. Cofield
Photo: Chancellor John D. Williams – By J. R. Cofield

Colonel Cofield’s chancellor was John D. Williams. They were friends. “A fine man”, I remember Granddaddy saying more than once.

Those chancellors from John Williams going back were of another time. They were all great men of education living in a time when the rules that had been set right after Lee surrendered, were the rules, by God! There is a line in the Ole Miss sand that ends one era and begins another. Its the pre Riot/post Riot line. Its the same line James Meredith stepped crossed. And its the line that marks when Porter Fortune became an Ole Miss Rebel.

One hundred years earlier there were Northerners who called for the harshest punishment possible. A century later and after “The Last Battle of the Civil War”, there were Northerners who called for the harshest punishment possible. Close the University of Mississippi. We were treading in deep water. In 1968 Dr. Porter L. Fortune became our 21st chief executive.

Ole Miss is so unique. We have a spirit that is unmatched. I’m glad I lived in the time when we let go of so much of the competition that exist between all the rest of the schools and realized that all we have to do is just be ourselves, just be Ole Miss and Oxford. That’s the thing that separates us from Alabama and LSU and all the rest. No matter the final score, we’re just cooler than the rest. And hell yes, damn right, they know it.

An Ole Miss chancellor could go to any SEC school tomorrow and take over their show and make it go. But those neighboring state chancellors couldn’t be ours. Not because they aren’t wise enough but because on top of all it takes to lead Ole Miss…we have this other thing. We have that “Line in the Sand.”

Photo: Chancellor Porter L. Fortune - By Jack Cofield
Photo: Chancellor Porter L. Fortune – By Jack Cofield

The line is easy to spot. Its white and black, and blue.

Its takes someone special to lead Ole Miss. An outstanding PhD with great leadership skills just isn’t enough. It takes a unique kind of gentleman. It takes a Porter Fortune.

Dr. Fortune’s record is found all over the internet. Ole Miss has his complete history on campus. The list of milestones is one that will make you proud to be an Ole Miss Rebel and proud that we were led by Porter Fortune. I encourage you to Google him.

But before I glorify him too much I’m reminded of a Fortune family story. Its a story that shouldn’t even be a story. Its about a father who is battling with his university being represented by the Confederate Battle Flag and his son, Carey Fortune, not understanding and almost dismayed at his father’s decision to go forward without it. I don’t know what the chancellors in Starkville, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge and wherever were doing that night but I know they weren’t embroiled with an explosive issue that had nothing to do with their PhD’s. Issues that went from the Governor’s office down to their children at Christmas time. To be an Ole Miss chancellor you don’t simply “give a diploma, and regretfully terminate tenure”…you live it.

Its been said that Mississippi didn’t have the 1960’s, rather we had two ’50’s and then the ’70’s. Maybe that happened somewhere in Mississippi but in Oxford it was a long hard decade in American history and more over Ole Miss and many Oxford family histories. At the height of those historic times came Porter Fortune and now Dr. Jones, Dr. Khayat and Dr. Turner have all stated that they look back to Dr. Fortune’s leadership as an example to follow.

Yes, John D. Williams was Grandfather Cofield’s chancellor. Grandad was the Ole Miss photographer during his time. As their careers ended Porter Fortune became Chancellor and Dad was the Ole Miss photographer. Grandad’s time had been a peaceful memory of football and Faulkner. Dad’s was an explosive ride of highs and lows in Ole Miss history. And he had a ring seat for the career of Ole Miss’ 21st executive. Dad’s chancellor was Porter Fortune and I heard him make this statement more than once.

–John Cofield

“I wonder if the Ole Miss family knows what the faculty and staff knew at the time… that Porter Fortune saved Ole Miss.”
-Jack Cofield

84,459FansLike
20,500FollowersFollow
14,100FollowersFollow
//The following lines allow infolinks to place their ads - Inserted 6/17/2022 // End infolinks tracing pixel