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Walton: Remembering Dr. Christopher Longest

Dr. Christopher Longest with George Street, photo by Dr. Ed Meek
Dr. Christopher Longest with George Street, photo by Dr. Ed Meek

Gerald Walton is the former Provost at University of Mississippi, and his stories could chronicle Oxonian and the university’s history. Here, he remembers Dr. Christopher Longest.

John Cofield recently posted a photograph of Christopher Longest and George Street, and there was discussion about Dr. Longest and his position as president of the First National Bank.

Dr. Christopher Longest, courtesy of Gerald Walton
Dr. Christopher Longest, courtesy of Gerald Walton

Dr. Longest completed his degree at Ole Miss in 1900 and studied at Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago. He was a talented and interesting person.

In addition to chairing the modern languages department where he mostly taught Latin and Spanish, he served as registrar and director of the summer session. A lecture series in his name began in 1961, and Melvin Arrington has collected and edited a number of the lectures. There is a plaque for Dr. Longest in the library near where the card catalogs used to be, and his portrait hangs in the Harrison Room of the library. He was extremely proud that for a number of years he was the senior member of the faculty.

First, the faculty member with the most seniority followed directly behind the Chancellor when the faculty marched at commencements. Second, back when telephones were not often used for long-distance calls and there were no fax machines or Internet, the senior faculty member served as acting chancellor when the chancellor had to be out of town. During the summer of 1930 Longest served in that capacity.

Dr. Longest kept a diary that, as I remember it, covers the first fifty years of the twentieth century and more. Archives and Special Collections has a photocopy. One can find a good deal of the history of the university by checking his diary entries—on such subjects as the history of Friends of the Library for example.

Longest had relatives in Pontotoc. When he wanted to visit them at the beginning of the century, a ride in a horse-drawn buggy took all day. By the time of his death he could make the trip in 35 minutes in his new Dodge.

gerald walton

Gerald W. Walton was born in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on September 11, 1934. He graduated from Dixon High School and attended East Central Community College for two years. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1956 and enrolled that fall at the University of Mississippi, where he received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees. After serving as an instructor for three years, he became an assistant professor of English in 1962 and was later promoted to associate and full professor. He served as Director of the Freshman English Program, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs on three occasions, and Provost. He retired in 1999 and continues to live in Oxford.

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