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Vassallo Interviews: Ron F. Borne Launches Exciting Biography on Hugh Clegg

Ron Borne, a former Ole Miss professor and administrator, has just launched a most exciting read which should interest all Rebels.

Ron’s new book is entitled Trouthmouth: The Two Careers of Hugh Clegg. I caught up with Ron recently to discuss the book.

HottyToddy.com: To begin with, Ron, tell those unaware about yourself.

Ron F. Borne
Ron F. Borne

Ron Borne: I was raised in New Orleans and attended LSU, but for only one year. While I was there, I lived in the football stadium as there were dorm rooms there once upon a time. I transferred to Loyola University and received my BS in Chemistry and later obtained a Masters in Organic Chemistry from Tulane. I traveled north a bit and earned a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Kansas, home of the Jayhawks. Following my student tenure I pursued an interest in teaching which led me to Oxford. Forty-eight years later, I’m still here.

HottyToddy.com: Any family?

Ron Borne: I have three children, all graduates of Ole Miss. Two are girls. One works with the Secretary of State’s office in Jackson and one is a teacher in St. Louis and my son is a retina doctor in Jackson. I also have nine grandchildren. The oldest, Madison Catalano, just received her MBA in Accounting from Ole Miss. I am so proud of all of them as my father only finished the sixth grade and my mother had to drop out of school.

HottyToddy.com: What was the inspiration behind the book?

Ron Borne: The first house I purchased in Oxford was on College Hill Road by Sky Mart. The airport’s name, Clegg Field, always had my curiosity.

HottyToddy.com: Who was Hugh Clegg?

Ron Borne: His first career was with the FBI. Born in Mathiston, Mississippi, a town of 600, would eventually come a future state governor, editor of the New York Times, a very famous artist, TVA Director and an FBI agent.

HottyToddy.com: When was the gentleman born?

Ron Borne: That’s an interesting question. From my research I discovered three different birth dates: 1895, 1898 and 1903. The correct one is 1898. He died in 1979.

HottyToddy.com: What about his early years?

Ron Borne: Clegg did not have a middle name so he took the letter H. He attended Millsaps College where he was active in a fraternity. Following he would enter the law school at George Washington University in D.C. During this time through his part time job at the Library of Congress, he would meet many important individuals, making key contacts. In 1927 he joined the BOI (Bureau of Investigation) and began a lifelong friendship with J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was interested in agents who either had a law degree or one in accounting.

HottyToddy.com: This is getting very interesting.

Ron Borne: Clegg quickly achieved the number three position of Assistant Director behind Hoover and Clyde Tolson. Then came the 1930s, a decade highlighted by mobs and gangsters leading up to WWII. In July, 1934, Clegg was placed in charge of a raid tocapture John Dillinger at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin. The raid was seriously flawed as two agents were killed and Dillinger escaped. Another gangster, Baby Face Nelson was also present whose real name was Lester Gillis.

HottyToddy.com: Sounds as if the making of a motion picture is evolving.

Ron Borne: Five months later (in November) the famous lady in red tipped the Bureau that Dillinger would be attending the Biograph Theatre in Chicago where he was killed. Clegg, however, was not involved in that raid. About this same timeframe, Hoover directed Clegg to establish the National Law Enforcement Academy where he set up the curriculum and recruited faculty. Quantico, Virginia was the location selected. Clegg also wrote the pledge that would be forever historical for FBI agents.

HottyToddy.com: What ‘s the background of the name Troutmouth in the title?

Ron Borne: Clegg got this nickname by other agents from the movement of his lower lip, simulating a fish.

HottyToddy.com: Quite a career!

Ron Borne: There’s much more. In preparing for WWII Hoover sent Clegg to England to learneverything he could about intelligence gathering. Hoover secured this important responsibility for the FBI throughout the war. Clegg was directly involved in the interrogation of the famous Soviet atomic bomb spy Emil Klaus Fuchs who had been captured by the Brits. He was an American spy who also went by the name Harry Gold while in New Mexico.

HottyToddy.com: Tell us about the second career of Clegg.

Ron Borne: Enter the University of Mississippi. In the early 1950s Clegg’s daughter developed an allergy causing the family to leave D.C. Clegg’s wife was an Ole Miss alum which led to his hiring by Chancellor J.D. Williams as executive assistant to the chancellor in 1954. His first project was to raise funds for the airport as Oxford was severely isolated by inferior roads during this period. The project was a huge success leading to the first state-run airport in 1955.

HottyToddy.com: What a background and showcasing what one individual is capable!

Ron Borne: Clegg retired in May of 1968. His title at that time was the director of development. Clegg never sought publicity. Following Ole Miss the family moved to Anguilla as his wife was from Sharkey County.

HottyToddy.com: How can one obtain a copy of this exciting story?

Ron Borne: There will be a book signing June 9 at Off Square Books followed by one in Tupelo on June 11 at GumTree and then in Jackson on June 16 at Lemuria in Jackson.

Ron Borne’s life may not have been as exciting as Hugh Clegg, but it certainly has not been dull. Ron is a brilliant individual and because of his love affair with Oxford and Ole Miss, Ole Miss has become even greater due to this association. Reading his new book should be a highlight of this summer learning about two great people and their relationship with the university we hold so dear.

Steve Vassallo

Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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