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Mississippians from Oxford, UM Join Grisham Against State Flag Design

The Sunday issue of The Clarion-Ledger held a full-page ad with a letter speaking out against the current design of the Mississippi state flag.

The letter states: “The Rebel flag meant one thing to Lee and his men 150 years ago. Today, to many, it stands for something far different. It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved. It’s time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”

The Clarion-Ledger ad
The Clarion-Ledger ad

TIME reports that Mississippi author John Grisham co-wrote the letter with fellow native author Greg Iles. Grisham said in an email to TIME, “It’s Mississippi and change is painfully slow. However, I believe it will happen sooner rather than later.”

There are 64 signatures from noted Mississippians on the letter. Some of the eye-catching names are Morgan Freeman and Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, along with Wright Thompson, a Clarksdale native and a senior writer at ESPN whose Ghosts of Mississippi inspired the ESPN’s 30 for 30 feature The Ghosts of Ole Miss, which he narrated.

Among the signatures were Oxford residents like Jack Pendarvis, writer for Adventure Time, Ace Atkins, journalist and New York Times best-selling author who lives in a historic farm just outside of the city, and John Currence, nationally renowned executive chef of the City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford. Former mayor of Oxford and Square Books owner Richard Howorth joins his wife, Lisa Howorth, author of Flying Shoes in signing the letter. Neil White, Oxonian creative director and publisher of The Nautilus Publishing Company, is also on the list.

Among the names are well-known people at the University of Mississipi:

  • Dr. Robert Khayat, former chancellor of the University of Mississippi
  • Dr. Dan Jones, former chancellor of the University of Mississippi
  • Charles Overby, current chairman of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics
  • Curtis Wilkie, celebrated Southern journalist, author and a fellow at the Overby Center
  • Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO who gave a $5.4 million endowment to establish the Sally McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College
  • William Winter, former Mississippi governor who serves on staff at the William Winter Institute
  • Dr. William Ferris, founder of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture
  • John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the university
  • Andy Mullins, retired educator from the university’s School of Education
  • Beth Ann Fennelly, director of the university’s MFA program in creative writing
  • Ann Fisher-Wirth, director of university’s environmental studies minor and English professor
  • Chris Offutt, American author, screenwriter and associate professor of English and screenwriting
  • Richard Ford, Pulitzer-Prize winning author and a professor of English and senior fiction writer
  • Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and associate professor of fiction writing
  • Jesmyn Ward, author and 2010-2011 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the university
  • Mary Miller, author and 2014-2015 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the university


Ole Miss sports figures also signed the letter:

  • Ross Bjork, Ole Miss athletics director
  • Hugh Freeze, head football coach
  • Andy Kennedy, head basketball coach
  • Mike Bianco, head baseball coach
  • Archie Manning, former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback


Notable university alums also signed the letter:

  • Ronnie Musgrove, chairman of the Southern Progress Fund
  • Bill Dunlap, American artist
  • Laurence “Larry” Wells, American novelist who earned his Ph.D. at the university and who was ‘Boss’ to Willie Morris
  • Ralph Eubanks, editor of Virginia Quarterly Review
  • John Evans, owner of Lemuria Books in Jackson
  • Matthew Guinn, author of The Ressurectionist who attended graduate school at the university
  • Alan Huffman, author and journalist
  • Jamie Kornegay, author of Soil and former editor of Oxford Town
  • Jonathan Miles, journalist and novelist who worked for the Oxford Eagle and took a writing class at The University of Mississippi with Barry Hannah
  • Tate Taylor, director of The Help (2011)
  • Steve Yarbrough, celebrated Southern literature author


Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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