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Matching Gift to Benefit Medgar Evers Scholarship in Law

Tara Ellis (left), managing partner of Balch and Bingham, and UM law Dean Susan Duncan (right) congratulate Kye Handy, the first recipient of the Medgar Evers scholarship. Photo by Suzette Matthews/University Development

John Robin Bradley, a native of Inverness, is challenging the University of Mississippi Office of Development to raise $100,000 for the Medgar Evers Scholarship in Law Endowment. In turn, he has agreed to match up to the total goal amount himself.

Bradley, law professor emeritus, wants the scholarship endowment to grow and hopes this unique approach to fundraising will make that happen.

Bradley established the endowment in 2008 with gifts of more than $100,000 to provide financial assistance to law students, with special consideration going to graduates of Tougaloo College, Jackson State University and Alcorn State University – all historically black institutions of higher learning.

“The law school has a history of more than 50 years of offering legal education to all people, this after a much longer history of excluding African-Americans from this opportunity,” Bradley said. “When I joined the law faculty in 1966, I took pride in being part of this then-new role.

“The results have been gratifying and valuable to students of all backgrounds, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to join others in being part of that. The law school is better for the change, as are our profession and state. A signal of the school’s continuing commitment to inclusiveness remains important even these many years later.”

Fundraising efforts are underway, with $10,000 already raised toward the campaign goal, said Suzette Matthews, development officer for the law school. The Balch and Bingham law firm of Jackson was first to respond with a $2,500 gift.

“Once the generous support of alumni and friends of the law school help us meet our $100,000 goal, Professor Bradley will then provide a match, resulting in a $200,000 gift for the school,” Matthews said. “We are very grateful to Professor Bradley for his great interest in the perpetuity of the Medgar Evers scholarship.”

Bradley, a graduate of Mississippi College and the UM School of Law, was in private law practice for four years before joining the faculty at Ole Miss in 1966. He has been a visiting professor at Florida State University and the University of Richmond, and he taught in a Cambridge summer session.

Besides teaching courses on contracts and corporations, he taught about and is an authority on workers’ compensation, having written extensively on the topic. He served as chair of the Administrative Law and Workers’ Compensation section of the Mississippi Bar and as chair of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council.

His book, “Mississippi Workers’ Compensation” is a Thomson/West publication (with co-author Linda Thompson) that is widely used and cited by courts. First published in 2006, the treatise is published in a new edition annually that is supplemented and updated.

Bradley has taught thousands of students, including former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove; Bill Waller, chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court; and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

Best-selling novelist John Grisham had his first class in contracts at the School of Law with Bradley and later took workers’ compensation from him. Likewise, Grisham’s son enrolled in the law school and his first class also happened to contract with Bradley.

In 2013, law students selected the professor as the teacher of the year. Although Bradley retired later that year, he taught workers’ compensation courses for two more years and still supplements and updates his book annually.

“What is gratifying is watching students who come in not knowing the subject but then develop a really good touch and understanding of how to use it,” he said. “The maturation process, that’s what is really gratifying to me.”

Bruce Levingston, the UM Chancellor’s Honors College artist-in-residence, has known Bradley for many years and says the professor has a generous spirit and deep interest in the welfare of his home state.

“John Robin Bradley has always cared deeply about Mississippi and sought throughout his life, along with his wonderful wife, Laura, to make Mississippi a special place of opportunity for all people,” Levingston said. “His generous philanthropic support of scholarships and educational programs at the University of Mississippi will leave a lasting legacy that will nurture and inspire many generations to come.”

Bradley has served as president of the Lafayette County Bar, twice as chair of the university Faculty Senate and many times as a Faculty Senate officer.

UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said he believes Bradley’s teaching will leave a lasting legacy at the university.

“It was a very high-quality experience in his classroom,” Khayat said. “The lasting impressions students got from him were very positive and that will live on in the lore of the law school.”

To make a gift to the Medgar Evers Scholarship in Law, send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit https://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/; or contact Suzette Matthews at 662-915-1122 or suzette@olemiss.edu.

By J. Dillon Pitts

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