Clyde Kennard, a former sergeant and paratrooper in the U.S. Army, first attempted to enroll at Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Because he was initially turned down, he tried again in 1958 and 1959.
After several unsuccessful attempts, the Sovereignty Commission, with
the help of Mississippi Southern's President, William D. McCain, carried
out an extensive campaign to force Kennard to withdraw his application.
Most of these efforts consisted of getting local black and white "leaders"
to persuade Kennard not to enroll. When this failed, school authorities
falsely arrested Kennard for the possession of liquor, which had been planted
in his car on campus. Later, authorities falsely charged Kennard with stealing
chicken feed. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the maximum penalty
of seven years at Parchman Penitentiary. Although Thurgood Marshall argued
before the U.S. Supreme Court to have Kennard released, the court held
up the lower court's decision and Kennard stayed in prison. A few years
later he died of cancer, exacerbated by overwork and lack of medical attention
in the penitentiary.