- Jay Washam's plan to obtain a Ph.D. in history from The University
of Southern Mississippi ended tragically August 15, 1994, while
on his way to Hattiesburg to enroll for the fall semester.
was killed in a car accident on U.S. 49 near Seminary that day,
about 20 miles north of the Southern Miss campus. But his family
and the Southern Miss History Department would not allow Washam's
dream to end with his death.
the accident, former Southern Miss History Department chairman Dr.
Orazio Ciccarelli and Washam's family established the Jay Washam
Award for Excellence, given each year to a student from the department
judged to have submitted the best dissertation.
one of the most touching events I had dealt with as chair of the
department," said Ciccarelli. "Jay's family wanted to
maintain a connection with Southern Miss and the department, and
to preserve his memory."
funding for the award, the Washams have donated a 1923 Hudson Super
6 automobile to the Southern Miss Foundation, which was to be a
gift to Jay when he completed his doctoral program. Proceeds from
the planned sale of the car will go to the award fund.
including his father Dr. Clinton J. Washam, his mother Sandra and
sisters Kimberly and Tami, recently decided to donate the car as
a way to help secure long-term funding for the award.
was a graduate of Union College in Lincoln, Neb. where he received
his bachelor's degree, and did graduate work at Tarelton State University
in Texas. His father described his son as a "voracious reader"
who was looking forward to coming to Southern Miss to continue his
though Jay can't live out his dream, these young people can live
out theirs," Dr. Washam said of the award honoring his son.
"It gives us great joy and satisfaction to make this donation."
The exact value
of the car is undetermined. But if it could talk, the vehicle's
worth would be immense to historians. According to a photo caption
in the April 28, 1974 edition of the South Bend Tribune, it was
allegedly once the personal car of a well-known New York hoodlum
and was discovered in near-perfect condition in 1959 after being
hidden for more than three decades in a walled-up niche of a Chicago
fitting that this interesting historical artifact will both serve
to honor the memory of a young man whose potential as a historian
was tragically cut short, and benefit future generations of budding
professional historians," said Dr. Chuck Bolton, current chair
of the Southern Miss History Department.
Dr. Karen Cox,
director of the public history program at the University of North
Carolina-Charlotte, was the first recipient of the Washam award.
Cox said she's pleased that the donation of the Hudson will help
benefit history students at Southern Miss, and that Jay continues
to be honored by his family through the award bearing his name.
moved by the spirit of generosity of Jay's parents and their desire
to remember him through this award," Cox said. "I sincerely
appreciate being recognized for my scholarship as the first Washam
Award winner, and believe this is a wonderful way for the Washams
to honor their son."