From press and staff reports
In honor of Ernest Green and eight individuals who were the first African-Americans to hold their positions throughout Mississippi, Mississippi State University officials held a reception ceremony on Feb. 28 in the Colvard Student Union.
Ernest Green presented a discussion on the “Lessons from Little Rock,” from his viewpoint as a teen in 1957 seeking to defy segregation and become an agent of change along with 8 others as they attempted to attend Little Rock Central High School.
Following Green’s lecture, several of those in the state to breakdown barriers were recognized including two from Winston County. Johnny Haynes, Louisville Fire Department chief; and Gloria Turnipseed, Winston County District 4 supervisor were honored. Also honored were Flonzie Brown, elections commissioner of Madison County, Miss.; Mamie Chinn, Madison County Justice Court judge of District 2; Willie Johnson, State of Mississippi Fire Department chief; Frank Nichols, City of Starkville Police Department chief; John Outlaw, former City of Starkville Police Department interim chief; Constance Harvey, University of Mississippi School of Law and juris doctor; and James Young, mayor of Philadelphia, Miss.
The ceremonial reception featured Aundrea Self, WCBI TV anchor, as the master of ceremony and musical entertainment by Iika McCarter from the MUW.
The university gave Green and the nine individuals honored for being the first African-Americans in their positions during the ceremony prestigious accolades.
Stephen Middleton, director of the African American Studies program at MSU, said the planning committee proposed honoring the individuals who were the first in their employee positions or institutes of higher learning as part of Green’s visit, and it provides a way for the community to show appreciation.
During the ceremony, Julia Hodges, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, said the contribution made by Green and his fellow classmates 57 years ago deserved the reflection given during the reception.
“Imagine, being an African-American teenager in 1957. Imagine that you and your family have made the decision to make the commitment that you would be one of the first nine African-American students to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.,” Hodges said. “Imagine that it was only through actions taken by Dwight Eisenhower that you and the other eight students were allowed to enroll. In celebration of black history month, Green is that student that I have described and that we have all imagined ourselves to be.”
After Green became the first African-American to graduate from Central High, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University. Green received honorary doctorates from Michigan State, Tougaloo College and Central State University in Ohio.
During his MSU presentation, he maintained that education is key to creating more agents of change, and he encouraged the audience to be willing to become the leaders who are unafraid to challenge the status quo and “dream the dream of a better tomorrow.”
Green is the managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers in Washington, D.C. He also served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training during former President Jimmy Carter’s administration.