STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State soon will officially serve as host to a presidential library--one of only five universities in the nation to share such a distinction.
Ulysses S. Grant Association President Frank J. Williams will formally announce the decision of the organization's board of directors to designate the Ulysses S. Grant Collection at MSU's Mitchell Memorial Library as the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library.
The announcement will come during the association's annual meeting taking place on campus Friday-Sunday [May 18-20] as part of the organization's 50th anniversary observance.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum recently received a letter from Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero of the National Archives congratulating the university on the presidential library designation. The National Archives has responsibility for 13 presidential libraries across the nation, including libraries affiliated with the universities of Michigan (Gerald R. Ford) and Texas (Lyndon Johnson), as well as Texas A & M (George H.W. Bush) and Southern Methodist (George W. Bush) universities.
"We are extremely grateful to the Ulysses S. Grant Association for entrusting Mississippi State University with the long-term responsibility for managing and showcasing this treasure trove of vital American history," said Keenum. "Our university feels a deep bond with this organization and a shared vision for what a marvelous resource this collection is and what it can and will become."
Highlights of the USGA's 50th anniversary meeting will include the dedication and ribbon cutting for the new Ulysses S. Grant Exhibit Area on the first floor of Mitchell Memorial Library and presentation of the USGA's prestigious John Y. Simon Award.
The Simon Award honors the late scholar and longtime USGA executive director by recognizing significant achievement in advancing "historical knowledge about General-President Ulysses S. Grant."
Since 2008, Mitchell Memorial Library has been the repository of correspondence, photographs, books, memorabilia, and other documents related to the military career and presidency of America's 18th president.
For the third time in the past four years, the library is welcoming association members and directors, including Williams, a former Rhode Island Supreme Court chief justice. While on campus, he and other members will attend dinners, special presentations, business meetings, and historical tours in Starkville and Columbus.
Three primary public events associated with the meeting also are scheduled, including a 2 p.m. Friday [the 18th] lecture at the Starkville Public Library by Williams, also a renowned scholar on Grant and President Abraham Lincoln. "Judging Lincoln as a Judge" will be his topic.
The second public event will be a 1:15 p.m. Saturday [the 19th] panel discussion at the Starkville Community Theatre on Grierson's Raid. Panelists will include MSU Archivist Michael B. Ballard, Starkville Police Chief David Lindley, MSU history professor emeriti John Marszalek and Bill Parrish. As a hobby, Lindley long has been active in Civil War reenactments.
The final public event takes place Saturday [the 19th] with a program in Columbus led by Jean Edward Smith, Marshall University's John Marshall Professor of Political Science. Titled "Ike and Grant: Grant's Influence on Eisenhower," it begins at 7:45 p.m. at the downtown Columbus Visitor's Center.
The Grant Presidential Collection consists of some 15,000 linear feet of correspondence, research notes, artifacts, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia and includes information on Grant's childhood from his birth in 1822, his later military career, Civil War triumphs, tenure as commanding general after the war, presidency, and his post-White House years until his death in 1885. There are also 4,000 published monographs on various aspects of Grant's life and times.
Grant is more renowned for a military career in which he rose through the officer ranks to ultimately lead all Union forces during the 1861-65 conflict. He was architect of the 1863 Vicksburg campaign, among others, that effectively split the Confederacy and is considered a key battle in the war.
Through a 2008 agreement with the Ulysses S. Grant Association, the MSU Libraries became the official host of the Grant papers. Marszalek, a nationally recognized Civil War scholar and MSU Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus, was named its executive director and managing editor.
Marszalek continued a 46-year-old project begun by the late John Y. Simon, another nationally renowned scholar who died in 2008.
Marszalek said MSU now becomes one of only a few U.S. institutions to house a collection of presidential papers.
"Mississippi State is now the premier source of materials for research about a seminal figure in the nation's history," he noted. "This is a remarkable accomplishment for our institution."
The Grant Collection joined those of former U.S Sen. John C. Stennis and U.S. Rep. Sonny Montgomery, along with a number of other more contemporary political figures, in the library's Congressional and Political Research Center.
"We are very grateful for the support of MSU President Mark Keenum, who embraced the historical importance of the collection and works tirelessly to provide the resources necessary to showcase this collection at the university," said Frances N. Coleman, dean of libraries.
"These papers have a significant place in our nation's history and it is a profound honor for our library to have responsibility for them," Coleman added.
For more information about Mississippi State University, see www.msstate.edu/.
For more information about the Ulysses S. Grant Collection at Mississippi State University Libraries, visit http://library.msstate.edu/USGrant/, or telephone Marszalek at 662-325-4552.