Former Rhode Island chief justice, noted historian to address MSU graduates

Contact: James Carskadon

Frank J. Williams (Photo submitted)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams will be the commencement speaker for Mississippi State’s three graduation ceremonies taking place May 3 and 4 at Humphrey Coliseum.

Williams, a noted historian and current president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, has played key roles in making MSU one of the nation’s leading centers for study of the American Civil War.

Last year, Williams and his wife, Virginia, donated their collection of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War memorabilia, valued at nearly $3 million, to the university. Williams also was instrumental in locating the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at MSU in 2009.

Approximately 3,200 Mississippi State students are candidates for spring semester degrees.

The first graduation ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. on May 3 and will include graduates from the university’s College of Education and College of Business, as well as its Adkerson School of Accountancy. At 9:30 a.m. on May 4, the ceremony will include the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Architecture, Art and Design and its School of Architecture, and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The final ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. on May 4, and includes the Bagley College of Engineering and its Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Forest Resources and general studies graduates.

Robert G. Clark Jr. (Photo submitted)

In addition to serving as commencement speaker, Williams will receive a Doctor of Public Service honorary degree. Also receiving a Doctor of Public Service honorary degree at the spring graduation ceremony is Robert G. Clark Jr., former Speaker Pro Tempore of the Mississippi House of Representatives and a longtime supporter of education in Mississippi.

Clark will receive his honorary degree during the May 3 ceremony. Williams will receive his honorary degree during the 3:30 p.m. ceremony on May 4.

Williams is a graduate of Boston University and Boston University Law School, and earned a Master of Taxation degree from Bryant University. A longtime jurist in the Rhode Island court system, he served on the state’s Superior Court beginning in 1995 before ascending to the Supreme Court bench in 2001, serving as chief justice until his retirement in 2009.

Williams has a long and acclaimed career in Lincoln studies and organizational leadership — serving as president of the Lincoln Group of Boston, the Abraham Lincoln Association, and for the past 21 years, as founding chairman of The Lincoln Forum, a national organization that hosts an annual November symposium at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Clark grew up in Holmes County, graduated from Jackson State University in 1953 and earned a master’s degree in administration and educational services from Michigan State University in 1959.

Clark then returned to Mississippi, where he was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1967, becoming the first African-American elected to the Legislature since Reconstruction.

As a legislator, Clark worked effectively with members of both political parties and gained the respect of his colleagues, garnering several influential committee appointments. In 1992, he was elected Speaker Pro Tempore. He was re-elected to that prestigious leadership position again in 1996 and 2000 before his retirement in 2004, after nearly four decades of service in the Legislature.

For additional information about spring commencement, contact the Registrar’s Office at 662-325-2022 or visit

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