Ural named MSU’s first Frank and Virginia Williams Endowed Chair of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies

Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Susannah J. Ural, a noted Civil War-era history professor and researcher, is Mississippi State’s inaugural Frank and Virginia Williams Endowed Chair of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies.

Susannah J. Ural
Susannah J. Ural (Submitted photo)

The Williams Endowed Chair is a tenured position residing within the Department of History that helps manage the Williams Collection of Lincolniana based in MSU Libraries, which also hosts the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and Museum. Ural will continue development of the Frank and Virginia Williams Lectures Series on Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies, collaborate with the Grant Library and ensure academic courses have been developed in these respective areas of specialty, utilizing the Williams Collection in concert with the Department of History, African American Studies program and other university units.

“The Williams Chair is a wonderful example of what’s possible when donors partner with strong, visionary institutions like Mississippi State. My position lies at the crossroads of two incredibly talented entities—the MSU history department and MSU Libraries—and the possibilities of what we can build are endless. I can’t wait to start,” Ural said.

MSU has become one of the leading places for the study of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras since the Grant Library opening and Williams Collection donation in 2017, when the Rhode Island couple gifted their collection of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War memorabilia to the university. Valued at nearly $3 million, it is considered the nation’s largest privately owned holding of Lincoln research and display material.

Ural, who has led numerous research projects and initiatives as a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, was chosen through an exhaustive national search process that drew a pool of applicants from coast to coast, said MSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean Rick Travis, who led the committee charged with filling the position. Ural will begin her tenure this summer on a part-time basis and transition into the full-time position at the start of the fall semester.

“Dr. Ural is dynamic and passionate, and she easily will make connections with MSU alumni, patrons and friends who are interested in helping us grow the Abraham Lincoln collection and expand our expertise in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era,” Travis said. “With her hire and with the growth of the Lincoln collection, the Department of History is positioned to become one of the leading research and graduate student training sites in the country for studies focused on that portion of history.”

During her time at USM, Ural has specialized in the U.S. Civil War era; U.S. war and society; the American South; and 19th-century American history. She served as the Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Alumni Professor of Humanities and the General Buford “Buff” Blount Professor in Military History at the USM Dale Center for the Study of War and Society, where she was co-director for almost a decade. She also previously served as the USM Department of History’s director of undergraduate studies, co-director for the Center for the Study of the Gulf South and was creator and director of the Beauvoir Veteran Project. She currently leads the USM Center for Digital Humanities and is creator and director of the federally funded Civil War and Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi Project and the Mississippi Digital Courthouse Project.

Ural has published, edited and contributed to numerous writings on Civil War-era history; held many positions on editorial boards and external academic service committees; and presented at diverse conferences and workshops. She is a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Society for Military History, Southern Historical Association, Southern Association for Women Historians, Mississippi Historical Society and Association for Documentary Editing.

Ural holds a doctorate and master’s degree in history from Kansas State University and a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Vermont.

“Ural’s direction of the Center for Digital Humanities and the Civil War and Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi Project, among other leadership roles at USM, has given her a broad perspective on what it means to lead not just the core research efforts, but also to understand the public outreach and other management expectations that will come with her role at MSU,” Travis said. “After our first round of interviews, there was unanimity in Dr. Ural as the top candidate. We were excited from that first conversation and our excitement has only grown.”

For more information on the Williams Collection, African American Studies program and the Department of History, visit www.library.msstate.edu/williamscollection, www.aas.msstate.edu and www.history.msstate.edu, respectively.

Visit www.lib.msstate.edu for more information about the university libraries.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.