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The Mississippi Historical Society held its annual meeting March 2–4 in Gulfport to honor its 2017 award winners and to commemorate the state’s 200th birthday. The society’s award for the best Mississippi history book of 2016 went to Jason Morgan Ward, professor of history at Mississippi State University, for Hanging Bridge: Racial Violence and America’s Civil Rights Century.

“Although deeply rooted in a remote corner of an isolated county, Ward’s erudite book has broad implications for our understanding of the Freedom Struggle,” said Max Grivno, University of Southern Mississippi history professor and chair of the McLemore Prize committee. “Hanging Bridge opens new windows onto the contours and parameters of the Freedom Struggle, and suggests that memory and place were, and are, inextricably tied to the Civil Rights movement.”

The 2017 B.L.C. Wailes Award for national distinction in the field of history was presented to Robert S. McElvaine. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts and Letters at Millsaps College in Jackson, where he has taught since 1973. McElvaine is the author of ten books, including Down and Out in the Great Depression, a New York Times bestseller, and Eve’s Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. McElvaine has also written Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an exhaustive take on the life of the thirty-second president of the United States, and Mario Cuomo: A Biography. McElvaine is a recipient of the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence and has twice won the Distinguished Professor Award at Millsaps College. The Wailes Award is named for B. L. C. Wailes, the founder and first president of the Mississippi Historical Society.

Elbert R. Hilliard of Madison received the Dunbar Rowland Award for his lifelong contributions to the preservation, study, and interpretation of Mississippi history. In 1965, Hilliard joined the staff of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as a curator at the State Historical Museum. In 1973, he was elected the fifth director of MDAH and served for thirty-one years. Hilliard’s achievements as director include strengthening Mississippi’s laws governing historic preservation, leading the effort to establish records management programs for state and local government records, supporting award-winning exhibits at the Old Capitol Museum, and spearheading funding efforts for the construction of the state-of-the-art William F. Winter Archives and History Building. Hilliard has served as the secretary-treasurer of the Mississippi Historical Society since 1973. Hilliard has also served as editor-in-chief emeritus of the Journal of Mississippi History and sits on the board of editors of the Heritage of Mississippi Series. Hilliard continues to serve MDAH as a volunteer, tallying more than 2,000 hours each year since his retirement in 2005.

Petal Middle School teacher Cathy Lee received the John K. Bettersworth Award, presented to an outstanding history teacher. Lee has taught for thirty years, but has taught U.S. history for only three years. Last year, Lee was selected to attend the C-SPAN Educator’s Conference to share her professional experiences with other teachers and to explore ways to bring primary resources into the classroom.

Lisa C. Foster and Susannah J. Ural received the 2016 Mississippi History Now Prize for their article “Jefferson Davis Soldier–Beauvoir,” which was posted in January 2017. Foster is a University of Southern Mississippi student seeking her master’s degree in history and Ural is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi. The online publication is available at http://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov.

The Historical Society of Gulfport received the Frank E. Everett Award for its outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation of local history.

Terrence J. Winschel received the Willie D. Halsell Prize for his article “A Soldier’s Legacy: William T. Rigby and the Establishment of Vicksburg National Military Park” in the Journal of Mississippi History. Winschel served for thirty-five years as a historian at Vicksburg National Military Park.

H. Grady Howell received the William E. “Bill” Atkinson Award for his outstanding lifelong contributions to the study and interpretation of Mississippi Civil War history.

Awards of merit were presented to Larry L. “Butch” Brown for his visionary and dedicated implementation of the outstanding year–long Natchez Tricentennial Celebration; Stratton Bull for his exemplary oversight as chair of the outstanding year-long Natchez Tricentennial Celebration in 2016; Douglas B. Chambers for his exemplary research and scholarly direction of the Documenting Runaway Slaves Project; Jennifer Ogden Combs for her exemplary leadership as executive director of the outstanding year-long Natchez Tricentennial Celebration in 2016; Marco Giardino for his contribution to the archival work of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History through his translation of the Caselli Family Letters; Max Grivno for his research and scholarly direction of the Documenting Runaway Slaves Project; Jim Miller for his role in the creation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Museum of Historical Photography; Randy Randazzo for his remarkable documentation of Mississippi Gulf Coast history through his collection of more than 5,000 postcards and negatives and his exceptional generosity in donating his collection to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Thomas E. Simmons for his extensive and exemplary research in documenting the distinguished life of John Charles Robinson, Joe Tomasovsky for his role in the creation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Museum of Historical Photography, and Susannah J. Ural for her exemplary research and scholarly direction of the Beauvoir Veteran Project.

The Natchez National Historical Park received an award of merit for its exemplary research and production of the daily Natchez History Minute during the outstanding year-long Natchez Tricentennial celebration in 2016.

See more photos of award winners here.

Newly elected officers of the Mississippi Historical Society are Susannah Ural, president, University of Southern Mississippi; Page Ogden, Natchez, vice-president; and Elbert R. Hilliard, Madison, secretary-treasurer.

New members of the society’s board of directors for 2017–20 are Toby Bates, Mississippi State University; Will Bowlin, Northeast Mississippi Community College; Chad Daniels, Hattiesburg; Paul Jermyn, Long Beach; Erin Kempker, Mississippi University for Women; Deanne Stephens Nuwer, University of Southern Mississippi; and Walt Grayson, Jackson, to serve for one year to complete an unexpired term.

Walter Howell of Clinton and Jeanne Luckett of Jackson were re-elected as members of the society’s Board of Publications for 2017–20.

The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858 and reorganized in 1890 and 1952–1953, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching, and preserving Mississippi History. The society, which led the way in persuading the Mississippi legislature to establish the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 1902, is a non-profit membership organization that works closely with the MDAH. The society also publishes the online resource Mississippi History Now. It provides annual grants to help support programs of the Junior Historical Society and Mississippi Heritage Trust and publishes books, maps, and other materials aimed toward the education of the general public. Membership is open to anyone; benefits include receiving the quarterly Journal of Mississippi History and Mississippi History Newsletter. Individual memberships are $25. For information on becoming a member, call 601-576-6849 or see the MHS Web site, http://www.mississippihistory.org.

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