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University to host presidential library

May 18, 2012

For Starkville Daily News

Mississippi State University will soon officially serve as host to a presidential library — one of only five universities in the nation to house such an institution.

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 Ulysses S. Grant Association’s annual meeting on May 18-20 at MSU 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.

“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 at MSU will include the dedication and ribbon cutting for the new Ulysses S. Grant Exhibit Area on the first floor of MSU’s Mitchell Memorial Library and the 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.”

MSU’s Mitchell Memorial Library – since 2008 the repository of correspondence, photographs, books, memorabilia, and document copies related to the military career and presidency of America’s 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant – will for the third time in the past four years welcome the association’s members and directors, including association president and former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams, for dinners, special presentations, business meetings, and historical tours in Starkville and Columbus.

There will be three primary public events associated with the meeting, including a lecture at the Starkville Public Library at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 18 by Justice Williams – a renowned scholar on Grant and President Abraham Lincoln – entitled “Judging Lincoln as a Judge.”
The second public event will be panel discussion at the Starkville Community Theatre at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 on Grierson’s Raid featuring MSU University Archivist Michael B. Ballard, Starkville Police Chief David Lindley, MSU history professor emeritus of Bill Parrish, and Marszalek.

The third public event will a presentation by Jean Edward Smith, the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University entitled “Ike and Grant: Grant’s Influence on Eisenhower” at the Columbus Visitor’s Center at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 19.

The Grant Presidential Collection consists of some 15,000 linear feet of document copies, 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, and Civil War scholar John F. Marszalek, an MSU Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, was named executive director and managing editor of the association.

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,” Marszalek said. “This is a remarkable accomplishment for our institution.”

The Grant Collection joins those of former U.S Sen. John C. Stennis, former U.S. Rep. Sonny Montgomery and 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.”

For more information about the Ulysses S. Grant Collection at Mississippi State University Libraries, please visit or contact Dr. John Marszalek at 662-325-4552.

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