What You Did In College

The things you carry with you:

When John Frazier and Charles Kershner met in the spring of 1964 at the University of Southern Mississippi, it was only long enough for Kershner to snap Frazier’s picture and for Frazier to assure him, “I’ll be back.”

Frazier had just been denied admission to the university because he is black and Kershner, as campus editor of The Student Printz, was writing a story.

“I didn’t talk to him,” Kershner said recently. “He just said, ‘I’ll be back.’

But Frazier never was admitted to USM, and Kershner’s story never ran. The administration confiscated the newspaper and forced Kershner to replace his story about Frazier.

The incident would become an important part of the university’s and Mississippi’s civil rights history, and the two became integral to the story, but they didn’t know it at the time.

Both graduated from college and went on to have families and careers, but their lives came full circle recently when they had an emotional reunion at the university where their first encounter happened.

“It’s a real good feeling to experience the university that should have been 40 years ago,” Frazier said. “Things come in their season and their time. Forty years later, here I am.”


2 thoughts on “What You Did In College

  1. Very good summary of the reunion, which occurred at a Symposium on Social Justice in the 1960s at the University of Southern Mississippi on Nov. 9, 2007. I was scheduled to keynote the symposium and by coincidence Frazier, a successful businessman and banker, was scheduled to address a separate symposium on black entrepreneurship at a school that had rejected him. When school officials realized the two of us would be on campus at the same time, Frazier was encourged to join the Social Justice symposium. When we met we hugged each other – and cried – for a long time in front of 300 in the audience, mostly students, who enjoy the benefits of an integrated school. To say it was an emotional reunion is an under-statement. It finally closed an open chapter in the lives of two men, both now in their mid-60s and both suffering from cancer, as well as the university. And, yes, there was a tremendous cathartic effect on the university as a result of being able to openly discuss after 43 years not one but two unfortunate wrongs – denial of Frazier and denial of a press free. The reunion righted those two wrongs. On Nov. 9, 2007, in Frazier’s words: “We were both denied, but today we are victorious.”

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