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JSU hosts 30th anniversary recognition of change in Jackson’s form of government

Milestones in DemocracyJackson State University, the City of Jackson and Jackson Public Schools will recognize “Milestones in Democracy: Thirty Years of a More Representative Government in Jackson” with a free community reception and program, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Jackson Convention Complex on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Jackson State’s Institute of Government (IOG) Mike Espy Series, in partnership with the Margaret Walker Center and the Center for University Based Development, both at JSU, will lead this celebration of two major events over the last 30 years that brought “a more representative government” to Jackson:

 1.  After years of legal confrontation, the community elected the first mayor/council form of  government in 1985, which brought for the first time three African-Americans and three women to sit on the city council, with Dale Danks Jr., as mayor and Dr. E.C. Foster as council president, and

 2.  In 1997, Jackson’s constituents elected their first African-American mayor, Harvey Johnson Jr.

 President Carolyn W. Meyers, said, “Jackson State University takes pride in organizing the “Milestones in Democracy” program on October 29th that recognizes and properly celebrates two events over the last 30 years which brought a more representative government in Mississippi’s Capital City.  This recognition is the first time the community has looked back to put these accomplishments in perspective. The program is a wonderful collaboration of JSU’s Institute of Government, Margaret Walker Center, and Center for University Based Development; the City of Jackson; and the students of the Jackson Public School District.”

“Three decades ago, a change in Jackson’s form of government opened doors for those in the community who had limited access to the political process,” said Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber.  “On the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the mayor/council form of government, I would like to recognize the late State Sen. Henry Kirksey and other pioneers whose efforts led to broader representation in municipal government in Jackson and across the state.”

Superintendent of Jackson Public Schools, Dr. Cedrick Gray, remarked, “Rarely do two events emerge that have as a dramatic and decisive impact on current day practices as these two monumental and historical happenings.  The landscape of both philosophy of leadership and managerial function will forever be memorialized by the celebration ‘Milestones in Democracy.’ ” According to Gray, “Jackson State University’s Institute of Government should be commended for its insight and wisdom to both recognize and signify the accomplishments of the iconic figures that make up these events.”  

Free and open to the public, the program will include a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by an official welcome and significance of the occasion at 6 p.m. by Burton and JSU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Evelyn Leggette.

At 6:15 p.m., an opening session with Danks, Foster and members or representatives of the first Jackson City Council will address the change in the form of government in 1985, and, at 7 p.m., the second session with Johnson, Yarber and others will examine the significance of the election of the first African-American mayor in 1997.

“It is with these two milestones in democracy,” noted IOG Executive Director, Dr. Otha Burton, Jr., “that Mississippi’s capital city and largest municipality transitioned into a more representative government after a long history of de jure and de facto segregation.”

The Jackson State University Institute of Government, Center for University-Based Development, Margaret Walker Center, City of Jackson and Jackson Public Schools are pleased to sponsor this recognition and celebration of leaders who were critical to this transformation.