President Emeritus John A. Peoples, Jr. Ph.D. will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters during Jackson State University’s 144th Founder’s Day Convocation on Thursday, Oct. 28th at 10 a.m. on the Gibbs-Green Plaza, which will also be livestreamed.
“Dr. Peoples is responsible for establishing many of the academic priorities that set the foundation to make Jackson State University the great research institution that has become today, said President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D. “I look forward to hearing his pearls of wisdom and celebrating his legacy of leadership on the auspicious occasion of our Founders Day celebration.”
John A. Peoples, Jr., is a native of Starkville, Mississippi. After graduating from high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of Sergeant. He served as a drill instructor at Montford Point, the racially segregated recruit training camp for Black marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during World War II, and, in July 2012, Peoples was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. After discharge from the Marine Corps, he entered Jackson State University in September 1947, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. While attending Jackson State, he was on the varsity football and track teams and was elected president of the Student Government Association for two consecutive years.
After graduating in 1950, he attended the University of Chicago, where he earned an MA and Ph.D. Peoples was employed at Jackson State as a professor of mathematics and vice president in 1964. He was elected president of Jackson State in 1967, and he served in that position until 1984. His administration included the dramatic years of the Black Student Revolution in which African-American college students in both white and black colleges were in the vanguard of the civil rights movement. The most tragic year was 1970, when on May 14, city and state law officers fired on students in a women’s dormitory killing two students and wounding 22. In 1974, the landmark Ayers v. Waller desegregation suit was filed in Mississippi. As president of Jackson State, Peoples played a strategic role in support of the plaintiffs’ efforts against the State College Board to eliminate the dual system of higher education.
He is married to the former Mary E. Galloway, and they are the parents of two children, Kathleen Peoples-Sedlak, Ph.D., a US State Department Embassy Administrator, and Mark A. Peoples, Esq., attorney, City of New Orleans.
Born into slavery, Henry P. Jacobs learned to read and write so that he could forge freedom papers. In 1856, Jacobs and his family fled to Canada using the Underground Railroad. After the Civil War, Jacobs returned with his family to the South. With assistance from the American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1877, he established a seminary for freedpeople in Natchez, now Jackson State University.