Activist Clyde Kennard

Activist Clyde Kennard
June 21, 1927 – July 4, 1963

Clyde Kennard was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. When he was 12, he moved to Chicago to attend school.  He graduated from Wendell Phillips High School.

He joined the military in 1945 and served in both Germany and Korea until 1952 when he was honorably discharged.

Activist Clyde Kennard

Furthering education 

After the war, he returned to Chicago and completed three years of study at the University of Chicago. In 1955, Kennard returned to Hattiesburg to help care for his mother and run the family farm. Kennard wanted to complete his college education, so he sought to enroll at the all-white Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi.

In 1955, Clyde Kennard attempted to enroll in Mississippi Southern College, an all-white public university in Hattiesburg.  His credentials met the criteria for admission, but the university denied his  application on the ground that he had been unable to provide references from five alumni in his home county.

In actuality, of course, it was because he was black.Activist Clyde Kennard

Continued attempts

In 1958, Kennard argued that “merit be used as a measuring stick rather than race. We believe that for men to work together best, they must be trained together in their youth. We believe that there is more to going to school than listening to the teacher and reciting lessons. In school one learns to appreciate and respect the abilities of the other.”

On December 6, 1958, Kennard published a letter in the Hattiesburg American newspaper. He argued that “merit be used as a measuring stick rather than race. We believe that for men to work together best, they must be trained together in their youth. We believe that there is more to going to school than listening to the teacher and reciting lessons. In school one learns to appreciate and respect the abilities of the other.”

In response, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission – a state agency formed to protect segregation – hired investigators to research Kennard’s background and uncover details that could be used to discredit him; these attempts were unsuccessful.

Kennard withdrew his application after Mississippi Governor James P. Coleman met personally with him to convince him to desist from applying to Mississippi Southern.

Activist Clyde Kennard


Kennard did not give up and reapplied in August 1959, threatening to take up the derailment of his application in federal court. He was again rejected on a technicality.

On September 15, 1959, the college president again rejected Kennard’s application on a technicality. Leaving the meeting,  constables Charlie Ward and Lee Daniels arrested Kennard for reckless driving.

Ward and Daniels claimed before Justice of the Peace T. C. Hobby to have found five half pints of whiskey, along with other liquor, under the seat of Kennard’s car. Mississippi was a “dry” state, and possession of liquor was illegal.

Shortly afterward, on September 25, the Hattiesburg American published another letter Kennard wrote. In it he wrote, ““[W]e have no desire for revenge in our hearts. What we want is to be respected as men and women, given an opportunity to compete with you in the great and interesting race of life. We want your friends to be our friends; we want your enemies to be our enemies; we want your hopes and ambitions to be our hopes and ambitions, and your joys and sorrows to be our joys and sorrows.”

Activist Clyde Kennard


Kennard was convicted and fined $600. He soon became the victim of an unofficial local economic boycott (also a tactic of the Sovereignty Commission), which cut off his credit.

All these claims were false, of course, and were meant to keep Kennard from continuing to apply to the university.

It didn’t. Kennard continued his attempts to register at Mississippi Southern.

Activist Clyde Kennard


On January 23, 1960, after his third attempt to enter the college and his arrest on bogus charges, Kennard was still not ready to give up the fight. He wrote to the editor that he had “done all that is within my power to follow a reasonable course in this matter… I have tried to make it clear that my love for the State of Mississippi and my hope for its peaceful prosperity is equal to any man’s alive. The thought of presenting this request before a Federal Court for consideration, with all the publicity and misrepresentation which that would bring about, makes my heart heavy. Yet, what other course can I take?

He was arrested again on September 25, 1960 with an alleged accomplice for the theft of $25 worth of chicken feed from the Forrest County Cooperative warehouse. Kennard went to trial, with the accomplice, Johnny Lee Roberts, testifying that Kennard paid him to steal the feed.

On November 21, 1960, an all-white jury deliberated 10 minutes and found Kennard guilty.  He was convicted and sentenced to seven years at Parchman Penitentiary.

Speaking at a rally in support of his friend, the NAACP activist Medgar Evers broke down in tears as he described the “mockery of judicial justice” in Kennard’s case.

Activist Clyde Kennard


He was diagnosed with colon cancer in prison, but he was refused treatment and forced to continue working in the fields despite his weakened physical state.

Only after Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and others threatened to accuse the State of Mississippi of murder was the emaciated and terminally ill Kennard released. Dick Gregory paid for him to undergo treatment in Chicago. But it was too late to save the man who wanted a college degree. Kennard died on July 4, 1963, less than a month after his friend, Medgar Evers, was murdered.

Activist Clyde Kennard


In 1991 the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi published previously secret documents from the files of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, showing that Kennard had been framed.

In 2005  Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger interviewed the black witness who, as a teenager, had testified against Kennard. The man admitted that Kennard had “nothing to do with the stealing of the chicken feed.”

[From the Americas Who Tell the Truth site} Kennard’s case came to the attention of a high school teacher in Chicago. Barry Bradford and his students teamed up with Steve Drizin, the Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s School of Law, LaKeisha Bryant the president of the Afro-American Student Association at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Joyce Ladner and Raylawni Branch, the woman who had served Kennard coffee on his way to apply to Mississippi Southern the third time and had gone on to an impressive career of her own.The team documented the case in favor of Kennard, discovered the legal arguments that could get the case back into court, and began to apply public pressure with the help of the former federal judge from Mississippi, Charles Pickering.

Finally, on May 16, 2006, the case that Steve Drizin called, “one of the saddest of the civil rights era because he was silenced by ‘respectable’ people – academics, politicians, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, businessmen – all acting under the ‘color of law,'” finally ended up in the same court where the 33-year-old Clyde Kennard had been convicted. The presiding judge at the Circuit Court of Forrest County, Robert Helfrich declared, “It is a right-wrong issue. To correct that wrong I’m compelled to do the right thing and declare Mr. Kennard innocent.”

Activist Clyde Kennard

Don Sugarcane Harris

Don Sugarcane Harris

June 18, 1938 — November 30, 1999
Don Sugarcane Harris
Don Sugarcane Harris

I’m Leaving It Up to You #1

Just before the Beatles arrived in the US and changed the course of pop music history and the lives of Baby Boomers and just one day after the assassination of President Kennedy, “I’m Leaving It Up to You” by Dale (Houston) and Grace (Broussard) hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would stay there until December 6, 1963. And if the Beatles hadn’t arrived, yet, neither had Don Sugarcane Harris.

But first

Like many Billboard hits for white performers, “I’m Leaving It Up to You” was a song already written and recorded by black artists. In this case Don (Harris) and Dewey (Terry).

Harris was born in Pasadena, California, and studied classical violin. He also learned guitar, harmonica and piano. He started the Don and Dewey act with his childhood friend in the mid-1950s, and although they released several singles, they had no hits.

Other artists did with such Harris and Terry co-authored early rock and roll classics as “Farmer John”, “Justine”, and “Big Boy Pete.”

The name Don Sugarcane Harris should strike a familiar bell with some Boomers because Harris later became THE rock and roll electric violinist (OK, tied with Papa John Creach).

He played with John Lee  Hooker, Little Richard, Johnny Otis (Otis nicknamed Harris ”Sugarcane,” reportedly for his reputation as a ladies’ man), John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and most famously with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

On Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh album, Harris played and sang “Directly From My Heart to You.”

His personal discography is relatively short (AllMusic), but his credit list overall is a lengthy one.

After a lengthy battle with pulmonary disease,  he was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment at the age of 61 on December 1, 1999. His obituary appeared in the NY Times.

Don Sugarcane Harris

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Who is this guy?

Early Bill

Bill Hanley was born in Medford, MA on March 4, 1937.  

In 1937 radio still ruled the airwaves. Like some other young people of his time, listening to the radio evolved into looking inside and discovering the world of electronics.

During the early 60s, a childhood friend of mine showed me how easily we could hook up an extra speaker or two to my simple record player to enhance the sound. Such “simple” reconstruction can lead to the love of sound.

Such was the case with Bill Hanley and his brother Terry.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Outdoor sound

Keep in mind that for most outdoor sound at this time, the phrase was PA, as in “public address.” That is, the group or individual that needed outdoor sound concentrated on sending the speaker’s voice out into the audience.

The Hanley brothers loved good sound and their love coincided with a time of increased outdoor music events and musicians needed more than simply sending the singer’s voice, musicians needed their instruments to be heard as well.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Hanley Sound

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

In 1957 Bill Hanley began a relationship with the Newport Jazz Festival and its organizer, George Wein.  Remembering that difference between what a PA can do versus what a good “sound system” can do, think about how important quality sound production would be to jazz musicians.

Shortly after that Bill and Terry Hanley began Hanley Sound Inc, at 430 Salem St. in Medford, MA.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Good timing

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

In 1964 Baby Boomers experienced Beatlemania and the British Invasion. Like all stories, being in the right place or knowing to be in the right place at the right time can make all the difference.

In 1966 Hanley Sound was working with The Remains, a Boston band (“the greatest band you never heard of”) and while the Remains were not a household name outside of Boston, they were good enough to land quite a gig: the 1966 Beatle tour.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Epstein meets Hanley 

On that tour Brian Epstein recognized the quality that Hanley Sound could produce and used them.  Next came the Beach Boys. And by the end of the 60s, Hanley sound was doing outdoor concert after outdoor concert.

The most famous one was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

Last Seat In the House

Bill Hanley continued his golden touch on sound. One person in particular who has tried to get the recognition for Bill Hanley that he so deserves is a John Kane.  John has been working on a film about Hanley called “Last Seat In the House.” 

The title reflects the goal that Hanley Sound always aimed at: that the people in the last row could hear the music as well as anyone seated anywhere else.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire
Here are some words from John Kane:

I am a post grad doctoral student and for the past three years I have been researching the life/career of pioneer sound engineer Bill Hanley. Since the beginning of this research, until now my discoveries have been overwhelming.

Collectively, sound reinforcement is an area of technology that is often overlooked. It is my hope that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acknowledges, considers, and/or inducts Bill Hanley and his pioneering sound company into their institution. If the RRHF leadership were to peel away the layers of popular music as we know it today, they would surely realize that the area of “sound” owes much to Hanley’s pioneering work. An acknowledgment like this would bring light and significance to an era innovation where quality sound in popular music mattered most…the 1960s and 1970s.

In my view (and others) Hanley was a primary force in bringing quality sound to the forefront of the evolving music and political arenas. When primitive public address technology was the “norm” for various events, the influence of Bill Hanley elevated the quality of sound via his innovative methods and application.

Lastly, if you choose to sign this petition would you kindly forward this email to your network of friends and colleagues? This will allow us to reach our rather ambitious goal.

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire


Help Induct Bill Hanley of Hanley Sound into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Click here and please sign petition

Bill Hanley Soundman Extraordinaire

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