Clyde Kennard

Background

Clyde Kennard was twice falsely accused and convicted, once on traffic violations and a second time on a burglary charge, to prevent him from his persistent efforts to attend the segregated University of Southern Mississippi. The burglary charge was based on the alleged theft of a $25 bag of feed from the Forrest County Cooperative warehouse. On the basis of the testimony of Johnny Lee Roberts, an alleged accomplice, Kennard was convicted and sentenced to seven years at Parchman Penitentiary. A campaign was launched to win Kennard’s freedom. He became ill from colon cancer in 1961. In 1963, Governor Ross Barnett indefinitely suspended Kennard’s sentence. He moved to Chicago where he underwent surgery. He passed away on July 4, 1963.

Legal Status

Records of the Sovereignty Commission established that the Commission conspired to frame Kennard. Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell interviewed Johnnie Lee Roberts, who recanted the testimony he gave in the 1960 burglary case. Governor Haley Barbour declined to grant Kennard a posthumous pardon. On May 17, 2006, Forrest County Circuit Court Judge Robert Helfrich exonerated Kennard of the 1960 conviction.