McLemore to Retire, Sort of


Former City Councilman Leslie McLemore is Jackson State University's interim president.

Jackson City Council President and Acting Mayor Leslie McLemore, who has taught political science at Jackson State University for nearly 40 years, will soon retire from both politics and academia. But McLemore says he will still be busy.

"Quite frankly, I am retiring to go to work," McLemore told the Jackson Free Press in a telephone interview.

McLemore, who has represented Ward 2 since 1999, said he will work full-time for the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute on Citizenship and Democracy, based at Jackson State. McLemore and four other college professors founded the Hamer Institute in 1997 to promote positive change by raising awareness of the Civil Rights Movement and other social issues. McLemore, who is the institute's director, said his retirement from Jackson State and the city council will give him more time to find funding for the institute's current project, "Interpreting the History of the Civil Rights Movement."

The 68-year-old native of Walls, Miss., said the project's primary goal is to create a statewide "civil rights trail" that will lead through historic sites of the Movement. Brochures for walking and driving tours of the sites in Jackson, Indianola and Ruleville are already finished, and a brochure for Greenwood is in the works, McLemore said. He and the other members of the Hamer Institute are also hopeful that the new National Civil Rights Museum will be built in Jackson within the next five years. Ideally, all branches of the civil-rights trail would then lead to the museum, McLemore said.

The project will also include extensive oral-history research. McLemore said the institute wants to help cities such as Holly Springs and Oxford create a narrative of their civil rights history through public meetings and discussions with people who were "part of the history-making." McLemore was an active member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and is aware that, like himself, many civil rights pioneers are aging.

Thus, the oral histories must be conducted as soon as possible.

"We want to talk to as many of these people before we go on to glory, right?" he said.

McLemore said he will seek funding for the civil rights trail from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has already given the institute a small consultant grant. He said he will also approach the state and federal government and the Kellogg Foundation, which invests in education, health and economic programs for children. The Hamer Institute will also work closely with cities that have chambers of commerce, which could benefit financially from the tourism generated by the civil rights trail. McLemore said such communities may be part of the funding solution for the project.

In addition to the Hamer Institute, McLemore said he will devote his retirement to mentoring, which he calls "the one constant in my life." He said he will also write his memoirs, even though "that's probably a too high-falutin' term," and he hopes to write a series of articles about the unknown heroes of the Movement.

In his spare time—if he ever has any—McLemore said he plans to travel, especially in New England. "And then I have this bum knee that I need to have worked on," he added. Once the knee is taken care of, McLemore said he hopes to return to two of his passions, tennis and jogging.

But McLemore is not done with politics, yet. He has just over a month until Monday, July 6, when Chokwe Lumumba will replace him as Ward 2 councilman, and a new mayor will move into City Hall. In the meantime, McLemore has plenty of plans for the city.

As a city councilman, McLemore is working to pass an ordinance that would require vendors and contractors that do business with the city to pay their workers a living wage.

As acting mayor, McLemore said he is focusing on beautifying Jackson. "Operation Keep Jackson Beautiful" kicked off Monday, June 1, and will confront several problems: parked cars on lawns, litter, and outdoor salvage yards and auto-repair shops that have been zoned into neighborhoods and are not complying with city ordinances.

Previous Comments


I wish McLemore well in his future endeavors. He's moving on to something very important for this state, and if he thinks he should devote more time to it, I say go for it.



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