Overcoming a Segregated Background

Federal judge William Alsup and prominent Mississippi lawyer Danny Cupit were at the Overby Center discussing their journeys through the segregationist 1960s, Wednesday, April 17.

The discussion centered on the publication of “Won Over,” written by William Alsup, a U.S. district judge in San Francisco. He was joined by high school and college classmate Danny Cupit and U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco, a former civil rights lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department in the 1960s. Henderson wrote the forward for Alsup’s book.

They were interviewed by Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, and a former classmate of Alsup and Cupit at Jackson Provine High School. Alsup and Cupit graduated from Mississippi State University.

In his book, Alsup writes of how he broke through the segregationist status quo in Mississippi.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Alsup was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. He was named U.S. District Judge for the northern district of California in 1999 by President Clinton.

(l-r)Mike Mills with Alsup; Alsup at book signing post-event; Cupit in conversation with attendees; Henderson greeted by attendees

The Future of Centrist Politics

Stuart Stevens and David Baria, a pair of prominent Mississippian figures from the two major parties, were at the Oveby Center to discuss the prospects for more centrist views at a time when American politics seem hopelessly polarized.

Stevens (on the right, with member of the audience Clant Seay), a native Mississippian who managed Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, and Baria, a Democratic leader in the Mississippi legislature, were joined in concersation with Charles Overby, the chairman of the center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie. Both Overby and Wilkie have long experience covering national politics as journalists.

Though a major player in national Republican circles, Stevens has become a fierce critic of President Donald Trump and his style of divisive politics.

During his tenure in the Mississippi House of Representatives, Baria (on the right, with member of the audience Jeff Roberson, an attorney with offices in Jackson and the Gulf Coast, has become one of the Democratic Party’s most respected members in the legislature. Last year he served as the party’s nominee in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Roger Wicker.

The final program of the Overby Center spring lineup is on April 27. It will be a discussion about the segregationist era by three men who graduated from Provine High School in Jackson in the 1960s -- U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who now lives in San Francisco and is the author of a recently-published book, “Won Over,” Jackson attorney Danny Cupit, and Charles Overby. In his book, Alsup writes of his experiences as a child raised amid official segregation and his journey to become a civil rights advocate.

An Overby Center Conversation: The Truth About Fake News

(l-r) Charles Overby, Greg Brock, Margaret Sullivan

Media columnist for The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan was at the Center on Wednesday, March 20, to discuss the truth surrounding the recently popular phrase "fake news."

The program, the fourth in the Overby Center’s spring schedule, centered on the sobering truth about fake news, how the phenomenon is increasingly used in jokes and memes, and undercuts the foundation of our democracy.

Sullivan, the first woman to hold the post of public editor of The New York Times (prior to her current job at The Post), has called on the media to retire the phrase. “ ‘Fake news’ has had its 15 minutes of fame,” she wrote in a column. “Let’s put this tainted term out of its misery.”

Although Sullivan agrees that the media must deal with problems like mistakes, disinformation and conspiracies, she wrote that “putting them all in a blender and slapping on a fuzzy name doesn’t move us forward.”

Sullivan was joined in the conversation with Charles L. Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, and Greg Brock, a senior fellow at the Overby Center, and former senior editor at The New York Times.

A conversation about “fake news” will be impossible to have without taking into account President Trump’s use of the term, which Sullivan noted in a column in February he has used at least 400 times since becoming president. Wrote Sullivan: “It’s as simple as this: Trump doesn’t believe that the news about him is fake. No matter how many times he says it. He merely objects to the fact that it doesn’t reflect well on him.”

(l-r) Patricia Thompson (Assistant Dean for Student Media and Journalism Professor), Greg Brock, Margaret Sullivan

Looking At The Father of Black History

To put an exclamation point on the celebration of Black History Month in February the work and life of Carter G. Woodson, an educator, historian and author who was known as the “Father of Black History,” was the topic of discussion at the Overby Center on Monday, March 4.

Burnis R. Morris, the Carter G. Woodson Professor at Marshall University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications and author of “Carter G. Woodson: History, The Black Press and Public Relations,” lead the conversation with Alysia Steele. Steele is an assistant professor of journalism at Ole Miss and author of “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.”

According to Morris, Woodson was influential in the early years of the 20th century, enhancing opportunities for black Americans still emerging from the burdens of slavery. “He encouraged newspapers to write about significant African-Americans,” Morris recently told Time magazine. “He believed racial discrimination would be lessened when whites and other races realized that African-Americans also made contributions to the world.”

Woodson created an organization that is now called the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. “Woodson caused a revolution in the teaching of black history on college campuses,” Morris said. He also chose February to be the time to emphasize black history because the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass fell in that month.

Analysis of Politics During Mississippi Election Year

Top political Mississippi reporters, Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press, a respected veteran of the statehouse press corps in Jackson, and Adam Ganucheau, who is carving out a strong reputation for his political stories in Mississippi Today, spoke on Monday, Feb. 18, with Charles Overby and Curtis Wilkie on this year’s statewide elections.

They provided early assessments of the various races including the upcoming battle for governor. Two of the state’s ranking government figures, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, seem headed toward a major confrontation in the race for governor. And popular Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s campaign for lieutenant governor is being challenged by Oxford’s state Rep. Jay Hughes, a strong-willed Democrat. Other candidates have expressed interest in these races as well as additional statewide contests that will be decided this year.

Both Pettus and Ganucheau are graduates of the University of Mississippi with degrees in journalism and have amassed extensive experience covering elections in Mississippi.

(l-r) Adam Ganucheau, Emily Wagster Pettus, Charles D. Mitchell, Bill Gottshall

Judges Make Hard Decisions Every Day

Judge Sharion Aycock, Magistrate Judge Roy Percy, Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson, Director Jim Duff, Charles Overby

Jim Duff, director of the Office of Administration for U.S. courts, told an Overby Center audience that the legislative and executive branches could learn from the federal judiciary. "Judges make hard decisions every day," Duff said at the first program for the spring series. He is pictured above with U.S. district Judge Sharion Aycock, Magistrate Judge Roy Percy, Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson, and Charles Overby.

As director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Duff is one of the country’s most knowledgeable experts on federal courts and judges. His office provides administrative support to 2,400 judicial officers and nearly 29,000 court employees.

Duff has worked in varying roles for the last three Chief Justices: John Roberts, William Rehnquist and Warren Burger. Duff was Rehnquist’s administrative assistant and served as counselor to Chief Justice Rehnquist when he presided over the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Duff was also CEO of the Newseum and Freedom Forum from 2011-2014.

Spring Programs at Overby Center Under Way

The spring programs at the Overby Center are now under way, featuring judges, journalists and authors.

“Our programs feature a nationally known federal judge who grew up in Mississippi, journalists from The New York Times and The Washington Post, authors and political experts,” said Charles Overby, chairman of the center. “The programs offer a rich opportunity for conversations between the panelists the audiences on a broad array of subjects.”

Each event will take place in the Overby Center Auditorium. The programs are free and open to the public, and parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the auditorium. The schedule includes:

Wednesday, March 20, 5:30 pm. – THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKE NEWS
The chief media columnists for The New York Times and The Washington Post will weigh in on the fake news phenomenon and how it is not only undercutting a civil discourse in the country, but is also striking at the heart of our democracy. Margaret Sullivan of The Post (the former public editor of The New York Times) and Jim Rutenberg of The Times, a long-time political reporter, head up a panel on this issue that has gone from a funny catch phrase to a crucial challenge for covering the news. They will talk with Overby and Overby Fellow Greg Brock.

Wednesday, April 3, 5:30 p.m. – “THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD”
Yeats coined the term 100 years ago in his famous poem, “The Second Coming,” but the expression applies today in the nation’s bitterly divided politics. Stuart Stevens, a Mississippi native and architect of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and David Baria, a Democratic candidate for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats last fall, will talk about the dilemma with Overby and Wilkie.

Wednesday, April 17, 5:30 p.m. – “OVERCOMING A SEGREGATIONIST PAST”
U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco and attorney Danny Cupit of Jackson were white high school and college friends in the segregated environment of Mississippi in the 1960s. Alsup has written a book, “Won Over,” about how he broke through the segregationist status quo to become a civil rights advocate. He and Cupit will talk with legendary U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco, Charles Overby and Curtis Wilkie about their experiences.


The Overby Center for Southern Journalism & Politics’ mission is to create better understanding of the media, politicians and the role of the First Amendment in our democracy. The Center is funded through a $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum, a foundation dedicated to educating people about the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.

The Overby Center features programs, multimedia displays and writings which examine the complex relationships between the media and politicians - past, present and future. The Overby Center pays special attention to Southern perspectives.

Adjacent to the newly renovated journalism department facility at Farley Hall, the Overby Center is a new building that features 16,000 square feet of conference space. It includes a 225-seat auditorium, a multipurpose conference room that will accommodate 100 people for seminars and dinners, and a boardroom seating up to 24 people.

The center has state-of-the-art technology and video throughout the building, including a news wall with nine large-screen TV monitors for showing live news programs and current front pages from 12 Southern states.

The center is named for Charles L. Overby, editor of the Daily Mississippian at Ole Miss from 1967-1968. Overby was the CEO of the Freedom Forum and Newseum until his retirement in 2012.

Overby Center Auditorium

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