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Accept Ayers settlement, Alcorn grads told

Criminal justice major Jonda Marshall pauses to rest her eyes before walking into Jacks Spinks Stadium Saturday for Alcorn State University’s commencement ceremony. Marshall said she stayed up late the night before visiting with her aunts and grandparents who traveled from Victoria, Texas, to see her graduate. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[05/14/01] LORMAN The Speaker Pro Tempore of Mississippi’s House of Representatives told 550 graduates at Alcorn State University Saturday morning that a settlement to end the 26-year-old desegregation case should be accepted.

“A lot of us may not agree with the settlement completely, but it will help universities that haven’t had much of a chance to build the buildings they need to and do the things they need to do,” said Rep. Robert Clark Jr., D-Lexington.

The $500 million Ayers settlement was signed April 23, but federal Judge Neal Biggers Jr. has expressed concerns with the plan. A hearing has been set for Sept. 4 on the settlement.

Clark spoke for about 10 minutes at the 130th commencement exercises in Jack Spinks Stadium on Alcorn’s Lorman campus.

“Don’t abandon your sense of right and wrong and make today the first day of the rest of your education,” Clark said.

A native of Holmes County, Clark is serving his ninth straight term in the House. He was elected Speaker Pro Tempore in 1992.

As the first black legislator in Mississippi since Reconstruction, Clark said he has faced many obstacles.

“Know who you are and don’t let anyone dictate who you are to you,” he said.

Alcorn’s President Dr. Clinton Bristow, who has come under fire from some alumnus who feel he his leadership is lacking, also spoke of continuing education.

“It is imperative that you go on to graduate school, law school, and/or medical school and receive higher degrees,” he said.

Clark told the graduates to live their lives with dignity and pride and to make their mark in the world.

“Make a difference in the community you live in or you haven’t done anything,” he said.

Clark represents the 47th district that includes Holmes, Attala and Yazoo counties. He serves as chairman of the management committee. He is also a member of the constitution, education, game and fish, and public health and welfare committees.