OXFORD, Miss. – Two distinguished Mississippians with national reputations – one a journalist, the other a lawyer – have been named inaugural fellows at the new Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi.
The honorees are Curtis Wilkie, holder of the Kelly G. Cook Chair of Journalism at UM, and John R. Hailman, recently retired assistant U.S. attorney from Oxford.
While the center’s dedication and grand opening are planned for next spring, its first event Friday (Sept. 21) is a 5 p.m. reception featuring U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, who is on campus for a program with the Lott Leadership Institute. Wilkie and Hailman are also expected to be on hand for the reception.
Known nationally for his work as political writer for The Boston Globe, Wilkie joined the university’s journalism faculty in 2003. Hailman has traveled worldwide for the Justice Department, training prosecutors and educating judges about issues related to terrorism, white-collar crime, drug-trafficking and undercover operations.
Wilkie and Hailman are to write, lecture and conduct programs at the Overby Center during their one-year fellowships. "The common thread between Curtis and John is that they are astute observers of people, they are great storytellers and they are good writers. They represent the very best of journalism and public service," said Charles L. Overby, chairman of the Freedom Forum, which funded the building and beginning operations of the Overby Center with a $5 million grant.
Paying tribute to Wilkie and Hailman individually, Overby said, "Curtis is synonymous with Southern journalism and politics. If you said those words to leading journalists in the country, they would mention Curtis’ name immediately. He is one of the great assets on the Ole Miss campus.
"John is a keen observer of the Southern scene. He understands politics going back to his days in Washington with Sen. John Stennis. He has a broad range of interests and now that he is retired from the Justice Department, he will be free to write about what he has seen and what he thinks."
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 soon is to have 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.
"We expect to be able to take advantage of the technology and the content at the Newseum," said Overby, who is CEO of the Newseum being built on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. It is to be the world’s most interactive museum that focuses on the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. It is expected to open in 2008.
Wilkie, a Greenville native and 1963 Ole Miss graduate, was a reporter and editor at The Clarksdale Press Register from 1963 to 1969, a time when the civil rights movement was at its height. While at The Boston Globe for 25 years, he served as national and foreign correspondent. He covered seven presidential campaigns for the Globe and served as White House correspondent 1977-82. He established and headed the Globe’s Middle East bureau and lived in Jerusalem from 1984 to 1987. He covered numerous wars and conflicts in the Middle East. He is a frequent contributor to national magazines and has written or co-written three books about the South.
Hailman, who earned his law degree from Ole Miss, received a bachelor’s degree from Millsaps College, where his writing professor was author Eudora Welty. He began his law career as clerk for federal judge William C. Keady of Greenville, then served as legal counsel to U.S. Sen. John Stennis. He worked as a legal services attorney in Oxford for three year and was chief of the Criminal Division in the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Oxford. He supervised all trials, grand jury investigations, indictments and appellate briefs. His work for the Justice Department sent him throughout Europe, Africa and Asia.
Aside from his legal career, Hailman is a noted wine expert, recently writing a book on Thomas Jefferson and wines. He was a wine columnist for The Washington Post for three years and wrote a nationally syndicated column on wines for some 100 newspapers for 12 years.
For more information on the journalism programs at UM, including the Overby Center, go to http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/journalism/.
Media contact for the Freedom Forum is Susan Bennett, vice president/marketing, at 703-284-3765 (office) or 703-615-4182 (cell).