Gifts to a new University of Mississippi fund will honor the life of the late James L. "Buddy" Bynum, a leading journalist, and his enthusiasm for communication, learning and the university.
The Buddy Bynum Speaker Series Endowment was established with an initial gift from Dr. Richard B. and Nancy Harrelson Akin of Hazlehurst and is open to contributions from others.
"He was my best friend, my mentor, my inspiration and loved Ole Miss better than anything," Nancy Harrelson Akin said of the couple's decision to honor Bynum.
Earnings from the endowment will be used by the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss to invite media leaders to campus to meet with students and enhance their learning experiences.
"Buddy had great jobs and a great career; journalism was in his blood," Akin said, pointing out that the fund may inspire others to provide contributions in his memory.
Bynum was born in Meridian and grew up there. Akin said he started reporting for The Meridian Star because he contacted the community newspaper and told them box scores should be included with their baseball coverage of his school. It became his job.
Bynum was also voted Mr. Meridian High School and president of the student body. Then his early interest in journalism continued at Ole Miss, where he served a term as editor of The Daily Mississippian and was an initiate of Sigma Chi fraternity.
Bynum later returned to Meridian as editor of The Meridian Star newspaper, a title he also held at other publications, including the Mississippi Business Journal and the Oxford Enterprise.
He also served as communications director for former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and for former Sen. Trent Lott when Lott was first a member of the U.S. House. While in Washington, D.C., he also served as deputy secretary for congressional relations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In March 1988, Bynum was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans and presented a key to the city.
After his work for Barbour and the Oxford Enterprise, Bynum chose to enroll at the Meek School in 2009 to complete the few courses needed for his college degree.
"Going back to school took amazing courage," Akin said, "but I've never seen anyone enjoy anything more. The best year of his life may have been back in that academic environment. There wasn't a class he didn't like."
During the summer of 2011, however, Bynum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died Sept. 3 at his home in Ridgeland. He was 59.
Will Norton Jr., dean of the Meek School, said he counted Bynum as a friend and especially admired his determination and cheerful manner in working with and encouraging "classmates" who had so little experience in journalism compared to his. The endowment, Norton said, will "in perpetuity enhance the education of students, faculty and the community through visits from media practitioners who, like Buddy, are of the highest quality."
Contributions to the Buddy Bynum Speaker Series can be made by mailing a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655-0249; making an online gift at www.umfoundation.com/makeagift; or contacting John Festervand, director of development for the Meek School, at 662-915-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.