Mississippi historian David Sansing dies at age 86

Posted on Jul 8 2019 - 4:27pm by Associated Press

David Sansing, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi and author of several books, has died at age 86.

Sansing fell Friday at his home in Oxford and died Saturday at a hospital in Memphis, the university said in a news release.

Sansing wrote dozens of scholarly papers, and his books included histories of the University of Mississippi and the state’s higher education system. His 2013 textbook, “A Place Called Mississippi,” is still used in high schools.

As Mississippi commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Sansing told The Associated Press in 2012 that people should acknowledge “slavery was the cause of the war” but also honor the memory of those who fought.

David G. Sansing, professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi and author of the definitive history of the university, died Saturday, July 6. He was 86. Photo Courtesy: Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“Mississippi has such a troubled past that a lot of people are very sensitive about commemorating or recognizing or remembering the Civil War because it has such an unpleasant reference for African Americans,” said Sansing, who was white. “Many Mississippians are reluctant to go back there because they don’t want to remind themselves or the African American people about our sordid past. But it is our past.”

Sansing chaired a group that went to the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland in 2012 to dedicate a memorial to the 11th Mississippi Regiment, which included the University Greys — young men who left the University of Mississippi during the Civil War to fight for the Confederacy.

Sansing said he advocated racial reconciliation in Mississippi and found “no inconsistency” with also honoring Confederate soldiers.

“I am not honoring them because of their attitudes. … I am recognizing and commemorating them for their valor and their sense of duty and for the courage that they displayed,” he said.

Sansing was a native of Greenville, Mississippi. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi College and his doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi.

He started teaching at Ole Miss in 1970 and was teacher of the year in 1990.

One of Sansing’s books, “Mississippi Governors: Soldiers, Statesmen, Scholars and Scoundrels,” told of the state’s chief executives, many of whom he knew and some of whom he considered friends.

In a 2011 eulogy at the funeral of former Gov. Bill Waller, Sansing recalled that one night 40 years earlier he received an unusual book assignment from the state’s Democratic chief executive.

In a phone call, the governor said his wife, Carroll, wanted to work with Sansing to write a history of the then-dilapidated Governor’s Mansion. “‘Can you be down here first thing in the morning and get started?'” Waller asked.

The book was written, and the 1842 Mansion was restored and is designated by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark. The mansion had been in such bad shape, Sansing said, that some people wanted to raze it and use the prime downtown Jackson location for commercial development.

“Whenever you pass the Governor’s Mansion, remember that without Bill Waller and his lovely wife, Carroll, there might be a hotel on that historic site,” Sansing said.

A memorial service is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at Paris-Yates Chapel at Ole Miss.