Five Mississippians whose accomplishments resonated far beyond the state are joining the Mississippi Hall of Fame.
Evelyn Gandy, Dr. James Hardy, Aaron Henry, Elvis Presley and Ida B. Wells were chosen by the board of trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
“The contributions and accomplishments of these five Mississippians are astonishing and a true testament to the character of the people of the state,” Mississippi Department of Archives and History Director Katie Blount said in a statement. “The Hall of Fame is enriched by the addition of these men and women.”
Selections are made every five years. Inductees must be native Mississippians or adopted Mississippians and deceased for at least five years.
Gandy was the first woman elected to hold a statewide office in Mississippi. Before launching her groundbreaking political career, Gandy attended the University of Southern Mississippi and went on to study at the University of Mississippi Law School. She was born in Hattiesburg in 1920. In 1959, she was elected state treasurer. She was the first female elected insurance commissioner in 1972. And in 1975 she became Mississippi’s first female lieutenant governor. She ran for governor twice but was defeated both times. Gandy died in 2007.
Dr. James D. Hardy
Hardy was a true pioneer in the medical field. He became chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1955, and he performed the world’s first lung transplant at UMMC in Jackson in 1963. Hardy was born in Newala, Ala., in 1918. Before moving to Mississippi, Hardy graduated from the University of Alabama and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. About six years after retiring, Hardy died in 2003.
Henry was a prominent figure during the Civil Rights Era in Mississippi. Henry fought for human rights by organizing groups such as the Regional Council of Negro Leadership and the Council of Federated Organizations. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation’s campaign to be seated at the Democratic national convention. Henry was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1982 and served until 1996. He was born in 1922 in Dublin, Miss. After serving in the Army, he relocated to New Orleans to study pharmacy at Xavier University. He returned to his home state and used his degree to open a pharmacy in Clarksdale. Henry died in 1997.
The king of rock and roll was born in 1935 in Tupelo. Presley’s innovative and incomparable music and performing style alarmed adults and enthralled teens in the 1950s. His musical influence eventually transcended generations, backgrounds and races. Presley’s talent spanned No. 1 records, hit movies, ratings-topping TV specials and sold-out Las Vegas performances. Presley died in 1977 at Graceland, his home in Memphis. He was 42 years old.
Ida B. Wells
Wells was born a slave in in Holly Springs in 1862, but she eventually overcame that enormous barrier and others to achieve success as a journalist and advocate for human rights. Wells was not afraid to speak out against social injustices, and she enlightened the country on the inhumanity of lynching taking place across the South. She helped organize the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. Wells ran for the Illinois State Legislature, making her one of the first African-American women in the country to run for public office. Wells died in 1931.
Gandy, Hardy, Henry, Presley and Wells are among 136 renowned Mississippians that have been inducted into the Mississippi Hall of Fame. Their predecessors include civil rights leader Medgar Evers, novelist William Faulkner and blues musician Muddy Waters. For more information on the nomination process visit http://www.mdah.ms.gov/new/about/mississippi-hall-of-fame/.