David Sansing

Beloved historian, writer and teacher David G. Sansing, professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi, died July 6, one day after suffering a fall at his home in Oxford. He was 86.

Sansing spent his career telling stories that shined a spotlight on the complicated history of his home state, the university said in a news release. His work has reached hundreds of thousands of Mississippi students over several decades.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of David Sansing,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Mississippi, in the news release. “He was an outstanding university citizen who made substantial contributions to our institution.

“It is a sad day for the entire university community, and he will be greatly missed.”

Sansing authored more than a dozen books and textbooks on various aspects of Mississippi history, including “The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History,” “Making Haste Slowly: The Troubled History of Higher Education in Mississippi” and “Mississippi Governors: Soldiers, Statesmen, Scholars and Scoundrels.” His 2013 textbook, “A Place Called Mississippi,” remains in use in public and private high schools throughout the state.

“There are a lot of historians that have an axe to grind when approaching a passage of history,” said Curtis Wilkie, journalist and Overby Fellow at the University of Mississippi. “Having in mind to make a particular point that promotes an agenda, that they might have and you know, David was not like that at all,”

Wilkie also spoke on how Sansing resisted the temptations some historians would fall prey to, glossing over the problems of a university or institution with which they were associated.

“His history of the university is the definitive book that charts our history very fairly, warts and all. David did not try to gloss over what happened here in ’62 with the Meredith crisis and the ugly riot that took place and a number of events that tarnished Ole Miss’ image,” Wilkie said.

Sansing was born in Greenville and credited one of his high school history teachers for his love of history, according to the news release. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and went on to earn degrees from Mississippi College and the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received his doctorate in history.

Sansing began teaching history at Ole Miss in 1970. In 1990, he was named the university’s Teacher of the Year, notes the University of Mississippi news release.

“David Sansing was my professor and friend for 50 years,” U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker tweeted Sunday. “Remembered me as a far better student than I actually was – What a loss for Mississippi!”

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; three children, David Sansing Jr., of Canton, Elizabeth Sansing McLarty, of Jackson, and Perry Sansing, of Oxford; and five grandchildren, Cherish Sansing, Mary Love McLarty, Michael McLarty, Kimberly Sansing Molteni and Elizabeth Sansing Eaves.

All eight of Sansing’s children and grandchildren earned degrees from UM, according to the release.

A memorial service for Sansing is set for 4 p.m. July 10 on the university campus.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Take our 2023 reader survey

Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.