University connections prominent among annual state history awards

Five individuals at or affiliated with Mississippi State, as well as the university’s Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, are new honorees of the Mississippi Historical Society.

The land-grant university group includes:

-- Michael B. Ballard, the late university archivist and Civil War historian who was a posthumous selection for the William. E “Bill” Atkinson Award. He was cited for the “outstanding, lifelong” study of how the 19th century sectional conflict impacted the Magnolia State.

-- Alison Collis Greene, an associate professor of history receiving the Mississippi History Now Award for an April 2017 article titled “The Great Depression and Religion in Mississippi.” MHN is the society’s award-winning electronic publication covering all periods from prehistory through the 20th century.

-- Jeffrey C. “Duffy” Neubauer of Starkville, retired Humphrey Coliseum administrator, local historian and Civil War re-enactor, who received an award of merit for “outstanding contributions to living history.”

-- Retired Rhode Island Chief Justice Frank J. and Virginia Williams, also received an award of merit for donating “their magnificent collection of Lincolniana” to the MSU Libraries.

-- The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, which received an award of merit for its work in preserving and making accessible the papers of Grant and for creating engaging interpretive exhibits.

The recognitions were announced recently during the society’s annual meeting at Jackson’s new Two Mississippi Museums complex.

Ballard held three MSU history degrees. Over a nearly 30-year career at Mitchell Memorial Library, he successively was associate university archivist, university archivist and, at retirement in 2011, university archivist and Congressional Collection coordinator.

A prolific writer, the lifelong Ackerman resident who died in 2016 was author of nearly a dozen histories and two dozen major articles. Three works -- “A Long Shadow: Jefferson Davis and the Final Days of the Confederacy,” “Pemberton: A Biography” and “Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi” -- were History Book Club selections. In 2005, he won the society’s Dunbar Rowland Award.

Greene, a Yale University doctoral graduate, joined the Starkville faculty in 2010 as a specialist on American religions and 20th century United States. Titled “The Great Depression and Religion in Mississippi,” the winning article was based on her first book honored in 2016 with a major Southern Historical Society award.

Titled “No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta,” Greene’s work examines how the severe, decade-long recession and subsequent government recovery programs helped remake American religion, politics and social order in the 1930s and beyond.

Neubauer, a 36-year MSU employee who recently retired, is founder of the Starkville Civil War Arsenal, a private, limited-hour museum housing his extensive collection of mid-19th century cannons and exact reproductions of battery-support vehicles and equipment.

Additionally, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse graduate leads Turner’s Battery Inc., a living history unit he established in 1988. Along with being a live-round shooter who regularly organizes competitive matches, he is a much-sought-after artillery consultant and public lecturer.

Beyond a distinguished Ocean State legal career, Judge Williams is a nationally recognized authority on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Over the last half-century, he and wife Virginia amassed a personal collection focused both on the 16th president and the four-year military conflagration that helped make him among America’s greatest chief executives.

Williams also is longtime head of the Ulysses S. Grant Association. Nearly a decade ago, he was instrumental in relocating the organization and its substantial archives to MSU, where Mitchell Memorial would undergo a $10 million expansion to house what now is the Grant Presidential Library and accompanying Frank J. and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana.

To help perpetually support the collection, the Williamses made significant pledges toward a research fund and lecture series that will carry their names. They also committed to regularly adding other private acquisitions to the campus collections.

The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library unveiled its new state-of-the-art museum last November, which has drawn thousands of visitors to the library. The recently completed Papers of Ulysses S. Grant have supported a resurgence in scholarship on the country’s 18th president.

For more about the Mississippi Historical Society, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Sammy McDavid | Public Affairs

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