MSU honors Nunnelee with Monday ceremony

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The Congressional and Political Research Center in Mississippi State’s Mitchell Memorial Library is adding a special collection from a university alumnus and former congressman.

The family of late U.S. Congressman Alan Nunnelee has donated volumes of papers, along with digital records and memorabilia. Nunnelee, an MSU graduate from Tupelo, died in February, at age 56, of complications from a brain tumor, just four months after being elected to his third term serving Mississippi’s 1st congressional district.

Nunnelee’s wife, Tori Nunnelee, will sign an agreement releasing the collection to the university during a public ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Monday [Sept. 14] at North Hall, a residence hall located at 215 Hurst Lane in MSU’s Zacharias Village. During the ceremony, the university also will officially change North Hall’s name to Nunnelee Hall in the late congressman’s memory.

The family also is establishing a scholarship fund at MSU in Nunnelee’s name.

Tori Nunnelee described her husband of 34 years as an “intelligent, steady, forward-thinking individual” who strongly supported MSU. She said when she toured the special collections at Mitchell Memorial Library, she knew she was leaving her husband’s effects in capable hands.

“I hope the contents of this collection will honor the man who chose to serve his beloved Mississippi in public office,” she said. “Alan dedicated his life to serving. Anyone who knew him personally knew he was one of the most humble and sincere men to walk the halls of government. I hope this collection will reveal to generations to come what being a ‘servant leader’ looks like and just how powerful humility can be.”

Opened in 2007, Nunnelee Hall can house up to 254 students and staff. Tori Nunnelee said she is overwhelmed by the residence hall dedication.

“Our entire family is honored that MSU would choose to name the beautiful North Hall after him,” she said. “He would actually be humbled by this, if not a bit embarrassed. Two of our children lived at Zacharias Village and they are hoping their own children will one day be residents of the dorm that bears their Poppy’s name.”

In Washington, the congressman served on the House Appropriations Committee. He also sat on the Agriculture, Energy and Water and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittees. Before joining the 112th Congress in 2011, he served Lee and Pontotoc counties in the Mississippi Senate. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from MSU in 1980.

The library collection includes written correspondence between Nunnelee and his constituents and colleagues, copies of bills he sponsored, newspaper clippings that feature the congressman, awards he earned and an array of hard hats, shovels and other items he collected throughout his days in public service. It also includes the hard drive from Nunnelee’s office computer, giving access to his email correspondence.

“He was very conscientious of the needs of the people in his district, and I think this collection shows that,” said Frances Coleman, dean of MSU Libraries. “Of course, all of this supports teaching and research. It will be a fine example for all of our students, and it will provide premier research materials.”

Nunnelee’s artifacts comprise the library’s eighth congressional collection dating back to former U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis of Mississippi. Ryan Semmes, coordinator for the library’s Congressional and Political Research Center, said Nunnelee’s is the first “digital era” collection the library has received.

“It’s a comprehensive collection,” Semmes said. “What the paper and digital documents do is show how correspondence with his constituents, colleagues and government agencies shaped his positions on certain bills. But with these types of collections, not only do we get documents about their time in Congress, we usually get a lot of personal stuff from when they were growing up.”

Parking, as well as shuttle service, for the dedication will be available at the Palmeiro Center, next to Humphrey Coliseum.