U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., has joined the chorus of voices calling for belated justice in the case of Clyde Kennard, whose efforts to integrate the University of Southern Mississippi resulted in his false imprisonment.

The case for a posthumous pardon of Kennard, who died of cancer in 1963, is “clear-cut,” according to Pickering. The congressman is right, and we commend his willingness to speak out. Now, if only Gov. Haley Barbour will listen.

Kennard, after refusing to abandon his quest to become the first black student at USM, was railroaded by a corrupt Mississippi power structure and sent to Parchman for a crime he didn’t commit. Johnny Roberts, the man on whose testimony Kennard’s conviction was entirely based, now admits that he lied when he told a jury that Kennard put him up to stealing $25 in chicken feed.

Kennard, a decorated Korean War veteran, spent his last years on this earth picking cotton on a Delta prison farm — clearly the victim of a morally bankrupt judicial system that was a willing participant in the state’s effort to preserve segregation at all costs. That same judicial system — which, like the rest of Mississippi, has been much enlightened over the past four decades — now has a chance to right a wrong.

“He was an innocent man, wrongly convicted,” Pickering said of Kennard.

Under the state Constitution, pardon powers rest solely with the governor, whose staff has said he has no plans to exonerate Kennard. Barbour’s proposed alternative — to recognize Kennard’s family in some way — is insufficient.

Nothing short of a full pardon will clear Kennard’s name and correct a gross miscarriage of justice.

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