- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus and a black education group are criticizing Republican Gov. Phil Bryant for what they see as lack of diversity in his College Board nominations.

The caucus chairman, Democratic Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones of Canton, said Thursday that black senators are prepared to vote against three pending nominations.

Jones said it is “disgraceful” that the 12-member College Board will soon not have a graduate of any of Mississippi’s three public historically black universities.

“Gov. Bryant’s College Board appointments damage higher education and disrespect Alcorn, Mississippi Valley and Jackson State universities,” Jones said during a Capitol news conference, where about 20 Black Caucus members were joined by more than a dozen members of the Jackson-based Mississippi Coalition on Black Higher Education.

Bryant has nominated three white men and one black man to the board. If confirmed, they would succeed two white men, one white woman and one black man whose terms are expiring.

One of Bryant’s College Board nominees, Dr. Alfred McNair, is gastroenterologist from Gautier and earned his undergraduate degree at historically black Tougaloo College in Jackson, which is a private school.

Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb said the governor has a strong record on diverse appointments, including nominating a woman and an African-American man to the College Board in 2012.

“For his first appointment as governor, Gov. Bryant appointed Maj. Gen. Leon Collins as adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard. It was the first time in the state’s history an African-American had been appointed to the position,” Webb said. “He also recently appointed an African-American, Jerry Griffith Sr., to the Mississippi Gaming Commission. This is the first time in the history of the Gaming Commission an African-American has been appointed.”

Preston Lee of Jackson, an Alcorn State alumnus who is first vice president of the Mississippi Coalition on Black Higher Education, said having no graduate of Alcorn State, Jackson State or Mississippi Valley State universities on the College Board is insulting.

“This is racial politics in it most stark form,” Lee said.

One of the governor’s four College Board nominees, Glenn McCullough Jr. of Tupelo, was confirmed by the Senate last week.

Moments after the Black Caucus news conference Thursday, the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee met and endorsed the other three nominees: McNair, Chip Morgan of Leland and Tommy Duff of Hattiesburg. The full Senate will vote on whether to confirm them in the next few days.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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