Former MC president Nobles dead at 81, served sentence for embezzlement

Published 10:54 pm Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lewis Nobles, who served as president of Mississippi College for 25 years before being convicted of embezzling $3 million in donor contributions, died Friday at the age of 81.

Nobles died at Hospice Ministries in Ridgeland. Services are 10 a.m. Monday in the chapel of Lakewood Funeral Home with burial in Lakewood Memorial Park.

Nobles was born in Meridian on Sept. 11, 1925. He served in the Navy in World War II.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1948 and a master’s in chemistry in 1949 at the University of Mississippi. He earned a doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Kansas in 1952. He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan from 1958-59.

He was a member of the Ole Miss faculty from 1952-68. He was a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, dean of the graduate school and coordinator of university research.

He was hired as president of the Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College in 1968. The college’s school of nursing and law school were established during his tenure.

In 1996, Nobles pleaded guilty to federal charges of mail fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. He was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison.

Prosecutors said Nobles funneled donor contributions through a web of secret bank accounts. He used the money to pay for stock and brokerage fees, real estate, large credit card accounts and lavish purchases for himself and women friends, court documents showed.

On the eve of a scheduled court appearance in 1995, Nobles fled the state. As agents moved in to arrest him in San Francisco, he poisoned himself with cyanide. He was hospitalized for several weeks.

When sentenced in 1996, Nobles signed over to Mississippi College about $500,000 in land, bank and stock accounts. Two years later, a lawsuit ended with Nobles being ordered to repay nearly $3.3 million to the college.

Nobles was released from prison in 2001 and returned to his home in Clinton.

Survivors include his wife, Joy; his daughter; and two grandchildren.