L.Q.C. Lamar House to get new exhibits

Published 2:39 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2010

By the end of this year, new exhibits should be in place to tell the life story of one of the town’s most esteemed residents.

Malone Design and Fabrication of Decatur, Ga., whose clients include the Hoover Dam visitors center and Disney World, is creating the exhibits for the L.Q.C. Lamar House.

Lamar was one of Mississippi’s foremost statesmen. A lawyer and University of Mississippi professor, he served in state and federal posts both before and after the Civil War. He served the Confederacy as a military officer and was appointed as its ambassador to Russia.

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Lamar was a Supreme Court justice and secretary of the Interior after representing Mississippi in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. He died in 1893.

He wrote Mississippi’s Ordinance of Secession and served the Confederacy in numerous roles, and he was included in John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” for his role in reunifying the nation after the Civil War.

“The man was very diverse, very complete,” said Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation President Bill Russell. “He has the most public service, certainly, of anybody in this state and probably matches anybody in this country.”

Several of Lamar’s personal items and some of his family’s furniture have been added to the house, which the Heritage Foundation had restored from its dilapidated state several years ago.

While volunteer docents have furnished details about Lamar’s life and historical significance, the new interpretative exhibits will enable visitors to learn at their own pace about his family, oratory, public life and reconciliation efforts.

Each room’s theme — family life, public life, post-war reconciliation and oratory — was researched by a different scholar, including University of Mississippi history professors Harry Owens and David Sansing, Ole Miss Provost Emeritus Gerald Walton and historian Jack Lamar Mayfield, who is a Lamar descendant.

“The exhibit components will carry the story of Lamar within the context of his times,” said Darlene Copp, who is working on the project for the Heritage Foundation. “The focus will be on him and his career, but the context will be the times he lived in.”

Some aspects of the exhibit will reflect on such elements as slavery and freedmen and the cotton economy.

One panel will be about fighting and the South’s Code of Honor. Not only did Lamar hit a U.S. marshal during a federal trial, but he also was involved in a congressional brawl spawned by the fatigue and frustrations of a late-night session, but which ended with a legislative breakthrough.

“We’re trying to design it in a way that will appeal to different audiences from the academics at the university to Civil War buffs to people just looking for something to do while they’re visiting Oxford,” Copp said.

A statue of Lamar, which has been in storage for months, will be placed on the house grounds this fall, as soon as the completion of a base and the onset of milder weather allow.

Inside the 800-pound bronze creation, built slightly larger than life-size by Taylor sculptor Bill Beckwith, will be a document dear to the 19th-Century statesman and law professor.

“Everywhere Mr. Lamar went, he carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution,” Russell said. “We thought it appropriate that he still have one with him.”