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a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is January 24, 2020

Grin 'n' Bare It

A question for my readers

By Kay Grafe

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

Mr. Roy recently asked me this question, and I failed on my answer. Where is the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library located? As I pondered my answer, I said, “Well, I remember from teaching high school history that he was born and grew up in Ohio. I’ll say somewhere in Ohio.” 

I knew that Mr. Roy had recently read a book on the life of Grant, and I also knew I was in for a history lesson.

My man has always loved history and especially biographies about the people who founded this great country and others who have influenced it. He has always been interested in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. His most recent study was of Ulysses S. Grant, and the book he chose was “Grant” by Ron Chernow. For anyone interested, Mr. Roy says it’s a great book, but only if you can endure 965 pages.

Back to the Grant Presidential Library and Mr. Roy’s question. After I failed to answer the question correctly, he said, “You'll never guess the location correctly. It’s located at Mississippi State University in the Mitchell Memorial Library and opened in November 2017. It is only one of six universities in the country that houses a presidential library, and I want to go visit it.” I said, “Let’s go in a couple days; but first, give me a crash course on Grant so I’ll know more about him.” Mr. Roy proceeded to tell me about his military career, his rise to general of all Union Armies and his defeat of Robert E. Lee. I said, “I remember a lot of what you told me, and I also remember that the high school history books were very critical of his presidency.” Mr. Roy said, “The Chernow book cleared up a lot of the criticisms of Grant both as a military man and as president. There were reports during the war and during his presidency that he was an alcoholic. But, according to his closest associates, these stories were mostly false or overly exaggerated. There were also several scandals during his presidency, but all were caused by people in his cabinet or other appointed positions. There were never any accusations that Grant did anything illegal or dishonest. We are leaving early Friday morning, so be ready.”

To house the vast amount of material associated with the Grant Library, the university added a fourth floor to the Mitchell Memorial Library. This is now the home of 17,000 linear feet of documents, books, manuscripts and artifacts associated with the life of President Grant. The collection includes correspondence from Grant and his family, civil war generals and common soldiers, clothing, china, books owned by the Grant family and a variety of 19th-century objects bearing Grant’s image. For anyone doing research for a book or just to answer a question, the Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University is the place to visit.

We left home early Friday morning and had no trouble locating the library, even though as Mr. Roy likes to say, “Mississippi State sure has changed since the early- to mid-1950s.” We did visit the campus parking website online and printed a temporary parking pass. And you may want to consider doing this when you plan your visit. When we arrived at the Grant Library on the fourth floor of the Mitchell Memorial Library, we were warmly greeted and provided all of the guidance we needed to enjoy our tour. The presidential library is new and modern with “hands-on visual aids,” exhibits and artifacts that do an excellent job of describing the life of Ulysses S. Grant. But as Mr. Roy reminded me, the majority of the research material is stored and protected in rooms behind public view.

As we headed back to Lucedale, I told Mr. Roy, “Thank you for a very enjoyable day and tour of the Grant Presidential Library, it is something that Mississippians should visit and be proud of. Now, when and where do we eat?”

Kay Grafe is the author of  “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H, to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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