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Today is August 23, 2017

L.Q.C. Lamar house exhibits explore Mississippi’s Civil War era

By Nancy Jo Maples

L.Q.C. Lamar house exhibits explore Mississippi’s Civil War era

L.Q.C. Lamar House, Oxford

On a quiet, tree-lined street near the heart of downtown Oxford lies a nugget of Mississippi history—the L.Q.C. Lamar House.

In the late 1800s Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar served as a U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior and an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Lamar served in both chambers of Congress and is one of few people who have served in all three branches of government. He is the only Mississippian to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Lamar was known for being a dynamic orator and for encouraging the mending of relations between the North and the South after the Civil War. One of Lamar’s historically important orations occurred in a eulogy he delivered during the Reconstruction Era for U.S. Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. In the tribute, given in 1874, Lamar famously said, “Countrymen, know one another, and you will love one another.”

At a dedication of the Lamar house in 2008 following its restoration, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said of Lamar, “His speech to honor Sumner was seen as the first step on a road to recovery. Lamar was a multi-talented public servant at a time when our nation needed leadership the most.”

Lamar is also credited with saving national park lands; yet his influence in conservation is not widely known. “He has not received his due in conservation policy,” Brian Wilson, president of the L.Q.C. Lamar Foundation, said.

“He brought in the cavalry to police the parks and reclaimed 80 million acres that had been taken by corporations and railroads,” Wilson said.

Yellowstone National Park, the first national park, had experienced difficulties in its early days trying to protect the resource while also making it available to the public. Some visitors killed wildlife, collected souvenirs from the geothermal features and camped wherever they pleased. At the time, Lamar
was Secretary of the Interior under Grover Cleveland and placed the U.S. Army in charge of park supervision. The Lamar River and the Lamar Valley, both in Yellowstone National Park, are named for him.

Born Sept. 17, 1825, in Eatonton, Ga., Lamar attended Emory College and became a lawyer. After a brief stint in the Georgia state legislature, 1853-1854, he moved to Oxford where his father-in-law was
president of the University of Mississippi. Lamar served as a professor there while he also worked as a lawyer and statesman.

Built in 1870, the Lamar House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975. A bronze life-size statue of Lamar stands just outside the home’s front entranceway. The statue was created by Lafayette County artist Bill Beckwith, who also created the life-size sculptures of William Faulkner displayed on Oxford Square and of Elvis Presley displayed in nearby Tupelo.

Now serving as a museum, the house is located at 616 14th St. and is within easy walking distance of the Oxford Square. A spacious gravel lot accessible from 16th Street offers free parking to guests arriving by automobile. An uphill trail leads to the house and three-acre grounds.

Each room of the home’s interior features an exhibit giving details about Lamar’s life and the influence he wielded. Professionally designed educational displays provide valuable information about Lamar’s life within the context of the Civil War era and explore the politics of slavery, secession and reunion.

While there are few pieces of Lamar’s furniture inside the house, there are some interesting personal effects such as the traveling trunk he used during trips to Washington, D.C. His work desk is also on display, as is wife’s silver collection.

Owned by the City of Oxford, its Historic Sites Commission manages the property. The L.Q. C. Lamar Foundation partners with the city to assist with informing schools and clubs about Lamar’s life and the museum.

There is no admission fee, and in 2016 the museum was rated as the greatest free attraction in the state of Mississippi by Money Magazine. The home is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Group tours are available on advance notice by calling the Lamar House at 662-513-6071 or Visit Oxford, the city’s tourism bureau, at 662-232-2477.

Award winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples lives in Lucedale and is the author of “Staying Power: The Story of South Mississippi Electric Power Association.” She can be reached at nancyjomaples@aol.com.

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