Civil rights activist Ellie Dahmer receives honorary degree from USM

Civil rights activist Ellie Dahmer receives honorary degree from USM
Ellie Dahmer poses with family after receiving her honorary doctorate from USM. (Source: WDAM)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Ellie Jewel Davis Dahmer committed her life to civil rights activism.

Dahmer fought voter suppression by holding voter registration drives and collecting poll tax money at her family’s grocery store.

A teacher in the segregated Forrest County School District, she advocated for literacy and academic achievement.

When her husband, civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer, was killed due to injuries from a Ku Klux Klan firebombing that destroyed their Hattiesburg home, Mrs. Dahmer rebuilt her house with help from the community.

At the University of Southern Mississippi’s graduation Thursday, Ellie Dahmer received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

“I am so proud that I lived long enough to see this day come," Dahmer said. “Mississippi has come a long ways. I’m proud of Mississippi. The people are much kinder, friendlier and they seem to care about each other. Lord, if we could’ve just had some of this in the sixties.”

Dahmer mentioned how she wants those closest to her to remember her.

“I hope that I’ve been able to leave something worthwhile in this world that would help someone else," Dahmer said. “Lord, what happened to my family, I don’t want to happen to nobody’s family. I don’t care what color they are. I hope nobody else would have to go through what I went through with.”

Dahmer has a message for those in Mississippi and across the nation.

“Learn to love each other and respect each other," Dahmer said. “You don’t have to agree with me, I don’t have to agree with you, but I can respect you.”

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