Alcorn – People/Persons

Eddington, Grady (also Edding, Grady)

Grady Eddington: Grady Eddington was the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Alcorn County, Mississippi. The years of his leadership are unknown, but the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission mentions him as president in 1969. In the early 1960s, the NAACP was not very active and county officials believed that the organization had gone underground, but by 1969 the NAACP had experienced a revival. 

Racial tensions ran high when an officer shot an African-American murder suspect named Robert Cummings on May 8, 1969. The officers claimed that Cummings swung at them with an ice pick and that they found evidence linking him to the murder. Eddington organized and led a meeting of about two hundred African Americans on the night of the murder. Rumors spread among the white community that trouble was possible and that Charles Evers intended to visit Corinth. On May 21, Eddington asked to meet with Chief Murray, but later postponed the meeting. No further reports have been found regarding Eddington. 


“Sovereignty Commission Online: Alcorn County,” Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Cayton, Horace R.

Horace R. Cayton (1859-1940): An African-American journalist and politician, Cayton was born on a Mississippi plantation in 1859 and graduated from Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) in the early 1880s. He moved to Seattle, Washington, worked as a journalist, and eventually began the Seattle Republican in 1894. The Seattle Republican exposed corruption, racial injustice, and Southern lynching to a black and white audience. He also became involved in politics and was one of the first blacks to serve on the county and state delegations in Seattle. When blacks joined the local Republican Party in larger numbers in the early 1900s, white prejudice grew and Cayton lost both political power and his newspaper. His son, Horace R. Cayton, Jr., became a preeminent sociologist on the plight of urban African Americans. 


“Horace R. Cayton,” Wikipedia, 21 August 2012,

Lisa S. Weitzman, “Horace Cayton,” Gale Contemporary Black Biography

Haley, Alex

Alex Haley (1921-1992): African-American writer Alex Haley is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family and the co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Haley attended Alcorn State University beginning at age fifteen and withdrew two years later. At age eighteen, he began serving in the Coast Guard and received many awards and decorations by the time he retired twenty years later. He began his writing career soon thereafter. He conducted the first Playboy magazine interview in 1962. The interview with Miles Davis included candid reflections on racism. He also interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Brown, Johnny Carson, and Quincy Jones. He completed Malcolm X’s memoir just weeks before Malcolm X was assassinated in February 1965. In 1976, Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family’s history, which was later turned into a television miniseries. 


Eric Pace, “Alex Haley, 70, Author of ‘Roots,’ Dies,” The New York Times, 11 February 1992,

Evers, Medgar

Medgar Evers (1925-1963): Born in Decatur, Mississippi, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) in 1948. He majored in business administration, was on the debate team, played football, ran track, sang in the school choir, and served as president of his junior class. Who’s Who in American Colleges included Evers for his accomplishments. In 1951, he married classmate Myrlie Beasley and received his bachelor’s degree the next year. After graduation, he moved out of Alcorn County and became involved in civil rights activism. For Evers’ full biography, see the entry for Newton County.


Padgett, John B. “Medgar Evers.” The Mississippi Writers Page, University of Mississippi. 2008. Accessed: 5 Sep 2012.

Prather, William Roy

William Roy Prather (c. 1944-1959): Fifteen-year-old African-American William Roy Prather was killed in Corinth in what whites called a “Halloween prank” on November 1, 1959. One of the eight youths involved was indicted on manslaughter charges, but not convicted. As of November 2011, the case was still open under FBI investigation.


Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center, “Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs,” Civil Rights Movement Veterans, accessed 6 September 2012,

Jerry Mitchell, “Two-Thirds of 124 Civil Rights Cold Cases Closed,” Clarion Ledger, 7 November 2011,

Myrlie Evers, For Us the Living, Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1967, 24-25, 205. 

“William Roy Prather,” Civil Rights and Restorative Justice, 2012,

Walker, Joseph Edison

Joseph Edison Walker (1897-1958): Born in Tillman, Mississippi, Walker was a leading African American physician, businessman and religious leader. He graduated from Alcorn College in 1903 and then attended medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He practiced as a doctor in Mississippi and became president of a bank and an insurance company serving blacks. In 1920 he moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee, and was a co-founder of Universal Life Insurance Company, which became one of the largest black-owned insurance companies in the nation under his leadership from 1923 to 1952. He also founded Tri-State Bank with his son and the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.


Ronald A. Walter, “Joseph E. Walker,” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 25 December 2009,

Thomas Yesner, ed., Who’s Who in Colored America: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Persons of African Descent in America (1930-1932) Brooklyn, New York: Who’s Who in Colored America, 1933.