October 26, 2013 11:26:23 PM
A personage from the past will be the featured speaker Monday, Oct. 28 when the 2013 Hazard Lecture Series presents the second of three programs to mark the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
Gen. U.S. Grant will address his audience at 7 p.m. in the Heritage Academy Elementary School auditorium at 623 Magnolia Lane. Grant, who in actuality is Dr. E.C. Fields Jr. of Tennessee, will talk on "Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and Stephen D. Lee: Out of the Past, Into the Future." The program is free and open to the public.
"I'll be talking about the sparring Robert E. Lee and I did with each other for the last year of the war and about Stephen D. Lee and his involvement with Mississippi State University and the Vicksburg National Park, of which he was one of the founders," said Fields, as Grant, by phone Wednesday from his home near Memphis.
Fields will offer insight into Stephen D. Lee, who settled in Columbus after the war and lived in what is known as the S.D. Lee Home at 316 Seventh St. N. He was the first president of Mississippi A&M College (now Mississippi State University).
"After the war, he so epitomized the rebuilding of the South," said Fields. "A phoenix rose from the ashes because of the work of people like Stephen D. Lee, both in education and the culture, and in history, in recognizing and remembering the efforts of the soldiers who fought in the war."
Fields, a longtime educator and former Memphis police officer, began portraying Gen. Grant about four years ago, after he attended a reenactment where he "met" Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, Abraham Lincoln and others, and realized he was the same general height, weight and body type as Grant. He has gone to great lengths to study and accurately portray the general.
"It's a heck of a responsibility. I'm a walking, talking, breathing teaching tool," said Fields, who is often in character and quotes in first person from Grant's memoirs, articles and letters he wrote and statements he made in interviews.
"We're very much like Clark Kent and Superman; you never see the two of us together -- and it's darkly rumored that we're one in the same, but don't believe it," he said, laughing.
Fields holds a bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Memphis, and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Michigan State University. He is an educational and leadership consultant and is adjunct associate professor of sociology at the University of Memphis and adjunct assistant professor of education at Belhaven University, Memphis.
He is always looking for new material on the historical figure he portrays at every opportunity. Not long ago he discovered fresh information through books written in the first 25 to 50 years after the former president's death in 1877.
"They tell things you don't see in the present generation of books," he remarked.
Fields' talk is part of the Hazard Lecture Series' "Voyage From the Past: the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War." The third and final installment of this fall's three-part series will be Monday, Nov. 4, when MSU professor emeritus and author Michael B. Ballard presents "Civil War on the Rivers of Mississippi."
For more information, contact Beth Lucas at Heritage Academy, 662-327-1556.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.