Local representative proposes Zacharias road designation

March 20, 2013 10:21:50 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


State Rep. Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, says he will seek legislation soon to rename a portion of a local roadway after former Mississippi State University President Dr. Donald Zacharias. 


Hood said he will attempt the measure this term, but the legislation could be delayed until next year.  


Monday, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to support a future designation in honor of the former MSU leader. 


Hood said a specific road has not been picked, but the measure would be similar to a 2011 designation which honored longtime MSU sports announcer Jack Cristil. A portion of U.S. Highway 82 between the bypass and the northern campus entrance was named after the legendary voice of the Bulldogs. 


"Dr. Zacharias meant so much to the MSU family," Hood said. "We should honor him and his legacy for the university and the city of Starkville." 


District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery confirmed Hood contacted him to support the local resolution prior to Monday's board meeting. 


Sid Salter, director of MSU University Relations, said university officials were unaware of Hood's intentions but receptive to honoring one of its most heralded leaders. 


"We're glad to hear it and feel it to be most appropriate, but we've had no role in the process," Salter said through a text message Tuesday. "Like the honor afforded Jack Cristil, the university community believes Dr. Zacharias to be worthy of such an honor." 


Zacharias, the second-longest serving MSU president, died March 3 of complications from multiple sclerosis after an extended illness. He was 77. 


MSU President Mark Keenum previously called Zacharias one of the most influential leaders in the history of Mississippi higher education. 


"Dr. Donald Zacharias was a transformative figure at Mississippi State University. He really helped bring MSU into the modern era, and he did so by developing a broad vision for the leadership that Mississippi needed from a land grant university," Keenum said shortly after Zacharias' passing. 


Hundreds of the Bulldog family gathered on campus for a March 7 memorial service for Zacharias. Numerous speakers, from Keenum to acclaimed author John Grisham, described the late president as a caring and effective leader. 


"I saw things in Mississippi State University that others might not have seen. I felt that I had made the right decision to be at this university because I liked both what it stood for and its overall character. I liked its mission, and I liked the students and alumni. I saw the potential," Zacharias said upon his resignation in 1997.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch