Giving back for a lifetime

A story for life and an encouragement for students

By Mollie Warrington

IMC student

Curtis Wilkie in his classroom at the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College

Many years of experience allow a person to acquire great knowledge to influence those around them. Curtis Wilkie has been influencing people through writing, reporting and teaching for many years.

“No matter what profession you’re in,” said Wilkie, a University of Mississippi Alumni Award winner, “people will watch you and look up to you, and it’s the way you behave in your location that what shapes the person you become.”

After graduating from the University of Mississippi, he worked in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He also travels the world as a reporter. He worked for the Boston Globe and then returned home down south. He wasn’t sure how long he would stay in the South, as he only worked remotely and reported on Southern issues.

However, he knew Mississippi was his home, so he moved back permanently. He worked at the University of Mississippi journalism school for 18 years. After retiring, he decided to return for another semester to teach a course on James Meredith and other Southern subjects. During his career he has written numerous books. His best-selling book is The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Powerful Trial Attorney.

Looking back, Wilkie said, “I wish I’d been more dedicated to my schoolwork at the University of Mississippi.” Little did he know then the impact he would have on students and people around the world.

He began his career as a reporter in Clarksdale in 1963 after graduating from Ole Miss. He said: “That was the turning point in my career. I had the opportunity to cover such a big movement – ​​the civil rights movement.”

“It was a great story that unfolded right where I was working in the South. It was an honor to be able to cover a small portion of it and I was grateful to have prominent figures in the movement like Dr. to be able to interview Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.”

After working in the Delta, Wilkie spent time as a traveling reporter. He said he wishes he had become bilingual because of the amount of time he has spent in Jerusalem, Europe, Africa and other countries.

After some travel, he spent some time working for the Boston Globe. He recalls, “The North just wasn’t the same as the South. People were different.” Since his work could be done from anywhere in the world, he decided to return home for six months, but at that point he made his decision to retire and move home.

When he returned home, he was approached about teaching for a semester. But one semester suddenly turned into almost 20 years. Despite his journalistic accomplishments, Wilkie says, “the most satisfying years of my life were those I taught at my alma mater.”

Wilkie has taught at the School of Journalism and Sally Mcdonnell Barksdale Honors College. Last semester he came back to teach at Honors College.

After retiring in 2020, he was supervised by Dr. Approached John Samonds about teaching this fall semester. “I was bored,” Wilkie said. “I missed the campus, the people, and my students, so I agreed to come back for the semester.”

The lesson is discussion-oriented. It focuses on discussing issues related to issues and events at the University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi.

Wilkie’s teachings encourage students to always stand up for what they believe in and what is fair. Wilkie hopes he has influenced his students in a way that future generations will be smart, prosperous and be the change the world needs.

Through writing and teaching, he was able to give back to so many people. He has inspired students to make a difference in the world through their use of wisdom and through gaining experience.

While Wilkie’s one-semester return to teaching may be brief, his years of teaching have had a profound impact on many generations. He showed the honor class a vision of Mississippi and helped them develop a vision of the place our state could become again.

He wants this generation of students to focus on what they can give back to the world.

“People have to be good, smart, and wise,” Wilkie explained. “Wisdom is better than pure intelligence. There are many clever people who lack wisdom. Really smart people are really wise people. Wisdom comes with experience and you must learn from your mistakes.”


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