Bristow death saddens Alcornites, Mississippi higher ed leaders

By ANDY KANENGISER

Daily Journal

Flags are flying at half-staff at Alcorn State and other college campuses in the state after the death of ASU's charismatic president, Clinton Bristow Jr.

Bristow, 57, who frequently jogged around campus, died on the ASU track Saturday night after he collapsed. An autopsy was scheduled, and funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday.

“He was one president who knew the name of every student on campus,'' said retired Tupelo teacher Bernice Long, former president of the Northeast Mississippi ASU alumni chapter. “He was always encouraging them. It's really a shock; he's done wonders for that school.''

Bristow, a graduate of Northwestern University and its law school, accomplished much during his 11 years as the school's leader. He upgraded academics and led the school's construction renaissance.

Bristow “had a litany of things on his slate,'' said Vicksburg educator John Walls, who Saturday finished his tenure as president of the ASU National Alumni Association. The university cafeteria Bristow lobbied for is under construction but won't be finished until next year. Ground was broken recently on the Lorman campus for a biotechnology building.

While he heard from angry critics, too, during an 0-11 football season a few years ago, the team rebounded to 6-5 the next season and upbeat Alcorn attitudes returned.

Walls was among ASU alumni meeting with Bristow in Jackson on Saturday. He told the president he was hoping to join him for the Sand Dollar Classic in Los Angeles next month with the football Braves taking on Morehouse College of Atlanta.

A former business dean and professor at Chicago State University, Bristow also was president of the Chicago Board of Education. He championed academic progress at the school he dubbed “the academic resort'' in rural Southwest Mississippi.

Words expressing sadness at the loss for Alcorn and Mississippi poured in from college and political leaders as well as alumni, students and ASU employees.

In 1995, Bristow followed a legend, President Walter Washington, who led ASU for 25 years, “but he made the transition. He was well on his way to being another Walter Washington,” said Donald Cole, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Mississippi. “This was a tragic loss. He was so representative of Alcorn. His voice was always a voice of reason.''

Cole, assistant to Chancellor Robert Khayat for multicultural affiars, said Bristow made Alcorn a welcoming place for students of all races and backgrounds. “He was a real inspirational leader.''

ASU is now being led by interim president Malvin Williams, 64, a retired ASU administrator and Alcorn alumnus.

Rather than cancel classes Monday, ASU moved through its normal activities, something that Bristow would have wanted, school officials said.

The state College Board will conduct a nationwide search for Bristow's successor.

Contact Daily Journal reporter Andy Kanengiser at 678-1590 or andy.kanengiser@djournal.com