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Baker civil rights collection now digitized at Columbus library


Ezra Baker Jr., a former teacher at S.D. Lee High.

Ezra Baker Jr., a former teacher at S.D. Lee High.
Photo by: Courtesy photo



Special to The Dispatch



The Columbus-Lowndes Public Library (CLPL) has digitized portions of the Ezra Baker Jr. Papers housed in the Local History Department. 


The collection pertains to the 1972 case where three teachers -- Willie James Conard, Frank Allen Yates and Baker -- were terminated from their teaching jobs at Stephen D. Lee High School for violating the school's grooming code. The violations related specifically to the wearing of sideburns and mustaches/beards.  


Supporters of the three argued that the school's grooming code was arbitrary and discriminated against African Americans. Roughly 200 students left class and marched to the offices of the Columbus Municipal Separate School District (now the Columbus Municipal School District) to protest.  


The three men sued the school system. The case went to trial and on Oct. 30, 1972, Judge William Keady of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi Eastern Division declared that the firings were unconstitutional and ordered that all three teachers be reinstated with back pay. 


Items digitized include newspaper clippings, a chronological list of events, and a photograph of Baker all relating to the 1972 court case.  


The images are available online at the Mississippi Digital Library (MDL), the cooperative digital library program for the state hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi.  


In order to access the library's digital collections, visit the MDL website at  


Due to copyright and privacy restrictions, the entire collection could not be digitized. Patrons can visit the CLPL archives in order to access other materials in the collection such as correspondence, court documents and the school code of conduct pertaining to the case.  


For more information about the Local History Department at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library call 662-329-5304 or email



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