Gifts to a new University of Mississippi fund are being used to honor the life of the late James L. “Buddy” Bynum, a leading journalist, and his enthusiasm for communication, learning and the university.
The Buddy Bynum Speaker Series Endowment was established with an initial donation by Dr. Richard B. and Nancy Harrelson Akin of Hazlehurst and is open to contributions from others. “He was my best friend, my mentor, my inspiration and loved Ole Miss better than anything,” Nancy Akin said of the couple’s decision to honor Bynum.
Earnings from the endowment will be used by the university’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media to invite media leaders to meet with students and enhance their learning experiences.
“Buddy had great jobs and a great career; journalism was in his blood,” she said, pointing out that the fund may inspire others.
Bynum was born and reared in Meridian. He started reporting for The Meridian Star after he contacted the community newspaper and told them box scores should be included with their baseball coverage of his school, Nancy Akin said. It became Bynum’s job, she said.
Bynum was Mr. Meridian High School and president of the student body. Then his early interest in journalism continued at Ole Miss where he was summer editor of The Daily Mississippian and was an initiate of Sigma Chi fraternity.
He later returned to Meridian as editor of The Meridian Star newspaper, a title he also held at other publications, including the Mississippi Business Journal and the Oxford Enterprise.
Bynum served as communications director for Gov. Haley Barbour and for former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott when Lott was a member of the U.S. House. While in Washington, he also served as deputy secretary for congressional relations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and, in March 1988, was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans and presented a key to the city.
After his work for Barbour and the Oxford Enterprise, Bynum chose to enroll at the Meek School in 2009 to complete the few courses needed for his Ole Miss degree.
“Going back to school took amazing courage, but I’ve never seen anyone enjoy anything more,” Nancy Akin said. “The best year of his life may have been back in that academic environment. There wasn’t a class he didn’t like.”
During the summer of 2011, however, Bynum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died on Sept. 3 at his home in Ridgeland at age 59.
Will Norton Jr., UM journalism dean, said he especially admired Buddy’s determination and cheerful manner in working with and encouraging “classmates” who had little experience in journalism compared to his. The endowment, Norton said, will “in perpetuity enhance the education of students, faculty and the community through visits from media practitioners who, like Buddy, are of the highest quality.”
Donations may be sent to the Buddy Bynum Speaker Series, University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677-0249. Online gifts can be made here.