An impressive combination of major political faces and popular television commentators will be featured at two separate events in the last week of September sponsored by the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss.
Stuart Stevens, a veteran Republican consultant who managed Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, will be the guest next Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. for a public conversation with Charles Overby, chairman of the center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie. The program will be held in the Overby Center Auditorium.
The top two figures at NBC News, Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News, and Tom Brokaw, NBC’s long-time anchor who now serves as a special correspondent, will be joined by two political heavyweights, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford Jr. for a discussion of the 2016 presidential campaign at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.The event will be moderated by Maggie Wade, an anchor at WLBT, the NBC affiliate in Jackson.
To accommodate the large crowd expected, the Sept. 30 program is being moved to the Nutt Auditorium on campus. It is being co-sponsored by Mississippi Today, the online news operation that was launched in the state earlier this year.
Both programs are free and open to the public, and special arrangements have been made to provide free parking adjacent to the Overby Center for the first event, and in a large lot next to Nutt Auditorium for the Friday night program on the eve of the Ole Miss-Memphis football game.
“This may be the best line-up of programs we’ve had in the ten year history of the Overby Center,” said Wilkie. “Coming on the same week as the first presidential debate, we hope the programs will bring some of the political drama back to Oxford that we enjoyed in 2008 when Ole Miss hosted the first presidential debate.”
Stevens, a native of Jackson, has been a force in GOP politics for decades, managing a number of Senate and gubernatorial campaigns and playing a role in former President George W. Bush’s political efforts. He has been a frequent guest on national television this year, offering sometimes biting commentary on the candidacy of Republican nominee Donald Trump. Aside from his political work, Stevens is also a well-known writer. Two years ago, “The Last Season,” his affectionate book about attending Ole Miss football games with his aging father, received strong reviews. This year, Stevens has a new novel about a political insider, “The Innocent Have Nothing To Fear,” in bookstores around the country.
The members of the NBC duo are no strangers to Ole Miss. Lack, who has ancestral links to Greenville, is one of the founders of Mississippi Today and has become a strong supporter of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Brokaw, perhaps the best-known face on television, served as the university’s commencement speaker this spring. Brokaw first came to Ole Miss exactly 16 years ago – for a friend’s birthday party in connection with an Ole Miss game — and he and members of his family have returned repeatedly over the years.
Barbour, a two-term governor of Mississippi, is still one of the dominant figures in the Republican Party. Before winning office in 2003, he served as national chairman of the party and worked in President Ronald Reagan’s White House. He is now a lobbyist in Washington and Jackson.
Ford, a member of the most prominent Democratic family in Memphis, served five terms in Congress. Though he now works on Wall Street, Ford — like Barbour – still holds important credentials in his party and is often asked to appear as a guest commentator on television. He is a regular guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program.