Jerry W. Mitchell, you have been called “persistent,” “fair,” “a hero,” and (by 1997 Lovejoy Fellow David Halberstam, no less) “the most distinguished reporter in the country.” You also have been called “a pain” and “a white traitor,” and more than once you and your family were threatened by white supremacists. You have an extraordinary eye for detail, a disarming facility with people, and a tenacious commitment to justice—a rare combination that has allowed you to reach back into history to help solve some of the most heinous crimes of an earlier generation. Your unassailable principles, backed by unflagging labor, have brought some of the civil rights era’s most infamous miscreants to justice, exorcising local and national demons in the process and bringing a measure of redemption to Mississippians and to the nation. Your work, like that of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, ennobles the newspaper profession and inspires us all, and Colby is proud to add your name to the list of distinguished journalists who have, in word and deed, upheld the ideals for which we revere Lovejoy.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Jerry W. Mitchell, the degree of Doctor of Laws,honoris causa. The hood and this diploma, which I place in your hand, are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred September 17, 2006