Congressman Gregg Harper announced he would gift Mississippi State University with his congressional papers documenting everything he has done over his last decade of service on Nov. 30, 2017. Harper donated his papers at a formal ceremony Oct. 5 held in Old Main’s Turner A. Wingo Auditorium. His papers will be housed in the congressional and political research center in Mitchell Memorial Library.
"Students, faculty, scholars and researchers will be able to go through this voluminous material for better insight to a very pivotal time in our nation’s history," MSU President Mark Keenum said. "These documents will be among a very distinguished collection of our political papers–the late John C. Stennis, the late G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery and others. It is a very impressive collection that we take great pride in here at our university."
Harper was elected to serve Mississippi’s third congressional district for the House of Representatives in 2008. Harper served in Congress for 10 years as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress and as a chairman of the Committee on House Administration.
"The connection between the two of us is: I was selected by the IHL Board of Trustees to be the 19th president the very day after the national election in 2008," Keenum said. "Like Congressman Harper, I, too, took on my responsibility here the first week of January 2009. We began our life together in this public service road that we are now performing together, and we have been working very closely together for the past decade on critical issues that are important to this university and also to the state of Mississippi."
Harper feels MSU is where his papers should be because the university has played such an influential role in his and his family’s lives.
"I don’t know how to say enough about what Mississippi State has meant to our family," Harper said. "We knew long ago that we were going to donate our papers to Mississippi State University. We just made Dean (of Libraries) Frances Coleman work for it for a little while, and I will say she was consistent and persistent. I don’t think I ever saw her where she didn’t say, ‘We really want your papers.’"
Alongside Harper at the ceremony were his wife, Sidney Harper, and his children, Maggie Harper Bailey and Livingston Harper. Both Bailey and Livingston are MSU graduates.
Livingston, born with Fragile X Syndrome, graduated from MSU’s ACCESS program, which is Mississippi’s only federally-approved Comprehensive Transition Post-Secondary program for students with intellectual disabilities. The Harper family fully supports all families who have children with disabilities.
"If I had to say what is the number one reason that Mississippi State University stole our heart, it would be the creation of the ACCESS program," Harper said. "It began with one student, Katherine; she was the very first student in the program. The first two graduates were Katherine and Livingston. They began with one student not too many years ago. Now, they have 22 students this year."
Harper expressed his pride in the ACCESS students and is currently working on figuring out a way to get them to Capitol Hill for an experience of a lifetime.
The program’s keynote speaker was Harper’s colleague, Congressman Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy serves California and is currently the Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. McCarthy said he was saddened to hear about the retirement of Harper. The two have worked together over the last decade on Capitol Hill.
"During those 10 years, I have got to know him as a friend and a colleague," McCarthy said. "When I watched this man, I watched an unbelievable statesman."
According to McCarthy, Harper was a leader, an advocate for the vulnerable and a Christian gentleman.
Anyone interested in delving into the last decade of service from Harper can now access his papers at the Mitchell Memorial Library’s Congressional and Political Research Center.