Top Stories of the Decade

Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 2, 2020

Another decade has come and gone. While the LOU Community enters 2020, the EAGLE decided to take a look back at some of the top stories of the 2010s.

Obama Election Riots

In 2012, Barack Obama won re-election by defeating Mitt Romney, and a group of students at the University of Mississippi voiced their unhappiness with the outcome on election night.

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What started out as a small group turned into around 300 to 400 students protesting around the Ole Miss campus. Videos of the protests hit social media and became national news on the heels of the University honoring the 50th anniversary of James Meredith enrolling as the school’s first African-American student.

In response to the events on election night, the Oxford and University communities gathered to hold a candlelight vigil that started at the Ole Miss student union and ended at the steps of the Lyceum.

“Love is stronger than hate,” said then-chancellor Dan Jones at the vigil.

James Meredith Statue Defaced

Ole Miss was once again put in the national spotlight for the wrong reason just 15 months later, when a couple students hung a noose around the statue of James Meredith.

The incident occurred one night in February 2014, when officers with the University Police Department found a noose and a pre-2003 Georgia state flag, which featured a Confederate battle flag symbol, around the neck of the statue.

“These individuals chose our University’s most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values,” then-chancellor Dan Jones said in a statement. “Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue — courage, knowledge, opportunity and perseverance.”

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved in the incident and the University’s Alumni Association offered a $25,000 reward to help find the students, who were captured on surveillance video near the area, responsible.

Austin Reed Edenfield, of Kennesaw, Ga., eventually pleaded guilty to the federal civil-rights crime in March of 2016. Edenfield acknowledged that he and another student, Graeme Phillip Harris of Alpharetta, Ga., had tied the noose and placed the flag.

Harris plead guilty to the same charge in June 2015, and was sentenced to six months in prison followed by a year of supervised release. Edenfield was sentenced to five months probation and 50 hours of community service in July of 2016.

Sheriff F.D. “Buddy” East Dies

Lafayette County lost one of its longest-serving elected officials in September 2018.

F.D. “Buddy” East passed away after suffering a brief illness, ending a 46-year tenure as sheriff of Lafayette County. East was elected in 1972 and became Mississippi’s longest-tenured sheriff, and one of the longest-tenured in the nation, prior to his passing.

During his long tenure as sheriff, East established many programs in Lafayette County, including implementing a 10-man SWAT team and Project Lifesaver, which applies tracking technology for searching and rescuing those with cognitive disorders.

In 2019, the City of Oxford honored East by naming County Road 406 and a newly developed road north of Highway 6 as F.D. “Buddy” East Parkway.

Historic Mayor

Oxford saw a historic moment in June 2017, when Robyn Tannehill was officially sworn in as the city’s mayor.

Tannehill became the first female mayor of Oxford elected on the Democrat ticket, and second female mayor in the City’s 180-year history.

Spending four years as the City’s Ward 2 alderman, Tannehill initially did not want to consider, let alone run, for the office of mayor. Finally, she put her name in what became a one-woman race.

Expecting a tough campaign during the summer months, Tannehill instead had to shift from handing out signs and fliers to learning the ropes of running a city. She was the only candidate to qualify by the early March deadline.

Cold Beer Sales

While Oxford residents have enjoyed the option to purchase cold beer at their favorite grocer or convenient stores in recent years, that luxury wasn’t an option prior to this decade.

In August 2013, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved to remove a clause in the city’s ordinance governing alcohol sales, which made it illegal for any store to sell refrigerated beer and light wine, such as wine coolers.

The motion passed with a 6-to-1 vote in favor, allowing stores to begin selling cold beer to their customers.

NCAA Investigation, Hugh Freeze resigns

Much of the decade for the Ole Miss football program was highlighted by the nearly six-year investigation by the NCAA.

In May 2016, the University announced the NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations (NOA) that stemmed from four years of investigations and interviews of over 250 people. The football program was hit with allegations of impermissible benefits to accusations of a lack of institutional control.

The fallout was felt for years, with the appeals process dragging out until November 2018, when the case finally concluded. Ole Miss vacated 33 wins from six seasons, ranging from 2013 to 2016.

During the same period of fighting the NCAA over the allegations, Hugh Freeze resigned as the football program’s head coach in the summer of 2017. Freeze’s resignation stemmed from an investigation into cell phone records that resulted in a “troubling pattern of personal conduct,” according to then-Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork.

Matt Luke was named interim head coach and eventually named the permanent coach after the 2017 season.

State Championships

The 2010s were very kind to both Oxford and Lafayette High Schools on the athletic fields. The schools garnered several state championships throughout the decade.

In 2010 and 2011, Lafayette won back-to-back Class 4A football state championships and also won the 2016 title their final year in Class 4A. The Oxford Chargers also claimed their first state championship in 2019, defeating Oak Grove to win the Class 6A crown.

The 2016-17 school year was dominated by Oxford and Lafayette, combining for 11 state championships. Along with the football state title, the Lady Commodores basketball team ended a 35-year drought with their Class 4A state championship. Oxford’s nine state championships included state titles from both the boys and girls soccer teams.

In 2015 and 2016, the Oxford High School baseball team was the king of Class 5A, with their back-to-back state titles.

In 2018, Water Valley ended a 28-year drought with their first state championship in football since 1990. The Blue Devils capped a magical year, defeating Seminary in Hattiesburg to claim the Class 3A title.

The Search for Lamby

In 2017, the search for a child’s missing stuffed animal became a city-wide hunt that caught the hearts of the nation.

One day, a child’s father contacted the Oxford Police Department regarding the disappearance of “Lamby,” the child’s stuffed lamb.

OPD put out an alert on their social media accounts and it “exploded,” according to then-Major Jeff McCutchen. Area businesses began offering rewards if anyone could find the missing “Lamby,” which was last seen at the Oxford Kroger.

Eventually, “Lamby” was found and safely returned to the child.