By Carson McKinney
Friends, colleagues and family members gathered together July 10 at Paris-Yates Chapel on the University of Mississippi’s campus to honor the life of longtime community member and advocate David Sansing. Throughout the hour-long service, Sansing’s predecessors celebrated his life, humor and passion for Mississippi history.
Representing one of Sansing’s colleagues at Ole Miss was Charles Reagan Wilson, Professor Emeritus of History and Southern Studies. He recalled first meeting Sansing in 1981 on his way to a job interview at Ole Miss.
“He picked me up at the Memphis airport and drove me down through Sardis, sharing his knowledge of Mississippi and its history,” Wilson said. “He was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever known. I remember being entertained and educated in the car, thinking ‘this must be an interesting place with him here.’”
Wilson’s speech was followed by scripture readings from Sansing’s grandchildren, Michael McLarty, Cherish Sansing and Mary Love McLarty and a rendition of “How Great Thou Art” from singer Guy Hovis.
Representing one of Sansing’s former students was Executive Producer of Mississippi Public Broadcasting Ronnie Agnew, who said he looked to Sansing as a friend, a dad and a mentor.
“What a passion he had for history – Mississippi history,” Agnew said. “I believe this: history will show that Dr. Sansing was without peer in telling Mississippi’s very complicated story. He made everybody look forward to going to his class.”
After more scripture readings from grandchildren Kimberly Sansing Molteni and Elizabeth Sansing Eaves, “family friend and tailgater” Reed Hogan II M.D., shared his memories of Sansing, ending with his hope and vision of him entering heaven to share stories of Mississippi from his “Red-Blue tent.”
“He’s going to welcome his mama, his daddy, his siblings that passed before him, his students that he outlived and his friends,” Hogan said. “He’ll set up shop, and he’ll tell them about how nice the South is.”
The first of Sansing’s sons to speak, UM Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Governmental Affairs Perry Sansing, says his father’s ability to relate Mississippi history was exemplified by his first lecture of each semester: asking his students what their hometowns were and telling them how that town was a part of Mississippi history.
“Some people think history is boring, just a bunch of dates and stuff that you memorize,” Sansing said. “He really thought history could be told through stories and you could tell history as a storyteller.”
Sansing’s eldest son, David Sansing Jr, spoke next on behalf of the family about his father’s impact on them.
“He supported and he encouraged the career and life decisions of his family,” said Sansing Jr. “He had unconditional love for his family. ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.’ To us, he was more than a history teacher; he was our grandfather and he was our dad.”