Marty Wiseman (left) with his father Robert.
My father was typical as a member of the “Greatest Generation”. A 1941 Mississippi State graduate, he believed, as so many of that era did, that one was loyal to a fault to those things of importance. In addition to God, family and country his beloved Mississippi State University must be added to that group.
When it came to rearing me, his and my mother’s only child, he often cited Proverbs 22:6 which states, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it,” as a sufficient directive not only to infuse me with moral qualities but to also serve as proof that anything other than a desire to attend Mississippi State on my part would be tantamount to sin of the Old Testament variety. Hence, as a young child, I spent many a Saturday riding the 60 miles up Highway 12 from Kosciusko to the Mississippi State campus.
I learned early on where the best eating spots on campus could be found and I usually made a beeline to the old “DP” where one could acquire a near quart-sized chocolate milkshake for a mere quarter. Each fall, however, during the 1950s and 1960s there was one day when an altered set of priorities was enforced by my father. This was homecoming and before I was allowed to romp freely on the State campus I was required to stand in a long line winding through the old alumni house to shake hands with Mississippi State’s most adored alumnus, Sen. John C. Stennis. At such an early age I didn’t know exactly why this mere human was so important but I had heard enough to place him into a category of deity. Indeed, each time I stood before him the senator seemed to be 10 feet tall.
My father had returned from Europe following World War II and put his animal husbandry degree to use with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service. Thus, he became one of the many Extension employees who in 1947 were called upon to be the “boots on the ground” in the campaign to help elect former Mississippi State cheerleader John Stennis to the United States Senate to succeed the late Theodore Bilbo. Senator Stennis emerged from a pack of better known contestants to win that race and to all Mississippi State folks everywhere he became “our senator” and as such rarely ever missed an opportunity to as he often said, “walk the hallowed grounds of his alma mater”.
Following four degrees from Mississippi State University, a time of work with the Mississippi State Extension Service, appointment as a faculty member in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, I was appointed director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government. For the next two decades it was never just a job but rather a sacred trust – a trust given me to do all in my power to do my best to honor the name of Sen. John C. Stennis as his career brought honor to all with whom he shared his alma mater.
W. Martin “Marty” Wiseman is an emeritus professor in Mississippi State’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. He spent more than 30 years with the university’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government, including 22 years as its director until his retirement in 2014. He also spent nearly 20 years in the classroom, teaching a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level courses. The son of Robert Wiseman of Kosciusko, he holds a bachelor’s in political science (’73), master’s degrees in political science (’74) and public administration (’80) and a doctoral degree in sociology (’86).