Delta State University
Delta State University Seal.svg
TypePublic university
Academic affiliations
Endowment$32.9 million [1]
PresidentWilliam N. LaForge
Academic staff
Students2,727(Fall 2021)[2]
Location, ,
United States

33°44′31″N 90°43′36″W / 33.742027°N 90.726548°W / 33.742027; -90.726548Coordinates: 33°44′31″N 90°43′36″W / 33.742027°N 90.726548°W / 33.742027; -90.726548
CampusRural, 332 acres (1.34 km2)
Colors    Green & white
NicknameStatesmen & Lady Statesmen
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IIGulf South
Delta State University wordmark.svg

Delta State University (DSU) is a public university in Cleveland, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta.


The school was established in 1924 by the State of Mississippi, using the facilities of the former Bolivar County Agricultural High School, which consisted of three buildings in Cleveland. On February 19, 1924, Senators William B. Roberts and Arthur Marshall cosponsored Senate Bill No. 263, which established Delta State Teachers College, which Mississippi Governor Henry L. Whitfield signed on April 9, 1924;[3] the bill had been sponsored in the Mississippi House of Representatives by Nellie Nugent Somerville, the first woman to serve in the Mississippi state legislature.[4] The three buildings were Hill Hall, an administration and classroom building, Hardee Hall, a men's dormitory, and Taylor Hall, a women's dormitory.

On February 14, 1924, James Wesley Broom was appointed president of the college, and the college opened its doors on September 15, 1925. In May 1926, Broom died following complications from an ear infection. William Zeigel was named his successor. The seal of the college was designed in 1928 as a project of an art class.[5]

World War II greatly affected the college. Anticipating the war in 1941, the college created a civilian pilot training program. When the war began, 254 Delta State students joined the armed forces. When the war ended, student enrollment at Delta State increased from 185 to 483, aided by the federal program for veterans known as the GI Bill to encourage education.[6]

During the 1947 session of the Delta Council, Dean Acheson (Under-Secretary of State in Truman's administration) delivered a speech on campus that unveiled the Marshall Plan. He detailed plans for postwar relief and investment in Europe to help the nations recover from destruction.[6]

In 1955, the name Delta State Teachers College was changed to Delta State College. Delta State earned full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1963. It developed graduate programs, which it opened for admission in 1965. Given graduate program and research development, in 1974 the state legislature authorized the college to be named as the current Delta State University.[7]

In 1965, Delta State initiated a graduate program (Master of Education in Elementary Education, Elementary Supervision, Guidance, English, History, Math, Music, Social Studies, Business Education, Physical Education, and Science).[8]

From 1925 to 1967 the university had a whites-only race admission policy. Thirteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional and three years after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the state and administration ended racial segregation at DSU. Shirley Antoinette Washington was the first African-American student to enroll at DSU that year.[8]

Beginning in the 1980s, the university developed an aviation program, which continues.

In 2005, Delta State assisted evacuees from Hurricane Katrina by opening Hugh White Hall as temporary housing.



Bologna Performing Arts Center
Bologna Performing Arts Center

Delta State University is located on 332 acres (1.34 km2) at 1003 W Sunflower Rd (Highway 8 West), in the northwest area of Cleveland, MS, 38733.[9]

About 30 percent of students reside in on-campus housing.[10] Delta State provides both men's dormitories and women's dormitories, as well as apartments for married students.[11]

Most of the 64 buildings on campus use a particular brick pattern of yellow, orange, and white bricks. Particularly famous facilities at Delta State University are the large natatorium for holding swimming competitions, the Bologna Performing Arts Center (pictured left) with two theaters (one that seats 1,178, and another that seats 135), and the sound recording studios of the Delta Music Institute.


Delta State has two mascots (one official, one unofficial). Since its inception, Delta State's sports teams have officially been known as the Statesmen because of the role State Rep. Walter Sillers, Jr. played in the location of the school in Cleveland. Sillers was speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives for 20 years. The female teams are called the Lady Statesmen.

However, since the late 1980s, the student body has embraced a mascot that depicts a piece of okra wearing boxing gloves and brandishing a fierce expression.[12] The "Fighting Okra" grew out of humor among students about the improbability that anyone would find a "Statesman" particularly frightening. In the mid-1990s, a student vote was taken, resulting in the university taking on "The Fighting Okra" as an unofficial mascot. The "Fighting Okra" was featured in the "Okraphobia" episode of the Food Network show Good Eats.[13]

The popularity of "The Fighting Okra" grew so much that many myths started on how the mascot came to be, the most popular of these stating there was a stubborn okra plant at first base on the baseball field that grew back every time it was cut. The true origin of the fighting okra mascot was a discussion between basketball and baseball players in the "Court of Governors" dormitory. The Statesman mascot was temporarily prohibited from participating in athletic activities after a physical altercation with the Mississippi College's Choctaw mascot at a basketball game. Basketball player Houston Williamson was lamenting the fact that "Fighting Statesmen" was not particularly frightening to their opponents. All present agreed that an alternative mascot would have to be mean and green. After a lively discussion and many suggestions, baseball pitcher Bob Black suggested that okra was green, fuzzy, and tough. The DSU baseball team began using the chant "Okra! Okra! Okra! Okra!" at DSU basketball games.


Delta State provides an undergraduate curriculum, offering 12 baccalaureate degrees in 42 majors. The university also advances student training through certain fields by providing graduate programs of study for eight master's degrees, the Education Specialist degree, and the Doctor of Education degree.


Main article: Delta State Statesmen and Lady Statesmen

The Delta State football team in action against the Texas A&M–Commerce Lions in 2013
The Delta State football team in action against the Texas A&M–Commerce Lions in 2013

The Delta State University Department of Athletics sponsors thirteen intercollegiate sports, competing at the NCAA Division II level. DSU is affiliated with the Gulf South Conference and New South Intercollegiate Swim Conference. The institution competes intercollegiately in men's American football, basketball, baseball, swimming, diving, tennis, soccer, and golf. The women's intercollegiate program consists of basketball, tennis, fast-pitch softball, cross-country, swimming, soccer, cheerleading, and diving.[18]

One of Delta State's most notable sports coaches was (Lily) Margaret Wade (1912–1995). Wade played on the basketball team for Delta State, but the school dropped the sport when she was 19. The school claimed the sport was "too strenuous for young ladies". Wade responded, "We cried and burned our uniforms but there was nothing else we could do." Basketball was revived in 1973, and Wade was asked to coach the team.[19] She coached the women's basketball team to three consecutive AIAW national championships and a 93–4 record, including a 51-game winning streak, at the time, the longest winning streak in women's college basketball.[20][21] One star of these championship teams was Luisa (Lucy) Harris, who was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in 1977.[22] Wade was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985. Today, the Division I women's basketball player of the year receives the Margaret Wade Trophy.

Lloyd Clark, a native of Drew, took over the women's basketball program in 1983. Over the next 19 years he compiled a staggering 494–98 record. In addition, Clark's teams won three NCAA Women's Division II Basketball Championships. During those years, DSU played in the NCAA tournament 16 times, with 11 appearances in the Elite Eight. Clark's 1988–89 team became the first NCAA team to win a National Championship on its home floor. During his career, Clark compiled a record of 206–38 (.845) in Gulf South Conference Games. Lloyd Clark is a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame along with other DSU heroes Margaret Wade, Lusia Harris-Stewart, and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dave "Boo" Ferriss.

Ferriss coached the baseball program for nearly thirty years and led them to three appearances in the NCAA Division II College World Series before retiring in 1988. Boo was born in Shaw, Mississippi. San Francisco Giants catcher Eli Whiteside played baseball for the university, as did Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brent Leach. Matt Miller of the Cleveland Indians also played for the Statesmen.

One notable would-be baseball player and student who was cut during tryouts was writer John Grisham.[23] In 2008, Grisham returned to the campus to join Ferriss in an evening of baseball tales, raising more than $100,000 for the athletic program.

Delta State alumnus Jeremy Richardson was an NBA player.

Delta State won the 2004 NCAA Division II national baseball championship. Coach Mike Kinnison has guided the Statesmen to the 2004 NCAA National title, four College World Series appearances, nine NCAA South Regional appearances (1999–2005, 2007, 2008), 11 GSC West Division titles (1997–2005, 2007, 2008), three NCAA South Regional championships, and four Gulf South Conference titles.

Delta State won the 2000 NCAA Division II national football championship. Delta State's football team won the Gulf South Conference Championship in 1998, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014. They were runner-up in the D-2 National Championship in 2010. They were put out in the 4th round of the playoffs in 2011.

Flight school

Delta State has a fairly large flight school and is also the only university in Mississippi to offer a degree in Commercial Aviation.

Academic buildings


As of April 2015 the DSU fleet of 19 aircraft consists of the following:[24]

DSU Flight Operations has two large hangars located at Cleveland Municipal Airport and the Gibson-Gunn Commercial Aviation building on the Delta State Campus.[24]

Student life

Residence halls and student housing

There are six student residence halls on campus; three house women, two house men and one is co-ed.




All residence halls are suite style rooms with bathrooms shared amongst 4 or 6 people. The rooms vary by size. All rooms have beds, desks, chairs, closets and a chest of drawers. Bathrooms all have toilet, shower/tub (some only have shower stall), sink, mirror and cabinets/storage. All rooms have window binds, security doors, 50+ free cable channels along with Ethernet and Wireless Internet access. Foundation hall, Brumby-Castle and Cleveland hall have carpet, the rest have tiled floors.


Every residence hall resident also has unlimited, free use of commercial laundry facilities.[25][26]

Greek life

Even though Delta State University has relatively few fraternities and sororities on campus, many students participate in Greek life. Originally, Delta State had only local organizations, such as Delta Alpha Omega or the Cavaliers, which existed until the mid-1960s, when their members joined Kappa Alpha Order and Pi Kappa Alpha respectively.[27] However, the first national social fraternity to charter at Delta State was Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, in 1960. Within the decade, several other chapters of national Greek-letter organizations chartered at Delta State. They are governed by two independent councils—the Interfraternity Council, and the Panhellenic Council.

Interfraternity Council

The Interfraternity Council is a university-specific governing body that governs four active fraternity chapters, three of which are nationally members of the North American Interfraternity Conference. The fraternities within the council are as follows:

National Pan-Hellenic Council

The Delta State National Pan-Hellenic Council governs the chapters represented in the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Panhellenic Council

The Delta State Panhellenic Council is a governing body that governs three sorority chapters.

Professional fraternities and honor societies

Notable graduates


  1. ^[bare URL]
  3. ^ Gunn & Castle (1980), p. 11
  4. ^ "Women Wielding Power-Mississippi". Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  5. ^ Gunn & Castle (1980), p. 40
  6. ^ a b "Timeline 2". Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  7. ^ "Timeline 3". Archived from the original on 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  8. ^ a b "Timeline 2 – Delta State University". Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2015-06-28.
  9. ^ See location on Google Maps
  10. ^ Peterson's entry, under the Student Snapshot tab[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "About DSU – Delta State University". Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  12. ^ "Columns: In nickname realm, Fighting Okra snappiest". Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  13. ^ "Delta State's Okra mascot to appear on Food Network's Good Eats"
  14. ^ "College of Arts and Sciences – Delta State University". Archived from the original on 2013-06-27. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  15. ^ "College of Business – Delta State University". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  16. ^ "College of Education and Human Sciences – Delta State University". Archived from the original on 2013-07-26. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  17. ^ "School of Nursing – Delta State University". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  18. ^ Athletics Archived 2005-11-24 at the Wayback Machine on DSU website
  19. ^ Hult & Trekell (1991), p. 405
  20. ^ "Official Website of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – Hall of Famers". Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  21. ^ "Pre-NCAA Statistical Leaders and AIAW Results" (PDF). NCAA. Retrieved 31 Oct 2012.
  22. ^ "N.B.A. Drafts Woman and Jenner New York Times". The New York Times. 11 June 1977. Retrieved 2022-01-23.
  23. ^ Delte State University
  24. ^ a b "Aviation Facilities". Delta State University, College of Business. Retrieved 2015-04-12.
  25. ^ "[1] Archived 2012-06-19 at the Wayback Machine." Delta State University. Retrieved on July 24, 2012.
  26. ^ "[2] Archived 2012-06-19 at the Wayback Machine." Delta State University. Retrieved on July 24, 2012.
  27. ^ The Broom
  28. ^ "Leadership Change at Tuskegee University". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. June 2, 2017. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  29. ^ Giardina, AJ. "D'Iberville's Chase Sherman ready for his first UFC fight in Salt Lake City next month". Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  30. ^ "Chase Sherman - UFC". 14 September 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2018.

Further reading

  • Gunn, Jack Winton; Castle, Gladys (1980). A Pictorial History of Delta State University. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.
  • Hult, Joan S.; Trekell, Marianna (1991). A Century of Women's Basketball: from Frailty to Final Four. Reston, VA: National Association for Girls and Women in Sport. ISBN 9780883144909.