Kenneth G. McCarty

One of Mississippi’s most respected educators, Dr. Kenneth Graham McCarty, Jr., of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, passed away on April 2, 2019, surrounded by his family.

Dr. McCarty was born in Bay St. Louis, Miss. to Kenneth Graham McCarty, Sr., a former superintendent of education and educator for more than 40 years, and Irene Cuevas McCarty, a school teacher. From his early roots to final days, he remained connected to the Gulf Coast, and he knew every back road, creek, and pawn shop between the Kiln and Bay St. Louis.

Like his parents, Dr. McCarty dedicated his life to pursuing and sharing knowledge. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Southern Miss in 1956 and 1958, respectively. He earned his doctorate in history from Duke University in 1970. He was professor emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he taught American and Mississippi history to more than 16,000 students over nearly 50 years. He also served as Editor of the Journal of Mississippi History for 17 years and the President of the Mississippi Historical Society. Throughout his career, he received multiple honors for excellence in teaching and contributions to the field of history and is included in University of Southern Mississippi’s Alumni Hall of Fame. His classroom, however, extended well beyond the university, and you could often find him lecturing for clubs and organizations throughout the community.

While at Duke University, he met his wife and soulmate, Sylvia, and began what would be his proudest accomplishment – his family. The home he made with Sylvia was always an interesting place to be. Dinner conversations often included anecdotes about Mississippi politicians and Duke basketball history. His children knew him as a “man of a million hobbies,” always revolving, from gardening and bee keeping, to fishing and photography. One year, he assembled a 1956 Mustang in their garage, and another he developed a passion for painting. Ever the scholar, Dr. McCarty was also a voracious reader, known to latch on to topics and dive in, often reading multiple books on one subject at a time. His wife jokes that when he became obsessed with the Civil War, for months she only caught glimpses of his kind face, which was otherwise constantly hidden behind book jackets. But it was this constant quest for knowledge, coupled with his kind and gentle spirit that helped him discover so many interesting and strong connections with family, friends, and strangers. 

Dr. McCarty also served in the Army and National Guard, earning the rank of Captain.

Dr. McCarty is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sylvia; three children Melinda (John) Gratwick of Hattiesburg, Miss., Morgan (Angela) McCarty of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Jeanne (Jason Hewitt) McCarty of Washington, DC.; his brother-in-law, Kenneth George Koch of Hattiesburg, Miss. and Bill (Marcie) Morgan of Tupelo, Miss. He was also the proud grandfather of eight: Jack, Mary Morgan and Maggie Gratwick; Kent, Kirk (Erica), Graham and Callie Anne McCarty; and Will Hewitt; and nieces and nephews he loved.

He is preceded in death by his parents Kenneth McCarty, Sr. and Irene Cuevas McCarty and his sister, Marinel Koch.

Memorials may be made to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation and mailed to 118 College Drive #5210, Hattiesburg, Mississippi 39406, designated to the Dr. Kenneth G. McCarty, Jr. Endowed Scholarship in History. The scholarship supports students who want to teach history at the secondary level in Mississippi. Please note that the gift is made in memory of Kenneth G. McCarty in the memo line of your check. Memorials may also be made to University Baptist Church, where he was a member.

Dr. McCarty would often say, “Leave the world better than you found it, but remember, you can’t do it all. Make sure you leave something for others to do.” And, that’s what he did.


Services for Dr. McCarty will be held Saturday, April 6 at 12 pm at University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., located at 3200 West Arlington Loop. Visitation will start at 10 a.m.
Interment will follow the service at Highland Cemetery.
Arrangements are being handled by Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home.