Three years after becoming a victim of the “cancel culture,” Ed Meek is getting better publicity these days.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo featured a picture of Ed and his wife Becky on its front page earlier this month.
It was above an article reporting that “the Meeks received the 2021 McLean Award for Philanthropy, which is given annually to individuals, families and organizations that give back to their communities through charitable leadership.”
The article went on to detail some of the Meek couple’s contributions, including providing dozens of scholarships to students in their hometown of Charleston, significant financial support to Ole Miss, Blue Mountain College and Mississippi College, as well as numerous other causes. Ed also was responsible for founding the Tupelo Furniture Market, it was pointed out.
What the article didn’t revisit, was what led to one of the couple’s major contributions to the CREATE Foundation, a community development organization whose assets include ownership of the Tupelo newspaper.
That was a transfer of more than $6 million from the University of Mississippi.
From 2009 to 2018, the School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss was named for the Meeks in honor of their gift of $5.3 million.
Ed is an Ole Miss journalism graduate who grew up poor, worked his way through school and then led Ole Miss public relations for 37 years.
He also was a business entrepreneur who made a lot of money.
But in the fall of 2018 Ed, an Oxford resident, posted a picture on Facebook that included two Black females partying, along with numerous others, on the Square in Oxford after a football game.
The picture of the two women was used to imply they exemplified problems that threatened the well-being of Oxford, including rising crime.
Turned out they were Ole Miss students, and an uproar ensued with Meek being labeled by many as a racist.
Within hours after the backlash ensued, then Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter condemned the post. Others piled on, including some in the Journalism School.
There were demands that the Meek name be removed from the Journalism School. Eventually Meek himself asked that his name be removed.
Meek denied that he is a racist, and many who have known him over the years recognize he isn’t. That includes some former Black students he has helped along the way.
Believing he was treated unfairly by university leaders in the backlash over the post, Meek asked that the $5.3 million he and Becky gave the school, along with more than a million in interest, be transferred to CREATE.
CREATE is a fine organization which does many good things in North Mississippi. It was founded by the late George and Anna McLean who owned the Tupelo newspaper and left it to the community.
So, the $6.4 million gift from the Meeks will do a lot of good.
But Ole Miss has more than $6 million less in its endowment fund than it would have had if Meek’s post and the backlash had not occurred.
Merriam-Webster defines cancel culture as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.”
You see a lot of it in this era of social media.
Public figures, living and dead, who have histories of good deeds or exceptional records in politics or other vocations can become vilified by a single indiscretion or a slip of the tongue.
A mutual friend observed to me that Ed Meek got caught up in the "cancel culture."
It's good to see him and Becky appreciated in Tupelo.
Charlie Dunagin is editor and publisher emeritus of the McComb Enterprise-Journal. He lives in Oxford.