December 18, 2018  

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Wil Haygood, Author of “The Butler,” to Present at Armstrong-Branch Lecture Feb. 27

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Wil Haygood

The movie inspired by his book brought an American president to tears.

Wil Haygood, journalist and author of “The Butler: A Witness to History,” a New York Times bestseller and basis for the award-winning movie of the same title, will discuss how he brought to light the story of a relatively unknown White House butler and more when he takes his turn as speaker for The University of Southern Mississippi’s Armstrong-Branch Distinguished Lecture Series at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus. Admission is free and the public is invited. 

The lecture series is named for Gwendolyn Armstrong-Chamberlain and Raylawni Adams Branch, who made history as the first African American students at Southern Miss when they enrolled in 1965.

Haygood, also author of the acclaimed 2015 biography on the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, “Showdown,” located longtime White House butler Eugene Allen and wrote the story of his service to eight American presidents over three decades. The 2013 movie, loosely based on the book, features seven Academy Award winners, including Forest Whitaker, who plays White House butler Cecil Gaines, along with Oscar winners Jane Fonda; Oprah Winfrey; Cuba Gooding Jr.; Vanessa Redgrave; and Robin Williams. Haygood served as an associate producer for the movie.

According to Haygood, after seeing “The Butler,” President Barack Obama praised the film and commented publicly that it “made me cry.”

“We are indeed fortunate to have a person of Mr. Haygood’s caliber, one of the most internationally recognized and prolific authors to visit our city and university, as our guest speaker for the Armstrong-Branch Lecture,” said USM Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway, whose office coordinates the event. “I hope everyone will take advantage of the opportunity to come hear from one of the most important writers of our time.”

The 2018 Armstrong-Branch Lecture is held in conjunction with the university’s Black History Month schedule of events and its popular University Forum series, and will be presented by the USM Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, the Honors College, and Dean of Students Office. For more information about this event, contact the Dean of Students Office at