This bust honors Stephen Dill Lee, who became the first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi in 1880. Lee is most famous as a regular army officer who joined his state in secession and delivered P.G.T. Beauregard's ultimatum to the Union commander of Fort Sumter. When the Union garrison refused to abandon their post, as Beauregard had demanded, the Confederacy fired upon the fort, effectively starting the Civil War. Lee served as a Lieutenant General throughout the war and became a planter in Columbus Mississippi during Reconstruction. Despite spending most of his life as a soldier, his political connections led to his appointment as the president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi, which was authorized by the state legislature in 1878 and began its first semester with Lee at the helm in 1880.
Although Lee had no experience managing an institution of higher education, his graduation from West Point and his support of studying agriculture, as well as his political connections, led to his appointment of the new agricultural college. Stephen Dill Lee served as the college's president until 1889. After that time, he devoted most of his time to leading the largest fraternal order of Confederate veterans.