Delta State conferred on Freeman the degree Doctor of Arts and Letters in front of a capacity crowd Saturday at Walter Sillers Coliseum.
"Mr. Freeman's commitment to the Delta has been steadfast and solid. He has never forgotten his roots and we appreciate him for that," Delta State President John M. Hilpert said.
Freeman, amid countless camera flashes and an extended standing ovation, accepted his large framed degree, smiled and acknowledged, "I had two pages of remarks written, but for the sake of being shorter, I will simply express my appreciation, my gratitude and say, 'Thank you.' "
Later at a reception, the Academy Award winner acknowledged Leola Gregory Williams, an elementary teacher in his native Greenwood.
"She was a magician, a true magician," he said.
He said Williams inspired him and challenged him "to make something of my life, to do good."
Williams later became the first black instructor in English at Delta State. The university awards The Leola Gregory Williams Award annually to students who have written outstanding papers in general education classes.