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Meredith Honored by Ole Miss During 60th Anniversary of Integration Event

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


James Meredith speaks at The Mission Continues: Building Upon the Legacy event Wednesday. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Sixty years ago, James Meredith became the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi.

On Wednesday, the university celebrated the school’s integration anniversary at the Gertrude Ford Center with the “The Mission Continues: Building Upon the Legacy” event.

Meredith, 89, was the guest of much honor. While he thanked the school for the celebration, calling it one of the “best days he’s ever lived,” he knows more work needs to be done.

“Celebration is good,” he said. “But I don’t think there is anyone in this house, anyone in the state of Mississippi that thinks the problem has been solved. Actually, there is more wrong today than there was 60 years ago.”

UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce and Shawnboda Mead, 60th-anniversary planning committee chair and Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement present James Meredith with the Mississippi Humanitarian Award. Photo by Kevin Bain/The University of Mississippi Marketing Communications

The two-hour event started off with the screening of “Who is James Meredith,” an 8-minute excerpt from a documentary created by Meredith’s wife, Judy. University Chancellor Glenn Boyce welcomed Meredith and several members of his family.

Don Cole, retired assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics, introduced Meredith. The Keynote Address was given by Ethel Scurlock, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Tonight we commemorate what Meredith himself describes as a Messianic Mission,” Scurlock said. “Meredith’s fight was much more complex than anything we can capture on a bronze statue with the words courage, knowledge, opportunity and perseverance. James Meredith’s walk was much more tumultuous than anything signaled when we see footage of him strolling across this campus with guards … He is more than what is captured in the black and white photographs.”

Meredith applied for admission to the University in January 1961. After almost a year of battling several measures to prevent his admission, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 10, 1962, that Meredith was to be admitted to the university.

On September 30, 1962, a riot broke out on campus ending in the death of two bystanders, with 206 U.S. Marshals and soldiers wounded and 200 individuals arrested.

Meredith registered for his classes on Oct. 1, 1962. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in August 1963 and earned his Bachelor of Law degree in 1968 from Columbia Law School.

Meredith was given several awards and gifts from various campus organizations and the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Director Ronald Davis deputized Meredith as an honorary Marshal. Oxford Aldermen Kesha Howell-Atkinson presented Meredith with a copy of a resolution from the Oxford Board of Aldermen proclaiming Oct. 1 as James Meredith Day. Black Faculty and Staff Organization and Black Student Union representatives Muhammed Bashi Salau and Dee Harris presented Meredith with plaques and Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts announced a new James Meredith Change Maker Award that will be given out annually to a student who invokes change.

Before closing, Boyce presented Meredith with the school’s distinguished Mississippi Humanitarian Award.

“The university has only bestowed this award four times in the last two decades,” Boyce said. “One thing is clear, James Meredith’s legacy will continue to shape our university, the state of Mississippi and this county forever.”

Watch the entire “The Mission Continues: Building Upon the Legacy” event here.

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