Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Battle of Oxford

In the fall of 1962 the college town of Oxford, Mississippi, erupted in violence. At the center of the controversy stood James Meredith, an African American who was attempting to register at the all-white University of Mississippi - "Ole Miss." During the ensuing riots and skirmishes, two people died and dozens were injured.

The Mississippi National Guard stood with Federal Marshals and the eventual intervention of US Army troops that came to the campus. NG units from Tupelo, Baldwyn, Booneville and other cities were either activated or on standby.

Some "veterans" of the so-called Battle of Oxford have expressed a desire to open a dialogue with others that were there.If you would like to share your experiences and stories of your time during that period, leave any comments here or use the email group address to contact Bobby Hamblin.


  1. Not vet but bystander, who had no idea what he was getting into. Left Miss. State Sunday night to go over there with some more geniuses because we heard there was excitement in Oxford. Immediately after getting out of the car, we heard people talking about killing the blankety blanks. Heard numerous speeches early on, especially some lunatic from Florida who was firing up the rioters by raving on and on about mongrelization of the races being the inevitable result of what the Feds were doing; said he was working for General Edwin Walker, which may have been true. Saw guard troops in jeeps come rolling in and a rioter throw a 2 X 4 at a moving jeep which hit another rioter on the other side of the jeep flush in the face - wonder how he looks today. Finally some time after midnight, the elite appearing regular Army troops came marching down shoulder to shoulder with bayonets, effectively stopping the riots, at least temporarily. Not a place to be an observer; felt fortunate. Don't see how there weren't more injuries and deaths.

  2. Only one comment at this time:
    My momma came and got me and took me home!

  3. After his time at the University of Mississippi, Meredith continued his education at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria (1964-65) and at Columbia University (1966-68). Meredith ceased being a civil rights activist in the late 1960s and found employment as a stockbroker.

    Meredith joined the Republican Party and made several attempts to be elected to Congress. He became increasingly conservative and in 1988 accused liberal whites as being "the greatest enemy" of African Americans. He also opposed economic sanctions against South Africa and making the birthday of Martin Luther King a national holiday.

  4. He made several attempts to get elected to Congress. He ran as a Republican. He endorsed former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke to become governor of Louisiana in 1991.
    On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his desegregation of Ole Miss, at the age of 69, Meredith owned and ran a small used car lot in Jackson, Mississippi.
    All that bloodshed to educate a used car salesman?

  5. Meredith was a distraction of huge proportions. We got almost 4 months behind in our studies. At one point we averaged about 3-5 classes a week. Studying was almost impossibel. No quiet time at all.
    Distasteful. There should have been a refund of sorts to the students who suffered time loss of academics.

  6. Thanks to Carl and whomever found the Ole Miss videos of the Meredith days. I have looked for a CSpan video of the writer of American Insurrection. I looked on CSpan but no luck; will keep looking.

  7. I had just started graduate school at Ole Miss that semester, so I was not very pleased, three weeks into the semester, to find myself a soldier instead of a student. On Sunday morning, Sept. 30, I opened my apartment door, picked up my copy of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and read the hadline stating that Pres. Kennedy had federalized the Miss. National Guard. A couple of hours later I got the call from my Baldwyn unit to report for duty. All that afternoon, at the Baldwyn armory, we engaged in riot-control training (given the small amount of such training we had, I thought we did a darned good job at Oxford), but then we were told things had settled down at Ole Miss, so we were released to go home but told to stay tuned to the radio in case we were called back to the armory. I actually started driving back to Oxford to check on my wife Kaye, but about the time I reached New Albany I heard on the radio that General Walker had climbed up on the Confederate monument in the Grove and made the speech that incited the riot. So we were ordered back to the armory, and by 11 p.m. the Baldwyn unit was among the Mississippi guardsmen restoring peace to the Ole Miss campus. The YouTube videos pretty much tell the rest of the story. I've never been a fan of James Meredith (even less now than then), but I felt even then that he did have the right to attend his state university, and I've always blamed Ross Barnett more than Meredith for the tragic events that occurred.