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The U.S. Marshals and the Integration of the University of Mississippi:  Trouble Brewing

The president ordered the deputies to escort Meredith onto campus September 30th in preparation for his registration the next morning in the Lyceum, the central administration building. It was inside the Lyceum that Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, the senior federal official present, held fort. He manned a bank of telephones in a makeshift newsroom, staying in contact with the president and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

As dusk fell on the 30th, angry students gathered outside the building. Their numbers quickly grew. The contingent of deputy marshals spaced  themselves on the sidewalk outside of the building and held guard. They stood at 15-foot intervals, facing the street, and later closed ranks when other federal officers arrived. The deputies concealed loaded side arms under their suit coats, but they were ordered not to use them. About every third man had a teargas launcher with blast dispersion ammunition rather than projectile ammunition. They were outfitted in makeshift military gear. Gas masks and vests, riot batons and old helmets newly painted white with U S MARSHAL stenciled across the front were the order of the day.

Tensions mounted, battle lines were drawn and sides were chosen.  And the crowd grew loud and agitated with each passing minute. The verbal insults and threats stung.  “Most of the harassing, jeering language was so foul I refuse to reiterate it,” said retired Southern California Deputy Bud Staple, one of the 127 who stood tall for the agency that night and held their
ground.

Officers from the Mississippi Highway Patrol were aligned on the opposite side of the street from the deputies. However, they were given conflicting orders by their superiors and they did not quell the impending storm of hatred that was brewing.

The student protesters formed into angry mobs, but they tailed off as the evening wore on. However, taking up ranks alongside of them — and even replacing them — were rioters and assorted troublemakers from as far away as California.  “We were successful early on, but as the night wore on, there were fewer and fewer students and more and more people from other places,” said Duncan Gray, an Episcopal bishop who confronted the mobs with calls for peace only to be beaten for his efforts by reactionary hoodlums.

U.S. Marshals arriving in Oxford, Mississippi

Deputy Marshals arrive at Oxford Airport, 3:00 p.m. September 30, 1962

Continued:  Page One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight

Read about the past | Trouble Brewing | Holding Firm | Continued Protection | Robert Kennedy's Statement
The Present: 40 Years Later | The 40th Year Commemoration | Message from Director Benigno Reyna

 
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