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U.S. Marshals Service

History

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

"[The deputy marshals] fought with their backs to the wall. One official compared it to the Alamo.”
— author William Doyle

Chief Marshal McShane escoting James Meredith to register at Ol Miss

Things did indeed calm down after that massive show of military strength. And the campus retreated back to a measure of quiet the morning of Oct. 1.Right: Chief Marshal James McShane escorting James Meredith to his first class, October 1, 1962.

Justice was served when the crowds and rioters dissipated and Meredith successfully registered for his classes under the deputies’ watchful eyes.

But such uprisings as the Ole Miss riots seldom come without victims. It had been a nasty night of fighting and resentment, and trails of blood and a ground layer of thick, powdery teargas residue lingered that following day.

In the end, there were two people dead and 166 wounded. And for its part, America’s Star felt the splatter of blood from many an injury.

“Seventy-nine of the 127 Marshals Service personnel were wounded,” Turk said, “and some very seriously.”  Visitors to the University of Mississippi campus can still see bullet marks on the Lyceum’s columns to this day — a testament to the bravery and the professionalism of the deputy marshals called into action that long, lonely night in 1962.

In the eyes of the country, these lawmen were champions of American civil rights.  Because of the magnitude of the social change being instituted and the vitriol of the crowds of dissenters, it’s no stretch to say that the deputies were the difference between James Meredith’s safe admission to Ole Miss and the continued state policies promoting illegal school segregation.

It was now time for the majority of deputies to head back to their home districts. Yet, for a number of them, the operation didn’t end here. Duty continued to call, albeit in different ways.  With Meredith already admitted to school, seeing to it that he was physically able to attend classes was next on the agenda. That’s when the mission grew into more of a major protective detail. Deputies provided a presence at all time; and they drove Meredith to and from his classes and meals in a military Jeep.  “[They] had to literally get him through,” Turk said.

Former Arizona Deputy Marvin  Morrisett remembers that Meredith received a “bushel basket” of mail from all over the country — everything from hate mail to letters expressing support. Some supporters even sent him money.  And former Eastern Kentucky Deputy Ernie Mike recalls visiting a record store in Oxford, only to find a locally produced song on the shelves titled “The Marshals are Coming to Get You and Me.”  Needless to say, the mission wasn’t easy.  “It was a scary time for the guys,” Turk said. “Let’s face it — you didn’t know what was coming around the corner ... and there was always the risk of a riot starting up.”

Yet, despite the general fear and animosity of some of the local population, these deputy marshals stayed on the detail until Meredith’s graduation in August 1963 — although some still received harassing phone calls and threatening letters for years to come. 
 

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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