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U.S. Marshals Service


The U.S. Marshals and the Integration of the University of Mississippi:  40 Years Ago and the Present

I think last night was the worst night I ever spent....

...[The deputies] were out there with instructions not to fire.  They were fired on, they were hit, things were thrown at them.  It was an extremely dangerous situation. ...

... And I think it was that close.  If the tear gas hadn't arrived in that last five minutes, and if these men hadn't remained true to their orders and instructions, if they had lost their heads and started firing at the crowd, you would have had immense bloodshed, and I think it would have been a very tragic situation. ...

So to hear these reports that were coming in to the President and to myself all last night - when the situation with the state police having deserted the situation, and these men standing up there with courage and ability and great bravery - that was a very moving period in my life.

-- Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, October 1, 1962

History is often made when one person stands his ground and demands his dream.  But history needs its enforcers.  And when James Meredith sought to legally become the first black  person to attend the University of Mississippi 40 years ago, the duty of upholding the federal law allowing him to do so fell upon the shoulders of 127 deputy marshals from all over the country who risked their lives to make his dream a reality.

The University of Mississippi looks much different in 2002 than it did in 1962.  Since the work of those deputy marshals who enforced the court ordered desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962 was never celebrated — and rarely mentioned — state and university officials recently made up for lost time by honoring them as well as other law enforcement and military personnel who were involved in safeguarding James Meredith’s right to attend classes at the University of Mississippi. 

Pictures of James Meredith in 1962 and in 2004

Then and Now: Chief Marshal James Mcshane and James Meredith in 1962; Attorney General John Ashcroft, James Meredith, and U.S. Marshals Director Benigno Reyna at the 40th Year Commemoration


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 is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justicee