WASHINGTON – On the afternoon of
Sunday, Sept. 30, 1962, 127 Deputy U.S. Marshals, 316 federalized border
patrol personnel and 97 deputized prison guards, on the orders of then -
U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, surrounded the administration
building on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
The registration office, known as the “Lyceum,” was a historic, columned
building, which in the morning would admit Mr. James Howard Meredith as the
institution’s first African-American student. Previous attempts at
registration were stopped, as Governor Ross Barnett and other state
officials supported segregation.
As evening approached, the crowds around the Lyceum grew. The deputies were
dressed in military helmets, vests and armed with tear gas, just in case.
The crowds became more aggressive as darkness fell. Bricks and battery acid
were hurled at the deputies, followed by buckshot and vehicles, but still
the line held.
From inside the Lyceum, deputies and Department of Justice officials
communicated with the president and attorney general. Help first came from
Mississippi National Guard troops, but their numbers were too few to make a
difference. Then at 2 a.m., active duty military forces arrived to relieve
the deputies. During the heroic 11 hours on the line, 168 were injured, of
which 79 were Deputy U.S. Marshals. Dents from the attacks remain in the
Lyceum’s columns to this day.
The deputies stayed at the university after the riot ended until the
morning. Meredith, who arrived later, was guarded by another detail of
Deputy U.S. Marshals and he registered without incident. Deputies
accompanied Meredith during his time at the university until his graduation
in August 1963.
Throughout the 223-year history of the U.S. Marshals Service, deputies have
carried out their orders no matter how unpopular or how dangerous.
information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at
America’s Oldest Federal Law