City of Oxford to recognize James Meredith Day on Oct. 1

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Board of Aldermen adopted a resolution to recognize Oct. 1 as James Meredith day in Oxford.

The holiday will recognize and memorialize the day in 1962 when James Meredith became the first African American student at the University of Mississippi.

James Meredith was born on June 25, 1933 in Kosciusko and raised in Attala County. He graduated from Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Fla. in 1951, and served in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1960, including a 3 year tour of duty in Japan.

Meredith returned to Mississippi determined to attend the University of Mississippi. He attended Jackson State College, now Jackson State University, from 1960 to 1961, and applied for admission to the University of Mississippi in Jan. 1961.

The State took many measures to deter Meredith from enrolling, including a telegram denying his admission. The subsequent court battle led to the Supreme Court ruling on Sept. 10, 1962, that ruled that Meredith would be admitted to the university.

On Sept. 30, 1962, a deal was reached between the Gov. Ross Barnett and US Attorney General Robert Kennedy that allowed Meredith to enroll. An infamous riot broke out on campus, ending in the death of two bystanders, and the injury of over 200 marshals and soldiers. Over 200 individuals were arrested.

On Oct. 1, 1962, James Meredith registered for classes, becoming the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Federal troops remained on campus for over a year, to ensure Meredith’s safety.

Meredith graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Aug. 1963, and went on to graduate from Columbia Law School.

“James Howard Meredith, a bold and compassionate civil rights activist, businessman, politician, author, change-maker, fearless leader, trailblazer, and visionary, has forever left his mark on the University of Mississippi and the City of Oxford, leaving a legacy for others to dream big, never give up, and fight for their individual rights,” the proclamation states.