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The U.S. Marshals and the Integration of the University of Mississippi:  40 years later

The University of Mississippi looks much different in 2002 than it did in 1962.  Nearly 13 percent of the student population today at Ole Miss is black.  A special legacy remains intact as well, with James Meredith’s son, Joseph, graduating in 2003 as the top doctoral student in the business school.

Since the work of those 127 deputy marshals 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 the elder Meredith’s right to attend classes at Ole Miss.  

On Oct. 1, 2002, more than 200 people, including Director Reyna and Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove, commemorated the bravery of those who stood in the way of violence and civil disobedience. James Meredith was present as well.

Meredith, 69, battling cancer, was reflective as he addressed the crowd. He was grateful for both those who protected him and the federal government’s rule of law.  “I thought the fact that the marshals and the military followed the command of the authority of the United States was what made today possible,” he said. “That to me was what was significant.” 

Deputy US Marshal

Former Middle Florida Deputy Al Butler was also on hand for the ceremony. Butler, 73, was one of three deputies in charge during the rioting, along with District of Columbia Deputy Ellis Duley and Southern Florida Deputy Donald Forsht.

Butler was beaming with pride as he spoke to the media afterwards about a very special cadre of deputy marshals. “I hope [the people in the audience today] know they are honoring some of the most courageous — and unfortunately unheralded — men that ever wore a badge.

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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