James Meredith: 50 years after graduating from Ole Miss
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
James Meredith's attempts to enroll at the University of Mississippi is an important moment in American history. But, Meredith graduating from Ole Miss was equally important.
Meredith sat down with us to talk about the 50th year anniversary of his graduation that he's celebrating today.
"Finishing is far more important than starting," Meredith said.
And starting for James Meredith was a journey. The 29-year-old Air Force veteran first sought admission into Ole Miss in January of 1961.
Day after day Meredith was accompanied by lawyers and a host of federal marshals trying to become the first black student at Ole Miss. It eventually happened.
"I thought I was the baddest man ever been born. I wasn't hardly, but I was at war. And I thought I was gone win," Meredith said.
When asked if fear ever set in Meredith said, "I used a reverse psychology on fear. I knew that anytime that people saw somebody in a position that they thought would cause fear; and that person didn't show fear it would scare the life out of everybody else. And I saw it work.
And it did just that … worked.
On October 1, 1962 Meredith enrolled at the school. On August 18, 1963 he graduated.
"I got a degree in political science from Ole Miss and a degree in French. And, I read ‘Les Miserable' in French to get that degree from Ole Miss and a degree in history," Meredith said.
And Meredith did make history, American and world history.
But, he says his work is not done yet. "I promised God I was going to spend the rest of my life trying to rebuild the public education system in Mississippi," Meredith said.
"The problem in Mississippi today is a morale character breakdown in the community particularly in the black community. And the two biggest issues in the world today is the black/white race issues and the rich/poor issue," Meredith said.
"The rich/poor issue is far outweighing the black/white issue. But, the black/white issue is still being used by all of the elite including the black elite to maintain the status quo," Meredith added.
As far as how to solve what Meredith described as the status quo problem, he says we'll have to read the last chapter of his book, "A Mission from God".
Meantime, he says he's just grateful for this day and the small part, he says, he played in it.
"Ole Miss is the best higher education institution in America if not the world," Meredith added.