Civil Rights Trailblazer James Meredith will be inducted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame during the October homecoming.
In 1962, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy called in federal marshals to escort James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in the face of violence on campus. Meredith sued and eventually won the right to attend Ole Miss. Now 85 years old, Meredith says his mission from God was to challenge the fear so many African Americans faced.
"To break the system of white supremacy, to expose and challenge that all pervasive fear that kept blacks not only in Mississippi but all over America, all over the world in their place, it was fear," said Meredith.
Attorney Bobby Bailess is president of the university alumni association. He was ten years old when Meredith was admitted to Ole Miss.
"To try to put yourself in the setting in 1962 in doing what he did is incomprehensible to me. I can't really put it into focus. It's such a brave thing that he didn," said Bailess.
Bailess says he's not sure why it took this long to recognize Meredith with this honor. He says a confidential committee reviews nominations. Dr. Leslie McLemore, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Jackson State University, is glad the Kosciusko native is being recognized.
"I think it's a great honor. Although I am a bit surprised and shocked that it's just now happening. He was a trailblazer. At that point in time most of the deep south white universities did not admit black people," said McLemore.
Meredith is one of five inductees, including long time U.S. Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran.