Retired U.S. Marshals return and reflect

Posted on Oct 3 2012 - 11:32am by Lacey Russell

In 1962, U.S. Marshals were ordered to go to The Univer- sity of Mississippi to escort James Meredith so he could enroll in classes. Five of those marshals returned to the Ole Miss Student Union Monday morning to speak about their experience on campus during the 1962 integration. People filled the ballroom in the Union to hear the panel of five former U.S. Marshals and the James Meredith’s son, John Meredith. Among the talking points were the implications of the enroll- ment of James Meredith, the violence and hate that the marshals experienced, and the strides that the university has made in 50 years. “I’m thankful beyond words for the U.S. Marshals Service,” John Meredith said. “(Thankful) for keeping my father alive, so that I could have these last 50 years with him.” Meredith continued talk- ing about the opportunity the marshals gave his father. “My father wanted to alter this reality (of second class citizenship) and The Univer- sity of Mississippi afforded him that opportunity,” Mer- edith said. “The U.S. Marshals’ service provided the will necessary to ensure the opportunity was realized.” After Meredith, retired U.S. Marshal Denzil N. Bud Staple took the podium to discuss the housing situation some of the marshals faced while in Oxford during integration. Retired U.S. Marshal Her- schel Garner talked about the orders they received from President Kennedy to not fire on the crowd, despite the bricks, bottles and weapons the crowd threatened them with. The marshals had un- loaded guns to make sure the order was carried out. “On the way to campus, the road was pretty much lined with people,” Garner said. “Bottles and bricks were thrown at us as we were com- ing from the airport to town. I was fortunate I didn’t get hit, but others did.” Garner said after the mar- shals got to campus, some students showed respect for their authority and the law even though they disagreed with everything that was go- ing on. Retired U.S. Marshal Kirk Bowden was 26 years old at the time of the riots and one of the only black marshals sent to Oxford to offer pro- tection to James Meredith. He discussed being denied a sheriff ’s vehicle despite federal orders to obtain one. “When we were assigned to come down and protect Mr. Meredith, after hearing what had happened to my colleagues, we were afraid,” Bowden said. Robert Moore, retired U.S. Marshal and author of “The Presidents’ Men: Black United States Marshals in America,” pointed out sev- eral members of the audience who graduated or had fam- ily members who graduated from Ole Miss because of the actions of the U.S. Marshals’ service. Moore quoted Gov. Phil Bryant from earlier this week and talked about the effects of integration. “We were all freed, not just African-Americans,” Moore said. “We were all freed from a system that was strangling us here in Mississippi. We were all freed.”