Skip to comments.This Year In History:Judicial Power (Ole Miss-Oxford Wrap Up)
Posted on 10/07/2007 5:31:56 AM PDT by Nextrush
The Meredith vs. Fair case was another victory of the NAACP legal team with the support of the Warren Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary.
While the judiciary was stronger in its push for integration, the executive branch just did its duty to enforce the court's decisions.
President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy tried to negotiate with Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett hoping to cut a deal and not use force.
After James Meredith was enrolled following the violent battle and intervention of over 20,000 members of the military, the Kennedy Administration wanted to avoid forcing Barnett or Lt. Gov Paul Johnson from paying fines imposed on them for refusing to admit Meredith.
The military intervention and "Battle of Oxford" occurred just one month before mid-term elections.
JFK wanted black northern votes for Democrats and even supported the Justice Department working in court to sue for more black voter registration in the South (to help Democrats).
But he also needed white southern votes to keep the Democrat Party in power and advance his own re-election in 1964.
Watching in the wings, Martin Luther King resolved to work harder to force change. His effors in Albany, Georgia were defeated by local white political power that had connection to President Kennedy and a non-violent police force response to his protests.
Although King may not have known then, it later came out that the Kennedy Administration arranged to have King bailed out in Albany so his continued jailing would not escalate the protests.
King wanted to mobilize black opinon and white liberal opinion to force Kennedy to take his side and began secret planning for the conflict that would engulf Birmingham. Alabama next year.
Governor Barnett spoke out forcefully and other Mississippi politicians condemned the military intervention.
Bumper stickers appeared calling the Mississippi intervention "Kennedy's Hungary." That was a reference to the Soviet crushing of Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956.
President Kennedy was under pressure from Republicans over Cuba and as the mid-term elections approached he was able to take Oxford, Mississippi off the front pages by making Cuba his issue.
Later in October 1962 the president took evidence of Soviet missile activity in Cuba and ordered a blockade in what became known as the "Cuban Missile Crisis."
That standoff resulted in a negotiated settlement with Soviet missiles taken out of Cuba and U.S. missiles taken out of Turkey.
Federal troops remained in smaller numbers in Oxford, Mississippi until the summer of 1963 when James Meredith completed his studies and was awarded a degree.
Meredith would become an unusual figure in that he opposed Martin Luther King's "March for Jobs and Freedom" that summer where he made the famous speech. Meredith thought it was too provocative.
Three years later Meredith would be injured slightly when he was shot during a march from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi to encourage black voter registration.
James Meredith ran as a Republican candidate for Congress in 1972.
And in the 1980's he joined the staff of Senator Jesse Helms. leading conservative Republican and opponent of the Martin Luther King national holiday.
At last word, Meredith was still alive and living in Mississippi.
Kennedy and Wallace both came out the better for it.
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