Advertisement

Ole Miss enrolls Meredith after riots kill 2, injure 75

By AL KUETTNER

OXFORD, Miss., Oct. 1, 1962 (UPI) -- Negro James Meredith registered today at the University of Mississippi and began attending classes on a campus littered with the debris of a major riot that took two lives and injured at least 75 persons.

"It is not a happy occasion," he said.

Advertisement

About 400 U. S. deputy marshals and 1,000 federal troops guarded the campus as the 29-year-old Negro cracked the segregation barriers of the 114-year-old school.

The campus was brought under military control early today but the rioting spread to downtown Oxford and at least one soldier was hurt in a barrage of rocks, timbers and pop bottles before the crowd was dispersed with tear gas and reinforcements were brought in. Shots were fired over the heads of rioters.

Meredith, whose determination to desegregate "Ole Miss" brought about a conflict that threatened to rock the Union, walked solemnly to an American Colonial History class to shouts of "Nigger, Nigger" and "Was it worth two deaths?"

Advertisement

He was accompanied to the classes by three deputy marshals and U. S. Department of Justice representative Ed Guthman.

The Negro was met at the registrar's office by University Registrar Robert B. Ellis, who handed him a stack of forms. The historic occasion was concluded quietly.

Meredith, who caught a whiff of the tear gas that clouded the campus early today, rubbed his eyes occasionally.

In the downtown area, troops under command of Brig. Gen. Charles Billingslea dispersed bands of marauding demonstrators. Rioters hurled fire bombs at Army vehicles and chased cars containing Negroes.

Some of the demonstrators were routed with tear gas and fixed bayonets. Several of the infantrymen were Negroes, who gritted their teeth as crowds taunted them and told them to go to Cuba or back to New Jersey. One Negro soldier was hit on the neck with a bottle.

Before troops were ordered to fire tear gas, some one hurled a huge rock through the window of an Army truck and a man on a balcony dropped a log on another truck.

Truckload after truckload of troops poured into Courthouse Square where soldiers had pinned down some of the rioters. Ten helicopters circled overhead spotting crowds which were reforming in alleys for another attack on the troops.

Advertisement

Choking clouds of tear gas seeped into stores and women staggered from them.

Officials announced the arrest of 108 persons. It also was hinted that ex-Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker would be arrested. Bayonet-wielding soldiers today forced him away from downtown Oxford.

Among those arrested was Melvin Bruce, 24, of Decatur, Ga., a supporter of the American Nazi Party. He was charged with being a sniper who had been firing on marshals and soldiers during the eight hours of rioting.

The campus itself looked like a battleground. It was littered with burned-out automobiles, tear gas canisters and broken glass and echoed to the cadence of marching troops, including the Mississippi National Guard which President Kennedy summoned yesterday.

Army troops began moving onto the campus at midnight, three hours after the riot began, but it was not until 6 a.m. that the last stubborn segregationists were routed.

More violence was unleashed in less than four hours than in the six-month period when U. S. paratroopers forced integration of Central High School in Little Rock five years ago.

Before dawn a military force of 2,600 was on or near the Oxford campus. Troops were converging from all directions on the Northern Mississippi town which had been the home of the late Nobel-prize winner author, William Faulkner.

Advertisement

Twelve marshals were either wounded or injured, three of them seriously, and five soldiers were hurt.

Most of the wounds were caused by bricks and blows with lengths of pipe. But there were some gunshot wounds.

Many of the rioters apparently were students from Mississippi State College at Starkville. A massive demonstration was conducted there yesterday afternoon including marches through the Negro section of Starkville and the burning of an effigy of President Kennedy.

The dead were Paul Guihard, New York-based correspondent of the French news agency France Presse, and Ray Gunter, 23, of Oxford.

Guihard, 30, was shot in the back less than 10 minutes after he was admitted to the campus. He was found dead near a woman's dormitory. Gunter was dead on arrival at the Oxford hospital.

Some of the injured were reported in grave condition.

The rioting began as President Kennedy, in a televised address, was appealing to Mississippians to comply with the federal law even though they did not agree with it.

Meredith, 29, a Negro veteran of the Korean War who thrice had been denied entry to the campus by Gov. Ross Barnett and Lt. Gov. Paul B. Johnson was escorted secretly into the university by a motorcade of U. S. marshals and bedded down for the night at a dormitory which was put under heavy guard.

Advertisement

The hours-long battle that caused the death of Guihard and Gunter was the first open armed conflict between the United States Government and southerners since the end of the Civil War almost 100 years ago.

Shortly before 10 p.m. the word flashed around the campus that Meredith was there. And, even as Kennedy spoke, the riot began. A group of students threw lighted cigarets on the canvas top to a truck carrying U. S. marshals.

The canvas caught fire and the marshals, in steel helmets painted white and wearing orange vests with tear gas grenades, jumped out.

The marshals loosed barrages of tear gas. The Mississippi State Highway Patrol, surrounding but not entering the campus, made no move. It had been ordered by Barnett not to hinder the marshals but neither - apparently -- did it have orders to help.

The riot grew even worse after Guihard and Gunter were killed.

One youth fired a fire extinguisher into the face of one of the drivers of the trucks used to bring in the marshals. A state highway patrolman was struck in the face by a tear gas cartridge. A U. S. marshal was shot in the neck.

The Fifth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans last week found Barnett in contempt for failing to abide by a federal order to admit Meredith.

Advertisement

The governor was ordered to admit the Negro by Tuesday at 1 p.m., or be subjected to a daily fine of $10,000. Johnson, cited under a similar order, was given the same deadline and faced a daily fine of $5,000.

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement