James H. Meredith picked cotton in the fields of Mississippi as a boy and nurtured a seemingly unattainable dream for the son of a Negro farmer.
Meredith wanted to study law at the fiercely all-white University of Mississippi.
The 29-year-old veteran explains his boyhood dream this way: "Every citizen has a right to be educated in his own state."
Meredith says Mississippi's Negro schools are not adequate for giving him a good legal education. "You lose contact with your state if you move out," he answers when asked about attending law school outside of Mississippi.
But the former sergeant does not plan to practice law. He wants to major in political science at the University of Mississippi and then "later on" possibly enter politics.
He was born on a farm near Kosciusko, Miss., a rural area 75 miles north of the state capitol of Jackson.
Meredith's parents still live on a farm and his father is a partial invalid.
Meredith walked the fields of Mississippi picking cotton with his brothers and sisters and left home for his senior year in high school. He received his high school diploma in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he lived with an uncle.
After graduating he joined the Air Force in 1951 and spent most of his time in the service in Kansas, Nebraska and Indiana. Meredith also was stationed in Japan.
He married his wife, Mary Jane, now 24, of Gary, Ind., while serving in the Midwest. She is now a senior at Jackson State College. Their 2-year-old son, John Howard, lives with Meredith's parents in Kosciusko.
After nine years in the Air Force Meredith was discharged in 1960. The slight, short veteran enrolled at an all-Negro institution, Jackson (Miss.) State College and applied for a transfer to the University of Mississippi in January of last year.
The constant legal battles since that application have hardened Meredith to jeers and disappointments. The stack of documents relating to Meredith in one court alone is over six feet high.
Throughout repeated attempts to register at the University, Meredith remained calm and conducted himself with dignity.
His boyhood dream of the cotton fields came true as Meredith was finally admitted to the university as a student and went to his first class Monday.
Whether he will be able to remain and receive his degree remained to be seen.