James Meredith Returns to See Son Take Top Honors at Ole Miss
Forty years after James Meredith was escorted through an angry mob to become the first Black to enroll at the University of Mississippi, his son graduated as the top doctoral student in the business school last month.
“I think there’s no better proof that White supremacy was wrong than not only to have my son graduate, but to graduate as the most outstanding graduate of the school,” Meredith says. “That, I think, vindicates my whole life.”
Gov. Ross Barnett attempted to block Meredith’s enrollment in 1962, saying he was protecting tradition. Meredith had to be escorted through campus by federal marshals. Two days of rioting at Ole Miss followed his enrollment.
Joseph Meredith said he realized the irony of returning to Ole Miss when he enrolled four years ago, but chose the school because it best suited his needs. He previously earned degrees from Harvard University and Millsaps College in Jackson. Last month, he was the top doctoral student of the School of Business Administration.
“Joseph came to Ole Miss after a successful career in business to become a finance scholar, particularly in the field of energy derivatives in petroleum-producing companies,” says Dr. Robert Edmister, UM professor of finance. “He has earned the respect of his peers and my admiration as a budding academic, already making a difference in a difficult field of study.”
Meredith, a single father of a 6-year-old daughter, already has landed a job as a professor at Elon College in North Carolina. He will teach advanced finance.
Joseph Meredith’s graduation had James Meredith recalling his own.
“My father was there for my graduation and he made the comment, ‘These people can be decent,’ ” James Meredith says. “I think I can easily now make the comment, these people are decent.”
Today, more than 12 percent of the students enrolled at Ole Miss are African American. The campus also is home to the Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and plans are being completed to erect a monument next spring in the heart of the campus to memorialize the national movement to integrate higher education.
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