Editor’s Note: This is our Memorial Day tribute which is dedicated to the University of Mississippi Greys and the veterans of the Battle of Oxford, 1962.
The year is 1962.
The state is Mississippi.
The place is the University of Mississippi.
A hundred years after Mississippi seceded from the Union, it was the day that a revolutionary moment on par with 1861 came and passed without much incident as the Kennedy administration federalized the National Guard to force the integration of James Meredith at Ole Miss.
The following excerpts come from William Doyle’s book An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford Mississippi, 1962:
“In a burst of complete lunacy, the state’s leading radio and TV stations, WJDX/WLBT, was broadcasting Confederate war songs as the battle raged. The station had correspondents reporting from the scene at Oxford, and they were doing their best to report the facts of the riot. But in Jackson, after cutting away from the on-the-scene reports, the station’s segregationist management was inflaming the riot by spinning “rebel” recordings, providing a demented, rousing, pulse-pounding soundtrack to the riot. The musical mayhem drifted throughout the Mississippi countryside, into the homes of frightened citizens, into the car radios of civilian volunteers moving on Oxford, and into the ears of rioters and spectators at the battle.
What they heard was the music of total war: “Fear no danger, shun no labor, /lift up rifle, pike and saber, / To arms, to arms, to arms, in Dixie! / Shoulder pressing close to shoulder, / let the odds make each heart bolder, / To arms, to arms, to arms in Dixie!” Then there was the “No, No, Never” song, written especially for the Meredith crisis: “Never, never, never, never, No, never! / Ross is standing like Gibraltar, we shall, never, never falter …” Then a joyous coed chorus belted out the tune “Go, Mississippi!” the new state song and football anthem.
The years melted away, and suddenly it was 1861 again and Jeff Davis was president, and the Confederate army was unvanquished, and the dream of an independent Southern republic was almost as alive as tomorrow morning, consecrated in blood and bullets and the glory of gallant, golden-haired young heroes.”
Let us recall the gallant Ole Miss generation that stormed Gettysburg whose memory the “social justice” fanatics want to erase from that campus :
“Ninety-years before, on the afternoon of July 3, 1863, a group of University of Mississippi students had raced up a slanting field in Pennsylvania toward the dazzling, doomed vision of the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy” on Cemetery Ride at Gettysburg. They were the remnants of Company A of the Eleventh Mississippi Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the “University Greys,” who in 1861 had marched out of Oxford with some fifty University of Mississippi students and one hundred other boys and men from Lafayette County. After fighting their way through Harpers Ferry, the First Battle of Manassas, Seven Pines, Bull Run, and Antietam, there were only thirty-one of them left. . . .
Of the thirty-one University of Mississippi Greys who reported for action that morning, nine were dead, twelve had been wounded and ten more were taken prisoner. On that day the unit suffered 100 percent casualties. Not one of them ever went back to school at Oxford.”
This book deals with the true story of how close the Ole Miss Riot of 1962 came to sparking a violent revolt in the Deep South against integration:
“Across the region, cars and trucks full of armed and unarmed fighters were surging toward Oxford from all directions, especially from segregationist strongholds in adjacent Alabama and Louisiana.”
In 1962, there were thousands of volunteers on the way to Oxford who were ready to take up arms against “Bobby.” The Klan under Robert Shelton was mobilizing an army of 100,000 White men from across the South to defend Mississippi from the federal government.
It was a fascinating moment in American history. A Mississippi state legislator introduced a secession ordinance in 1962. Gov. Ross Barnett even talked to RFK on the phone about getting out of the Union. He backed down under federal pressure, but if Barnett had made a different decision in that moment and had chosen resistance over submission all hell would have broken loose in the South in the 1960s. If it had devolved into the violent conflict that some wanted, what would have been the result?
“RFK and Barnett were soon on the phone again, and once again they got nowhere fast.
“As Attorney General,” Kennedy grandly announced, “it is my duty to see that federal court orders are enforced.”
“I am going to obey the laws of Mississippi,” Barnett parried. “The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land but not what some court says.”
The attorney general meekly pointed out, “Governor, you are a part of the United States.”
Barnett then made an astonishing statement, a remark that cut through the fog of rhetoric to the heart of the issue. “We have been a part of the United States,” said the governor, “but I don’t know whether we are or not.”
A presumably amazed Kennedy asked, “Are you getting out of the Union?”
Barnett grumbled, “It looks like we are being kicked around, like we don’t belong to it.”
We’re still being kicked around.
It is worse than ever in our times with gay marriage and the murder of unborn children. Federal judges are now the sovereign power in this country. The people don’t have any say at all in their government. The overwhelming majority of people in Mississippi agreed with Ross Barnett on that point at the time, saw where it was going and were ready to receive their orders:
“A jumbo screen flashed the words to the new state song “Go Mississippi!” as the one-hundred-piece Ole Miss band pounded out the frantic, upbeat tune: “Go, Mississippi, you cannot go wrong, / Go, Mississippi, we’re singing your song, M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I!”
The multitude roared, “We want Ross! We want Ross!” and the world’s largest Confederate flag was carried across the field. The governor of Mississippi strutted onto the field, and the crowd went nearly berserk in a delirious, sustained ovation.
Ross Barnett was being saturated with one of the most powerful crowd raptures ever given to an American politician. To one football fan, Captain Hassel Franklin of the Mississippi National Guard, it seemed like the stadium was going to collapse. It felt like a revolution was breaking out. To Ole Miss student Mary Lynn Hendricks, it seemed like the earth was shattering under her feet.
“You would have thought you were watching the Christians and the lions fighting in the Colosseum with the roar that went up,” remembered Jackson attorney William Goodman. “It was like a big Nazi rally,” an Ole Miss student recalled, adding, “Yes, it was just the way Nuremberg must have been!” Another spectator, E.L. McDaniel felt that if Barnett gave the word, all 41,000 people would burst out of the stadium and march 170 miles north to Oxford to surround the university, and another 50,000 would join them on the way.
Barnett strode up to the microphone at the fifty-yard line with a furious expression on his face, thrust his clenched fist in the air, and held it up, his body a frozen statute of revolutionary defiance. Television cameras were broadcasting him in live close-up throughout the state. “Thousands of Confederate battle flags burst forth throughout the stadium,” wrote journalist Bill Minor, “shimmering in the night like a forest fire running before the wind.”
Barnett drank in the delirium and finally cried in a high-pitched voice that sliced the air like a saber, “I love Mississippi!” The crowd screamed in unison.
“I love her people!
I love and respect our heritage!”
In 2019, no one even remembers Ross Barnett and the University of Mississippi has been so deracinated and alienated from its Southern heritage that it has debated for years whether the mascot of its predominantly black football team should be a Black Bear or a Landshark. In hindsight, Ross Barnett was one of the many people in history who rendezvous with destiny and who blink and let the moment pass which has countless unforeseen consequences for future generations.
Why was JFK was able to triumph over Ross Barnett? Before he was assassinated, he was able to integrate both Ole Miss and the University of Alabama without much in the way of segregationist violence.
Here is our attempt at answering that question:
- In the 1960s, Americans lived in fear of the Soviet Union and the threat posed by a menacing foreign bogeyman could still be invoked to persuade Americans to close ranks
- In the 1960s, Americans still trusted the mainstream media and the “reporting” of “journalists” on the “Civil Rights Movement” was able to mold racial attitudes in the North and isolate the South
- In the 1960s, Americans had just fought the Second World War and there was no stomach for refighting the War Between the States. The World Wars of the 20th century had been a unifying experience
- In the 1960s, America was 90 percent White and it was reasonable to assume that “civil rights legislation” could be repealed through the political process. This was before the Immigration Act of 1965.
- In the 1960s, Americans were enjoying an unprecedented wave of material prosperity and utopianism, which is why the “Civil Rights Movement” was able to break out in the mainstream and why the White resistance movement lost steam. The Southern economy was on an unprecedented upswing as the Sunbelt was being born
- In the 1960s, the North and South had spent almost a century burying the hatchet over the War Between the States. In 1961, both sides celebrated the heroism of the other section in the 100th anniversary and sectional animosity had been diminishing for decades
- In the 1960s, the South was committed to the New Deal coalition and the Democratic Party that FDR had forged in the Great Depression and had voted for JFK of Massachusetts in 1960
- In the 1960s, JFK himself treated the Civil Rights Movement as a distraction and it was reasonable to assume that MLK would lose favor in the North. This was before its triumph effectively opened a new epoch of American history in 1965
- In the 1960s, the business community thought it could sell out the White working class and neutralize the class issue by racializing Southern politics with conservatism
- In the 1960s, it was still reasonable to assume that blacks only wanted to be judged by “content of character” and would demobilize after they were granted equal citizenship in the United States
- In the 1960s, the South hadn’t lived in the shadow of Barack Hussein Obama and 50 years of contempt and hostility and vilification by the liberal establishment in Washington
But now, none of this is really true anymore. The generations who fought in the World Wars have nearly died out. The mainstream media no longer has any credibility or legitimacy in large swathes of the South. The country is more polarized today than it has been since at any point since the War Between the States. If a future Democratic president used force on a Southern state, he would find that Whites really would fight back this time and that he would be as helpless as Gorbachev was in the USSR.
Note: The story of James Meredith is so fascinating that we will deal with it in a separate post.