Interview with Dr. Robert Ellis
QUESTION 32
INTERVIEWER:

WELL, THAT'S ONE LOSS THAT CAME FROM JAMES MEREDITH'S ENROLLMENT. WERE THERE OTHER LOSSES OR WERE THERE THINGS THAT WERE WON WHEN HE WAS EN—ENROLLED?

Dr. Robert Ellis:

I tend to be fatalistic about uh, things like this. I, I think, again, that there had to be a confrontation on this issue. And I really believe that the, the few deaths that we did have as a direct result of the, of the riot were inevitable. I, I really believe that it would be, it would have been impossible to have made the change that we made without some bloodshed. Now I have to look at it from the perspective of today. And I would say that from a racial point of view, from an economic point of view, uh, and even perhaps from a social point of view, uh, it did mark the beginning of an improved relationship between the races and this state. I think today we've probably made more progress in racial harmony than perhaps other parts of the country. But that, of course, is an opinion. So I think that's one gain that was made from this thing. I think there were some severe losses. I think the University of Mississippi got a very bad press out of this situation, [cough] and I think it was a, a bad press that wasn't justified because from my perspective it was essentially a conflict. A political conflict in which the political leaders uh, really took over and uh, made the decisions that counted. I recall the chancellor, Chancellor Williams—we were called to a meeting in, in Jackson in which the Governor's representatives uh, applied some pressure and some council to us before we attended a, a court hearing. And uh, I remember the chancellor finally telling the Governor there was a point beyond which he simply couldn't go any further. If the federal court made a decision to uh, register Meredith then he would have to comply with that court decision. I can assure you as a, as a relatively minor official to hear the chancellor of the University to tell the governor of the state that there was a point where we had to obey, was most reassuring to me at this point.