Interview with Burke Marshall
QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP? SOMETIMES YOU'RE ANSWERING THE NEXT TWO QUESTIONS AND SOMETIMES YOU'RE OPENING- HOW CLOSELY WAS THE ADMINISTRATION FOLLOWING JAMES MEREDITH'S ATTMEPT TO ENTER THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI AND HOW AND WHY AND WHEN DID THE GOVERNMENT DECIDE TO ENTER?

Burke Marshall:

We, we, followed the Meredith from the day it was filed almost. It was filed the inauguration day, 1961 or maybe the day after, January 21, 1961, and when I got this job as head of the civil rights division, as soon as I found out where my office was, just about, I tried to get a sort of checklist of trouble. And in the course of that I talked to Thurgood Marshall and he told me about the Meredith case. He would have to speak to himself [?] about the case, he represented Meredith of course. I don't think it was on the NACP list of priorities to integrate the University of Mississippi, but James Meredith was his own man and he had his own mind and he was determined to do it and so the Legal Defense Fund represented him right from the beginning of the case. Now the case, the outcome of the case was inevitable. The University of Mississippi was a segregated institution, it was a white institution. They made all sorts of defenses. They claimed that they weren't turning Meredith down because he was black, but because of some other reason. They'd make up a different reason almost daily. And the board of the University really perjured themselves on the stand to try to create reasons for turning down Meredith on some ground that he wasn't black, but the, and the district judge—who was an old Mississippi appointment, who I think going way back, Eisenhower, maybe, maybe, maybe Truman, maybe even Roosevelt, I don't know, he'd been on the bench for a long time—bought that, because he was part of the Mississippi establishment, but as soon as it got to the Fifth Circuit, and came before Judge Wisdom, and whoever the other two judges were, the panel, then the outcome of the case was foreordained. Now there was a lot of sort of litigation problems that went on, which involved one of the judges of the fifth circuit, Judge Cameron from Mississippi, he kept staying the order of his own court. But it became clear to me that Meredith would be- have an order entitling him to enter the University of Mississippi in October of 1962 and so that we followed it right up, we entered the case when it became clear that the order would be final and that that would be date, and we entered it in order to make sure that the order of the court was complied with.