Interview with Judge John Minor Wisdom
QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

BEFORE THAT HAPPENS THOUGH, THERE IS A VERY INTERESTING PROBLEM OF GETTING THE LOWER COURT TO AGREE WITH AND TO PUT INTO PRACTICE THE RULES.

Judge John Minor Wisdom:

Well, that's interesting. The problem was that the law of course was really just not only dragging their heels, they were refusing to issue the appropriate orders. So we issued the order and ordered Barnett the governor of Mississippi to see that Meredith was admitted to the university. And Mississippi of course at one time had, not the university of Mississippi, the Mississippi legislature had adopted a statute making Barnett the registrar. So we ordered Barnett to admit him. And Barnett went through this scenario, this opera boof of telling Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, that he would submit and allow Meredith to be registered and all that was nec…all that was necessary was for the marshals to exhibit a show of force. Then his state troopers would retire and everything would be lovely and that would be it. When it came to the actual point of doing it though, Barnett reneged on it. He had said too often over the TV and radio that he would never allow it, and when it came to the time of admitting Meredith, he still backed off. That, mean, but I have to bring you up to date on the fact that I should have brought you, mentioned before. And that also when the district court refused to act, we issued our own order so that in the Meredith case, Barnett was guilty of contempt of the order of the Court of Appeals. Not the district judge. That raised some very interesting legal questions. For example, should there be a jury, and if there was 'a jury, how should the jury be chosen. From the at large, or from the district where the case was tried. And there was a very serious question whether he should be tried for contempt on let us say high philosophical grounds. The question of tri —the federal government trying the governor of a state for contempt of court. This is where we parted company with some of our friends on the court. And we could not get a clear majority, so we certified to the supreme court the question whether there should be a jury.