Civil rights icon James Meredith turns 90, urges people to fight crime by obeying Ten Commandments

Jun 26, 2023, 11:38 AM | Updated: 1:44 pm

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — divine mission: conquering white supremacy in the deeply, and often violently, segregated state of Mississippi.

A half-century later, the civil rights leader is still talking about his mission from God. In recent weeks, he made several appearances around his home state, urging people to obey the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule in order to reduce crime. On his 90th birthday on Sunday, Meredith said older generations should lead the way.

“Old folks not only can control it — it’s their job to control it,” Meredith told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday after an event honoring him at the Mississippi Capitol.

Meredith is a civil rights icon who has long resisted that label because he believes it sets issues such as voting rights and equal access to education apart from other human rights.

During the event, Meredith fell while trying to stand and speak. He leaned on an unsecured lectern, and it crashed forward with Meredith on top. People nearby scrambled to return him to a wheelchair.

Meredith suffered no visible injuries. An ambulance crew checked him later, and then Meredith went to his home in Jackson to have a birthday celebration with his family. His wife, Judy Alsobrooks Meredith, said Monday that he was spending time with grandchildren and showing no signs of pain.

In October 1962, federal marshals escorted Meredith as he enrolled as the first Black student at the University of Mississippi, while white people rioted on the Oxford campus. Mississippi’s governor at the time, Ross Barnett, had stirred mobs into a frenzy by declaring that Ole Miss would not be integrated under his watch.

Meredith was a 29-year-old Air Force veteran who had already taken classes at one of Mississippi’s historically Black colleges, Jackson State. NAACP attorneys represented him as he obtained a federal court order to enter the state’s flagship public university. After a largely solitary existence at Ole Miss, Meredith graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

After graduating, Meredith set out to promote Black voter registration and show that a Black man could walk through Mississippi without fear. In June 1966, a white man with a shotgun wounded Meredith on the second day of a march from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. With Meredith hospitalized, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael and other civil rights leaders continued the march, often followed by long lines of activists and local people.

Less than three weeks after he was shot, Meredith had recovered enough to join the final stretch of what became known as the March Against Fear. It ended at the state Capitol, where an estimated 15,000 people gathered for Mississippi’s largest civil rights rally.

This year, Meredith had planned to walk 200 miles (322 kilometers) in Mississippi to spread his anti-crime message — roughly the same distance as the March Against Fear. Instead, he made a series of appearances in recent weeks, often using a rolling walker, a wheelchair or a golf cart.

On Sunday, Meredith rode in a golf cart for the final quarter-mile (0.40 kilometers) from Jackson City Hall to the Mississippi Capitol, led by a high school marching band and accompanied by dozens of people on foot. A racially diverse group of about 200 people sought shade under magnolia and oak trees while listening to songs, speeches and a child’s poem praising Meredith.

Flonzie BrownWright, a longtime Mississippi civil rights activist who participated in the 1966 March Against Fear, said she believes Meredith is a genius at creating strategies for social change.

“He is a very smart man, endowed with a lot of old-fashioned wisdom. He has been able to use that for the greater good of his people,” BrownWright said Sunday. “I love him like a big brother.”

In the decades since Meredith integrated Ole Miss, the university has erected a statue of him on campus and has held several events to honor him and his legacy.

John Meredith said Sunday that his father had a profound effect on higher education, but the March Against Fear had a greater impact on him as a son because it demonstrated the importance of elections.

“The silent gift of voting is the ability to help shape the laws under which you live. It is the beauty and the curse of America,” said John Meredith, the current city council president in Huntsville, Alabama. “Participation in voting yields inclusion, diversity and opportunity. Failure to vote results in the loss of freedom … and government oppression.”

At the Capitol birthday celebration, Iyanu B. Carson, a 5th grade student from Jackson, read her poem titled “90 Years of History,” saying she aspires to be like Meredith.

“You made the choice to use your voice, you were strong and made them believe you belonged,” Iyanu said. “Today we celebrate history, and Mr. Meredith, history is you! We’re proud of your accomplishments and all that you have been through.”

United States News

The Iron Gate Dam is seen in Hornbrook, Calif., Sept. 17, 2023. The dam is one of a series of four ...

Associated Press

Things to know about the Klamath River dam removal project, the largest in US history

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The largest dam removal project in United States history is underway along the California-Oregon border. The project will remove four dams on the Klamath River. Work has already begun on removing the smallest of the four dams. The other three will come down next year. The project is part of a […]

2 hours ago

FILE -Oakland County Judge Kwame Rowe looks towards witness during cross examination, July 27, 2023...

Associated Press

Michigan judge to decide whether Oxford High School shooter gets life in prison or chance at parole

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A teenager who killed four students at Michigan’s Oxford High School will learn Friday whether he will spend his life in prison or get a chance for parole in the decades ahead. Judge Kwame Rowe will announce his decision over video conference, weeks after hearing from experts who clashed over Ethan […]

4 hours ago

FILE - From left, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa...

Associated Press

The far right has been feuding with McCarthy for weeks. Here’s how it’s spiraling into a shutdown.

WASHINGTON (AP) — With little time left to prevent a government shutdown, the House is in a familiar position: effectively paralyzed as conservatives feud with Speaker Kevin McCarthy over matters large and small. McCarthy has pushed the Republican conference to embrace a short-term funding plan that would also include a sweeping Republican proposal for the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

186.000 migrants and refugees arrived in southern Europe so far this year, most in Italy, UN says

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency said Thursday that some 186,000 migrants and refugees arrived in southern Europe so far this year, the vast majority in Italy. Between January and Sept. 24, over 2,500 people seeking to cross the Mediterranean were found dead or are still missing, a significant increase from the 1,680 […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Hawaii authorities search for man with handgun he gets into scuffle on Army base and flees

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii authorities were looking for a man who fled with a handgun after getting into a scuffle while trying to talk to soldiers at an Army base, officials said. No shots were fired but the Army treated it as an “active shooter situation” and two military bases on Oahu went into lockdown […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the chamber at the Capitol in Washingt...

Associated Press

McCarthy rejects Senate spending bill while scrambling for a House plan that averts a shutdown

A government shutdown appeared all but inevitable as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dug in Thursday.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Ignite Digital

How to unlock the power of digital marketing for Phoenix businesses

All businesses around the Valley hopes to maximize their ROI with current customers and secure a greater market share in the digital sphere.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]

Civil rights icon James Meredith turns 90, urges people to fight crime by obeying Ten Commandments