Case: Meredith v. Fair

3:61-03130 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

Filed Date: May 31, 1961

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This was a desegregation suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on May 31, 1961 involving the desegregation of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Plaintiff, civil rights activist James Meredith, claimed that he had been denied admission to Ole Miss solely because of his race. Initially, Meredith filed for a temporary restraining order with his complaint. This motion was denied by the district court because it found that there was evidence to conclu…

This was a desegregation suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on May 31, 1961 involving the desegregation of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Plaintiff, civil rights activist James Meredith, claimed that he had been denied admission to Ole Miss solely because of his race.

Initially, Meredith filed for a temporary restraining order with his complaint. This motion was denied by the district court because it found that there was evidence to conclude that Meredith was not denied admission to Ole Miss solely because of his race; rather, he did not meet the Ole Miss entrance requirements. 199 F. Supp. 754 (S.D. Miss. 1961). The Fifth Circuit upheld this decision. Even though the Fifth Circuit admitted that Ole Miss' entrance requirements denied black applicants their equal protection rights, a full trial was needed "to clarify the muddy record." 298 F.2d 696 (5th Cir. 1962).

On February 3, 1962, District Judge Sidney Carr Mize held that Meredith had not been denied admission to Ole Miss solely because of his race. Judge Mize wrote, "The proof shows, and I find as a fact, that the University is not a racially segregated institution" even though there were no African American students enrolled at Ole Miss when Meredith applied. Meredith was allegedly denied admission for failing to get the proper recommendations from five Ole Miss alumni, the Ole Miss admissions policy prevented transfers from unaccredited institutions (since Meredith was applying as a transfer student from the then-unaccredited historically black Jackson State College), and alleged "deficiencies" in Meredith's character. 202 F. Supp. 224, 227 (S.D. Miss. 1962). Meredith then appealed this decision and moved for an injunction pending appeal.

On February 12, 1962, the Fifth Circuit denied Meredith's motion for an injunction pending appeal. The Fifth Circuit decided that the hardship to Meredith was not enough to justify an injunction because the court of appeals needed more time to study the full record and testimony. 305 F.2d 341 (5th Cir. 1962).

The Fifth Circuit ruled on Meredith's appeal on June 26, 1962. Circuit Judge John Minor Wisdom reversed the Fifth Circuit's prior decision denying Meredith an injunction and remanded the case demanding that an injunction be issued. Judge Minor wrote, "[F]rom the moment the defendants discovered Meredith was a Negro they engaged in a carefully calculated campaign of delay, harassment, and masterly inactivity." He also noted that Meredith had earned many credits from other, accredited institutions, so Ole Miss' explanation that it refused any transfers from non-accredited universities was "inadequate on its face." Additionally, Jackson State, Meredith's previous school, was supervised by the same state Board of Trustees as Ole Miss. The letters of recommendation requirement was also found to be "a patently discriminatory device" because they required letters from multiple alumni, all of whom were white. Further, Judge Minor noted that Meredith's alleged bad character was not a valid reason to deny him admission to Ole Miss. 305 F.2d 343 (5th Cir. 1962).

A mandate was issued on July 17, 1962 in accordance with the Fifth Circuit's decision. The next day, Ole Miss filed an order seeking a stay of this mandate. An order was issued by Circuit Judge Ben F. Cameron granting the stay. Judge Cameron was not part of the Fifth Circuit panel that had heard Meredith's appeals. The Fifth Circuit then had to review Judge Cameron's actions. Circuit Judge John Minor Wisdom wrote, "The Court is bigger than a single judge. Assuming, but without deciding, that Judge Cameron is indeed a judge of ‘the court rendering the judgment’, we hold that the court determining the cause has inherent power to review the action of the single judge, whether or not the single judge is a member of the panel." After reviewing Judge Cameron's actions, the Fifth Circuit vacated his stay and issued an injunction against Ole Miss. 306 F.2d 374 (5th Cir. 1962).

Despite the Fifth Circuit's July 1962 opinion, Judge Cameron continued to issue stays to block Meredith's admission to Ole Miss. In total, he issued three stays after the July 1962 Fifth Circuit decision and before the September 1962 Supreme Court decision. Justice Black of the Supreme Court reviewed Judge Cameron's actions and vacated his orders. The Supreme Court held that continuing to stay the Fifth Circuit mandates would cause further harm to Meredith and enforcing the mandates would not cause appreciable harm to Ole Miss. 83 S. Ct. 10.

The Fifth Circuit found in a separate opinion that an agent of the State of Mississippi who barred Meredith from entering Ole Miss was guilty of civil contempt. 313 F.2d 534 (5th Cir. 1962).

There was a riot at Ole Miss on the night of September 30, 1962 when Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss. Mississippi National Guard, U.S. Marshals, and the U.S. Army were called in to control the crowds protesting Meredith's entrance to Ole Miss. Two people were killed in the clash and hundreds were injured. Meredith went on to graduate from Ole Miss, but had to be protected by troops 24 hours per day during his tenure at the school.

The case is now closed.

Available Opinions:

Meredith v. Fair, 199 F. Supp. 754 (S.D. Miss. 1961).

Meredith v. Fair, 298 F.2d 696 (5th Cir. 1962).

Meredith v. Fair, 202 F. Supp. 224 (S.D. Miss. 1962).

Meredith v. Fair, 305 F.2d 341 (5th Cir. 1962).

Meredith v. Fair, 305 F.2d 343 (5th Cir. 1962).

Meredith v. Fair, 306 F.2d 374 (5th Cir. 1962).

Meredith v. Fair, 83 S. Ct. 10 (1962).

Meredith v. Fair, 313 F.2d 534 (5th Cir. 1962).

Summary Authors

Amelia Huckins (3/15/2017)

People


Judge(s)

Black, Hugo Lafayette (District of Columbia)

Brown, John Robert (Louisiana)

DeVane, Dozier Adolphus (Florida)

Mize, Sidney Carr (Mississippi)

Rives, Richard Taylor (Alabama)

Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Georgia)

Wisdom, John Minor (Louisiana)

Judge(s)

Black, Hugo Lafayette (District of Columbia)

Brown, John Robert (Louisiana)

DeVane, Dozier Adolphus (Florida)

Mize, Sidney Carr (Mississippi)

Rives, Richard Taylor (Alabama)

Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Georgia)

Wisdom, John Minor (Louisiana)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

3:61-03130

[Order]

199 F.Supp. 754

Dec. 12, 1961

Dec. 12, 1961

Order/Opinion

19394

[Order]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

298 F.2d 696

Jan. 12, 1962

Jan. 12, 1962

Order/Opinion

3:61-03130

[Order]

202 F.Supp. 224

Feb. 3, 1962

Feb. 3, 1962

Order/Opinion

19475

[Order]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

305 F.2d 343

June 25, 1962

June 25, 1962

Order/Opinion

19475

[Order]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

306 F.2d 374

July 27, 1962

July 27, 1962

Order/Opinion

[Order]

Supreme Court of the United States

83 S.Ct. 10

Sept. 10, 1962

Sept. 10, 1962

Order/Opinion

Federal Assistance Needed: John A. Morsell, Assistant to NAACP Executive Secretary to President John F. Kennedy

No Court

Sept. 21, 1962

Sept. 21, 1962

Correspondence

19475

[Order]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

313 F.2d 534

Sept. 29, 1962

Sept. 29, 1962

Order/Opinion

19475

[Order]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

305 F.2d 341

Dec. 12, 1962

Dec. 12, 1962

Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL Date / External URL

Federalism and Civil Rights: The Meredith Case

Mitchell F Crusto

In 1962, the University of Mississippi admitted James Meredith as its first Black undergraduate. This event in American history required the commitment of the United States government to protect the …

https://escholarship.org/...

The Supreme Court's "New" Federalism: An Anti-Rights Agenda?

Mitchell F. Crusto

In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has developed a "new" federalism doctrine. The Court's "new" federalism seeks to elevate the power of state governments over that of the federal gover… April 1, 2000

April 1, 2000

http://readingroom.law.gsu.edu/...

Integrating Ole Miss: A Civil Rights Milestone

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

This site lets visitors witness the events firsthand through the actual letters, recorded telephone conversations, and images of those who made history. June 1, 2002

June 1, 2002

http://www.jfklibrary.org/...

Henry Hampton Collection: John Doar

John Doar, Henry Hampton Collection

This interview was done for Henry Hampton's Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Doar served as an attorney and as Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's … Nov. 15, 1985

Nov. 15, 1985

http://digital.wustl.edu/...

Henry Hampton Collection: Interview of Judge Charles Clark

Judge Charles Clark, Henry Hampton Collection

This interview was done for Henry Hampton's Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Charles Clark was born in Memphis, TN. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve in World War II. … May 8, 1986

May 8, 1986

http://digital.wustl.edu/...

Docket

Last updated Aug. 6, 2022, 3:15 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Mississippi

Case Type(s):

School Desegregation

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 31, 1961

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Plaintiff was a black man who sought admission to Ole Miss.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Unknown

Defendants

Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, State

Defendant Type(s):

College/University

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1961 - None

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Preliminary relief denied

Issues

General:

Aggressive behavior

Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students

Education

Racial segregation

School/University Facilities

School/University policies

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black

Type of Facility:

Government-run