This interview was done for Henry Hampton's Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). John Minor Wisdom was born on May 17, 1905, in New Orleans. He received his A.B. from Washington and Lee University in 1925, followed by a law degree from Tulane Law School in 1929. He worked as an adjunct professor of law at Tulane from 1938 to 1957, interrupted by his service in the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel from 1942-1946. He was nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 14, 1957, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and confirmed by the Senate on June 26, 1957.
Wisdom was a principal figure in implementing the decision of Brown v. Board of Education in the Southern areas covered by the Fifth Circuit. He is most known for his decision ordering James Meredith to be admitted to the University of Mississippi in Meredith v. Fair, 298 F.2d 696 (1962), 19394, despite an promise of defiance from the governor. Meredith became the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi.