OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA) — A prayer vigil was held Monday at Ole Miss where people remembered James Meredith, the man who integrated the university in 1962.
That event was part of a host of events at the university called "50 Years of Integration: Opening the Closed Society."
At a luncheon on campus, federal marshals who were called in to protect Meredith during his enrollment were honored guests. They wore armbands to distinguish themselves.
"It was very difficult. There were life-threatening situations," said Stacia Hylton, the director of the United States Marshals Service. "You know, shots were fired. And I think that these men, along with several other individuals from Mississippi, were able to deescalate the situation and control it."
"Oh yes, there were black marshals here," said Robert Moore, a retired U.S. marshal with family ties in Pontotoc. "There were six, and a black U.S. marshal was in charge of the detail."
It's been 50 years now since James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi.
And since that time, the university has slowly but surely become a melting pot of students from all over the country and the world. That's why officials say it's important now to remember Meredith's accomplishments.
"Fifty years of racial integration is important, not only for the University of Mississippi but for our state and for our nation," said Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones. "This was not only an important event for us, but Mr. Meredith's admission here broke barriers all across the South for opportunities in education."
At the Ole Miss Law Center, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson told students his story and how Meredith made it possible for him to become the first African-American to graduate from the university's law school.
"It's just hard to envision what a courageous and fearless man Mr. Meredith was," said Anderson. "I couldn't do that. I came to Ole Miss three years after he did, and it was difficult then."
But not difficult now says one student.
"There's still some misconceptions, I think, are made about the school. It's totally different than how some people perceive the school. And I think it's a friendlier environment more so than in the past," said Michael Williams, an African-American law student.