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Case Name Meredith v. Fair SD-MS-0001
Docket / Court 3130 ( S.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) Education
School Desegregation
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 ... read more >
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).

Amelia Huckins - 03/15/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
College/University
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Education
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff was a black man who sought admission to Ole Miss.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1961 - n/a
Filing Year 1961
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Additional Resources
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  The Supreme Court's "New" Federalism: An Anti-Rights Agenda?
Georgia State University Law Review
Date: Spring 2000
By: Mitchell F. Crusto (Georgia State University Faculty)
Citation: 16 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 517
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Henry Hampton Collection: Interview of Judge Charles Clark
Henry Hampton Collection: Washington University in St. Louis
Date: May 8, 1986
By: Judge Charles Clark, Henry Hampton Collection
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Henry Hampton Collection: John Doar
Henry Hampton Collection: Washington University in St. Louis
Date: Nov. 15, 1985
By: John Doar, Henry Hampton Collection
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
[Order] (199 F.Supp. 754) (S.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/12/1961
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (298 F.2d 696)
SD-MS-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/12/1962
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (202 F.Supp. 224) (S.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/03/1962
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (305 F.2d 343)
SD-MS-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/25/1962
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (306 F.2d 374)
SD-MS-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/27/1962
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (83 S.Ct. 10)
SD-MS-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/10/1962
Source: Westlaw
Federal Assistance Needed: John A. Morsell, Assistant to NAACP Executive Secretary to President John F. Kennedy
SD-MS-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/21/1962
[Order] (313 F.2d 534)
SD-MS-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/29/1962
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (305 F.2d 341)
SD-MS-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/12/1962
Source: Westlaw
Judges Black, Hugo Lafayette (SCOTUS)
SD-MS-0001-0004
Brown, John Robert (Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0001-0003 | SD-MS-0001-0005 | SD-MS-0001-0008
DeVane, Dozier Adolphus (S.D. Fla., N.D. Fla.)
SD-MS-0001-0005 | SD-MS-0001-0008
Mize, Sidney Carr (S.D. Miss.)
SD-MS-0001-0002 | SD-MS-0001-0007
Rives, Richard Taylor (Eleventh Circuit, Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0001-0003 | SD-MS-0001-0006 | SD-MS-0001-0009
Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
SD-MS-0001-0006 | SD-MS-0001-0009
Wisdom, John Minor (Fifth Circuit)
SD-MS-0001-0003 | SD-MS-0001-0005 | SD-MS-0001-0006 | SD-MS-0001-0008 | SD-MS-0001-0009

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