Meredith continues ‘last mission from God’
MADISON — Mississippi Civil Rights icon James Meredith has been touring all 82 Mississippi counties for about the last decade on what he calls his “last mission from God” to “uplift our moral character” by teaching the Ten Commandments, good from bad, right from wrong and the Golden Rule and he was with a group of about 400 seventh graders here last month.
Meredith said the reason for his tour is to get invites to speak to people throughout the state.
“I want to teach all the young people and old people who are uninstructed the message of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule,” he said. “My idea is that it will make Mississippi a better place.”
In 1962 the first Black student in to be enrolled at the University of Mississippi, Meredith was invited by Mississippi studies teacher Lindsey Cole to address 399 seventh graders at Madison Middle School.
Cole said the students listened intently to what Meredith had to say during his talk on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
“They thought he was great,” Cole said. “I think they really absorbed what he was saying and thought he was funny. I think they really loved seeing that he was there and not just someone from one of our textbooks.”
Cole said the Mississippi studies students’ lessons each year include reading Meredith’s story and watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Ghosts of Ole Miss” that covers the fall of 1962 and Meredith’s enrollment at the university.
Cole said they contacted Meredith after a parent said they could get in touch with him and extend the invite.
Shannon Green, the seventh-grade principal, said the students were “interested” and “respectful” and said that a student told her that it was “cool” to see someone from their textbook in person.
At his quickest clip, Meredith was hitting two counties a day. He said he still has a few counties left to visit, but he will visit them. When talking about a specific visit that fell apart, he left it simply: “I’ll let God worry about why.”
Meredith took some time to do a telephone interview with the Madison County Journal on Nov. 18, after a talk at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Performing Arts Center in Perkinston the previous evening. He said he was driving through Gulfport, ready to head north to Jackson.
“I am looking at the biggest and best beach in the world,” he said as his car was leaving Gulfport.
Meredith said he gets satisfaction from delivering a message that is so important to him. Meredith said he does not get a lot of feedback on his trips but has a good feeling for when “the message was communicated.”
Often he said he reads about his talks later on in news articles.
“Nobody tells me directly, but I have heard good reports,” Meredith said.
Green and Cole said his talk in Madison impacted them and their students.
Green said she has been an admirer of Meredith’s for some time and remembers reading his book when she was a student at Ole Miss. She said she remembers one point where he talked directly to the students.
“His message was to stay your course, and he told them that they are the future and the future depends on them,” Green said.
Green said she asked Meredith how he got through classes at Ole Miss with students and likely professors who did not want him there.
“He said that no matter what he knew, teaching was their job,” Green said. “He knew they were there to teach, and he was there to learn.”
Cole said he had a clear message about doing the right thing and the importance of the students’ choices and respecting their responsibilities.
“He said you know what is right,” Cole said. “Do what is good.”