I had never watched ESPNs 30 for 30 but watched the one “Ghosts of Ole Miss.” It told the story of the only undefeated Ole Miss team of 1962 juxtaposed with the integration of the school by James Meredith. It was a powerful story only marred by its telling. Too much time was spent on the story teller than on the story itself – but perhaps this is the style of the series. One lasting impression is the strength and courage of Meredith especially in light of the demonic evilness of the students interviewed. I enrolled in Georgia the exact same quarter that Meredith went to Ole Miss. I actually sent him a note telling him to stay strong. I never got an answer but he may have never gotten it. I remember growing up and hearing “you think Georgia is bad? You should be thankful you are not in Mississippi.” So true. The film revisited the deaths of Emmitt Till and Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. The whites interviewed said “They deserved it.” No remorse there. Compared to Meredith, we seven blacks at Georgia had a walk in the park. Yes. Thank goodness we were not in Mississippi. The story then told of ridding the Ole Miss football games of all the confederate paraphernalia. Curiously it told of the first black cheerleader who in 1982 refused to carry the confederate flag but it neglected to mention the first black football player. I know all about this experience much too well. When I went to Georgia, the cheerleaders carried confederate flags as did most of the fans. The band was call the Dixie Red Coat Marching Band and played Dixie after the national anthem. We sat down and were pelted with stuff and yelled at until the dean of students showed up and started collecting IDs. Unlike Meredith, we went to every game and at every game we were called every name imaginable. Today no vestiges of the confederacy remains at UGA games – even the flags are gone from the tailgate. I wonder if the same is true at Ole Miss. The film also talked about the tribute to the 1962 team 50 years later and mentioned that Meredith was in the chancellor’s box. But it did not mention if any tribute was paid to Meredith. Curiously, there was a scene in which there was shown a statue of Meredith on the Ole Miss campus but not a word about it. Lastly, the best part of the film was the interview with Meredith himself. Clad in all white, he looked the part of a gentleman planter. He was still full of confidence and self assurance. Perhaps few people in history has had so great an impact on fundamentally changing a culture, a way of life and introducing so many in an entire state to the human race.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com