- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Former U.S. Marshal Al Butler returned yesterday to the University of Mississippi and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the other graying lawmen who 40 years ago battled a mob trying to keep a black man from enrolling.

Mr. Butler and the others presented Ole Miss with a sketch, titled "On the Threshold of a Dream," on the steps of the Lyceum Building, which still bears the scars of the rioting that left two dead and more than 200 injured.

The sketch depicts a dark figure on the steps of the Lyceum with a ribbon of red spilling down its stairs.

Later, Mr. Butler and the others were recognized by the city of Oxford, where the university is located. More than 200 people, including Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, were on hand for the downtown presentation. Banners on nearby buildings promoted the Rebel football team, and the smell of pork barbecue was heavy in the air.

"I hope they know they are honoring some of the most courageous, and unfortunately, unheralded men that ever wore a badge," said the 73-year-old Mr. Butler, who traveled to Oxford from his home in North Carolina.

Only a handful of black spectators watched the emotional hourlong ceremony during which Mayor Richard Howorth thanked the men for their service and presented them with keys to the city.

Mr. Musgrove told those being honored that the enrollment of James Meredith had "helped change a mind-set linked to the past, shifting instead to the future."

Murray C. Falkner, a National Guardsmen at the time Mr. Meredith entered the university, was also on hand for the ceremonies. It was Mr. Falkner who led the first federalized troops onto the campus the night of the riot.

"It was hell," said Mr. Falkner, who headed a Mississippi National Guard unit. "I didn't get scared until two days later when I found seven bricks and a Molotov cocktail in the back of my truck. It didn't go off, but if it had it would have blown me and my driver's heads off."

None who served during the Sept. 30, 1962, riot ever received commendation.

An Army memo from April 1963 acknowledged the soldiers were deserving, but said the publicity "would not be in the best interests of the U.S. Army or the nation." It also said medals shouldn't be given in conflicts between soldiers and other Americans.

The night of the riot, federal marshals withstood bottles, bricks and taunts from a mob of several hundred who had vowed to fight the integration of Ole Miss. Fires were set, shots were fired and two persons were killed.

By morning, more than 30,000 troops, including Mr. Falkner, had reclaimed the campus and restored some semblance of peace.

The 74-year-old Mr. Falkner said it never bothered him that he didn't receive a medal.

"It would have been nice, but I didn't want a medal," he said. "I had enough military training that when you get an order you carry out an order."

The recognition of the soldiers is part of the university's yearlong observance of its tumultuous integration.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, was scheduled to give a keynote address later yesterday during the dedication of a civil rights memorial near the Lyceum.

Mr. Evers, the NAACP field secretary who was killed by a white supremacist in 1963, was turned away from the university's law school in 1954. A display and plaque were prepared for the Lamar Law Center in his memory.

"Today we seek to make amends to that old wrong by dedicating this permanent memorial to a brave American and a soldier in the fight for justice and equality," said Samuel M. Davis, the law school's dean.

Mr. Meredith, 69, is expected to take part in some of the ceremonies.

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