Former Oxford resident donates 1962 memorabilia

Robert A. Herring III was in 11th grade when one of the most significant moments in Mississippi and American history took place just outside his front door.


An eyewitness to the events surrounding James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi, Herring has donated three scrapbooks to the university’s Department of Archives and Special Collections. The scrapbooks, containing day-by-day news clippings of the events from six newspapers, will be preserved with other documents and papers related to the university’s integration.


Herring’s father accepted a position to start the Department of Electrical Engineering at UM and become its first chair in 1957. In 1962, the Herring family lived at 213 University Ave., on what was “Faculty Row.” The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts stands on the site of several of those houses.


The nation’s attention turned to Mississippi, when Meredith arrived on campus to begin his first semester at Ole Miss. On Sept. 30, 1962, a crowd gathered in opposition to the federal marshals who had been sent to guard Meredith. Riots ensued, and by the time the sun rose on Oct. 1, two men had been killed and dozens more injured.


Herring’s house was a short walking distance from the Lyceum and the Circle, and he found himself in the middle of the historic event.


“As an observer, I went back and forth between our house and the base of the Circle,” said Herring, a professor at the School of Business and Economics at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. “[It was] a feeling of [dis]belief that the riot was happening yet a realization that I was an eyewitness to history being made.”


Besides his scrapbooks, Herring has made available excerpts from his personal diary, which cover the events of that period. The diary is remarkably thorough, and the excerpts begin Sept. 11, when the state newspapers began reporting on the situation. With access to such a crucial vantage point, Herring carefully recorded everything he witnessed.


“RIOT!!” reads the text written vertically down the margin of the composition notebook.


“What was to happen, and what happened the rest of the night cannot be described by mere words,” Herring wrote to the right of the bold word. “What I am about to write here cannot begin to tell the story; you would have had to have seen it to fully comprehend it. I did not think that such a thing could happen here, and my life can never be the same again.”


The diary is a unique view into the thoughts of a young man who was at a formative age when Meredith was admitted. Herring said he wants the scrapbooks and the diary excerpts to be available for anyone who comes to Oxford to research and read about the events of 1962.


Jennifer Ford, associate professor and head of archives and special collections at the J.D. Williams Library, said the gift is an invaluable look at fall 1962 from a different perspective.


“Dr. Herring’s gift is a tremendous record of the events surrounding the 1962 integration of the University of Mississippi,” she said. “We are extremely grateful for his generous gift to the university.”


For more information about collections in the UM Department of Archives and Special Collections, click here.