JUNE 5, 1963

Cleve McDowell Arrives on campus at the University of Mississippi In 1963. Credit: University of Mississippi Libraries

Cleve McDowell became the first Black American to attend the University of Mississippi School of Law. He and James Meredith roomed together on campus. But university officials expelled him after they caught him with a pistol for self-protection. He began carrying the weapon after federal marshals left campus, no longer protecting him or Meredith. 

McDowell went on to receive his law degree from Texas Southern University in Houston and returned to the Mississippi Delta, where he served as field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and later worked as a public defender. He and other civil rights leaders argued that unpunished killers from the civil rights movement should be punished, just as Nazi war criminals had been. He died in 1997.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.