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Through the eyes of a lieutenant

Thomas Graining

Among the events held to commemorate 50 years of integration at Ole Miss, Lt. Henry Gallagher retold the story from his viewpoint as James Meredith’s personal security guard. “We thought we were going on a routine exercise,” Galla- gher said. “Two army units that arrived on campus to confront the mob had prior knowledge of what they were going into; at the time, our mission was not told.” Gallagher said the Justice Department wanted Meredith to be free to come and go across the campus as a student. To coincide with Meredith’s class schedule, Gallagher positioned his unit 30 seconds apart from Meredith. “Throughout the whole time I was there, my only concern was that someone could bring harm with a rifle,” he said. “All you needed was a deer rifle and a scope and you could take him out within 200 yards.” After witnessing the violence of the riots from the mob, pro- testers and students, Gallagher said it was troubling to see chil- dren ages 12, 13 and 14 hurling bricks and cinder blocks at his patrol vehicle. “When I received my assignment to protect Mr. Meredith, I knew we were not going in to referee something, to um- pire something or to be in the middle of the emotion and anger, but to be on one side,” Gallagher said. Arthur Meredith, brother of James Meredith, also attend- ed the event and said he be- lieved in the future and found the commemoration “unim- pressive.” “I think you’re celebrating something that happened in the past, which means that you want to keep the people’s mind in the past,” Meredith said. “Fifty years from now, where will we be?” In conjunction with his speech on Monday, Gallagher held a book signing on Tues- day night at Off Square Books for his book entitled “James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot: A Soldier’s Story.” With about 30 spectators in attendance, Gallagher spoke on strong points. “When I saw the brigadier general, I thought my role would be over,” Gallagher said. “The general looked at me, realizing I was a part of the battalion and not the major, he said, ‘Lieutenant, you are to deliver a platoon of sol- diers to the Lyceum.’” Gallagher noted in the book that he had no idea what the Lyceum was, let alone where it was located. “As the ordeal was described to me hours before, two men have been reported killed and 40 marshals have been injured,” he said. “Bring ammunition and tear gas, you’re going into a bad situation.” In his book, Gallagher de- scribed Meredith as the most courageous person he ever met. “For a man to do that, you had to have courage,” he said. “There were personality issues about his attitude to- wards the press or people in authority, it didn’t matter,” he said. “(Stripped) down, it was just pure, unadulterated cour- age.” Gallagher also said that he didn’t have much of a rela- tionship with Meredith. He described Meredith as a man who at times seemed discon- nected with the violent reality that swirled around him. “He didn’t want our protec- tion,” Gallagher said. “He just wanted to be another student at Ole Miss.”