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The insurrection that occurred during the admission of James Meredith in 1962 has long

overshadowed the University of Mississippis true dignity. Consequently, there has always been
an association with racial prejudice when discussing the Universitys past and its future. The
University has acquired many respectable and intellectual minds during its span as an institution,
some who have gone widely unrecognized by the general public of Mississippi. One intellectual
mind that clashed with the ideologies that embodied most white Mississippians happened to be
James W. Silver. Silver resided on campus and witnessed the riots during the admission of James
Meredith, later letting his feelings be known November 7, 1963, during his presidential address
to the Southern Historical Association in Asheville, North Carolina; he would later extend his
speech into a book in 1964. Silvers speech and book, Mississippi: The Closed Society, opposed
the value system of white Mississippians and infringed upon the traditional policies of the
University and Mississippis elite, which led to his departure from the university in 1964. Both
national and state reactions are discussed and related to Mississippi and national notions towards
Silver. In conclusion, the ramifications of writing about Mississippi and changes to the
University of Mississippi will be discussed, along with Silvers tenure at Notre Dame and South
Florida following Ole Miss. In December of 1964, Joseph Epstein, writer for the Commentary
explained, Professor Silver describes how, through deliberate action and fear-inspired inaction,
the professions, the clergy, business, and most especially that states politicians have all helped to
close the doors and shutters of Mississippi society.1
James Wesley Silver was born June 28, 1907, in Rochester, New York. Silvers father relocated
to Rochester in 1894 after the Panic of 1893, where he began to peddle groceries north of the
city. Throughout Silvers early childhood, its nearly certain that his upbringing backed his
1 Epstein, Joseph. Two Southern Liberals. Commentary 38, (December
1964): 28-29.

familys Puritan ethic and conservatism. Silvers father and mother worked rigorously for ten
years until they acquired enough money to purchase three grocery stores. The Silvers hoped to
eventually save enough money to escape the harsh winters of the North by moving south to a
more moderate climate. Silver describes himself as a shy, clumsy and chubby youngster during
his years in Rochester. However, despite his introverted tendencies, Silver was the standard
bearer for having the highest grades at Jefferson Junior High School. With a hard work ethic
Silvers family eventually saved enough money to move south for a more favorable climate. In
1919 Silvers family relocated to the resort town of Southern Pines, North Carolina. It did not
take long for Silver to fit in; he became the starting second baseman on the baseball team and
was a member of the established first-rate scout program stationed in town. Silver quickly
integrated into one of the top students in his class and became salutatorian of his graduating
class. Silver stated, There are no reformers in my heritage that I am aware of, just plain hard
working farmers and craftsmen who would not have been out of place in the Magnolia State. My
folks were ever on the poor side, so much so that I was the first to have a try at what is called
higher education.2
After graduating high school at the age of fifteen, Silver was accepted into the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Silvers father cherished his sons education so much that he
willingly paid the two thousand dollars for James to enroll the following fall semester. Silver
stated himself that the years spent in Chapel Hill did little to expand his knowledge, and he
ended up changing his major from Business to Education merely to escape tuition charges. While
he did not expand his knowledge in the classroom, Silver did develop an interest in playing
poker and became quiet good at it. By the beginning of his senior year, Jim and some twenty
2James Silver, Running Scared: Silver in Mississippi (Jackson: University Press
of Mississippi, 1984), 3.
2

other gambling counterparts were brought forth to the student council for gambling charges.
After revoking his appeal, Silver was able to escape the charges and had already acquired enough
credits to graduate from the University of North Carolina in 1927.
After graduation, Silver traveled north to New York with a friend and forged paper work
so they could hire on as a hand aboard a cargo carrier ship headed to the west coast via the
Panama Canal. They both encountered multiple near death adventures on the ship and requested
to leave without pay at the first sight of land on the West Coast. From Sacramento the two
traveled east and escaped multiple encounters with the police. Silver would finally part ways
with his counterpart and set his sights on returning home. Silver revealed after his excursion,
Home never seemed sweeter, and probably for the first time in my life I felt confident enough to
regale all listeners with tales of hobo jungles, confrontations with the police, living off the land,
the turbulence of travel by freight train across the Great Salt Lake, as well as miscellaneous
adventures at sea.3 Upon returning to North Carolina, Silver accepted a position at a
consolidated high school in Ellerbe where he coached football and basketball.
After Silvers short stint as a high school coach and teacher he soon headed west to Nashville to
extend his graduate studies in History. During his seven years in Nashville, Silver described
himself as developing into a dilettante. Vanderbilt, at the time known for its agrarian stance on
social problems and education, did little to answer the question of race relations in the South in
Silvers eyes. Silver claimed that through his years of college he acquired a large amount of
factual and theoretical knowledge, but lacked awareness of the social issues that he would soon
face in Mississippi. Silver articulated that, The Vanderbilt academic community of my
acquaintance seldom seemed to reach the heart of social questions, except perhaps in courses on

3 Silver, Running Scared, 11.


3

antiquity or in the School of Religion.4 In the spring of 1935, Silver received his PhD in History
from Vanderbilt University and fell in love with his future wife, Dutch, from Montgomery,
Alabama.
The following August of 1935, Silver received his first job offer at Southwestern College in
Winfield, Kansas. The young professor eagerly received his first job and faced the real world,
even though his salary would only total $1980 for nine months. During the Christmas break, the
administration at Southwestern donated Silver enough money for him and Dutch to return to
Nashville to be wedded. After enduring the Dust Bowl that swept through much of the Midwest
during 1935, Silvers wife became aware of a job offering at the University of Mississippi
returning home from a trip from Texas. Dutch longed to return home to the South and begin a
family. Silver sent a letter of inquiry and joined the faculty just in time for the 1936 fall semester.
Silver later explained in his book, Running Scared: Silver in Mississippi, Our time in the West
had been of great value. Learning about life in a dusty, one-crop state in depression was a pretty
fair preparation for moving to penurious Mississippi, at the time engaged mainly in the
production of cotton.5
Faculty and the student body automatically accepted Jim Silver when he arrived in Oxford in
1936. He rapidly emerged in the Universitys social scene and joined the Rotary Club. Silver was
also active in the athletic department at Ole Miss; he took part in coaching the mens tennis team
and filmed football games for Coach Johnny Vaught on game days. Outside of the athletic
department, Silver administered the honorary organization, Omicron Delta Kappa. Silvers wife
Dutch also pitched in and did her fair share of work, she would go on to tutor football players for
fifty cents an hour to keep players eligible on the playing field. Due to his early adaptation to the
4 Silver, Running Scared, 15.
5 Silver, Running Scared, 17.
4

social and literary scene on campus, Silver gained immense support from the student body and
administration. Four years later in 1940, chairman, Bell I. Wiley, suggested that Silver be
advanced to Associate Professor of History at the university. Wiley showed support by stating,
[Silver] is unusually adept at getting along with his students and at inspiring them to an
improvement in scholarly performance . . . [and has] rendered exceedingly valuable service to
the school and to the department through his extracurricular activities.6 The charismatic teacher
and his family garnered recognition and respected, however time and change of heart would
eventually erode Silvers reputation and character with not only university, but also Mississippis
closed society.
Despite acceptance at Ole Miss, as early as 1938 Silver had been identified as a Communist by
southern plantation owners in the Delta over his remarks in Clarksdale pertaining to the 1938
Wages and Hours Act. Silver supported the New Deal and the proposal of a minimum wage,
which garnered him the early reputation of a radical in the eyes of Mississippians. Whites in the
conservative Delta believed that any minimum wage requirement, even one that did not apply to
farm workers, violated states rights, threatened the power of employers, and smacked of
communism.7 By 1946, Silver gained enough prestige promoting him as chair of the history
department at the university. Following the promotion in the history department, Silvers affinity
on the subject of race relations in Mississippi increased, as did dissent from conservative
antagonists across the state. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, speeches given by Silver at
many different clubs and organizations often challenged conservative propaganda. By the end of
the 1950s, the professors contumacious conduct had challenged every aspect of Mississippis
6 Charles Eagles, The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration
of Ole Miss
(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009),
141.
7 Eagles, The price of Defiance, 142.
5

closed society. Historian Charles Eagles wrote, His heretical public statements often
embroiled him in controversy and made him a target for conservatives suspicious of the
University and its faculty.8 Silvers opposition yearned for a chance to oust him from the
university, especially after his speech to the Southern Historical Association entitled
Mississippi: The Closed Society. The first decade of Silvers life turned out to be the better
part of his years in the small conservative town of Oxford, Mississippi.
To understand the rationale behind Silvers speech, individuals should understand the state of
mind he had developed by the time of his speech in November of 1963. Beginning in the 1940s,
after settling into his new job, Silver continued his journey as a scholar. While revising his
dissertation on Edmund Gaines, a U.S. Army general, Silver became much like his topic of
discussion. Gaines had spent most of his life in the U.S. Army on the Western Front. Gaines
experiences on the Western Front developed him into a commanding figure who knew what it
took to survive and become a man. Gaines, like Silver, often found himself in opposition with
most government projects and believed that the federal government along with the rights of the
Constitution should be supportive of all people. Charles Eagles compared the two by stating,
The scholar may have identified with his subject and molded his own career after Gainess, or
perhaps he molded his biography of Gaines to reflect his own predilections.9
Another influence on Silver was that of William Faulkner. Faulkner notoriously always
challenged conservative Mississippi and the race question that left many puzzled. Faulkner and
Silvers companionship blossomed toward the later part of the 1940s during the filming of
Faulkners movie Intruder. Throughout the ensuing years Faulkners home, Rowan Oak, became
the two companions battleground of discussion on race relations in Mississippi. After the
8 Eagles, The Price of Defiance, 142.
9 Eagles, The Price of Defiance, 141.
6

formation of the Citizens Council in 1954, Silver and Faulkner devised weekly meetings at
Rowan Oak aimed towards counteracting any development of a Citizens Council in Lafayette
County. These meetings only lasted for a short period of time, however Faulkner, Silver and P.D.
East did manage to assemble a satire entitled the Southern Reposure. East, Faulkner and Silver
remained anonymous fearful of the backlash that would ensue, so East created the pseudonym
Nathan Bedford Cooclose to keep their identities free from ridicule. In Divided Minds, by Carol
Polsgrove, she explains, In the debut issue, Cooclose explained the purpose of the Southern
Reposure: to maintain segregation of an obnoxious group of people who threatened our way of
life, the Scotch-Irish (the ethnic group from which most white Mississippians derived).10 The
publication set its sights on college students in an effort to expose the ridiculousness of
segregation; over 8,000 copies were dispersed throughout college campuses in the South. Silver
later acknowledged that, in grappling with the race question in the 1950s, Faulkner without a
question, sustained me in what I suppose was my own slow radicalization on race.11
Silver admits, My entire life had unquestionably been a preparation for my Mississippi: The
Closed Society speech in 1963. I devoted almost an entire year to the collection of materials for
my most ambitious undertaking.12 As anticommunism and bad race relations began flaring
throughout the 1950s, Silver could feel his time at the University of Mississippi slowly coming
to an end. Many different factors led to Silver denouncing Mississippis way of life, not just
others opinions about the professor.
After the insurrection that occurred in 1962 over the admittance of James H. Meredith, Silver
officially witnessed the closed society in action, which encouraged him even more to write his
10 Carol Polsgrove, Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights
Movement (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), 20.
11 Eagles, The Price of Defiance, 152.
12 Silver, Running Scared, 86.
7

speech. Silver also wanted Mississippians, along with the rest of the nation, to know that the
admission of Meredith was not negotiable. Mississippians and university administration placed
the blame for the insurrection solely on the Kennedy administration and federal troops, when in
fact it was the resistance of Mississippians that started it all. The genesis of the deception that
shifted the blame for the insurrection from Mississippians to federal officials came from the
University administration, attempting both to justify its own conduct and to appease the political
powers in Jackson and (the Mississippi delegation in) Washington.13 Before his address in
November of 1963, Silver questioned various scholars and knowledgeable minds, who once
lived in Mississippi, throughout America about their thoughts as to why Mississippi was so
unique. Many of the responses centered around Mississippis poverty, ruralness, lack of
leadership in politics, fear and religious fundamentalism. Silver wanted the entire nation to know
the real issues that resided within the Magnolia State, and hopefully break the barrier between
race relations in Mississippi. Silver was ultimately fed up with being criticized over his radical
views regarding race relations and Mississippis southern orthodoxy, and by November of 1963
he let his true feelings be known.
On November 7, 1963 during his outgoing address as President of the Southern Historical
Association in Asheville, North Carolina, James W. Silver publically confronted Mississippis
closed society. In Mississippi: The Closed Society speech, Silver attacked the state
legislature, governor, university, actions taken during Meredith acceptance, southern orthodoxy
and other hindrances that kept the state secluded from the rest of the nation. The premise of
Silvers address explained that Mississippi was deeply embedded with its confederate traditions
and used all means possible to keep segregation in the state. In his address Silver explained,
13 James Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society (Harcourt, Brace and World,
1966), 123-124.
8

Today the totalitarian society of Mississippi imposes on all its people acceptance of an
obedience of an official orthodoxy almost identical with pro-slavery days.14 Silver made his
point imperative that his audience understood that the white population within Mississippi had
not changed their views since Reconstruction. Challenging the official orthodoxy in Mississippi,
Silver brought to light how the church and its actions supported white supremacist values and did
little to aid Negro advancement stating, In the past year many preachers and a few ministerial
groups have made courageous stands, but the church as a whole has placed its banner with the
status quo.15 Silver also called the violence during the Meredith incident a cynical hoax, the
speech described how the insurrection and how the Universitys administration blamed the
Kennedy administration and federal government for the insurrection rather than Mississippians.
Silver explains in his address that Mississippians had been poised and ready to resist any attempt
of liberating the Negro for decades due to stubborn legislature and leadership. To blame the
mayhem on Federal Marshals seemed obscene to Silver. He openly accused jurist and lawyers
for slandering federal laws and misinterpreting them for their own benefit as well as white
Mississippians. Silver would not let one thought of his go unspoken during his address and
eventually called attention to Mississippis governor, Ross Barnett. Silver charged that Governor
Ross Barnetts personal constitution stops with the 10th amendment and said the governor acted
conveniently ignorant of the incompatibility of states rights and modern industrialization.16 At
the end of his speech, Jim Silver had officially pissed off conservative Mississippi. Silvers

14 Purser Hewitt, Dr. Silver Talks Again, The Clarion Ledger, November 8,
1963, 8.
15 Claude Sitton, Mississippi Professor Declares That His State is
Totalitarian, New York Times, November 8, 1963, 1.
16 Ole Miss Prof. Says Society Closed Here, Jackson Daily News,
November 8, 1963, 7B.
9

speech shed light on the monolithic society that encompassed white Mississippians and how the
future of race relations in Mississippi would continue as a long struggle.
It did not take long for public opinion in Mississippi and around the nation to take notice of
Silvers outlandish speech, especially one that was directed right at the heart of Mississippis
social problems. For example, the following correspondence letter from Presley J. Snow of
Philadelphia, Mississippi stated, Apparently you [Silver] belong to the Hodding Carter and
Ralph McGill braying-ass school, ever eager for a crumb of Yankee publicity and an occasional
bone in the form of leftwing praise spawned in the mouths in the mouths of subversives who
would destroy America . . . . Mississippi is not the place for you because there is going to be
segregation in Mississippi as long as the world stands. This is true because segregation is decent,
logical and honest. It conforms with nature and God and that is all the proof it needs.17
Despite the ever-growing negative responses from enraged Mississippians, Silver did
garner positive support for his speech within Mississippi. Among national support, Silver
garnered the support of the AAUP and ACLU and would later thank the AAUP after the troubles
of his speech passed over. Silver stated, I would have been a lost soul in Mississippi from the
beginning. It is pretty damned hard to fight a whole community by yourself.18 Silvers earlier
years in Oxford had produced many friends and supporters within the community that believed
Silver to pose no harm to the town or university. The support showed that not all of
Mississippians found fault against Silver with his outlandish speech and the eventual publication
of his book, Mississippi: The Closed Society. Two different honor societies at the university
eventually passed a joint resolution defending Silvers academic freedoms, stating that it was
unjust to stop any of Silvers academic pursuits. Some of the largest support came from former
17 Presley Snow to James Silver, 11 November 1963, letter box 35, James W
Silver Collection, J.D. Williams Library, The University of Mississippi, Oxford.
18 Polsgrove, Divided Minds, 220.
10

students of Silver, many whom admired his classes and his different teaching methodologies that
actually sparked their interests in the subject taught. One anonymous student said Silver did
more for my education at Ole Miss than all the other professors combined. He was and is one of
the rare men who make a college education worth all the time and expense.19
In a letter to the editor of The Daily Mississippian an unknown student wrote, To
suggest removing Dr. Silver from his position at Ole Miss will prove to the hilt just what he has
been saying about the closed society in our state.20 The student praised Silvers teaching
methods and felt that his opinions were for the students to either agree or disagree with, leaving
it up to their own interpretations, not the legislature. Although Silver had positive feedback from
various others that surrounded him, he knew that it could not outweigh the immense power of the
governor of Mississippi or the Citizens Council that was hell bent on saving the southern way of
life.
The negativity circulating throughout the state legislature and trustees after Silvers speech
would give Silvers opponents the ammunition they needed to stand against the professor. One of
the first and more outspoken legislators, U.S. representative John Bell Williams criticized
Silvers address to the Southern Historical Association. Williams claimed that Silver had bitten
the hand that had fed him for the past twenty-eight years, and that anyone who would cuss his
own state should be removed from the university. Representative Williams called on the state to
fumigate some of our college staffs and get those who will teach Americanism and not foreign
ideologies.21 Other legislators sponsored bills to keep Silver from speaking on any topic that
they considered not in accordance with the status quo. The creation of a committee among
19 Nadine Cohodas, The Band Played Dixie: Race and the Liberal Conscience
at Ole Miss (New York: The Free Press, 1997), 112.
20 Letter to the editor, The Daily Mississippian, November 14, 1963.
21 Cohodas, The Band Played Dixie, 111.
11

trustees gathered information on Silver to have him eventually fired from the University. They
later would gain evidence and charge Silver of making provocative and inflammatory speeches
calculated to increase racial tension and provoke racial violence.22
Brad Lawrence, vice president of the student council at Ole Miss, said that Silver became
outspoken because of his inability to conform students to his beliefs of racial integration and
centralized government. Negative criticism not only came from legislators and trustees, it also
circulated through the student body at the University. In a letter to the editor of The Daily
Mississippian, Tom Harvey adamantly disagreed with Silver stating, Dr. Silver has handed us
by our own words a very simply means of contradicting him. We may absolutely and
dramatically show him false by ignoring him by failing to contest his right to say what he pleases
without fear of reprisal.23 Critics of Silvers address, the legislature, trustees and students in
colleges of Mississippi, showed that they would use the rationale of the closed society and its
intermingling laws to remove Silver from the University of Mississippi.
All the support in the country could not have kept the professor at the University of Mississippi.
The Citizens Council and its policing faction called the Sovereignty Commission, along with
immense support of Governor Ross Barnett all intervened to make sure Silver would leave the
institution. The Citizens Council was formed in 1954 during the wake of the Brown vs. Board
decision and sought to keep schools in Mississippi segregated. This patriotic society took pride in
preserving white supremacy within the state, and only by legal means trying to alienate away
from the image of another KKK organization. Though openly advocating the use of economic
reprisal and social pressure to maintain segregation, the Council decried violence and declared its
own respectability.24
22 Cohodas, The Band Played Dixie, 111.
23 Harvey, Tom, Letter to the editor, The Daily Mississippian, November 14, 1963.
24 Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society, 36.
12

With resistance gaining against Silver, he acquired legal assistance to counteract the charges
created by the trustees and legislators to have him fired. Cohodas explains that, Silver had
already retained legal counsel, and his lawyers were preparing responses to the boards charges,
he in effect made the entire matter moot.25 During the ensuing year and a half, Silver ignored
the charges by the trustees and began compiling more research to extend his speech into a book,
which would also be entitled Mississippi: The Closed Society. Silver knew that his time at the
University of Mississippi would be limited after his speech and the publication of his book.
Silver acknowledges, It had been known early in 1963 that at least a third of the regular faculty
would be gone by fall, though the administration had played down the fact.26 In February of
1964, Notre Dames chancellor contacted Silver for a teaching position following the growing
tensions after his speech to the Southern Historical Association. However, Silver declined the
initial offer because he wanted to still be a resident of Mississippi when his book would be
published.
Mississippi: The Closed Society made its debut on June 22, 1964, almost two years after the
James Meredith insurrection on the campus of the University of Mississippi. National attention
was already directed towards Mississippi during the summer of 1964. June marked the beginning
of the Freedom Summer Project aimed at registering black Mississippians to vote, so naturally
the media flocked to the state to cover the event. Coincidentally, the books release followed the
day after three civil rights workers were reported missing in Philadelphia, Mississippi. On June
21, the day before the books release, three civil rights workers were reported missing, and for the
next six weeks, until James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner were found shot
dead and buried in an earthen dam near Philadelphia in Neshoba County, the nation was caught
25 Cohodas, The Band Played Dixie, 112.
26 Silver, Running Scared: Silver in Mississippi, 103.
13

up in the drama of their disappearance.27 The first year after the publication, over thirty
thousand copies of Mississippi: The Closed Society were purchased. Silver admitted that his
book sold as well as it did because of the ever-rising curiosity of the nation about Mississippis
resistance to African American integration.
In the first part of Mississippi: The Closed Society, with the Meredith riots as his basis, Silver
described the orthodoxy of the general population in Mississippi as the main problem that
hindered Mississippis future. Later, when the state of Mississippi was being flooded from
within by malignant propaganda about what had happened at Ole Miss that fateful night, I felt a
growing compulsion to try to tell the truth, to relate in plain fashion what had taken place, and
then to put it all in historical perspective.28 Silver discusses the different sectors of the closed
society and its roles. Silver covers all aspects from state secession in the 1850s to the role of the
church and biblical ties. Noting that the clergy, a century later, still failed to speak out against the
immoral acts of white supremacists toward African Americans As long as separation of races
occurred, no opposition would come into play. He expounds upon the militancy of the people,
using all means necessary to prevent integration. Silver also sheds light on the juggernaut that the
Citizens Council formed following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954. The second part of
Mississippi: The Closed Society consisted of a compilation of letters that Silver received and sent
to numerous individuals in Mississippi and throughout the nation. The letters gave insight to the
reactions of Silver, colleagues and critics alike. Thomas Clancy of America explained in his
review, He has added, too, a selection of Letters from the Closed Society, which tells us more
about the author and the poignant struggle in his own heart and family that was made necessary

27 Cohodas, The Band Played Dixie, 112.


28 Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society, ix.
14

by his determination to tell the truth, to speak his mind, and yet to remain at his post in
Oxford.29
Although the general populace of Mississippi found negativity in Mississippi: The Closed
Society, national reviews of the book and Silver were more favorable. Edward Weeks of The
Atlantic Monthly stated that Silver was fully qualified to write the book due to his immense
knowledge of Mississippi history dating back to the Reconstruction era. Thomas Clancy of
America described in his review entitled Faulkner Country, Silvers book as a shocking book,
made all the more so because the story is told with compassion, soberness and mordant wit. It
also seems to me to be one of the half-dozen most important books about the South in the last
twenty years.30 Ellen Lakes of the Harvard Crimson concluded her review with the statement,
Clearly James Silver is not a radical dissenter from the Mississippi mind but a loyal citizen who
attacks his world in order to ultimately preserve it.31 The reviews proved people understood
Silvers intent to honestly explain the events leading up to the insurrection at the University of
Mississippi in 1962.
During the spring of 1964, before the publication of his book Mississippi: The Closed Society,
Silver visited the University of Notre Dame following an invitation received in February to
teach. Silver admits that he was hesitant to the offer of teaching at a Catholic institution, but
knew after the publication of his book that it would be best for him to leave the state to seek
refuge from retaliation in Mississippi. In the late spring I did take off for a couple of days to
visit South Bend, and while walking around the campus, I happened to hear a down-to-earth
29 Thomas Clancy, review of Mississippi: The Closed Society, by James Silver,
America 111 (1964): 47.
30 Clancy, review of Mississippi: The Closed Society, 47.
31 Ellen Lake, review of Mississippi: The Closed Society, by James Silver, The
Harvard Crimson, October 24,1964, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1964/10/24/theclosed-society-pa-harvard-student/.
15

discussion of birth control through the open windows of a classroom filled with nuns and
seminarians. I felt that an institution where such a conversation took place could not be bad at
all.32 After his visit, Silver asked for a leave of absence from Ole Miss and accepted what he
believed to be a temporary occupation at Notre Dame. Silver and his family packed their
belongings and made the trek to South Bend, Indiana. The positive side of moving so abruptly
meant that Silver removed himself from the University of Mississippi and escaped allegations
made against him by the Mississippi Board of Trustees for Institutions of Higher Learning.
In addition to teaching at Notre Dame Silver was kept busy by speaking invitations throughout
the nation during the mid 1960s. Although he escaped Mississippi, he could not escape the
questions surrounding Mississippi and its racial problems. When he attended the speaking
invitations his purpose always seemed to be the explanation of Mississippis race relations, citing
historical events and answering questions about James Meredith and his admission to the
University of Mississippi. Ironically, Silver came to the realization that he lacked an adequate
understanding of how African Americans thought process. Because of this lack of
understanding, Notre Dame sent him to teach at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi one
summer.
While living in South Bend, Indiana he became a member of the South Bend Human
Relations Commission. During his appointment by Mayor Lloyd Allen, Silver worked closely
with the police and school board. He discovered that integration in Indiana was more highly
favored by the leaders than by the citizens. Silver remarked, Prejudice is where you find it.33
During his tenure at Notre Dame, Silver watched the Civil Rights movement peak. He found
himself in situations where he could socialize more with blacks. He formed a close bond with Dr.
32 Silver, Running Scared, 103.
33 Silver, Running Scared, 116.
16

Roland Chamblee a graduate of Meharry Medical College. Dr. Chamblee sent Silver to St.
Josephs hospital when he experienced breathing problems due to emphysema. This act of
kindness and friendship gave Silver great trust in Dr. Chamblee and they formed a wonderful
friendship during his time in South Bend, Indiana.
Silver enjoyed many opportunities while at Notre Dame. He attended two conferences at the
White House, trips to Austria, Mediterranean and Europe. However, he felt the highlight of his
experiences in Indiana to be the celebration of Negro History Week, February 11 17, 1968.
During the summer of 1969, Silver returned to Mississippi to teach at Tougaloo College in
Jackson, Mississippi. Silver remarked, I did not get much done on my own investigation of
black culture because I was troubled with emphysema, but teaching at Tougaloo was an exciting
and rewarding experience.34
During the 1969 1970 academic year, Silver began a new chapter at the University of South
Florida in Tampa, Florida. Silver enjoyed the balmy evenings leaving behind the harsh winters of
Indiana. Silvers emphysema continued to plague him, however it did not keep him from
carrying out his responsibilities. Silver continued to write and to speak and even garnered
emeritus status as well as an honorary doctorate for a piece written for the Floridian. The
highlight of Silvers time in Tampa culminated with a symposium pertaining to civil rights. The
symposium was made possible under the sponsorship of the University of Southern Florida and
the Southern Regional Council. Silver praised the symposium stating, Still, the Symposium on
the Contemporary South may well have been the highlight of my academic life, if only for the
reason I had been associated in one way or another with all of the participants in the program.35

34 Silver, Running Scared, 127.


35 Silver, Running Scared, 130.
17

In the last years of Silvers life he wrote his final book Running Scared: Silver in Mississippi. He
discussed his life and experiences in great detail. Silver stated in his book, I feel confirmed in
the general thesis of this reminiscence that until some moment in the Meredith affair I had been
running through life scared, desiring above all to be accepted in my work and play by my
contemporaries.36 Silver mentioned his dreams, dreams of failure as a student, husband, father
and provider. These dreams troubled Silver throughout most of his life. Maybe he wasnt as
confident as he seemed and fled when his life and the life of his family could experience danger.
Possibly running scared. Without fanfare, James W. Silver passed away in Tampa, Florida on
July 25, 1988, at the age of eighty-one. He left behind a legacy of courage and fortitude.
Silvers contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was significant. Although he does not have
the notoriety of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or Medgar Evers of the era, he played an
instrumental role in bringing the truth out about Mississippis repression of the black citizens of
the state. Silver may have been scared, but witnessing the atrocities around him and throughout
the state, he had come to a place where silence should no longer be tolerated. Silver displayed
great courage with the writing of Mississippi: The Closed Society. He took no prisoners, which
had to have been a result of his disgust. He boldly placed it all on the table and in his effort
Mississippi was forced to recognize they had indeed been a closed society.

36 Silver, Running Scared, 137.


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