TUPELO • James Meredith, the first Black student to attend the University of Mississippi, kicked off a statewide tour at the Link Centre in Tupelo on Friday morning.
The day marked exactly 59 years since Meredith became the first African American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi on Oct. 1, 1962.
"Today is the anniversary of my entering Ole Miss, and that's why today is the first day (of the mission)," Meredith said to an audience of about three dozen people who attended.
Meredith, 88, referred to his 82-county tour to promote the nonprofit religious organization Bible Society as his "third mission."
"I am on my last mission from God," Meredith said. "To urge Mississippi to uplift our moral character by teaching the Ten Commandments, good from bad, right from wrong and the Golden Rule, to our young and to our uninstructed."
During his tour of the state, Meredith plans to speak with elders, religious individuals, elected officials, government employees and leaders of all kinds.
"The truth is, everything I ever did, I thought was a mission from God," Meredith said.
His first mission was to be admitted to Ole Miss, which was accomplished when he enrolled in 1962. That mission was about challenging white supremacy, Meredith said.
The second was to "expose and challenge the fear that kept white supremacy our way of live," Meredith said.
That effort culminated in the "Walk Against Fear" from Memphis to Jackson, which began June 6, 1966. On June 7, Meredith was shot and forced to leave the march but later rejoined before it reached Jackson on June 26, 1966.
The third mission has always been "the uplift of moral character," Meredith said.
For a time, Meredith said he was afraid to use the term "moral character" because it made people angry.
"Everybody likes to think what they're doing connected with religion is good," Meredith said. "But I ain't never thought it was good that you knew about the Ten Commandments, but you didn't practice them and you didn't teach them to the rest of the people. That's what God told me: 'You've got to tell the people what you know.'"
The Ten Commandments are designed to rebuild a broken society, he added.
"If Mississippi starts doing what I understand the Bible to be saying you should do, it's going to get better," Meredith said. "It starts at home. The problem we've got now, most of the homes are not what they ought to be."
Meredith said what he ultimately wants to accomplish with the Bible Society tour is to have conversations that spark action.
"Everything I read in the New Testament suggests to people to do good and not do bad," Meredith said. "That is the focus that I want to create, because I think before people can do anything, they have to think about it. My goal, at the end of this six weeks, would be that every place is talking about improving the moral character."
When asked about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered, Meredith said, "I'm going to compare myself to a dollar bill," referencing the "In God We Trust" motto on all U.S. currency.
"After this mission is over, when anybody says the name James Meredith, I want them to think of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule," Meredith said. "Because I believe if everybody focuses on that, the result will be a better world."
TUPELO • The Lee County Board of Supervisors will again hear a request for local authorities to restrict the availability of kratom, a controversial herbal product.
During their regular meeting, Monday, supervisors are expected to hear comments from Sheriff Jim Johnson and several local parents in respect to their concerns about kratom. However, county administrator Bill Benson does not anticipate any kind of policy decision will be made by county authorities at Monday’s meeting.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any action taken,” Benson said. “You had some parents who wanted to come talk to the board about it.”
Kratom is derived from the leaves of a tropical tree in southeast Asia and is variously sold in powder, liquid and capsule form. Some local gas stations stock products derived from kratom, though many of these products contain other additives and none of them are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Kratom is currently legal in the United States at the federal level, but the FDA has cautioned that the substance may be dangerous.
Supporters have disputed the FDA’s analysis and say the substance provides safe, nonaddictive pain relief and can also combat anxiety disorders. Some kratom users also say it manages the withdrawal symptoms of potent opiate drugs.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has considered moves to make kratom illegal, and some states have banned it.
Although legislation to ban kratom statewide in Mississippi was introduced during the 2019 legislative session, it died in committee.
That same year, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics repeatedly pushed local governments in Northeast Mississippi to ban kratom through local ordinance.
At least 28 counties and cities in the northeast region of the state have all acted to ban the possession and sale of kratom.
Lee County supervisors heard a request to likewise prohibit the product, and held a public hearing on the issue, but never banned kratom.
At least one local government – Monroe County – reversed course on kratom; in 2020, supervisors there voted to rescind a ban on the product that had been imposed in 2019.