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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Patrick Murphy, January 17, 1978. Interview B-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Exposed to pressure at the University of Mississippi

Murphy found himself under a great deal of pressure at the University of Mississippi, he recalls, in part because the university was not historically insulated from political pressure as some other southern universities were. This lack of protection meant that Murphy endured a four-year battle to keep his job as anti-integrationists fought to remove him from his position.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William Patrick Murphy, January 17, 1978. Interview B-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I know that no other constitutional law professor at any other southern law school went through the four years of controversy that I did between 1958 and 1962. I had a counterpart, Jay Murphy, at Alabama, who was a constitutional law and labor law professor. And they had a resistance group in Alabama, as Mississippi did, but to my knowledge they never made any efforts to get Jay Murphy fired from the law faculty. And I don't think they ever tried to purge people from the University of Alabama the way they did from the University of Mississippi. And I think maybe the reason was not because the resistance group was any less strong in their views, but that the University of Alabama was in a better position than the University of Mississippi was with respect to being insulated from direct political interference. They did it in Mississippi because they thought they could do it successfully, because the University of Mississippi had no history or tradition of insulation from political interference and domination. And I think the University of Alabama was not in as precarious a position as Ole Miss was. It didn't happen in Texas; it didn't happen in Arkansas; it didn't happen in Louisiana; it didn't happen in Tennessee; it didn't happen in Georgia; it didn't happen, so far as I know, to anybody in North and South Carolina or Florida. Now this is not to say that those constitutional law professors may not have had their problems, their criticisms, from alumni and whatnot. But I think it is true that I was the only constitutional law professor in any southern law school who underwent a period of four-year controversy in which serious, sustained, prolonged efforts were made to get me fired or to force my resignation, and where it surfaced in the Alumni Association and the Legislature and the Board of Trustees of the University system. I know no other law professor went through that or anything comparable. In that respect Ole Miss and Murphy were unique. A hell of a way to achieve uniqueness. [Laughter]