JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – George M. “Buck” Randall, a University of Mississippi football player who tried to stop on-campus violence during integration in 1962, has died. He was 73.
Randall was a Rebels fullback from 1960 to 1963. In the fall of 1962, violence broke out during the court-ordered admission of James Meredith as the first black student at Ole Miss.
In the face of Mississippi’s defiance, federal authorities deployed more than 3,000 soldiers and more than 500 law enforcement officers to Oxford. An angry mob of students and outsiders yelled and hurled bricks. Tear gas canisters exploded amid the oaks and magnolias. Two white men were killed.
More than 200 people were injured, including 160 U.S. marshals.
A U.S. marshal told Randall to go outside near the university’s main administrative building, the Lyceum, to try to talk to the mob and to urge people to leave, The Sun Herald reported. “It was a war, really,” Randall said in a 2008 interview with the newspaper. “I didn’t want anybody to get killed. It was a bad situation back then.”
In 2008, the U.S. Interior Department designated the Lyceum and the surrounding area, known as The Circle, as a National Historic Landmark.
In the 2007 nominating form for the landmark status, an architectural historian described how Randall implored rioters to stop attacking the marshals.
“Randall, unarmed, forced his way through the combatants to the flagpole in the center of The Circle,” the nomination says. “He shimmied up the flagpole, which sported a Confederate flag, and yelled at the agitators to go home. After bullets hit the pole, he slid down, resuming his mission at the Confederate Monument and other strategic places in The Circle.
A few demonstrators obeyed the Rebel football player.”
Randall is survived by his wife, Sandra; daughter, Courtney Randall; sons, Rafe Randall and Buck Randall Jr.; and three grandchildren.