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The story of Meyer’s groundbreaking editorial and the subsequent threats to his safety was written up in the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Daily and countless student newspapers. On November 14, 1962, The New York Times ran a United Press International story under the headline “Alabama Student Guarded After Urging Integration.”
The University of Alabama was not unequivocally supportive of Meyer. The administration asked him to retract the editorial (he wouldn’t) and debated taking away his role as editor-in-chief and even shutting down the newspaper. According to historian E. Culpepper Clark’s 1995 book “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama,” Alabama Governor George Wallace, an ardent segregationist, urged school officials to expel Meyer. (They didn’t.)
Meyer wrote in the 1963 Journal of the Student Press: “We almost lost our editorial freedom. During the weeks immediately following the editorial, I began to have a pretty good idea of what the inside of the president’s office looked like. I was called in for ‘counseling sessions’ about twice every day. In the course of these lengthy sessions I was forcefully impressed with the point of view that the university could not afford a truly free student newspaper.”
Meyer’s family also felt the blowback from his editorial. A small cross was burnt on the lawn of his childhood home while his parents were away on vacation. It caused minor damage, burning a single rose trellis. But the message was clear: Shut your son up.
Meyer’s father, Henry Meyer, was the editor and publisher of the Starkville, Miss., Daily News and also owned a printing and business supply company. (He would later become a popular journalism professor at Mississippi State University.) According to his daughter, Marjorie Goldner Meyer, the controversy led him to sell the paper, after the county stopped printing forms at his business. “The county pressured him to renounce his own son, and when he didn’t they refused to do business with him,” she said.
At the time, Meyer’s parents kept their own travails a secret from their son; they didn’t want to influence his journalistic integrity.
Meyer went on to win several journalism awards for the editorial, including the 1963 Editor of the Year award from the U.S. Student Press Association, then headed by future film critic Roger Ebert.