There are five new inductees for Meridian Community College's Hall of Fame. One of those is Roscoe Jones. During the 1960's he was the first African American male to enroll and attend what was then Meridian Junior College. Decades later, and he's reflecting on that period while looking to the future.
For Roscoe Jones being a trailblazer and catalyst for change has been a lifelong mission. At age 17 he headed up the newly established youth organization for Meridian's NAACP. He says it was only a prior speaking engagement that kept him from being in the car with the three civil rights workers who were killed in 1964 in Neshoba County.
''James Chaney said, 'Roscoe, you've got to go with me. I'm not going to be the only black in that car. Like I tell people, I would've been just as dead as the other three.'
It wasn't long after that when young Roscoe joined five black females, as the first African American students to integrate what was then Meridian Junior College.
"There were six of us. I was called all kind of names; I didn't even know my name."
Over the years, Jones says acknowledgment of the wrongs committed by the perpetrators has helped to heal emotional wounds.
"They've approached me and said,' Roscoe, I need to talk to you. Do you remember me?' I would say 'Yes,' and they say, 'Man, I'm sorry.' I respect that, I have accepted that and I move on."
Jones says taking responsibility for bad behavior is important, even when it comes to addressing the heightened problem of youth committing crimes. Almost three months ago, Jones was shot at his house by would be thieves. Reflecting on his own experience, he says it's important for parents and the community at large to acknowledge where they have failed young people and make the needed changes. In turn, he says young people must also accept responsibility for their actions and do better.
'They have to have another chance, we all have to have other chances. I tell people all the time that none of us are prefect, we're all going to make mistakes.'
Aside from Roscoe Jones, Jamie Cater, Joyce Frank, Robert Sanford and Joe Charles Sanders were also inducted into MCC's Hall of Fame this week.