The early 1960s were a time of civil unrest in America, and several times the military was called in to keep the peace. It was on one of these occasions that the 720th Military Police Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas was called into action. Hawkeye Stages driver George Lewis was a member of this unit deployed to Oxford, Mississippi to quell the riots which had sparked in response to the Supreme Court decision to allow black students to attend the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford.
On February 25, 2016, a reunion was held at Fort Hood to recognize servicemen from the 720th. One of the college students the unit protected, James Meredith, had the opportunity to meet and thank the MPs who kept him safe by escorting him to class, searching vehicles and pulling security. The troops ensured no further rioting happened on campus.
Meredith said, “I had not just the United States Army fighting my war against Mississippi, but President Kennedy sent in the BEST of the United States Army.”
The veterans who went to Oxford said the deployment 53 years ago made a big impression on their lives. George Lewis was a 22-year-old Specialist when his unit deployed to Oxford, and says he didn’t understand the deep racial divides that existed in the South until he saw it firsthand in 1962.
“I was born and raised on a farm in Nebraska and, while I was growing up, would see black people when our family traveled to Omaha,” he says. “I thought they were just like me — they just had different skin color.”
Lewis began his career as a motorcoach driver with Northwest Iowa Transportation in 2004 in Fort Dodge and is still proudly serving behind the wheel for Hawkeye Stages. His cheerful nature and polite manner have made him a favorite with travelers.
To see the full story on the reunion at Fort Hood, visit http://m.kdhnews.com/fort_hood_herald/across_the_fort/civil-rights-icon-meets-fort-hood-soldierswho-helped-protect/article_7a8f7cf8-dfeb-11e5-bbd5-f720bc8c5ed3.html?mode=jqm.