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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Defusing tensions over desegregation

Faubus recalls that he was responsible for defusing potential violence in Little Rock. He did so by confiscating weapons and making it clear that he did not condone violence. He is aware that this recollection does not match popular understandings of events in Arkansas.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. 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

JACK BASS:
Why do you think the mob failed to materialize?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
When I placed the guard there?
JACK BASS:
Right.
ORVAL FAUBUS:
Because they had no reason to come then. The state was doing what the mob . . . the results of the action which it took effected the same thing which the mob wanted to have effected. So then I had influence with them. And the police had influence with them. We could ask them to do something and they would. I never shall forget . . . we had numbers of cases like this. Most of them are in the files, and written reports. Some of them were given to me verbally by the director of the state police. But we had one fellow who was rather aged and he was very radical and he felt very strongly. And he had about three weapons including a repeating rifle. There was a shotgun. I've forgotten what the other was. But he said "Hell, I'm old. I've lived my life. I don't want to see this happen. I'll just go down there and . . . it makes no difference if I get killed. I'll just see how many I can kill before they get me."
JACK BASS:
He made these threats?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
So I learned about it and I sent the director of the state police to talk to him. He went and checked it out and came back and gave me a description of the man, his name and age and where he lived and everything and said "It's true." And said "He feels very strongly." And my police director was not a flighty man. He was pretty calm and collected and pretty level headed on these things. So I sent him back a second time and perhaps we had to go a third time. And we persuaded the man that that would not do at all, to leave it to the authorities. We were trying to protect the interests of the people and the will of the people as best we could. And any action on his part, you know, of this kind would just make matters worse and might even hurt our chances for success through legal and political means. And we persuaded him to give up his weapons. The police director took them from him. And brought them and kept them in charge. Then I could tell you of a house in [England,] Arkansas and the person who owned it. And on the first morning, when I had word, you know, of the caravans . . . well, they were groups, there weren't any big caravans noticable. People don't travel in noticable caravans, you know, when they're bent on activity of this kind. But anyhow, the word had gotten out from Little Rock that I didn't want any violence, that this would hurt our chances, that it would hurt my efforts to protect the interests of the people. What was considered then the interests of the whole, the majority of the people. Which no doubt that was the case. So these people from eastern Arkansas—I could name the towns—they came there and they all had weapons in their cars. And this fellow persuaded them to unload them and they stacked them up on his back porch. There was a veritable arsenal, you know, when they got through. And then they went on to Little Rock. They went there but they were peaceable and they weren't going to cause any trouble and they didn't bring any weapons. And that's the reason it helped that way and that's the reason. . . . I wish you'd get the FBI to release that report they made. I think you'll find that they confirmed over and over, that actions were brought about through my influence and on my part of this kind which prevented widespread violence in Little Rock. But, you know, that report hasn't been released to this good day. And yet the judge called for it, it was on the bench. And the Gazette, if you go back and check it's files, you'll find editorials and news stories that were being released, you know, at such and such time. And this is going to show, you know, what Faubus is guilty of and so on and so on. But it hasn't been released yet, because they found, they confirmed these things. I'd like to see a copy of it myself. Now if it had been otherwise, it would have been on desk and he would have released it and the Gazette would have had it in the headlines for ever so long. Now I know what I'm telling you seems a little hard to accept because it's going against everything you've heard, isn't it?
JACK BASS:
Not entirely.
ORVAL FAUBUS:
Well, most of it, anyhow.