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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 >>

Media exaggerates Little Rock crisis

Faubus blames the press for blowing Little Rock's integration woes out of proportion in a stab at fame. Faubus was busy trying to keep things under control, he claims, when the local paper framed the conflict as a test case for the nation, which drew attention to the region and damaged Faubus's efforts at reconciliation.

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:
Did you realize at the time, though, that this would amount, in effect, to defiance of a court order and what would subsequently follow?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
No, see I never did defy a court order. When they issued a court order directly to me I evaded each time. I never was in defiance of a court order. Because I based my—
JACK BASS:
Wasn't there a court order to admit the students?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
But I wasn't trying to keep them from integrating. If it had been peaceful they could have gone right on in. There wouldn't have been anything done more than there was at Charleston or Hot Springs, or Bentonville or any of these other places. I was hoping that it would be that way, but that wasn't the case. Course the Gazette and the ones sponsoring it were largely responsible for building it up because they had built up that they were all going to become heroes. They were going to solve, overnight, problem for the whole nation. And they were going to set the model and planning for all the rest of the state and all the rest of the South and all the rest of the whole nation. And when they began to proclaim this, that's when the other people got interested and alarmed. They said "Well, if it's going to effect us, down here in" Biglow or Elane, or whatever "we better get interested." So you had the two forces coming together with Little Rock going to be the example for the whole state and the rest of the South. That's the reason the rest of the South got interested. Now if Virgil Blossom unknown and Harry Ashmore and Hugh Patterson, and those people who wanted to be heroes, if they had subdued their ambition to be heroes and tried to attain the integration of the schools for what they believed was good and proper reasons and good and proper purpose, they might have succeeded. But I can show you some stories. . . . The reporters were there a week or ten days ahead of time before I ever knew anything about what I was going to have to do to keep down the bloodshed and the killing. You remember when Dag Hammershold went to the Belgium Congo on a peace mission? And the reporters were reporting it. Well, he took off for a certain city—I've forgotten now which one. So the newspaper reporters always anticipate what's going to. They're afraid someone else will beat them to it. So the dispatch came out that he had landed at the city and been received and everything was okay. Fact of the matter is he never did get there. The plan crashed and he was killed, you know, before he ever arrived at the city. So this reporter was trying to anticipate the landing and have his report out ahead of anyone else. Now that's what they were doing, and as the report went out from Little Rook, about Blossom and Ashmore and all these people who were pushing integration. Before the reporter learned of actually what was happening. And I have that in my files. If they had tried to accomplish, in the Little Rock schools, what we accomplished in the institute of higher learning, without any fanfare, without trying to be heroes, it might have worked and there might not have been any violence. But when they began to proclaim that this is going to set the example for all of Arkansas and all the South, then these other people got interested. My attitude had been, as I told the people in each district, "Now you stay out of that district. You take care of your school affairs in your own district. If they want to integrate Charleston, you stay out and let them alone." Now this wasn't easy to tell some of those radicals. Because they could see every step was taken, see, getting closer to them and they disagreed completely. But I prevailed on them. And I got them to do that. But then Blossom and Ashmore and Patterson made the mistake of setting up Little Rock as an example for everybody. So they got everybody interested. And I explained this to President Eisenhower. He could understand that, you know. Sometimes in warfare you commit a platoon, and it runs into too much trouble so you commit a company. And then the other side commits some more forces so you commit a batallion. And the first thing you know you've got armies engaged. Becomes a focal point. A battle over some unimportant place where no major conflict was anticipated to begin with. And so the president could understand that. How Little Rock became a focal point because of this. And what angered Ashmore and Patterson so much, of course, was the fact that they didn't get to become heroes. They weren't successful. It became personal with them. It's still personal with Patterson who's the owner and publisher of the Gazette. And of course they lost, they claim, $2 million in advertising and circulation because of their stand in the Little Rock thing and they blame me entirely for that. They'd have lost out if I never existed, because they were going against what was the overwhelming will of the people at the time.
JACK BASS:
What would have happened if you had called out the guard, made a very strong statement that the court order would be followed and that those coming under the court order would be protected, and that anybody with any other ideas had better just stay off.
ORVAL FAUBUS:
I might have survived to the end of my term, but that would have been the last you would have heard of me.