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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 >>

Frustration that federal government forced Faubus to deal with desegregation himself

Faubus is angry that the federal government, by demanding that he enforce a court order, forced him into an extremely difficult situation. The government placed on him the entire responsibility of dealing with the crisis, which Faubus sees as a gross abdication of federal responsibility and a violation of the principle of popular sovereignty.

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:
Have you seen Neil Pierce's book the Deep South States?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
No.
JACK BASS:
He relates in there an interview he had with both with Gov Rockefeller and with you in which he says Gov Rockefeller related a meeting he had with you the day before school was scheduled to open. In which he said he pleaded with you not to do what you were going to do and that it would end up hurting the state and so forth. That the tone of it was that you felt you had already been attacked as a racial moderate in '56. That you were going to be vulnerable on that issue. That there were more things you wanted to get done for the state of Arkansas as governor. In effect, that you really didn't see that you had much choice. I think Neil says that you basically denied the account by Gov Rockefeller.
ORVAL FAUBUS:
No, the last part you stated is basically true. The misinterpretation is that he was wanting me to do just what you suggested in your former question: that I uphold the federal court order. Well, that's the first time in the history of the republic that the federal authority had ever asked a state to enforce its own court order. If it's a narcotics violation they have narcotics agents. IRS agents and the FBI. But here, you see, was cowardice and the complete abdication of responsibility on the part of the federal authorities. But they could sit back and issue a court order that was going to cause literally hell and destroy many people, economically and politically. And they would just sit back and fold their hands and let somebody else reap the storm. Well, hell, it was their storm. A bunch of goddamn cowards for not coming in in the beginning and say "This is a federal court order. We're going to have federal authorities here to see to it that it's obeyed and enforced." Then I wouldn't have been involved. Could have left it alone. But they said no. I called the attorney general's office, asked to speak to him or to someone who could speak for him. Asked him to send a representative to Little Rock. They sent a representative to Little Rock. I conferred with him in my office. And he just said "Governor, we can't do anything until we find a body." Well, that's a legal term, doesn't mean that you have to have a dead body. But in this case it could have been literally true. So they wanted me to do their dirty work. And commit political suicide. Which is what it would have been. I didn't know it at that time, but that's what it would have been when you look back at it in perspective. Why it was the most cowardly action I've ever seen on the part of responsible individuals. Leave it to us. It would be like a state law which doesn't effect a city like it has city ordinances. Well, you don't call on your aldermen and your city marshall to enforce laws that are state laws. That's the duty of your sheriff, your prosecuting attorney and your state officials. So it would be like us setting up an order, say, for a city that was just going to tear that city apart and then say to the city authorities "Now you all got to handle this." Well, they didn't create it. It wasn't their problem. And the whole city might be, say, 90% opposed to it as well as the officials themselves. But we still sit back and say we can't do anything about it, ma'am. You all have to take care of it. Now I never did do that when I was governor. If it was the state responsibility I went in and assumed state responsibility. And I say to the city authorities "Well, this isn't your problem. Won't ask you to get involved. If you want to help, be fine, but we'll take care of it."