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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 >>

Faubus describes his black support and the ill effects of integration

Faubus asserts that he has, and has had, support in the black community, naming some black leaders as references. He recalls traveling the state listening to black Arkansans' concerns about his plan not to seek another term as governor and the Democratic Party's unwillingness to court black voters. Conditions in schools were good then, Faubus remembers, before integration destroyed them.

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

WALTER DE VRIES:
It didn't basically change your attitude toward blacks and hasn't?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
No. I believe you can check. . . . I'd like to refer you to a man if you can find him and check with him on that. I believe he'll verify what I'm saying. And that's Lawrence Davis, the president of AM&M College at Pine Bluff until he retired. Another one was a black man named Martin, from Hot Springs, who was an alderman over there at one time. Elected. In Hot Springs. To the city council. I think that Miss Daisy Bates and L.C. Bates, her husband, will also tell you that they continued to make a great deal of progress. In fact they were making great progress . . .
WALTER DE VRIES:
Yeah, they're quoted as saying—
ORVAL FAUBUS:
. . . as my administration ended. The fact of the matter, Mr Bates came into the office one day with a Mr Pierce, who was head of the Negro Farm Bureau. The Negro . . . black . . . they don't like Negro anymore but that's what . . . you know, they change so often you can't keep up so if I saw something that's offensive, please take it out. And I believe Mr Atchison or Patterson—I can't think which is the name—head of the Negro teachers organization. And in early 1966 they came into my office for a conference. It had been my experience and it is yet, in most cases, with political leaders that black people come in and sit down and confer . . . We'd say "Now if you decide to do so and so we'd be glad to consider your case. And we'll get together and we'll decide." They didn't say anything like this. The three of them sat there and said "We've come to urge you to run for re-election. We pledge you unequivocally our support." I mean there wasn't any hesitation, there wasn't any we'll consider or if or ands or anything. That's '66. And I said "Well, I appreciate this, gentlemen, but I really don't think I'm going to run anymore." And then I remember asking Mr Bates . . . and he's a slow, methodical fellow and he'd have . . . you know, he was sitting over there and he'd rub his hands on his knees like that. He's slow spoken, calm. And I never found him nothing but reasonable. I remember asking him a question. I said "If I don't run this time, Mr Bates, what in your opinion will your people do?" And he said "Well, Mr Governor, it's my opinion that my people will support at man that will probably not be in the best interest of Arkansas." And he had reference to Mr Rockefeller. Because not many black people could identify with Rockefeller. He's rich and most of them are poor, like myself. Most of them are working people and he's had his handed to him. Not that he wasn't a good man and a worker himself. I'm not criticizing him, I'm just evaluating a situation, a practical situation. Which turned out that Mr Bates was right. Then about a week later I made a tour of southeast Arkansas. I had so many invitations that you couldn't run down here for one, you know, and back and then go to another section for a while and back. And I'd try to get them if they had affairs that the dates were flexible, to set them in a one or two day period and then with one trip I'd make three or four of these and then come back, you see. So senator Merrill Peterson called me from Dumas and said "the delegation wants to meet with you when you come through here. So if you can tell me when you're coming through I'll have them here at the proper time so we won't delay you very much." I didn't ask him who it was or what it was about. I said "Very well, I'll be glad to meet with them." And so when I got there it was a number of black people. There were two or three Negro black ministers. One or two others who were not. And we went in there a private room that Mr Peterson gave us for a conference. So what they wanted to show me was that Rockefeller was already organizing and they had already been invited to a breakfast in Little Rock. You had to sign up your name and address and that's how they were getting their mailing list ready for the leaders, and so on. They didn't go, because they knew this. And already through that area had come a black man on a payroll. Good pay. Had a nice business card, you know. Regional representative of the Republican party. I don't remember the exact words, just what it was. His name and telephone number and address. Started working, of course, for Mr Rockefeller. Started organizing for the Republican campaign. And they wanted me to be aware of this and said "Now, the Democrats should be doing something. The Democrats should have someone out here contacting us and organizing." I mean these black people were ready to support me and help me. And I said "Well, I agree with you. There should be some activity on the part of the Democratic party and we've got to meet this challenge of this Rockefeller or he's going to, you know, have a good chance to win." And I said "I'll carry the message back to the party leaders and I'll recommend that they do something. Raise some funds, hire some people and put them out to work." Then one of them asked what I was going to do and I said "Well, I'll recommend this to the Democratic leaders, but I don't think I'm going to run anymore." And one of these [big, grown?] ministers sat back and looked at me just as straight and he said "Governor, you concern me." I said "Why?" He said "If you don't run, you're going to turn this state over to Mr Rockefeller. That just as sure as I'm sitting here. And we want you to run." I said "Well, I appreciate it very much but I don't think that I am." Which of course I didn't and it was only about a week or ten days later that I made my announcement that I wasn't going to run. But now that's some experience with the black people because integration was then going forward peacefully. It hadn't reached the extent to which it has now. The problems hadn't arisen which have arisen now. Like in the schools in Little Rock. They're becoming a shambles. They're . . . well, I can't think of a word hardly suitable, strong enough to describe the conditions in the Little Rock schools at the present time. And most people believe that a great deal of it's due to the forcible integration and the busing. But none of that was happening then. The integration went forward was peaceable, was limited, and good progress was being made. At least harmony was being maintained. And good progress was being made in other fields. Negro teachers' salaries going up. Welfare program was fine. We initiated the so-called poverty programs under Johnson. They were the most successful in Arkansas that they were in any state in the union. Head start. Youth employment. Green Thumb. Job Corps camps. First one in the nation was set up in Arkansas. The governor had the veto power over those, you remember. Some governors didn't permit them to come into their states at all. That was a provision of the act when it was enacted by Congress—that a governor could reject them and they could not be established. But I accepted them.
WALTER DE VRIES:
—but you've been seen as a sort of anti-black, anti-integration symbol. How do you feel about that?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
I think it's false. And I think it's all due to the Arkansas Gazette and the central Arkansas press continuing to hammer at an issue which they know they can hurt me with with certain blocs of people, including the black people and the liberals.