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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Defenders of State Sovereignty formed to maintain segregated schools

Largely from southside Virginia, the Defenders of State Sovereignty were partially responsible for designing Virginia's massive resistance reaction to the Supreme Court order to end segregated schools. Dabney discusses the establishment and socioeconomic composition of the Defenders of State Sovereignty members as distinguishable from the Ku Klux Klan membership.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. 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

DANIEL JORDAN:
In a delayed reaction, there was defiance in the southside section of the state.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Later on, yes, indeed.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And there is a famous meeting at the Petersburg Fire House.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would you tell us a little bit about that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I really don't know much about that, I just have heard of a meeting and I think it was mostly the hard core resisters from southside who decided that they were not going to take it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And even later in '54 an organization was created called The Defenders of State Sovereignty.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes,and then they gradually branched out with branches all over the state. The head of it was a very mild mannered man named Crawford, and Barrye Wall, the publisher of the Farmville Herald who was also a mild-mannered individual. Both of them made it a point not to let anybody wave the Confederate flag, which I thought was quite astonishing from that group at that time. So, they weren't out to murder anybody like the Ku Klux Klan, or even to whip anybody at night or anything like that. They were quite within the law and were determined never to integrate.
DANIEL JORDAN:
How would you compare the Defenders with the White Citizens Councils that were popular in many of the deep southern states at this time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm not that familiar with the White Citizens Councils, so I really can't say. I don't know whether they ever condoned violence or not.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, they were very militant and drew their constituency from all classes in southern society.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Including some Ku Klux Klansmen, I suppose?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Including some Klanners.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They were more questionable than the Defenders in Virginia.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What was the makeup of the individuals in the Defenders?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, I think they were just average citizens, business people and professional people who were not willing to take this decision and were determined to do everything they could to prevent it from going into effect.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Would you say that they were mostly middle-class and up?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I would say that they were, yes. The ones that I knew were. I didn't have any contacts with them, really. Jack Kilpatrick was very close to them and went to their meetings and all that. I never saw anything of them at all except that occasionally Crawford cameinto the office and made a few remarks as to what they were doing.