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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 >>

Tensions between Byrd and Almond emerged over massive resistance

Virginia federal and state courts overturned massive resistance legislation as unconstitutional. This excerpt is particularly revealing in Dabney's recollection that even Prince Edward County residents (who later decided to close their public schools for five years) came to see that court decisions would have to be upheld. This passage also uncovers Harry Byrd's firm insistence on the state's adherence to massive resistance.

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 the meantime, of course, there were some key cases testing some of this massive resistence legislation, a case before the Virginia Court of Appeals and one also before a federal district court and on Robert E. Lee's birthday January 19th, both courts announced their decisions which found that massive resistence legislation was unconstitutional, as judged by the Virginia constitution and by the U.S. constitution. I have got a couple of questions about that. One is, to your knowledge, was there any collusion as to the timing of those decisions?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Not to my knowledge, but it is a most astonishing thing that they happened that way, I never have understood that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the public's general reaction to this decision, as opposed to Almond's? I'll pick up Almond in a second here.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that most Virginians, even those in Prince Edward County, felt that they had to obey. The fact that Prince Edward did obey is pretty indicative of what the average Virginian thought. These people who were trying to work some way around the decisions apparently felt all along that they weren't going to go the last mile and have another situation like Alabama or Mississippi and have a lot of federal troops and the governor going to jail, although Harry Byrd wanted Almond to go to jail.