Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 29 and August 1, 1975. Interview A-0331-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Opposition to the implementation of the <cite>Brown</cite> decision and school busing

Talmadge explains his opposition to the ways in which the <cite>Brown</cite> decision had been implemented since 1954. A United States senator for nearly that entire time span, Talmadge asserts that while he was not opposed to the meaning behind the <cite>Brown</cite> decision, he did not believe that efforts to achieve desegregation&#x2014;such as busing&#x2014;offered the right solution. Overall, Talmadge believed that such efforts had led to the degeneration of public schools and he asserts his view that a better solution could be found.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 29 and August 1, 1975. Interview A-0331-2. 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

Let's go back to one of the Supreme Court decisions which had tremendous impact really around the country but beginning mostly in the South. That's Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, the school decision.
That was in 1954, as you recall, and it reversed previous decisions that held that children could be classified by race for assignment to public schools. Now, we've gone the opposite extreme, overriding the Brown decision and now they hold that you have got to assign schools by color to achieve a racial balance. You realize all the discord that it has brought throughout the nation. It has worked better in the South than it has anywhere else in the country because there is a common warm bond of friendship between lots of blacks and whites in the South. You don't have that in other sections of the country and you see the riots that they are having in Boston now and other areas outside the South where it has been implemented. It is a very foolish program in my judgement. It is extremly costly and counterproductive and according to the polls, only 4% of the whites and 9% of the blacks support it.
Now, this is busing to achieve racial balance. What about the decision itself of '54, outside of any busing and . . .
Well, that is a fait accompli. No one is trying to return to the status quo of twenty odd years ago, but I think that certainly our school systems have degenerated since that time. Most of the urban problems that we have at the present time in part are related to that decision. You had a mass exodus of the whites from the central cities to the suburbs to get to what they thought were better schools. You had a decay of values within the central cities and a erosion of your tax base and some of the problems like New York is being confronted with are going to confront other cities, largely because of mass flight. I doubt if the schools now are as good as they were twenty odd years ago.
What about Earl Warren as a Chief Justice, Senator Talmadge? I assume that you didn't care too much for him.
I knew Earl Warren well, we served in the Governor's Conference together before he went on the Supreme Court bench. Our personal relations were very cordial. He is personally a very warm, friendly, kind of a man, or was. He was never any legal scholar and I think that he is one of the poorest Chief Justices in the history of the republic.