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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Florida Governor Caldwell as a pragmatic politician

John and Melville Ivey discuss Florida Governor and chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, Millard Caldwell. According to the Iveys, Caldwell was a "pragmatic politician" who did not possess a strong ideological racism like some of the other southern governors in the late 1940s. As Ivey recalls, some of the other southern governors wanted to compel him to use the SREB in order to perpetuate segregation. Caldwell, on the other hand, saw the SREB as "an instrument for improving education in the South," and did not have any opposition to the fact that this might result in desegregation. Because of this, Ivey explains that he and Caldwell worked well together against those who envisioned the SREB in a different light.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. 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

JOHN EGERTON:
This is kind of a blunt way to put it, but I need to know this. If you were describing the politicians of the South in that time you would think of people like Herman Talmadge, and Senator Bilbo, and John Rankin, and some others as just sort of boiler plate racists. There was no veneer there, they were what they were. There was another group of governors who were very conservative but who probably wouldn't have gone to the barricades to keep segregation in place. Do you think of Millard Caldwell as being one of the latter? Was he soft on integration or was he a hard-line integrationist?
JOHN IVEY:
He didn't much care.
JOHN EGERTON:
He didn't much care. He wasn't an ideological racist.
JOHN IVEY:
That's right.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
He definitely wasn't.
JOHN EGERTON:
The fact that he was more of a pragmatic politician who wanted to get his program through made it possible for him to see SREB as an instrument for improving education in the South, and if it resulted in desegregation down the line he wasn't going to get to worried about it one way or the other.
JOHN IVEY:
Right.
JOHN EGERTON:
Maybe the ideal kind of person to be chairman the first time. Not an ideologue, not a bleeding-heart liberal and not a boiler-plate racist, but a pragmatic, program-oriented person.
JOHN IVEY:
He had trouble learning to work with me. I had trouble learning to work with him. We were so different. He would go to any lengths. He called me one day and said that I was causing trouble for him with the governor of Mississippi.
JOHN EGERTON:
Governor [Fielding] Wright.
JOHN IVEY:
Governor of Mississippi and I had to get acquainted with each other. It became clear that in their eyes the political cart was not running the show).
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me see if I can make clear what you are saying. Governor Wright of Mississippi and Governor Thurmond [of South Carolina] and Governor Laney of Arkansas and a few others at that time were in the midst of this whole Dixicrat revolt. They had a political agenda they were working on. It must have become clear to them fairly early in SREB that unless you were taking this organization in the direction they wanted to go, that is, a hardline segregationist direction, that you were going to cause trouble for them. And if I understand what you say about Millard Caldwell, he wasn't necessarily in their camp or anybody's camp, he was just trying to get his job done.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
He was very fond of John. He couldn't get along with him but he was very fond of him. He always said, "I like that boy, that boy is a fine fellow. He's going to be a fine man." He kept saying that all the time. [laughter]
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, Caldwell must have been getting some political flack from these other guys.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
I'm sure he did.
JOHN EGERTON:
They were saying to Caldwell, "you've got to get this guy Ivey in line because he's going to mess this whole thing up for us. Is this possible?
JOHN IVEY:
It's true.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
It wasn't only possible, it was the truth. [laughter]