Some choice words for segregationist Mississippians
As the interview draws to a close, Murphy remembers some of the stronger language he used to describe the Citizens' Council members who were pressuring him to leave Ole Miss, including "cult of crackpots" and a term he claims to have coined, "willful ignoramus." He attributes this unusually intemperate language to the amount of pressure he was under as a result of his pro-<cite>Brown</cite> teaching.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with William Patrick Murphy, January 17, 1978. Interview B-0043. 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
- SEAN DEVEREUX:
When you issued your "cult of crackpots" statement,
what kind of reaction did that get from the Citizens Council?
- WILLIAM PATRICK MURPHY:
I was told—and I can't remember by whom
now—but the report circled back that they were just
absolutely enraged. They just saw purple and red and every other color
when that sentence was written. And the sentence is a little out of
character, really, for me. But by that time, you have to realize
, I'd been going through this for a long time, and I
had had it up to here (and let the record show that I put my hand up
above my teeth). And I just felt that I had to… I was just so
fed up and so frustrated and so angry and everything else that I just
was determined to say at least one thing to these people to tell them
what I thought of them, and that was the one sentence, I believe, in the
whole period of time, in which I used language that might have been a
little intemperate. What did I say exactly now? "I do not
intend to tailor my teaching to satisfy any cult of crackpots."
But I also coined the phrase "willful ignoramus,"
didn't I? I've always been proud of that phrase.
You know, a lot of people are ignorant because
they can't help themselves
, but these people had just made up their minds they were going
to stay ignorant. It was willful ignorance. That was the one sentence
there where I really kind of let myself go.