Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Title: Oral History Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976. Interview G-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Brewer, Vivion Lenon, interviewee
Interview conducted by Jacoway, Elizabeth
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 200 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-19, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976. Interview G-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0012)
Author: Elizabeth Jacoway
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976. Interview G-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0012)
Author: Vivion Lenon Brewer
Description: 168 Mb
Description: 53 p.
Note: Interview conducted on October 15, 1976, by Elizabeth Jacoway; recorded in Scott, Arkansas.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as "
All em dashes are encoded as —

Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976.
Interview G-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Brewer, Vivion Lenon, interviewee


Interview Participants

    VIVION LENON BREWER, interviewee
    ELIZABETH JACOWAY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I wondered if you could say, first of all, what do you think were the factors in your background that prepared you to step forward and play a leadership role at the time of the Little Rock crisis?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
From the standpoint of leadership or interest? From the standpoint of interest, I'm sure it was the development of my concern for the black people. This had started in Washington, because there was the beginning of a critical time there.1 But when we came back here, I was so impressed by the poverty and the illiteracy particularly, that I felt all of a sudden as though I'd walked into a new world, because I had grown up here, and I can well remember riding through the country with my father when he would come to look at property and thinking that all the Negroes looked so happy. And I think that this is the way that most of us grew up in the South, and I had never had any personal contact except with the ones in my own home. I think I told this in the manuscript.2 I had played with a little Negro girl more than with a white child, but when she went to school and I went to school nothing dawned on me that there was any difference.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What had happened to you in Washington to cause you to take a second look?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Here?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, I had a long time of illness when I was in Washington,

Page 2
and I became very, very close to a Negro woman who came into my home. She had all kinds of problems, and I think, for the first time, I became very aware of what they faced and the things that happened to them and how they reacted. Her son married a white girl, and she went through the most dreadful trauma over this. It awakened me to the fact that the Negro has his problems, you see, and I began to be much more aware of the racial problem.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Did you interact with her as a friend?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
So that was probably the first time.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, she became a very close friend. She was with us for ten years, I guess. She stayed with me all day, so often just the two of us alone, and we became very close. And then when Joe and I moved back here, we had this . . . You may have noticed the little house.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well it, in the beginning, during the 1920's and 1930's, was the caretaker's house when the larger house was used only for summer recreational purposes, but it had been vacant for some time. When we decided to make this our permanent home, we had to have help in planting and clearing and all sorts of ways. We had a series of couples who lived there, all of them off of the plantations,3 and it horrified me that none of them could read or write.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And you had never been aware of anything like that before.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Never. And so I began to be interested in the Negro schools and what was happening in them. And I began to go into their

Page 3
homes and see how they lived, and I was simply appalled. And the closest home to us has now been destroyed. But a black man lived there, and he used to come up to see us ever so often, and he would always stand on the porch away from the kitchen door and say, "I know how to treat white people. I was taught how to treat white people." And he wouldn't come in.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And all of these things together, you see, made me very, very aware of the racial problem.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And also hadn't there been a black girl or some black girls at Smith?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, yes. One in my class. I was the Class of 1921, and she was a brilliant girl, later became a New York attorney. And her son was prominent in the government. She has since died. But I never did know her. It just happened that we just weren't thrown together at all. In fact, she entered very little into any of the activities at Smith, and I don't know why this was true because I never did know her. I don't know whether it was her choice, or whether it was just what transpired.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Did it strike you as unusual? Do you remember thinking that it was unusual to have a black girl at Smith?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Not that, necessarily, but the thing that struck me was how brilliant she was. This made its real impression, you see.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, I think it would, coming out of your background.

Page 4
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I don't think you would say that you had a typical Southern childhood or grew up in a typical Southern family. Don't you think you had considerably.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No, my parents both came from Iowa, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
So they were not really typical Southerners.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And this is just one little point aside that may interest you. When I got into the Women's Emergency Committee and I was receiving so many phone calls, you know; all of them sort of amused me, except I had the strangest reaction when they would attack my parents.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, I guess so.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
As people who were outsiders, who didn't belong here, you know. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter] That's the South, isn't it? You had been here all your life . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . but you were still an outsider. But you had been born and grown up here.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And your father was the president of the People's Bank?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And then you went to the public schools in Little Rock . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . and then went to Smith. Now were there very many girls from Little Rock who went away to Northern schools?4

Page 5
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Very few. There'd been a few. Well, of course, Mrs. Terry5 was one of the first, you know, and there was one friend of my mother's—much younger than my mother, but older than I am—who had gone to Smith, and she was really why I went to Smith. But I've always been grateful, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, I'm sure. I have never seen a more beautiful campus.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, the thing is, I believe in children going as far away from home as they can go. And you see, being that far from home, I didn't come home at Christmas.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, you didn't!
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I stayed with my roommate, for instance, or one of my friends, and so here was this long period. And my parents always said that I cried all the first year wanting to come home, and after that they couldn't get me to come home. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter] I know what you mean. So that forced you to become independent and to stand on your own up there.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And then I was terribly, terribly lucky in the business world. Of course, I would like to think I would have done as well if it hadn't been in the bank owned by my father . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] . . . but of course I know that I had advantages because he was there. I started as his secretary, and I can never be grateful enough for all he taught me. And gradually he let me take over certain responsibilities. And then we didn't have a trust

Page 6
department, and he let me go away and study trust business in St. Louis, and I came back and organized a trust department. And I went to law school so that I would really know what I was doing.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Where did you go to law school?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
In Little Rock, at night. I went to night school (Arkansas Law School) while I was working and passed the bar, so that I felt . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That is just most unusual, that your father encouraged you, in that day and age, to develop all these abilities and skills.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes. Well, this was one of the things that I look back on as very exciting to me in those days, that when I was first elected as a vice president of the bank, my picture was in the New York Times.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, was it? [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] So you can see how this was ahead of my time.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, that's right. So you had had a lot of experiences, then, which prepared you to take an independent stand and to be articulate and . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And let's say as an administrator, you see, because I was used to handling things, taking responsibility. Now you say "articulate"; I'm not.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, you don't think so.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And this is a throwback to my father, I think. He never liked publicity. It really annoyed him when he was given publicity, and this rubbed off on me. And as a consequence, when I knew I was going to be quoted, it bothered me very much.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter] Yes.

Page 7
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I used to worry and worry: "Am I saying the right thing? Am I saying something that will . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, yes. I know what you mean.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . not be interpreted as I want it to be?" And so forth.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, what it has made me do, which was one of the things about the Committee which is rather interesting, is that I am one who needs to think a thing through. If somebody asks me to make a talk and will give me time to organize my thoughts, I enjoy doing it. But if I'm called upon as an extemporaneous, it bothers me.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
The girl with whom I worked most closely in the Committee, Irene Samuel, is just the opposite. She's impulsive, wants to get everything, right now, done, and so there was such a contrast that we sort of held each other.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, it sounds like you made a good team.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
You see, she pushed, and I pulled. [Laughter]

Page 8
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
A very good combination, just by luck.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, it was.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, probably all these experiences that you had had, which really put you outside the mold of the traditional Southern woman or Southern girl, certainly, made it more possible for you to take a different look at this taboo area of race relations and come to an independent judgment.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I'm sure that's true. And probably because I came back from being away for so long.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I didn't realize you were away for ten years.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
We were gone for fifteen.6
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh. Well, yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And we've laughed about this, because it wasn't too long after we came back that all this happened, you know—ten years or so—and we've always said we came back to get into trouble. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter] You just didn't know it. Oh, heavens. Okay. So what, then, were the origins of the Women's Emergency Committee?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
One person has never been given the credit she should have been given. She is Velma Powell, who is the wife of J. O. Powell, who was the Dean of Men at Central High School. She had lived for a year in the Terry home. At the time all of this trouble arose, she was the secretary for the Arkansas Council on Human Relations. The year 1957-58, when black children were in Central for the first time, she, of course, had firsthand knowledge of all the dreadful things that happened. And

Page 9
finally she wrote Mrs. Terry a letter and said, "You have always been in the forefront of all the crises that we've ever had. Where are you now?" And Mrs. Terry thought about this. She had been really ill with worrying about what was going on; in fact, she said she went to bed and was ready to die, but she didn't die. [Laughter] So she got up . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . and decided she'd do something.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
She was so concerned about the community, the curfews . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And about the blacks, you see, because her interest had always been in racial problems. Everything else—all kinds of problems—but very much so concerned in racial problems. And so her first thought was that we might organize a group of women such as the group that had fought lynching and finally brought the antilynching laws into being.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Now hadn't Mrs. Terry been a member of that earlier group?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
She had known them. Now whether she actually belonged or not I don't know, but they had had a meeting in Hot Springs at one time, and I know she attended that. I'm assuming she was a member, but I don't really know. But this was her thought. And I had known her ever since I came home from college, because I had joined the American University Women's group, one of the earliest ones in Arkansas [unknown], and we had had a very close relationship recently because of that Ashmore Gazette dinner.7
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, that's right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
At that time, Joe and I were really the ones that said,

Page 10
"Let's do it," you know. And we'd spent days at Mrs. Terry's home working on lists to invite people to the dinner.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Now the story behind that was that someone (Mrs. Terry) had suggested, "Let's have a dinner for Harry Ashmore," and someone had said, "No one would come"? [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And her idea had been that maybe have a dozen people at the Country Club, you know, and Joe and I said, "No, if we're going to do it, let's have it at the Marion,8 and we will wager three hundred would come," and we had eight hundred.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Eight hundred? Oh, my word, I didn't . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
The place was crowded. People stood out in the lobby and couldn't get in, up in the balcony.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
This was after he had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
That's right. And it was for that reason the dinner was given, to honor him.
So I had had a very close relationship with Adolphine (Terry) during that time, you see. So when she began to think, "Now, what can we do?" she talked to Velma about calling me. And I had met Velma—I didn't know her well at that time, but I had met her—and discussed the racial problems, and we agreed. And so she said she felt sure I'd be interested, so Adolphine called me, and Velma and Adolphine and I met and decided we would call what friends we thought would work with us, for a meeting, and spent some time on the telephone and were very pleased when we had the initial meeting.9 Far more (58) came than we ever thought would. But it just didn't work as

Page 11
we hoped it would. See, our whole idea was that we were going to do something about the racial problem. The problem with the schools was back of our interest, of course, but the real thing was to do something about the racial problem. But that meeting fell to pieces.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Why? What happened?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mrs. Terry had said, "Now look, you've got to take hold of this and be Chairman," so I'd spent the weekend planning committees and thinking what we could do. I remember one thing, I wanted very much to ask Marian Anderson to come here for a concert. Just a lot of things. And I began to see the whole group just flutter. And finally one woman who had two children out of school (by that time you see, Faubus had closed the schools) rose and cried out, "But what do we do about the schools?"
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Now the chronology on this is that you all called this initial meeting very soon after Faubus closed the schools.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
The very next week.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And she said, "My boys are out of school, and that's what I'm interested in. This is what I want to do." And it immediately dawned on me that we couldn't hope to do what we first thought we wanted to do.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right. You couldn't be that straightforward.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
That's right, and we had to go around the mountain.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
So then we changed all of our tactics and organized the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools.

Page 12
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And so the full title was Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Which was a terribly cumbersome name.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
But it said . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
It said what you were about.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes. And lots of people later advised us to change that name, but I felt, when you have a momentum, if you start changing things you're going to lose a lot of it. So I kept insisting we stick with it, and in the end we were known as the WEC. It lost all that long name anyway.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Are these crop dusters that we're hearing out over the lake?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
They're probably defoliating. They're getting ready to pick the cotton.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. Is cotton picked in various stages? I seemed to notice a number of cotton plants as I drove by that seemed to have a lot of cotton left on them, but they had . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
They'll pick again. They defoliate first, and of course they all use machinery now, which is the basis for so much of our poverty, you see. And this usually will get the top part of the cotton, and then they'll come in again. And once in a while they still use human hands to pick, but not very often; it's usually machine.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, I can smell the stuff now. So you're confronted down here every day with the problems of poverty and illiteracy.

Page 13
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, yes, we live right in the middle of it. After I left the Women's Emergency Committee10 I began to work in the Negro schools in the Scott community . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, you did.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . because I felt this was where I could do more good. I'm sure you know—I think I made it clear in the manuscript—why I did leave. It was not only for Joe, who needed me very much, but it was because I could see that we were becoming nothing on earth but a political pressure group. And I'm just not interested in that . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Soon after you left, didn't the Women's Emergency Committee then disband?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Not immediately. It just sort of wavered. There were still meetings, but nothing really was being done.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And you left in '62?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
In '60.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
'60. And then I believe they disbanded in '63.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes. Was it '2 or '3? It may have been '63, because it did just sort of linger along and really was a political arm. Both Irene Samuel and Pat House, who headed it at that time, loved politics, and this was great to them . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, this whole experience had politicized a lot of women, hadn't it?

Page 14
VIVION LENON BREWER:
There's no doubt about it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Like you were saying a little while ago, you had been somewhat naive about the workings of the government11 up until your experience; I'm sure that this was a wrenching experience which caused many WEC members to take a new view of the world around them, too.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I'm sure it was the awakening of many women, not only politically but to all of the just causes in a community.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And it's been very thrilling to me that . . . I don't know many of the women in the WEC, and of course we ended with hundreds and hundreds of them, who have not been active one way or another.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's been my impression. As I've looked around the community today and seen the women who are really committed and actively involved in the important issues of our time, they had their beginnings in the Women's Emergency Committee.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
That's very true.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And they seem to have proliferated out all over the community . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm, it's very true.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . into all kinds of things.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I was told that Sarah Murphy—have you talked with her?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Not yet; I will.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
She, I'm told, did an article on this very subject. I never did see it. But I'm sure she would have it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, I'll have to ask her for that and be sure to include that.

Page 15
I should say, I think, at this point that the manuscript you keep referring to is the manuscript you have deposited in your papers at Smith College.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, and also it's at Columbia.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, it's at Columbia, too.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Also. Because I felt that I wanted it where scholars could see it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And if I felt it wouldn't be talked about here, you know, I'd be glad to publish it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
But it would be. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, it would be.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I ran across a number of things this summer, just small details, that I could tell would create some consternation [Laughter] . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . in Little Rock. And also, you've had a number of interviews other than this one. You had an interview with the Columbia Oral History, the Eisenhower Administration Project, and have you had others?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
At Smith, of course. I'm sure you saw the one from which they took an excerpt to include in the book called College.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
No, I did not see that, and I didn't . . .

Page 16
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, it's a very small excerpt, and I was embarrassed [Laughter] that this was the one they chose, because I had, at the time they made that interview, very strong feelings about what was happening in the public schools and the academies and the private schools, and I thought this was important. But instead they chose to tell the story of how, when I came home from college, I was churched. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, I remember that story. Yes. [Laughter] What a shame.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, of course, it was the effect of college; there's no doubt about that. And I think that's what they were trying to bring out.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Would you like to tell that story [Laughter] on the tape?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, I had grown up . . . My mother was a staunch Baptist, and I went to church every time the doors opened, and I was really a leader in the young group at the church, in what they called the Baptist Young People's Union. I taught Sunday school; I went to church. When I was twelve years old, a minister came and stayed at our home, had a revival. And through pressure from him, I joined the church and was baptized, and I've often thought of what happens to young people in religious organizations, because I am convinced I had what amounted to a sort of fit.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
You know, you lose your own mental powers. You're completely under [unclear]

Page 17
control . . . A sort of brainwashing, if you want to call it that. But at any rate, I did, and, until I went to college, I was extremely active in the church. At college one of my very favorite courses was "The Bible as Literature." I learned a great deal from it, and I was appalled to think that, until that time, I really hadn't known what was in the Bible.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And so the members of the church learned that I was enjoying the Bible as literature (laughed) and not verbatim, and they sent a committee to see me and asked me not to come to church anymore because I would be a very bad influence on the young people.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You know what happens when you send girls off to those schools. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] So I didn't go back to church. But then the thing that really turned me against the church was, I had gone to work, you see, then, and they would each month come to me and ask me for a contribution, but they didn't want me in the church. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What a shame. Isn't that silly? [Laughter] Well, did you feel the same way Mrs. Terry did when she came back from Vassar, that she didn't want to be a Southern lady? [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I'm not sure I ever put it into these words. There was a good deal of pressure for me to make a debut, and I wouldn't do that.

Page 18
Somehow this was something I had no interest in at all, so I didn't. [Laughter] I think I probably didn't even think about it, Betsy, because I was just so interested in going to work and really doing something.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, you were being given options in your life that you weren't being forced to be the Southern lady, anyway, so that probably wasn't such a big issue.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
That's right.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What kind of a woman was Mrs. Terry? How would you describe her?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I think one thing that has never been said about her is that she had the most marvelous sense of humor. She let us have all of our meetings (WEC) at her house, you know, and she always sat in on them. She never went to the office. She had nothing to do with the administration of the Committee. But she always sat there, and as we would discuss what we ought to do, we'd get a little despondent about the way things were not happening, and she always had something funny and cheerful to say that would get us laughing and get us over the hump. She had a wonderful mind, and certainly there never was a more dedicated humanitarian. Until her final days her main interest was the racial problem. Of course, she did all sorts of things for the city and the state, but this was her central interest.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Did you know that a black child grew up in her family?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.

Page 19
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That surprised me. I went to see her a few years ago, and she told me the story about how her mother had been independent enough to bring a black child into their home and raise it.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I remember she said, "She is a member of the household."
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I think that's great. That explains a lot . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It does.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . about her concern and her willingness to abandon the traditional Southern racial attitude.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, she seems to have been a great moral influence who was able to use her influence without expending all of her energies in administrative details.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
This was partly because she had a knack of getting other people to do things.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
She really did. As I travelled around this summer, I found letters from Mrs. Terry in every collection, lighting a fire under somebody saying . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And if some problem would arise, she'd go right to the phone and call someone, you know. "Let's get them to do something." And I remember a few times—not too many, but a few times—when she entertained people in her home during the time of all this crisis, anybody saying to her, "Why, Adolphine, I wouldn't want them in my house." She said, "You use everybody you can." [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, is that amazing. Somebody in one of the interviews I

Page 20
read this summer—perhaps it was you—said that she had spent seventy-five years up until that time putting out I.O.U.'s over the community, and she had never called them in. And now she called them all in. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's great, that she was able to do that and have such influence. How about Harry Ashmore? How would you describe him? What kind of a man is he?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, of course, I am very fond of Harry. We disagreed strongly at one time.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I think you read that in the manuscript. I've never said this to Harry except the night it happened, and I've never brought it up again, but it was our feeling about Bill Fulbright.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Because I felt that Bill could have helped us enormously if he had just come down and said anything. He didn't need to stay. If he'd just made a strong statement. But he stayed out of it entirely, and Harry said he'd advised him to. He said, "If you just stay out of things, you can be the Secretary of State." And I remember saying to Harry I didn't agree with him one bit.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Those priorities were not in line.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mnm-mm. I just didn't think so. So occasionally we didn't agree. But Harry has the most wonderful gift for words. I envy him tremendously, the way he expresses himself. I'm very interested that

Page 21
he is now doing a history of Arkansas . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, I'm delighted.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . and particularly interested because the last time I saw him he said, "Why, I'm not doing a chronological history." He said, "I'm trying to paint the image of the state." This was a little curious to me. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
He's doing an essay, I think, on Arkansas. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I'll be very intrigued to see what our image is. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, apparently he's getting close to finishing now. It's supposed to be done by the end of the year or so. We'll see what happens to that. [Laughter] But did you have the feeling that Harry Ashmore had a lot of contacts out through the community, that he was a leader in the community, or did he pretty much stand alone?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Only through his editorials. I think actually . . . Maybe this says something: the night he was notified that he received the Pulitzer Prize, mutual friends of ours went to see him, and they were the only ones there, which says that while Harry had a lot of friends—I don't mean to imply anything else—and certainly there were many of us who admired him very, very much, I couldn't say that he really led except with his writing.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, the position of the Gazette was always ten paces ahead of the community. And that, I think, says a lot about Mr. Heiskell, that he was willing . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Definitely.

Page 22
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . to allow Ashmore to take that position.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It does.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Okay. What were the primary activities of the Women's Emergency Committee? What did you all do?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It became absolutely necessary that we win elections. There was just no other way we could control anything, because Faubus was constantly trying to get the legislature to pass new laws and get the wrong people on the school board. That first election, which we lost, said we had to either integrate all the schools or not integrate any of the schools. Even the way it was on the ballot,12 of course, was so rigged that it was impossible to fight it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
But you had just organized at that time.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes. We had only a couple of weeks. In fact, he moved the election up, and he moved it to a day when there was a football game in Fayetteville. [Laughter] But you know, that's one of the things, I think, that carried me through all that period. I just couldn't believe we wouldn't win. I was just sure that there were enough people that would see that we had to have schools. And I was just amazed when we didn't. It was a real blow, but I can't remember losing my optimism; I just felt that we had enough women interested by then that we'd have enough momentum that we'd go to work and . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Also, didn't you feel that you made a very good showing,

Page 23
given the way the thing was worded on the ballot?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, yes, but the vote was decidedly against it. But the very fact that we were doing something, you know, because those of us who felt so strongly about this had really been ill with worry over what was going on. And if you can get up and tackle a problem, then you feel better.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right. It had been a whole year now that Little Rock had been just in complete chaos, and now you were taking the bull by the horns.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No body doing anything.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Why? Why did the men remain silent?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Afraid. I'm sure they were all afraid. And in the end, I think the most important thing we did was to write that Little Rock Report.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Because it's a sad thing that it's true, but it's when the pocketbook is hit that you get some reaction. And we really, for the first time, proved to the men that they were losing business, that the state was losing its best citizens, that we weren't getting any new people in, that the industries were all going down, that the whole picture was of the city and probably the whole state just being destroyed.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And the WEC ladies went out and interviewed businessmen all over the community, and compiled all this information.

Page 24
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And it was a tremendous job, just a tremendous . . . And even putting the thing together was. Wasn't there a copy at Smith?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It took you can't imagine how many hours. We would work not only at the office, but we'd take material to the homes, to make the graphs, you know, to get the percentages, work this out. One of the things that really tells something about the emotional spirit of that time is that when we did send girls, we had to be very careful to send girls with Southern accents.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, is that right?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes. If we sent anyone who sounded at all an outsider, they were not received.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Isn't that silly?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
But that's not too hard to believe. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Now that came out in the spring of '59?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm, in '59.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I believe it did come out just a little bit before the purge of the teachers, didn't it? And it kind of really . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I don't believe it was completed, Betsy, until after that. I think we were working on it, but I don't believe it was really in shape to mail out until after that. Because that recall election was . . . Wasn't it May?

Page 25
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
May.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It seemed to me it was. And I think it was later that we finally got the whole thing together. The first run of it I wouldn't let go out to school libraries, especially outside Arkansas. The girls thought I was crazy, that we ought to send it, but I didn't want it in the libraries when it was incomplete, incorrect. There were mistakes in it, and I just felt it was worth holding on to, so we used the first run locally among our own members.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And had no trouble, of course, using it, getting it out. But corrected, we sent the later editions to every university in the country, the libraries, and many foreign countries sent for it. It was just wonderful.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
The demand for it really surprised you, didn't it? And then didn't the Southern Regional Council publish a shorter one?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, they did, and we used that a great deal, because a lot of people would read a shorter version when they wouldn't read the whole report.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I have wondered about this: I may be mistaken, but when I was reading the newspaper accounts from that period, the first announcement that I found of the findings of your group was in a Nashville newspaper. And it was then quoted in Little Rock as having been announced in Nashville. And I wondered if that was a ploy, or if that was just the way the information came . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
What was that about, it was our report?

Page 26
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, your charts and graphs.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No, that couldn't be true. You must have missed some of the early part of it, because the first thing, before we ever completed the report, we had a section of it that we thought was important enough to give to the press.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, you did?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And I remember this very definitely, because Joe and I at that point felt we had to get away for a little bit, and we were taking a train to Chicago when the paper was brought to the train, and I said it was the best going-away present I ever had . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . [Laughter] because it was the first report from those statistics. So somehow or other you must have missed some of it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I must have. But I had the feeling in my mind that by the time of the recall election, the community had become pretty well aware of the economic impact of the Little Rock crisis.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Somewhat, but I think they had also become aware of what was happening to the schools.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
You see, up until then it startled me that men didn't seem to think it made any difference that the schools were closed. "Well, let the kids stay out for a year or so; it's not going to hurt them, you know." So that there was this feeling that was really behind that recall election. And it's also interesting that the group of men who decided to be active in this particular election didn't want us at

Page 27
all, you see, because they didn't want any stigma of anything that had to do with integration or anything that . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Now we should clarify that. They didn't want you to publicly be a part of their group [Laughter] . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
That's certainly true.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . but they wanted you to work for them.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Which we did. And after the election—which was a success, of course—they disappeared.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
The men disappeared.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Now for the purpose of the tape, we probably should say that that recall election came about because three members of the school board tried to purge forty-five teachers from the Little Rock public schools, and this created an outcry in Little Rock, and an election was held to recall those three members of the school board and at the same time to recall the other three members of the school board.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, and both sides worked very hard to keep their "good men" in [Laughter] . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
The segregationists called their group CROSS: Committee to Retain our Segregated Schools; the moderates called their group STOP: Stop This Outrageous Purge.

Page 28
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
So, the men who stepped forward to head the STOP committee, came to the Women's Emergency Committee and said, "Help us win this recall vote."
VIVION LENON BREWER:
If it hadn't been for our organization, they couldn't possibly have won that election, couldn't possibly. But they did supply the equipment, which we didn't have. And this is how we came by some very valuable equipment.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Mimeographing machines and things like that . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And they paid for any number of phones in the office, so that we could do phoning, you see, to the . . . And I'm sure you will remember that we had a code. We set up a card catalog of every voter, and for every one we had a code to say whether they'd be friendly or unfriendly or maybe, and the unfriendly ones, of course, we left alone. The friendly ones, we bombarded to get them out (to vote).
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Who got together that system? Was that Irene Samuel?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, Irene really set up the code, but the person, I think, who really taught her to do this was Henry Woods.13
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, is that right?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I never knew that. Well, that makes sense.

Page 29
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, he'd had lots of experience in elections, and he was one of the men who was really friendly to us.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And he was openly involved.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, and his wife worked very hard in the Committee. She worked in the office a great deal.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Were there very many women who worked for your Committee whose husbands were not sympathetic?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Quite a lot. And some of them asked us not to send mail to their homes, because they . . . Well, unfortunately, I know of a few divorces that came from this period. But we tried, here again, in our membership list—which we always maintained we didn't have . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . [Laughter] you know—we tried to mark it always with whether or not we could send mail direct, or whether they (members) would get it at another address, or whether they'd pick it up at the office, or how it should be handled. Because we really tried awfully hard to protect the women.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, now, do you think these women who were married to men who were not sympathetic with your point of view . . . You would assume that most people married people with similar attitudes. Were most of the women who worked for your Committee openly integrationists, or do you think most of them simply wanted to get the schools open?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
In the beginning most of them simply, they were solely interested in the schools. But they were willing to have the schools

Page 30
opened desegregated, in order to have the schools. So here was the opening wedge. But we did a number of things, because Mrs. Terry and Velma and I still had this original idea in the back of our heads, and we did such things as setting up committees to entertain foreigners, who almost always were of a different color. And this was an educational process. And we did try very hard . . . I'm sure you know that we never had a Negro member, so far as we knew—now we may have had some we didn't know—but so far as we knew. We never did invite them, because we were constantly accused of being integrationists, and if the public believed this accusation it would have destroyed so many of our votes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And as a consequence we dared not open our membership to them, but any of the girls who had any sympathy for the black race were used in contacts with members of the race to reassure them that at the time we were working for the schools, we were really working for them, too. And as a consequence, that final survey of our own membership was a real pleasure to me, because a vast majority of the women said that desegregation of the schools, of the restaurants, of anything, was perfectly all right with them, by then. So it was a growing process. So we didn't completely lose our first aim. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. It's so hard for me to keep in my mind that "integrationist" was just such a horrible word at that time.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I don't think anyone can realize what an emotional time it was. In fact, I look back on it and think we were all crazy. You

Page 31
know, we were just so terribly involved, and people got so excited. Our phone would ring all night long, you know, and all day long, and our mailbox stuffed with these really vicious letters, you know. I didn't read many of them; I threw most of them away.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Just continuing harrassment.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Why would people feel so strongly? It was very, very difficult for me to understand.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, did you ever figure it out, why they felt so strongly?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Old, old prejudice.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You know, I have wondered if a part of it might not have been—of course, the root of it is racial prejudice—but I wondered if a part of it might not have also been the old issue of the North forcing the South once again to accept anything, but certainly to accept a way of life that the South . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
That never occurred to me, Betsy, because actually, the most of our women were Southern women. Of course, there were . . . Well, I suppose hundreds of them really had moved in here from the North, but I don't think this had anything to do with it. I really think it was purely racial prejudice. Of course, in your generation it hasn't been anything like it was in mine, but in my generation we never knew blacks at all unless it was a cook or a maid, somebody of whom you were very fond, you know, but this was a great unknown, and people are afraid of things they don't know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Very frightening; very true. Well, I have read time and again, I've read people describe Little Rock as being surrounded by a

Page 32
climate of fear during that whole period. And I remember—I didn't understand what was happening or what the issues were—but I did understand the fear.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, there are two stories about that. I've often wondered why I didn't have trouble, because I drove from here to the Heights,14 and of course we didn't have the freeway then and it took me across a very isolated country road. And I don't know why something didn't happen during all that time, because . . . Well, to go back to the other story, when the first picture—you probably found it in the papers—I said, "Harry, you're no friend of mine to let a picture like that get in the paper" . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
. . . and he said, "well, I just didn't want anybody to recognize you."
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Which I think he meant.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
In all sincerity, I think he meant it. Because the husbands of the women who did work in the Committee were frightened.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I wondered if they were.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
They were, because when we first had our office, it was in the old Capitol Hotel building, right on the main floor. And pickets would walk up and down outside, you know, and stare in at us. And our husbands absolutely refused to let us stay there over Sunday. They were

Page 33
just afraid, with so few people around, we would have trouble. And finally we moved that office, because it was just too public a place.
It's hard to know why people hate like this, but I think I can see that, after all, I was "a Southern lady," and if something had happened to me, my martyrdom would have done more harm to their cause than just letting me struggle along. It seems to me that's the only explanation for not having . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's probably also a part of the explanation for why they felt such hostility toward you, because you were breaking the faith.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You were supposed to know better. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, I think I've quoted in the manuscript my favorite letter—I did keep it, and I think it's at Smith, if I remember correctly—that someone over in Lonoke wrote—at least the postmark was Lonoke—that "I've seen your picture, and you look as if you're half Negro—‘nigger,’ I'm sure they said—and half-Jew." [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, heavens. [Laughter] Well, you don't.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, heavens. Well, did you feel like you had very much support from the community for your activities?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, it was wonderful to be surrounded by those women. You can't imagine how they worked, Betsy.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
How large was your membership?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, I would guess within the Little Rock area, about

Page 34
eight hundred, but we were over the state, and I think in the end had about two thousand names on our record.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, my.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
But women came in, you know, babies in their arms, came to see what they could take home to do, because they couldn't stay in the office but they were so eager to help. And in the earliest days we sent so much of the work out. You know, we sent out innumerable flyers, and this meant addressing envelopes, stamping, mailing, so forth, folding. And I think they made a mark. I feel sure that they did, although I still think the Little Rock Report was by far the most important. But I think those flyers gradually got to people.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And you sent those out very regularly.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, and to tremendous lists, because we got lists of all the service clubs, all the social clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, you know, every list we could put our hands on, compiled them and sent flyers out. And it always interested us when they came back, you know, with scathing remarks.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Because then we could tell we had made a point.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
You see. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You made 'em mad enough to go to the trouble to send it back. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, you also had quite a telephone relay system, didn't you?

Page 35
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Marvelous, just marvelous. Jane Mendel set that up. And she is an indefatigable worker. She organized that whole group so that we could reach every member by phone within just minutes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Isn't that amazing.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
She broke it down, you see, into just, say, ten people, and out of that each one called ten people and so forth, so that I really think if anyone deserves the credit in that recall election she does, because that telephone chain was just marvelous.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
It sounds like a marvelous system. And I think Pat House said in her interview that Jane Mendel's husband was not sympathetic, and she had a telephone installed in her closet in her upstairs bedroom. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, she can say this about him, but you know, I remember being at a dinner party with them after that and his being so proud of what she'd done.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, really? Well, I'm glad to hear that.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
So either he wasn't antagonistic, or he saw the light [Laughter] later; I don't know which it was, but he really was. He spoke so proudly of what she'd done.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I think there are a lot of people who have seen the light later, and who [Laughter] . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . want to remember their part in a little bit different terms.

Page 36
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, I've even been told—and I would certainly love to hear it—that the interview, the tape that Faubus made, is so full of fantasies, the one that's at the University. Have you . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, I read that.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Is this true?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, I am trying to reserve judgment.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You know, I'm trying to keep myself completely open to all different points of view. There certainly is very much in that interview that surprised me. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] Well, this is what I've been told. In fact, it came secondhand, but I understand that Harry's the one who heard it or read it and said, well, he had certainly had a lot of dreams since those days. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. I'm sure Harry Ashmore would say that, would feel that way. It's really fascinating to read all those interviews with people from very, very different points of view, because you do get very different interpretation.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, I'm sure. And you know, as with all of us, memories fade.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And unless something is very vivid to you, you're apt to have a little different slant over the years.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right. And, too, as your understanding of the issues

Page 37
changes with time, that affects your memory.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
So I'm sure that that's been true. Did you feel like the Committee was a close-knit group? Was there . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Very.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . a lot of camaraderie within . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, very. Yes. As for myself, I would say eighty percent of the women, I never knew their names.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
You know, I simply didn't have time for this, because I spent so much of my time trying to hound men [Laughter] into doing something, going to see as many as I could when they'd let me, which wasn't always, and in forming policy, writing policy letters, trying to keep in touch with people I thought we should, not only here but out over the United States. And as a consequence, a lot of the women came and went, and I never knew who they were. Their faces were familiar, but I couldn't have called their names, except for the ones that worked in the office regularly, . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
As you were driving back and forth then from here into Little Rock, weren't you composing letters in your mind all the time?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Not only in my mind. I had a pad like that which I kept on the seat of the car.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
At stoplights you . . . [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
At stoplights I wrote. [Laughter]

Page 38
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, that's amazing. And didn't you say that you would stop at phone booths?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, I wish I had the money I spent in phone booths. [Laughter] Because gradually I'd find that they'd been tapped. Of course, we knew our phone was tapped.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
But even the phone booths had been . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And lots of the phone booths were tapped.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, heavens.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And so I would move from one to another, you see, trying not to be overheard, because here again, we tried very, very hard to protect the women. I didn't ever want it known—my name was known, so this is all right—but I didn't want that woman's name brought out. And I think you know, we took that membership list to a different home every night, so that nobody ever knew where it was. And it never was made public.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That was quite an undertaking.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, here again, it was a part of the emotional time, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What caused this fear, this emotionalism? What was it that people were afraid of?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Having to associate with Negroes. What else could it be?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, I get the feeling that the Faubus machine was so powerful and so strong that people were really afraid of the economic reprisals.

Page 39
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, this is certainly true, because a vote was never secret, you see. He could easily tell how the people on the state payroll voted, and any number were fired. Oh, it was nothing to have a letter say, "I want to contribute the enclosed, but I can't sign my name."
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Because . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
They were just terrified. And at one time, when the City Directors were trying to get our lists and particularly wanted a list of our contributors, the men who had given us money became panicky. And I spent a long time trying to pacify [Laughter] them, tell them that we would never . . . We didn't keep a list of that; we never kept a list. We had kept books, of course, but no contribution was ever identified.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Were you ever taken into court?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I thought we were going to be, and one of the friendly men in the community thought I ought to go to jail. He thought that if I'd do this that it would wake up the community. He wanted . . .
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Nice for him to suggest that you go to jail. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] Well, I was perfectly willing, but Joe didn't like the idea much. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
[Laughter] That would have been a very dramatic . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, it would have.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . event.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Take us back to the old suffragettes. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right. Well, there's the story about Dottie Morris

Page 40
opening the door one night to these plainclothesmen who . . . What, they were subpoenaing the membership . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm. She was terrified, of course.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
My feeling, just so far, has been that it's that kind of tactic that made people so frightened.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
But this was fear on both sides. This was a fear more on our side. You see, we were the ones that could be afraid of this sort of thing, but the general public, whom we were fighting, whom we were trying to convince, were not the ones that were persecuted this way.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
No, no, no. But a lot of people who might have been sympathetic with your point of view stayed quiet.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Might have, mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
This is what has just been a major question of mine, and I'm really fascinated to know, to be able to figure out why so many of the leading men of the community just did not step forward and assume leadership roles. And I think a lot of it is because the issues were very confused.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Partly, probably, although as far as we were concerned, they were not.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It was one issue.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And this was something we couldn't understand, that the men wouldn't see that this was an issue. What does it do to a city if it

Page 41
doesn't have schools? And why they couldn't see this was beyond me. But I'm sure the Governor has a great deal of power, and many of the men were very afraid of reprisals. It's the same sort of thing, Betsy, that happened among the ministers.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Exactly.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
You see, they were told if they didn't remain quiet that they'd either be moved, or something.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And they were.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes. Many were. Many were.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Many lost their churches.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm. And when we tried at one point to get a very simple statement in favor of public education, we were able to get so few ministers to sign it, it was incredible. But this was all a part: they dared not take a stand if they were going to stay here. A few, of course, did.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
But most of those who spoke out in a very strong way have since moved on.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm. Well, at the moment the one I think of is Dale Cowling, who is still here, and he was one of the first to speak very strongly.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Colbert Cartwright lasted for a while.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Yes, he did, and he worked very hard through the Arkansas Council on Human Relations.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Were you ever involved with that?

Page 42
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I became President of it after I left the Committee.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I didn't realize that.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I guess you were involved with that. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What other activities have you been involved with since that time?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, my chief interests in this vein have been in the Scott community. In the first place, I found that there were two Negro schools, and this little point may interest you, that I asked white friends in the community about the schools and they would say, "I don't know. Where are they?" And they were not even aware of where these Negro schools were. I think the first thing I did was to try to get some books, because I discovered that the schools had no books at all. And so I collected a lot through a friend out at the Little Rock high school and the elementary schools.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What were they doing out there if they didn't have any books?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
How do you think they learned? Why don't they know anything?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. Why can't they read?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And the next thing I did was to get some volunteers, friends of mine, to come down and work in the schools. The teachers they had, they were dedicated, but they weren't, you know, really trained. And

Page 43
this was an attempt to give the children something more than they were getting. And at the end of the first year of doing this, the County Superintendent told me that Washington didn't want us to do it anymore.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Washington!
VIVION LENON BREWER:
So we had to quit that. And I've thought since, you know, the new thing now is volunteers in the schools. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right. You've always been ahead of your time. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And then I went to a graduation exercise at one of the Negro schools—this was the sixth grade—and I sat there appalled that I understood so little they said. And this was the year the Scott white school was to be integrated. And I thought, "What will these children do? They'll go into that school. The teacher won't understand them. They won't understand the teacher. It's not only going to be a fact that they won't learn a thing, but they'll hold the whole class back." So I was able to get a small grant, and we set up a project that summer with four teachers, two blacks and two whites, trying to get them used to our language, trying to get them to feel at home with us. It worked fairly well. We tried it a second summer; it didn't work quite as well that summer, and I began to see that I was too late, that what we needed to do was start with the babies. And this is something I can't explain to you. I've thought about it so often, and I have no idea why it is so. I had an old carry-all at that time, and I went down into the heavily populated area of the county where there are so many of the black poverty people. And I would go from door to door

Page 44
and say, "I'm going to try to set up a day-care center to try to teach your little ones something before they have to go into the school." And without any question those parents would put their children in my car. I still don't understand this: why would they trust a woman they'd never seen before? But they did, and again I was able to get some volunteers in town (Little Rock), and we ran a really successful day-care center. The children, it was simply thrilling to see how they would develop. One little boy I remember, who had never uttered a sound, it was the greatest thrill the day we taught him to use a spoon to eat some ice cream. And he began to talk, began to make sounds. Now he was about four years old.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, is that right?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And then my prize case was a little girl whom I took when she was three. And she cried all the time; she wouldn't talk. Couldn't get anything out of her for, oh, a couple of months. But she gradually got used to us, gradually brightened, just developed like wildfire, and when she went into the Scott school they didn't know what to do with her. She was so far beyond any of the other children (white or black).
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, no. That was a problem you hadn't anticipated. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No, I certainly hadn't. But they put her in the second grade to start with and then bounced her to the fourth.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
My heavens!
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, to me what it proved is that given a chance, these children can do something. So that part of it has been very thrilling.

Page 45
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You were proving the same kinds of things my people were trying to prove at Penn School. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm. That's right. So it's been one project after the other over the years.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
So most of your activities have been involved in the Scott community.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, yes, almost entirely.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Do you still keep close contacts in Little Rock?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Not a great many. I have a lot of friends there when we see them, but, because of our isolation here, I don't go into town as often as I might. And as I get older, I don't entertain as much as I used to, and we don't go in at night. And as a consequence, we've begun to lead pretty isolated lives. And this has been one of the things that's intrigued me about the racial development, that immediately following the Committee we had extremely close relationships with a great many of the professional blacks in Little Rock. When they first started the Great Decisions programs, we joined a black group instead of joining a white one. [Laughter] And we had so many of the black friends back and forth in our home. Well, it's partly this isolation that's been at the base of this, I feel sure, but I think there has been a swing away from close communication between the two races.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Do you?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And I think this is a natural swing of the pendulum. They

Page 46
want their own . . . I can understand this, but I think it's too bad, because I think what we need to do is to know each other, and if we do then this makes for understanding. So I hope that the pendulum will swing back. I see some of it that's in groups like the League of Women Voters, that there are black women in, and, say, working at the Art Center, there are. And this is good; this, I think, is just fine. But I think it really isn't enough. I think it's too bad there isn't more close communication, and I'm hoping the day will come when it will swing back.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I wanted to ask you about that. I wanted to ask you what you thought your assessment was of racial attitudes in Little Rock from the standpoint of the white community. Because, as we were saying a minute ago, when the men finally came to realize the economic impact of the drift of things on Little Rock, then things began to happen: the schools were integrated; the schools were reopened. But always the integration was just token.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And I wondered if, in fact, perhaps people in Little Rock hadn't found a way to hold on to their old racial attitudes, but accommodate themselves just enough to have a token integration?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I think this is why there are all the academies and private schools. They will tell you that they're open to both races, but I don't know of cases where blacks have applied. I think it's probably because they're too expensive. And it also may be a part of

Page 47
this swinging away from communication; that may enter into it. I think the expense is probably more important. But it does bother me, because the churches have set up all these private schools; there are these private academies; and these young people are not going to have had any association that will give them any breadth of understanding.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
So from that perspective, at least that segment of Little Rock hasn't changed.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Has not. On the other hand, I have to feel that we have come a long way, because who gets excited if you see a black man having lunch with a white girl?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No body does anymore, you know, and, why, back in those days he'd have been killed.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. And also, all of the women who were involved in the Committee and men who were involved in the STOP campaign were sensitized to these problems and issues in ways that they never had been before.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Very true.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And I think that's an important balance, that there is just much more positive sentiment for better racial accommodation in Little Rock now, certainly, than there was in 1957. But we certainly still have a long way to go.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, I fear so. [Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I'm sure that's always the case. Well, [unknown], I don't want to tire you out and ask all my questions in one afternoon.

Page 48
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter]
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Let me see if I . . . I think I went over everything I wanted to.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, then, let me tell you one story which makes me more hopeful about the schools, and this is a local thing and a personal thing. Our nearest neighbor is a black family. The parents are good parents. They've had eleven children—well, they had fourteen, but some of them didn't make it—they've had eleven at home.
As the boys in the family grew up, they have come up to help us in the yard occasionally. And without exception, they have stuttered terribly, and it's been very difficult to communicate with them. Now they probably started in an integrated school when they were about the eighth grade, someplace along there, seventh or eighth. And the boy who graduated last year can't read and is very ill-at-ease with us, even though we've known him all these years, you see, and see him often, but he just can't talk to us. One of the younger boys, who is now about fourteen, I guess, has been in an integrated school all his life. His closest little friend is white. He is very articulate; he is very friendly; he has nice manners; he's at ease. So this gives me hope.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, yes.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I think maybe come another generation [Laughter] , we will have made some strides.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes, yes. Well, it must be very gratifying to you to be

Page 49
able to look out and see that you have made an impact.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, I hope so, but when there are so many problems . . . I won't go into this today, because it's one of the things I've tried to make up my mind, whether I ought to write up the whole story, or have a reporter come down and do a really good job writing it up. But there's been just an incredible development in the community, with so much bad luck, so many things against the blacks, that you begin to wonder if it isn't still persecution. You know, it's just . . . But you don't like to give the whole story to the public until you feel that you're not working against racial prejudice, because if you do it only increases it. So we struggle along in this way, and this is what I'm involved in now, trying to work out some problems for what is really a housing development, trying to get the improverished families into decent homes and out of the shanties.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You're just not going to lay the burden down. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] Well, I don't do too much anymore, but I try to sit in and advise when I can.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's marvelous.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
They need help, you know.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, that's clear.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
They need help.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's clear. As I drove down this road, especially as I turned onto the winding plantation road, I felt, "I am really in the South." Little Rock is beginning to feel like Atlanta, which feels like New York or Chicago, but Scott feels like it's in . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, someday come down, and I'll take you down to the

Page 50
center where they're building these houses.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, I would love to.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And let you see some of the houses from which they've come.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh, I would love that.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
For the first time in their lives, the families who are occupying these recently built houses have running water they hadn't had at all. Many of them carried water for what to us would be a couple of blocks, you know. And if they had a pump in the yard, it froze in the winter, you know, and all of this. And yet, somehow or other, white people don't realize what this does to a family.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right. That's right. I know that from my own experience. I know that I grew up thinking if black people wanted a better life, they would work to have it. And I had no understanding of the . . . Well, this shouldn't all be going on the tape [Laughter] , but I had no understanding of what black people were up against.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
It might be good for it to go on, because it shows that even in your generation we have had this.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. Oh, yes. And among my friends in Little Rock now. Of course, I went away and had a series of very challenging experiences which opened my eyes. But among my friends who have stayed here, that has not happened. There haven't been
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And it's been interesting to me that Scott is really an isolated community. You can't imagine how I had to work to get anyone in Little Rock to come down to see, even.

Page 51
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I can imagine. I can imagine.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
My earliest help in the community, will you believe, came from New England?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And it was because I went back to a reunion at Smith and talked about what I was trying to do, and some of the women got awfully excited about it and sent all kinds of donations.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Oh. The old New England impulse. [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
[Laughter] So we are still struggling against being out here where people don't come to see what's going on, you see. They may hear the story—and it often is distorted—and they don't actually come out and take a look.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, do any of the white people in the Scott community support you, or are they involved with what you're doing?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
What are the sources of your strength? And I wondered about this during the time of the Little Rock crisis, when there was so much harrassment and constantly people . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
This. [Mrs. Brewer gestures toward the lake and the big cypress trees.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Your environment. The lake and the beauty of it.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Peace and quiet. I get a great deal of strength from nature.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes? And this creates the opportunity for real reflection . . .
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.

Page 52
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
. . . and thought.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
You do feel like you're in touch with very primal sources, sitting out on the porch, and the ducks in the distance and the birds. Did you have time to spend hours out on this porch during the Little Rock crisis? [Laughter]
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Oh, no. [Laughter] No, but I came home to it every night and left . . . Well, of course we couldn't leave it during the bad days, because the phone rang all the time. But at least I was surrounded by it, and this really does things for me. I don't think it would for everyone, Betsy; I don't mean to say that this is that important to everybody. It just happens that I'm made that way, that it does mean a lot to me.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, I can understand that. I certainly can. This has been fascinating, and I am delighted to have had this opportunity to meet you and visit with you.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, we'll have to do more of it.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I want to. I have many, many questions, specific questions that UNC wouldn't be interested in, but I'd like to spend some time with you this fall.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Well, do; just come.
END OF INTERVIEW

Page 53
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Just a postscript to the Brewer interview. After I turned off the tape recorder, Mrs. Brewer had a few comments about Daisy Bates. She said that at the time of the development of the Women's Emergency Committee, blacks were not allowed on the committee. And this was done for strategic reasons. The WEC had been accused of being integrationist and much too liberal anyway, and they believed that if they allowed blacks to join their organization this would simply confirm the worst fears and suspicions of their opponents, so they did not allow black members in their organization. However, Daisy Bates did not understand this as a strategic move. Mrs. Bates felt that the Women's Emergency Committee ladies were showing their true colors by not allowing blacks on their committee in their membership. So Mrs. Bates was an arch-opponent of the Women's Emergency Committee during the years of the Little Rock crisis. Since then, however, Mrs. Brewer feels that Mrs. Bates has become a friend. The Brewers have entertained the Bateses at their home many times and have developed a very friendly relationship.
1. Mr. and Mrs. Brewer were living in Washington while Mr. Brewer was a legislative aide to his uncle, Senator Joe T. Robinson of Arkansas.
The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock
3. The Brewers owned five acres in the area made up of very large plantations.
4. My father was mayor of Little Rock from 1903-08 when he resigned to give more attention to the bank business. In 1902 he had founded the Peoples Savings Bank, the forerunner of the present First National Bank in Little Rock.
5. Mrs. David D. Terry (Adolphine Fletcher Terry) had attended Vassar (1902).
6. October 1930 to March 1946.
7. This was a large dinner held in May 1958 to celebrate Ashmore's receipt of the Pulitzer Prize for his editorial leadership during the Little Rock crisis.
8. Little Rock's largest hotel and convention center at that time—the Marion Hotel.
9. The initial meeting was held in the fall of 1958, shortly after Governor Faubus had closed the schools.
10. Mrs. Brewer resigned from the presidency of the WEC in 1960 in order to devote more time to her husband, who was in poor health, and also because the Committee was turning increasingly to political activity, supporting candidates, not issues reflecting the goal of public education. Mrs. Brewer believed this to be a mis-use of her committee's energies and talents.
11. Particularly civil service.
FORAGAINST
13. Henry Woods was a law partner of former governor Sid McMath, and a leader of Little Rock's liberal community.
14. W.E.C. headquarters was in the Pulaski Heights section of Little Rock, twenty-three miles from the Brewer home.