Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup Blog Video Facebook Twitter Instagram

Orval Faubus

Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, talks to Wallace from the Governor's mansion in Little Rock during his standoff with the Federal Government over the integration of Little Rock Central High School. Faubus had called in the National Guard to bar the African-American students from the school and had met the day before this interview with President Eisenhower in an effort to resolve the conflict.

Watch Video

Guest: Orval Faubus

WALLACE: Good evening, what you are about to see is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. I am Mike Wallace, and tonight we bring you a special interview with Governor Orval Faubus, from the Governor's mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas. For the past two weeks, Governor Faubus has thereby defied a Federal Court order to integrate Little Rock Central High School and have thereby brought to ahead the conflict between State and Federal power in this nation. Governor Faubus called out the National Guard to, as he put it, "maintain order. They will not act as segregationists or integrationists," he said.

But in effect, they were there to bar Negro students from the school. Since then, Federal Judge Ronald Davies of the District Court has repeatedly ordered integration to proceed forthwith and Governor Faubus has defied this order. In an effort to resolve the conflict, Governor Faubus requested a face-to-face meeting with President Eisenhower. That meeting took place yesterday, at New Port Rhode Island. The President emerged from the conference with these words, he said,

"The Governor stated his intention to respect the decisions of the United States District Court and to give his full cooperation in carrying out his responsibilities in respect to these decisions." In view of this, Governor Faubus, first of all, let me ask you this; and although, er... people in Arkansas don't talk much with strangers, as you said last week on television, I hope that you'll talk some with me tonight.

FAUBUS: Well, Mr. Wallace, we'll make an exception in your case.

WALLACE: All right, sir. A Federal District Court has already ruled that Little Rock Central High School should be integrated. And the reasons for preventing integration now are a anemic. In view of your promise to the President, will you respect this decision and give your okay to integration beginning tomorrow morning?

FAUBUS: I've previously given my okay to integration. The Guard was not called out to prevent integration, but to keep the peace and order of the community. And, of course, I disagree with your preliminary statement that we are in defiance of a Federal Court order, based upon the premise that the peace and good order of the community is paramount to all other issues...

WALLACE: I understand....

FAUBUS: ...and that for a time, it would not be possible to integrate without disorder and violence.

WALLACE: I understand that, but the specific question: Will you give your okay to integration tomorrow morning?

FAUBUS: If it could be accomplished in a peaceful manner without any disorder and without violence, I have already so stated as a witness in chancery court and do so now.

WALLACE: Do you believe that that can be accomplished peacefully and without disorder tomorrow morning?

FAUBUS: Not at the present time.

WALLACE: You feel that violence is still a possibility?

FAUBUS: Yes, sir.

WALLACE: Therefore, will the National Guard troops continue to surround Central High school tomorrow morning?

FAUBUS: Well, the troops will still be on duty in the morning.

WALLACE: They will be. Do you foresee their being taken away from the school this week?

FAUBUS: It is possible.

WALLACE: Under what circumstances?

FAUBUS: Under a condition of tranquility and general acceptance by the people, which would then lessen the possibility of disorder or violence.

WALLACE: Who will determine this state of tranquility, yourself, Governor Faubus?

FAUBUS: That has to be my responsibility because the paramount obligation of the Chief Executive of any state is to maintain the peace and good order of his state and community.

WALLACE: How do you determine when tranquility has been arrived at Governor?

FAUBUS: On the basis of facts and information that are available to me.

WALLACE: These facts and information, are they available only to you, sir?

FAUBUS: No, many of the facts and information are known to many people. In fact, in a poll of the Little Rock area, eighty-two percent of the people agreed that disorder and violence would have occurred, had not I taken the action which I did.

WALLACE: Why did not, then, the city officials of Little Rock agree to that? Is it not true, that... is it not true that, to begin with, not one city official was apprised of your action, in placing the National Guard around that school ahead of time?

FAUBUS: No, but the most of the city officials do agree with me. Only Mayor Mann, has spoken any disagreement.

WALLACE: Ahead of your putting the Guard there, Governor, this is the point that I am trying to make. As far as I have been able to gather from the work that we've done here this week, and that I have done here personally, there was not one city official, not one elected official here in Little Rock who believed that violence was about to break out. You seem to be the only official who believed that.

FAUBUS: Well, I have here...

WALLACE: And you have said many times that you have documented evidence to the effect that violence was about to break out. Therefore, you put the National Guard around the school. Do you have that documentary evidence here with you tonight, sir?

FAUBUS: Certainly, that evidence has already been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in my pledge of cooperation with the Justice Department to make it available.

WALLACE: Do you have any further evidence here tonight? Who... For instance, you talked about caravans converging on Little Rock; you've talked about armed troops and so forth. Groups of citizens who were coming here to start violence. Who where these people? Were they whites, were they colored people?


WALLACE: Both. And who were their leaders?

FAUBUS: I'm going to wait.

WALLACE: Why do you want to wait? You are an elected official of Arkansas...

FAUBUS: Because this may be a matter of litigation in the Courts.

WALLACE: But nonetheless, you are an elected Official of the State of Arkansas

FAUBUS: Right.

WALLACE: Is it, therefore, not your responsibility to give to the people of Arkansas, and now to the people of the Nation this documented evidence to prove that you are right and that they have been wrong all along in castigating you?

FAUBUS: The people of the State believe I am right.

WALLACE: You say the people of the State believe that you are right. How in the world can you tell that, sir?

FAUBUS: Well by a scientific poll, for one thing, which has been taken.

WALLACE: A scientific poll taken by whom?

FAUBUS: Mid-South Surveys.

WALLACE: When did they take this survey?

FAUBUS: Er... Early last week, in Little Rock, and then State wide.

WALLACE: And then... and the results of the poll proved what?

FAUBUS: Eighty-two percent of the people of Little Rock itself concurred, in the belief that disorder and violence would have occurred had I not taken the action which I did.

WALLACE: And therefore you would take the word of a survey to the effect that eighty-two percent of the people thought that you were right and defy a Court Order... defy an order of the Federal District Court.

FAUBUS: We are not defying a Court Order.

WALLACE: How do you say that, sir?

FAUBUS: Because the paramount obligation is to keep the peace and good order of the community. If it interferes for a time with certain other liberties, then that has always been the case. In the case of floods -- when we used to have the great floods on the Arkansas -- the federal authorities could make a decision to dynamite and breach the levies and flood hundreds of people out of their homes. Weren't those people deprived of certain privileges and liberties for the benefit of their whole, in that particular case?

WALLACE: Let's confine ourselves to this specific...

FAUBUS: All right, but I'm getting you a parallel.

WALLACE: Governor, tell me this. You called out troops to prevent a handful of Negro children from integration.


WALLACE: Well, if you let me state my premise and then you can answer. All right, sir?

FAUBUS: All right.

WALLACE: You say that you did this to prevent violence. Now, let me ask you this; Why did you not, instead, assign a dozen troops to escort each Negro child and to and from classes, thereby preventing violence and obeying the order of the Court at the same time?

FAUBUS: Because the best way to prevent the violence was to remove the cause. You would not have removed the cause by that type of activity; you would have had the imminence of disorder and violence within the school, and outside the school. And, whether or not it breaks out in the school, it could break out in other sections of the city.

WALLACE: Governor, the plan for gradual integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, was drawn up by the Little Rock School Board back in 1955. Now, how is it that in the past two years, you, as Governor, have failed to see to it that the road was properly paved for integration here in Little Rock, as other cities throughout the border States of the South have done?

FAUBUS: Our School Districts are an autonomous part of government -- they are an independent part of government in themselves. -- And there are eight public School Districts within the State that have integrated. The State Colleges, of which I appoint the Board Members, have integrated, the University has integrated, all the public transportation systems, both city buses and all, have integrated.

WALLACE: You said that...

FAUBUS: And that has been left alone to the decision of each one that was affected.

WALLACE: But this you would not leave to the decision of the Board of Education of Little Rock.

FAUBUS: Watch, watch, watch carefully. Because there was the eminence of disorder and violence.

WALLACE: According to you... according to you, sir. According to...

FAUBUS: Yes, according to me and according to the belief of eighty-two percent of the people.

WALLACE: But according to the belief of no city official of Little Rock.

FAUBUS: Well, I have here a statement from eight of the aldermen, signed.

WALLACE: After the fact.

FABUS: But their signature is saying that if I had not taken the action which I did that there would have been disorder and violence.

WALLACE: Governor, what's your opinion of the crowds of white adults who gather outside of Central High School each weekday morning, they curse at any Negro who happens to pass by, they call Negroes animals, and almost to a man they say, "Governor Faubus has done the right thing," what do you think of these people?

FAUBUS: Well, malice, envy, hate is deplorable, in any place or in any circumstances, but as President Eisenhower has said himself, you can't change the hearts of people by law. Now, in view of the progress that we have made, all I ask for in this situation, and all I've ever asked for, is some time for the situation to change for it to become acceptable, so that there would not be disorder and violence. And if so be that this right, which was ruled as proper by the Supreme Court for 80 or 90 years, and then was upset all at once in 1954. If it is right, it will come about. So, why should we be so impatient as to want to force it, because force begets force, hate begets hate, malice begets malice. But, if time was given for an adjustment of the attitudes and the feelings of people, then it can be peacefully accomplished, which would be better for all concerned.

WALLACE: You mentioned President Eisenhower; may I ask you just what was accomplished during your conference yesterday with President Eisenhower? Has your conference with the President changed your mind, your attitude in any way regarding integration here in Little Rock?

FAUBUS: No, not as to the situation that exists locally. Certainly, I think that any fairminded person will grant that I would know more about that. Apart from the citizens here your want that any outsiders, from anywhere..., any..., anyone... far removed from the scene.

WALLACE: All right, all the city officials in Little Rock would know.


WALLACE: Who fail to see any... I have to repeat, who fail to see any real evidence.

FAUBUS: Well, I have to repeat that you are wrong.

WALLACE: All right, sir. Your attitude then has not changed as a result of your conference with the President. Did the President...

FAUBUS: After the situation there were certain areas of agreement.

WALLACE: What were those areas?

FAUBUS: Well, Mike, I am not free to discuss in detail the subjects of the conference. I don't think that it would be proper for me to do so, in view of it just having transpired, and of what we hope to accomplish in a spirit of cooperation and mutual endeavor.

WALLACE: Did the President give you any assurance that the Justice Department will be more moderate than in the past regarding integration here in Little Rock?

FAUBUS: No, the President made no commitments to me on any specific items such as that; I think it would be improper.

WALLACE: Did he express personal concern to you regarding the problems that you as governor face?

FAUBUS: I am afraid, if I keep answering your questions, in relation to that...


FAUBUS: ...that we will eventually get into the conference, which I feel that it is not proper for me to discuss at this time.

WALLACE: Governor Faubus, in trying to get to the root of the white South's opposition to integration, let me quote from this morning's New York Herald Tribune, which sums up the feeling of many southerners. They said, "The Negro, these whites feel, is little better than a savage animal, intellectually and morally inferior, childish and irresponsible, and supposedly unable to control allegedly excessive sexual and aggressive impulses." Do you believe that?

FAUBUS: No, Mr. Wallace, I do not agree with that. Some of the finest citizens we have in Arkansas are Negro citizens and many of them have most responsible positions and they carry them out with credit to themselves and the State and the Nation and the citizenry as a whole.

WALLACE: Then why...?

FAUBUS: I believe that each person should be judged upon his individual merits and that it should not apply to races, or classes or groups.

WALLACE: But whether we like it or not, it is applying to a race. Why then the violence...?

FAUBUS: Not by me.

WALLACE: Why... why the violence...? Why did you expect the violence...? What would be the motive of potential violence, on the part of these whites? Now, naturally, the Negroes are not going to be violent. They simply want to go ahead and go to school with the whites, according to the order of the Supreme Court of the United States. The violence, therefore, would have to come from the whites. Why would they be violent about it? If they do not feel the way that you suggest that they do not, or certainly that you do not feel?

FAUBUS: I said that I did not feel that way.

WALLACE: Do you feel that...?

FAUBUS: There may be that some people feel that way. I cannot be responsible for the feelings of any people anywhere. We have to take things for what they are, not for what we would like them to be. Now that if the situation were reversed and, let's say, the negro race were in the preponderance, then perhaps the violence would come from the other quarter, if the same situation existed as to the races as they are now. That, of course, is an intolerable, and it’s speculative -- and perhaps has no place in the discussion.

WALLACE: Since this whole thing started, Governor Faubus, newsmen have asked you time and again something to this effect: They've asked you, "Wasn't your action a put up job? Isn't this a test case for the rest of the South, to see how far the States can go in resisting the Federal Government?

FAUBUS: No, that is not true.

WALLACE: It's even been suggested, sir.

FAUBUS: Oh yes, I know many things have been suggested.

WALLACE: It's even been...

FAUBUS: Many things have been misrepresented!

WALLACE: It's even been suggested, sir, that you are a puppet dangling from the strings held by Governor Griffin of Georgia.

FAUBUS: Well, if you knew me as the people know me who have been acquainted with me all my life, you would entertain no such thought and neither would any one else.

WALLACE: Governor Griffin was here in the Governor's Mansion the last...

FAUBUS: That is true.

WALLACE: ...the last week in August, was he not?

FAUBUS: I do not recall the day, some two or three weeks before...

WALLACE: About three weeks ago, about three weeks ago. And you said, I believe, last week that all you talked about when he was your guest here was duck hunting.

FAUBUS: Oh, not everything, I said pleasantries. He was my guest here, as has been Governor Anderson of Nebraska and others who have visited. It's a courtesy, which is extended almost always by the Chief Executive of one State to the Chief Executive of his party of other States.

WALLACE: You regard yourself as a preservator of the peace, is that correct?


WALLACE: A preservator...

FAUBUS: That's my obligation.

WALLACE: Now, that is a word which I am told has crept into your vocabulary only since Governor Griffin was your guest in the Mansion here. And it is a word, preservator which Governor Griffin has used for a considerable length of time. I'm suggesting, of course, that it's a mere coincidence that perhaps you did talk about preservatores.

FAUBUS: No, we certainly did not. If that is true, then it is a coincidence because I wasn't aware. And I am not aware yet until you said so, and I have no reason to doubt your word, that he has used that language. But that is a natural word for the Chief Executive, I am sure and under similar circumstances, it might have been used by the Governor of any State.

WALLACE: Let me read you a statement by a white Southerner, professor of Sociology at Cornell University, Robin Williams, by name. He says, "Governor Faubus has encouraged those groups who violently oppose desegregation. He has given them reasons to believe that they might be right. The effect of his official action gives violent opposition a sign of being legitimate." Has that ever occurred to you, sir?

FAUBUS: No. Sure, it is possible that... good comes from many things and bad comes from many things...

WALLACE: What's the point that you are trying...

FAUBUS: ...and it is quite natural that, from this incident here, that wrong views and misinterpretations could give encouragement to those who oppose... and perhaps, in the final windup, it might give encouragement to those who feel otherwise.

WALLACE: Under those circumstances, sir. Why do you not disavow in a public statement, violence on the part of whites? Why do you not disavow certain incidents that have taken place, not only in cities throughout the South...? Let me ask you this: Why did you not go down to Central High School and tell the crowd to disperse? It would seem to me that because you wanted peace and quiet, no violence, that it might have been reasonable to suggest that the Governor himself would appear on the scene and try to disperse the crowd.

FAUBUS: Well, that's a very farfetched idea. I've never known of the Governor of any State, in labor trouble which sometimes results in violence, or any other, to appear personally on the scene.

WALLACE: There's never been... I shouldn't say that there's never been, but this is an extraordinary situation, which may merit extraordinary measures, Governor.

FAUBUS: Well, the State might lose a Governor.

WALLACE: How do you mean? Certainly not... certainly not the violent segregationist that are down there in front of the... in front of the High School; they are not going to take off after you, are they Governor?

FAUBUS: It would depend on my actions.

WALLACE: Governor, we, or course, all know that the Supreme Court has ruled that there must be integration. You've said you that you respect that ruling. But tell me this personally: Do you favor Negro and white children sitting together in classrooms?

FAUBUS: I have never expressed any personal opinion as to the matter.

WALLACE: Why not?

FAUBUS: I felt that it is best not to.


FAUBUS: I'm the Governor of the State pledged to uphold its laws, to keep the peace and order, and also the laws of the Nation. My personal views are not relevant to the problem. I have no objection; my son is now in an integrated college at Russellville.

WALLACE: Uh-hum. Do you... you will... you will make no further statement on that?


WALLACE: You talked at great length over the last two weeks, Governor, about the fact that Arkansas is well ahead of many other States in the South in proceeding with integration.

FAUBUS: That is true.

WALLACE: You've said it again today... tonight, here. But, is it also not true that you yourself have been responsible for none of this integration? That this integration has not been initiated by the Governor's Office, but rather has been initiated by local governments and what has been done in the State was done before you became Governor.

FAUBUS: No, that isn't true.

WALLACE: Are you taking credit for...?

FAUBUS: That isn't true.

WALLACE: ...what has been done by other persons?

FAUBUS: No, that isn't true.

WALLACE: In what sense have you integrated anything in the State of Arkansas?

FAUBUS: All of the State Colleges, during my administration, and all of the...

WALLACE: Were they not integrated before you became Government?

FAUBUS: Certainly not, certainly not, only the University.

WALLACE: And all of the State Colleges have been integrated under your aegis?

FAUBUS: During my administration.

WALLACE: During your administration. And you've been sympathetic to it?

FAUBUS: And all of the public schools; the eight districts that are integrated.

WALLACE: Well that... those have been done by the local government.

FAUBUS: During my administration. Well, that is true. How else could it be done, it has to be done by the local governments; they have control of the schools affairs, through their elected board members.

WALLACE: You and I, all of us, have seen photographs, Governor, of Negro children been turned away from Little Rock High school, and behind them white people jeering and cursing at them. Let me read to you what communist propaganda is to make of this; several days ago, Radio Moscow said this, "The shameful spectacle of Negro children confronted by guns and ugly mobs, as they tried to enter schools, which racist elements are determined shall remain all white." Does it not give you pause to know that communist propagandists leap upon your actions to try to discredit the United States in the eyes of the world? In the eyes of the world which is composed of a majority of colored peoples?

FAUBUS: And that is why I want it to occur peacefully, with general acceptance, so that there will never be any such incidents as that. Sure you're quite willing now as others to point out the occurrence in Little Rock, but have you thought of the other occurrences across the land? Can I change the hearts of the people? What did William Borah say, one of the greatest liberals in the progressive Republicans of long ago? You've been reading his statements: may I read you one?

WALLACE: Indeed you may, sir.

FAUBUS: "If a state may not be entrusted exclusively with the authority and relied upon exercise of the authority to punish those who violate its own laws, public or private persons, then there is no such thing as local government, because the State is deprived of the very instrumentality by which it maintains state integrity. We are dealing with the race problem. We need not blind our eyes to that fact. And the race problem is a problem which does not readily yield to legislative solution to the rigid demands of the law, only the patient process of education, the uplifting power of religion, the power of noble-minded men and women who give their thoughts to the cause can remove or modify such injustices or such harshnesses. And that is being done.

WALLACE: Governor...

FAUBUS: It's being done in the South. That result the South is achieving. The records so shows and the people of the South are entitled to our commendation and not our condemnation."

WALLACE: How long ago...?

FAUBUS: They are entitled to cooperation and support. Twenty years ago, with not nearly as much support, our progress had been achieved as now.

WALLACE: How many years ago?

FAUBUS: About twenty.

WALLACE: I dare say it's a good many more than twenty years ago, sir, that Senator Borah... said it. Governor, do you ever sit in this Executive Mansion now and read newspapers with your name in the headlines and say to yourself: Orval Faubus, hillbilly from Greasy Creek, Arkansas, who had got out of high school just twenty-three years ago, at the age of twenty-four, who would have imagined this," and do you say to yourself, "I wish I weren't here."

FAUBUS: Well, one sometimes reflects, of course as we used to say in the war, we are sometimes the children of faith and circumstance; I think I am such because I've always termed myself a liberal and have been so termed by my associates in the conference of governors, both in Arkansas. It is the simple fact that these things cannot be done overnight. Time is the healer of all wounds and the solution to many problems. And we just can't do this thing at once. Force begets force. One of the things that makes it so unpleasant about all of this is that when people feel that it is being forced down their throat, against their will, then they naturally react. The American people have always been that way, Mr. Wallace.

WALLACE: Governor Faubus, I wish we had another half hour to continue with this, that's the end of our time, and I thank you sir for extending to me the courtesy... I beg your pardon, I'm getting a stretch sign, which means I have a little more time. A quick answer if I may, sir... to a couple of questions: Do you intend to run for a third term as Governor of Arkansas?

FAUBUS: No one has ever been able to find that out and I don't know myself.

WALLACE: Your opponents, shall I say, your detractors in this particular issue, say that you were looking for an emotional issue and that you are motivated strictly politically in everything that you have done for the past two weeks.

FAUBUS: Oh yes, Mr. Wallace, your detractors and your enemies say many things, which reminds me of a statement of Abe Lincoln one time, when he said that, "If I tried to answer all the charges that come to this office, then I might as well close up shop for any other business." That, "If I am right, then all the things they say won't matter in the end, and if I am wrong, then ten angels swearing I am right wouldn't change it," so I feel that same philosophy.

WALLACE: Again I thank you, sir. Governor Orval Faubus guaranteed himself a place in American history, when he ordered National Guardsmen to bar a handful of Negro children from a High School in Little Rock two weeks ago. He exposed, for all to see, the basic conflict that exists between State and Federal Power. This conflict must inevitably be resolved and if American history is to deal kindly with Governor Faubus, he must help to resolve it peacefully and with dispatch. This is our last Sunday night interview; the Mike Wallace Interview will be seen henceforth on most of these stations every Saturday night. Please consult your local paper for the time. Next Saturday night, we'll go after the story of birth control from a lady who pioneered the birth control movement in the United States. She's Margaret Sanger, now a 74-year-old grandmother, who forty years ago was thrown into jail for opening the country's first birth control clinic. We'll confront Mrs. Sanger with a charge that birth control is murder and we'll try to get her views on childbearing, divorce and God. That's next Saturday on most of these stations. Till then, Mike Wallace. Good night.