Radical Republicans Return to Arkansas
In 1957, the Radical Republicans returned to Arkansas with federal troops to dictate Reconstruction rule. The following are excerpts from Governor Orval Faubus’s September 26, 1957 television and radio address to his citizens.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
Radical Republicans Return to Arkansas:
"My Fellow Citizens—
On Tuesday, September 24, while I was still absent from the State, attending the Southern Governors’ Conference….the cleverly conceived plans of the Justice Department under Herbert Brownell for the military occupation of Arkansas were placed in execution. One thousand two hundred troops of the 101st Airborne Division were flown into the Jacksonville Air Base (near Little Rock) by air transport from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Immediately thereafter, these troops occupied, in force, the grounds of Central High School. At the same time, the entire Arkansas National Guard and Air Guard were federalized, and are now part of the United States Army and the United States Air Force. We are now an occupied territory.
Evidence of the naked force of the Federal Government is here apparent in these unsheathed bayonets in the backs of schoolgirls—in the backs of students—and in the bloody face of this railroad worker, who was bayoneted and then felled by the butt of a rifle in the hands of a sergeant of the United States 101st Airborne Division. This man, on private property, as a guest in a home two blocks from the school, has been hospitalized.
Up until the time the injunction was issued against me by the imported federal judge, the peace had been kept in Little Rock by as few as 30 National Guardsmen. Not a blow was struck, no injury inflicted on any person, and no property damage sustained. Neither was it necessary to make wholesale arrests of Arkansas citizens. No bayonets were used, and the weapons of Guardsmen were never loaded.
This is quite a contrast to the present situation, when some 12,000 United States Army troops are on duty, mobilized or standing ready for use. It is in stark contrast also to the use of sharpened, naked bayonets on schoolgirls and other Arkansas citizens, the bludgeoning of others with rifle butts, and the wholesale arrests made by these United states military forces. I wish to also point out that no violence broke out in the city until after the injunction was issued by the imported federal judge, and the Guard forces withdrawn. It might be well to mention briefly the actions of this imported judge in the first three hearings:
During World War II, my division, the 35th Infantry, pushed up on the right of the Fourth Armored Division to relieve the 101st Airborne, and my division occupied the embattled city of Bastogne. Today, we find members of the famed division, which I helped to rescue, in Little Rock, Arkansas, bludgeoning innocent bystanders, with bayonets in the backs of schoolgirls, and the warm, red blood of American citizens staining the cold, naked unsheathed knives.
In the name of God, whom we all revere, in the name of liberty we hold so dear, in the name of decency, which we all cherish—what is happening in America?
Is every right reserved to the States by the Federal Constitution now lost? Does the will of the people, that basic precept of democracy, no longer matter?
Must the will of the majority now yield, under federal force, to the will of the minority regardless of the consequences?
If the answer to these questions are in the affirmative, then the basic principles of democracy are destroyed, and we no longer have a union of States under a republican form of government. If this be true—then the States are mere subdivisions of an all-powerful Federal Government, these subdivisions being nothing more than districts for the operation of federal agents and federal military forces—forces which operate without any regard for the rights of a sovereign State or its elected officials, and without due regard to personal and property rights.
In addition to the federal military forces, we have, as I have stated, in Arkansas a federal judge from a State a thousand miles away. He has no understanding whatsoever of the difficulties of our problems in the field of race relations. Would it not have been better for the President’s advisers to listen to officials who have the people’s confidence, as shown by the greatest of all democratic processes, the free exercise of the franchise at the ballot box?
Still further, in Arkansas, literally swarms of FBI agents have been operating throughout the city. Also, agents of the Counterintelligence Corps and the Criminal Investigation Division have been combing the area for days. Teen-aged schoolgirls have been taken by the FBI and held incommunicado for hours of questioning while their frantic parents knew nothing of their whereabouts. To those who know the facts of the Little Rock situation, these combined actions on the part of the judicial, executive and military departments of the Federal Government, are “police state” methods in a form never before seen in America.
The news commentators and press reports of the day may proclaim the comparative calm of the Little Rock area. You will recall that it was quiet in Paris during the German occupation, and it is quiet in Budapest today. It always becomes quiet under military rule.
Prior to this time in Arkansas, the hand of fellowship and mutual self-respect has everywhere been extended between the races. Much progress has been made in this field, and in others pertaining to the progress of the State and the human welfare of all citizens. Under my administration, all transportation systems have been integrated, and without serious incidents. I am not in this fight either as an ardent segregationist or an integrationist. My only child, a son, is now attending classes in a State-supported integrated college. This is more than can be said by any of the high officials of the National Administration, who are responsible for the military occupation of Arkansas.
While we are in an occupied area—General Walker says his area of jurisdiction has no perimeter—we must endure as best we can. Remember that all law and individual rights give way to military power, when that power is strong enough to enforce its will. There can be no question of the supremacy of the United States Army, when used against a defenseless State.
Our cause is just, and will ultimately prevail. I will go anywhere at any time to confer, in absolute good faith, with anyone seeking a proper and peaceful solution to this or any other problem. I will continue to respect the great office of the President, and our federal union, but I shall continue to respect also the rights of the sovereign States which make up the federal union and which elect the President. I am subject to the will of my people, within the framework of the Constitution and federal laws. We are not now enjoying those full rights, but the inherent decency and good judgment of the people of America will eventually restore those rights to us. For, if we are permanently deprived of those rights, then the people of other States will likewise be so deprived.
Today, the excuse for use of federal troops is said to be integration. Tomorrow, in any State, the excuse could be a labor dispute, or any number of things.
The Supreme Court ruled that the President could not take over the steel industry, but they have taken over our schools in Little Rock. To the people of my State, I now ask again for the calmness and a law-abiding approach to all our problems.
The federal authorities—including federal troops—are in control. They are handling the situation, and there is nothing we can do about it. I appreciate the upwards of 100,000 letters and telegrams, from every State in the union, which I have received, and which have ranged from 95 to 98 percent in support of my efforts to maintain the peace and good order of my own State. We have had no opportunity at all to answer any of them, but they are nonetheless appreciated.
I know that the American people have had time to think, and to learn about the facts of this situation, they—in their good judgment—will rebuke the National Administration for the ill-advised and unwarranted use of federal troops. School attendance at bayonet point is not compatible with the American way of life."