Whistlin' Dixie: The Southern Governors in Caucus
This small album of word pictures tells much about the look, the sound, and the works of seventeen Southern governors in conference assembled. The notes were collected by Mr. Ford, the novelist and short-story writer, during September’s Southern Governors’ Conference at Kentucky Dam Village, Gilbertsville, in western Kentucky. Mr. Ford is at work on a collection of short stories and a new novel.
by JESSE HILL FORD
A LOT of people in this country say President. Of course, not many of those who say it President would vote for me. But there are more people in this country who say it President than the other way around. The working people say it President, and they are gonna vote for me.”
George C. Wallace stands five feet six. He wears his black hair oiled — slick. From behind, his figure is a replica of thousands seen in drugstores and groceries in small-town Alabama — places like Clio and Jasper and Carbon Hill, where the hair is worn straight back. The boys learn to wink and talk a certain way. The veiled threat of their clayhill manhood underlies the explosive tenor and composition of their speech. Indeed, they may not be quite sure of it — that manhood — but they are bred up to brag and to fight. There is something undefined about them, a cool and cocky gumchewing sort of proficiency. The chip is always on the shoulder. They are always walking around looking for someone to knock it off. On their way through this life they are rarely disappointed. They spit at the world and the world kicks back at them.
The secret of his success is his personal charm and his sense of humor. He glows with good health and high spirits. Reporters like him because he is entertaining, and when he speaks, he makes good copy.
Inaugurated governor of Arkansas in January, 1955, he was re-elected in November, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964. His term expires in January. Succeeding him as governor will be Jim Johnson, a segregationist.
So many Johnsons — President Lyndon Johnson, Governor Paul Johnson of Mississippi, and now a Jim Johnson in Arkansas.
At his press conference Faubus nominates George Wallace for President on an independent thirdparty ticket for 1968. He complains about HEW’s telling Arkansans how they must run their schools and hospitals. He says many Arkansas parents returned home in tears after the opening of schools this fall. Their children —white —were going to school to Negro teachers.
Faubus on Wallace: “Governor Wallace — why he’s friends with labor, he’s friends with business. The common people like him. He’s an excellent administrator. Take in 1968, take just for example, say, we get two candidates for Republican and Democrat that arc about alike. Say we get two that stand about toe to toe on the issue. Then George Wallace comes in as a third-party candidate. The other two split their vote, and George gets 44 percent? Remember it don’t take a majority. All you need is a plurality!”
The dream of empire edges into his eyes as he continues. “He’d take Maryland; he’d take Illinois. He’d take Georgia, Mississippi—and, why man, in Arkansas you wouldn’t have to count the votes. You could weigh ‘em!”
Lesser fish, including the ladies and gentlemen of the press, will stay back up the road, far back, at the Ken-Bar Inn, a monument to clever private enterprise. A goodly number of high-ranking Kentucky colonels own stock in the Ken-Bar Inn —anywhere from 5000 to 10,000 shares each. Many mysteries enshroud the inn, including amazing plans for Kentucky’s Interstate 24. This highway will come perilously close to Ken-Bar Inn. Yet another mystery: how was the Ken-Bar property saved from state or federal acquisition when about it, all the rest was taken? Will the Ken-Bar enjoy a brisk trade from now on, evermore, world without end, as the saying is? The answer is a ringing affirmative: “Hell, yes!” Why are stories such as this one frowned on in Kentucky?
The acoustics at the Ken-Bar are so excellent that when one door is knocked on anywhere in the building everyone gets out of bed and answers his door. If a phone rings anywhere, all phones are answered. If a guest snores, all guests awake. All hands immediately arise and shake their bed partners. If a king-sized cigarette ash hits the carpet forty paces and four walls away it sounds like the wreck of the old ‘97.
Governor Paul Johnson of Mississippi, a gentleman of dry wit and considerable erudition, a master of Southern rhetoric and simile, grants a press conference.
The ugly pictures of the bloody beatings of black children by white mobs in Grenada, Mississippi, a week earlier still stand in every mind.
On the opening day of the conference in Kentucky, while the governors and their first ladies flew from Gilbcrtsville to Lexington to have dinner and see Kentucky beat North Carolina 10 to 0 in football, FBI agents were arresting thirteen whites accused in the Grenada beatings.
Three months earlier at Grenada one of Martin Luther King’s SCLC lieutenants, Bob Green, climbed the twenty-foot-high statue of Jefferson Davis to put an American flag in the stony Southern hand. King had declared that Grenada would be his Mississippi beachhead.
Against this background Governor Johnson faces the press in Kentucky. Only the pallor of his face reflects the ordeal of nerves to which he is being subjected. His striking blue eyes set off his gray worsted business suit to good advantage. Confederate gray is his color — gray cuff links, neat gray matching tie. He retains the mien of a field grade infantry officer throughout the conference. About the violence in Grenada he says:
“We have not only made statements but we have tried to show that anything settled by violence or physical harm are matters that are never settled. They continue to arise, and what strife we have had in the state of Mississippi is restricted to the Grenada situation. That strife is about the same as a big fistfight that you would find in a big city. That was the strife that we had.”
United Press International correspondent Robert Gordon talking about Grenada:
“They knocked me down. Some guy hit me on the head with a steel helmet. Somebody else was hitting me with a cane, and some guy kept jabbing me with an umbrella.” ( He breaks loose and starts running up the street.) “— a truck drove by and stopped and two men got out and chased me— I had several bad cuts and bruises, and some teeth were knocked loose — I was hurting all over.”
Fifty Negro children were prevented from entering the Grenada school. Four Negro children were hospitalized after the beatings. Better than forty Negro children were treated for injuries after being thrown to the ground and pummeled. Twelve-year-old Richard Sigh suffered a broken leg, according to the New York Times report.
“ That strife is about the same as a big fistfight that you would find in a big city.”
Marshall County, which is located in western Kentucky and encompasses Kentucky Dam Village, Gilbertsville, the Governors’ Cottages, and Ken-Bar Inn, is a dry county. Possession or sale of whiskey in Marshall County is a violation of the law — but this is the South. So relax. The sheriff knows all about the conference, and not for nothing is the Ken-Bar known as the Ken-Bar.
Anyone running out of solace for the inner man need only approach anyone wearing a Dark Blue Ribbon— Host. Say to Host: “I seem to be out of liquor.” Name your preference — Scotch, Canadian, or bourbon. Fifth will be forthcoming before you can whistle “Dixie. No charge.
He states flatly that Louisiana has assumed a position of leadership in race relations.
McKeithen is a big broad-shouldered man with soft-looking sandy hair. He goes attractively dressed, after the fashion of an Ivy League aristocrat. His face is an impassive, catlike mask in public. His proud carriage, as he enters or leaves the conference room, is easy and at the same time majestic, an echo of bygone Confederate glory. His Viking proportions and his warlike appearance make him by far the most striking of the seventeen.
During his press conference he noted that New Orleans was once America’s second largest financial center. He spoke proudly of the Louisiana soldiers who fought their way to glory under Stonewall Jackson. He spoke proudly of Louisiana State University’s Fighting Tigers football team and reminded his auditors that he has two more years in office. The polls tell him that the secondterm amendment will pass decisively. He is confident that he will be kingfish in the pelican state for six more years, at least.
“We’ve kept the McKissicks and the Carmichaels out of Louisiana,” he said. “Knock on wood!” He smiled. “In north Louisiana the knee-grow people by five to one approve what we uh doin’ for them.”
He shrugged away questions about Judge Leander Perez and plunged on. “Our colored citizens have told Carmichael to stay out of Louisiana. They don’t want him down there.”
Like most of the governors interviewed, McKeithen was for a strong stand in Vietnam and for a strong stand “against insurrection and anarchy in our country — anarchy in the streets.”
As for Louisiana, he said Leander Perez was not given to violence. “We have no fire bummings there,” he said. [He gives the word bomb the Deep South pronunciation bum.)
On the Ku Klux Klan: “The FBI says we got twenty-five hundred of ‘em, which would come to three quarters of one tenth percent of our state population of three and a half million.”
“I will say that the Negro people in this country are making a tragic, tragic mistake. Six more months of what we’ve been having in Watts, Cleveland, and Cicero will destroy their own friends. It will destroy much of what they have gained.”
Describing a racial incident in his state: “Some white people shook a car down there one day.”
The statistics of a Southern Governors’ Conference stagger the mind. Seventeen state governors and their first ladies would seem to make thirtyfour persons, the nucleus of the meeting. So it would seem. But throughout the four September days, from morning till night, it will be found that Governor X and his wife arrived this morning from Biloxi just as Governor Y and his wife departed for
Podunk, where they are cutting the ribbon tomorrow at the Seventy-first Annual Turnip and Okra Festival. Governor Z may be here tomorrow if they get the pumps fixed down at his chicken farm. Poor Governor Z’s been having trouble. His chief stud rooster seems like it may be trying to come down with the pip. That tragedy developed Sunday morning just as Z was about to board the plane for the conference. So there’s some doubt about Governor Z’s getting here at all.
About now, Governor Z walks in the door with his golf clubs and explains that it was all a mistake. He was here all day yesterday. Everybody ignored him all day long, yesterday. His main immediate concern is he’s looking for his glasses case. It was a green leather case with bifocals in it; he says the worst problem he knows anything about is when a man loses his only pair of glasses.
Approximately ninety representatives of the press are at the conference. Add the governors and ladies to the reporters and their wives [only a few of the press bring wives), and at most you have 150 people at the conference, but when you go to the Kentucky Dam Village Inn that night for the country dinner, you find 600 people eating 300 chickens, 240 pounds of lamb, 200 pounds of roast pork, 120 pounds of country fried steak, eight bushels of corn, ninety pounds of field peas, seventy-five chess pies, fifty jam cakes —that’s the first course. Ninety pounds of hog jowl have been used just to season the pole beans and turnip greens.
Governor John B. Connally became a statistic of another sort. He did not come to the conference. The Texas Democrats were meeting back in the Lone Star State. Several kind things were said about Connally’s wisdom, in that he chose to stay home on the range to keep an eye on the smokefilled rooms. Every governor present vowed he would have done the same.
Tennessee’s Governor Frank Goad Clement came to the conference after beating incumbent U.S. Senator Ross Bass in the Democratic primary. Clement acted like a man with a six-year term in the Senate sewn into his hip pocket.
By far the least popular governor present, Clement stayed aloof, surrounded by his twenty-sevenmember delegation, in size second only to the group from Georgia. He was openly hostile to reporters. When interviewed, he exuded one surly half-soled platitude after another.
WALLACE ON WALLACE
“Governor Wallace, do you really feel that you could be a serious presidential candidate?”
The Alabama governor tosses his head jauntily. “Yessir — I do!”
“What makes you think you’d qualify?”
“Well, sir, in the first place, I’ve been around governors and senators from every state in the Union, and uh, of course you ask that question maybe in the context that being a Southern governs doesn’t quite qualify ya, but I’ve been around governors all the way frum Nelson Rockerfeller of New York to Pat Brown of California, and I don’t have any inferiority complex about — uh — ability, uh — integrity, uh — intelligence, of Southern governors compared with governors from other regions of the country. A Southern governor and a governor from Alabama is just as qualified as a governor from any Other state. In fact, I think one of the finest things that could happen to the country is to have an Alabamian run it. And there are many people in the nation feel the same way. Uh — I’m just as qualified as any other governor who is being considered or any other prospective candidate.
NEGROES (niggers, coons, darkies, nigras, etc.)
While the governors of the seventeen states represented are heads of state for several million Americans of African descent, there are no Negroes present at the Southern Governors’ Conference save for the single instance of a “Jug Band,”which will be playing old Southern and ragtime melodies on board the Belle of Louisville when she cruises to Kenlake State Park Sunday evening, September 18, for the Old Western Kentucky Barbecue.
Visitors from outside the South who wish to see a real live Southern nigger should walk aft on the promenade deck Sunday between 3:30 and 6:00 P.M. and take a look at the jug band.
Several of the seventeen governors have Negroes on their official staffs, but none will be brought to the conference because it is felt their presence would be a source of embarrassment to some of the governors who do not have blacks on their staffs.
All bellboys, waitresses, and other employees at the Ken-Bar, the Governors’ Cottages, and Kentucky Dam Village are Anglo-Saxon white Christians.
The Negro press will not be represented.
Such ironies should not really amaze anyone. The United States of America is a biracial society. It persists as the largest segregated population on earth, and such inroads as have been made since 1954 on this American condition of separateness have been indeed small when compared with the overall condition of things. Before Northern visitors to the conference become too smug about this, we would remind them that the United States is becoming more segregated every day that passes and white resistance to integration is only, just now, in the beginning stages. This is at the heart of Governor George Wallace’s presidential hopes for 1968. It will be the leitmotiv for this conference and many more to come.
Demonstrations of “creative Federalism” will be held at the press conferences granted by Governors Faubus of Arkansas, Wallace of Alabama, McKeithen of Louisiana, and others.
“Creative Federalism” is a process by which a Southern governor kicks hell out of the Washington Administration with both feet while holding out both hands for federal aid. It is a neat trick calling for acute balance and considerable verbal dexterity. The press will want to attend these demonstrations.
“Well, course if they rule against us they rule against us, and we just lost the case in the federal court. I’ll say this - uh — that they have picked a panel to try the case in the Fifth Circuit. It’s a stacked panel — and the ruling—and the judge who — federal judge — who picks the panels to decide cases involved in our state, he picks a panel that he knows will be at least two-to-one against us.
“So I wouldn’t doubt but what the decision hasn’t already been written because the federal court system [pounding the desk] in most instances has its mind made up in advance [pounding desk], and I tell you what-people are gettin’ tired of federal courts and HEW trifling with their children. And in this destroying of the neighborhood school system they’re trifling with your chillun and mine. And I’ll say that the federal courts and HEW had better watch out! Because the ultimate law in this country is the people themselves, and not me as a governor, nor the President, nor HEW, nor federal courts!”
A few questions later he struck out again from the springboard of “local control.”
“If you don’t think local control will improve the quality—what you’re saying is that some fellow a thousand miles away with a beard in Washington, and that’s what most of ‘em got in that department up in HEW. You sayin that they have more ability to determine what is in the interest of the schoolchildren than do the people who live here in this, uh — uh — section of Kentucky. And I b’lieve the people in this section of Kentucky know better what is in the interest of their children than somebody a thousand miles away — and if they don’t know, and they’re not able to do it, they just oughtta abolish the state of Kentucky, and they just oughtta abolish the local governing body, and they just oughtta abolish the city governing bodies: because in effect you’re saying that those in Washington are the only ones that have intelligence enough and integrity enough to do right about schools — and now we got the federal government a thousand miles away, two thousand miles away, telling every school board what water fountain they can have over here, where the school can be located, who can ride on what bus, and who can teach — !”
Governor Wallace’s tirade continued with references to editorials in the Chicago Tribune and then: “The New York Times wrote an editorial in their New York Times magazine about six months ago about the quality of education deteriorating in New York because of this very thing I’m talking about.”
Many of the press covering the conference are young men who have already seen too much. They’ve been to too many funerals, as they say.
They keep describing the funerals of the children killed in the Birmingham church bombing. They describe the funeral of a little Negro boy who was riding his bicycle when a shot from a passing automobile ended his life.
“We are always the only whites at these funerals. You’d think the mayor or someone would at least show up and pay his respects — or someone from the local police force. Just any of the local whites. But none of them ever come, and it’s always just us, the two or three of us who have to be there and hear the mother screaming, 'My baby! Oh, Lawd, my baby!'
“It’s kind of unfair in a way that we are the only ones who have to be there. We get to feeling somebody else ought to have to see it too. It’s just too sickening, and after so many months of it you become very cynical. You come here and listen to these governors talk about everything but the subject. You wish all of them had been forced to go to the funerals the way you were. Then maybe they’d at least have civil rights on the agenda.”
The 1966 Governors’ Conference at Kentucky Dam Village, Gilbertsville, in western Kentucky, September 17 to 21, was six months in the planning. Many of the speeches were written six months before the conference and mimeographed at that time.
All speeches, including “Introductions,” “Remarks,” “Comments,” “Reports,” “Discussions,” “Keynote Addresses,” “Guest: Speeches,” “After Dinner Speeches,” “Panel Discussions,” and “In-
vocations,” are mimeographed ahead of time and handed out to members of the press.
The Conference Staff (Gold Ribbon) guarantees no extemporaneous speeches or comments by any governor, guest, or official personage at any scheduled meeting in the Convention Center. Everything is canned, rigged, planned, and provided for, so help us.
Even as the Southern governors conferred in Kentucky the 1966 Civil Rights Act was beingtalked to death in the U.S. Senate. Hardly a Southern governor interviewed failed to call for a strong law to prevent riots and violence and “fire bummings.” A section of the 1966 Act that would have made the use of interstate travel or interstate facilities to foment riot or other violent civil disobedience a federal crime punishable by fine and imprisonment was destined to be shelved along with the rest of the bill. The House had adopted the anti-street-riots amendment by a vote of 389 to 25 on August 8.
South Carolina Governor McNair’s original resolution against HEW’s guidelines has teeth, tone, claws, guts, and fortitude. It is everything George Wallace could ask. It reads like a cross between a war whoop and a rebel yell — about 500 words full of pith and vinegar. For example:
WHEREAS the U.S. Office of Education has, in a number of cases, followed a practice of “deferring” applications for assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in lieu of issuing approvals or rejections of the compliance status of school districts . . .
WHEREAS many members of investigating teams sent into states and school districts to determine school compliance have shown little comprehension of local educational needs and problems, have demonstrated an obvious lack of experience in dealing with school district officials, and have harassed many of these officials . . .
“. . . that the members of the Southern Governors’ Conference do . . . express our disapproval to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and the Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Education of a policy which seeks to determine compliance with the Law by assuming guilt until proof of innocence in direct contradiction to the system of jurisprudence embodied in the Constitution of the United States.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Conference, by copy of this Resolution, call upon the President of the United States ... to cease and desist from this kind of harassment and intimidation . . , in the absence of substantiated evidence . . . and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the . . . Conference . . . call upon the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to conduct a full investigation of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the U.S. Office of Education. . . .”
What was passed by the governors as Resolution 7 on Wednesday, September 21, at the last session of the 1966 Conference was a 174-word shadow of McNair’s raw head and bloody bones complaint. What was finally passed has the ring of a damp soda cracker.
In the place of McNair’s 500-word manifesto the governors resolve, in four paragraphs, that the guidelines policies statement “goes beyond certain provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and . . . administrative practices implementing these policies are inconsistent with the best interests of quality education. . . .” Be it resolved that “those in authority are urged to take immediate steps to require that the Statement of Policies for School Desegregation not exceed the intent of Congress . . . and . . . that copies of this resolution be forwarded to the President of the United States, Attorney General of the United States “. . et cetera, et cetera.
No sign of McNair’s specific charges and no call for an investigation of any sort. The final resolution was worded so as not to embarrass the border state governors, especially Kentucky’s Edward T. Breathitt and Missouri’s Warren E. Hearnes.
The strange rules under which the Southern governors operate require a unanimous vote for the passage of a resolution. Hearnes, a terse, lean forty-two-year-old lawyer who is also a West Point graduate, and Breathitt, a blond youth of forty-one who looks like a twenty-six-year-old law student, both abstained.
Hearnes rendered a complicated explanation of his reasons for not voting, the main one being that unanimity of those voting was a requirement. Although Missouri had no guidelines problem, he would not stand in the way of the wish of the majority. Breathitt sat still and said nothing.
The resolution passed.
One may well ask whether or not the border state governors share the fantasies of the Deep Southerners. Do the border states also dream of empire? Do they see George Wallace as President, General Walker as Secretary of Defense, Lester Maddox as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Orval Faubus as Secretary of State?
Probably not, but they are not men given to raising their voices in protest. The Southern Governors’ Conference is built on mutual respect and admiration for the other fellow’s dream, and it matters not how wild and nightmarish that dream might be.
Again, the Southerner, like all governors, has political savvy enough to know that the winds of change blow nowhere else so strong and so freakish as in politics.
The border states have only to look at Maryland to witness the power of the issue. Only Oklahoma’s Governor Henry Bellmon was willing to say he didn’t believe Wallace could be a serious presidential candidate. And he may have been speaking as a Republican — the lone Republican in the ranks of Seventeen Southern Samurai.
SANDERS OF GEORGIA
Sharp-nosed, lantern-jawed, soft-spoken, and popular with his fellow governors, Carl Sanders serves as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board and the Committee on Freight Rates.
He was host to the Southern Governors’ Conference last year when it met at Sea Island, Georgia. Last year, however, moderation and acceptance of civil rights seemingly held the upper hand in the South. So much so that the tidings that rang forth from Sea Island tolled a message of glad optimism. “Dixie has the problem licked! The South will cure her racial ills long before other sections of the United States.” The press even fell for it.
Governor Carl Sanders had been privileged to bask in that peaceful sunshine. He must have expected even better news this year, for besides himself he brought an entourage of thirty-two persons from Georgia, the largest delegation at the Kentucky conference. When I saw him, his hopes for the victory of racial moderation in Georgia were already muted. A few days after the Kentucky conference closed, Lester G. Maddox would win the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia over his moderate opponent, Ellis Arnall.
Two years ago, Lester G. Maddox was the shrill white supremacist Atlanta restaurateur who armed Klansmen with ax handles to keep Negroes out of his café. Back then Maddox flashed a pistol and mumbled disjointed threats. Rather than serve black customers he closed his place of business. Two years ago the South wrote him off for another racial kook, a Johnny One-Note destined to singhate songs for the most violent of the radical rightwing segs — two years ago. This year Lester G. Maddox clobbered Ellis Arnall by a margin of 70,000 votes in the primary and tore Georgia’s Democratic organization to pieces — over the issue.
The issue Carl E. Sanders and his fellow governors didn’t even bother to put on the conference program. The issue that nominated Mahoney in Maryland and Jim Johnson in Arkansas. The issue that made Lurleen Wallace the governesselect of Alabama.
They said it couldn’t happen in Georgia.
An edge of soft reverence crept into the little man’s voice when he said:
“Well, if my wife is elected governor of the state of Alabama, which she will be in November —in my best judgment she will be —then we’re going to look forward to and consider 1968.”
Perhaps justifiably, Mrs. Lurleen Wallace is shy about talking to the press. Entering the State Dinner Tuesday night, she wore a gown with a low back revealing smooth suntanned skin. She has attractive shadows under her eyes. Her voice is low and well modulated. Like her husband, she has a plainclothesman for a bodyguard.
The Wallace “appeal” was most noticeable among the many Kentucky national guardsmen and highway patrolmen. A goodly number of these wore Wallace buttons on their uniforms. A guardsman first lieutenant was overheard telling his men, “If you don’t take off those goddamned buttons, you gonna get us all killed.”
The lieutenant referred to the electrical aura of danger which accompanies the Alabama governor and his wife wherever they go. George Wallace seems like a man with enemies. Opposition to him in the East is especially militant. Wallace enjoys talking about it. Discussing his plans:
“I expect to travel some. I been invited numerous places in the country. I haven’t been able to get out lately. Course every time I get out, it takes a lotta police, you know, to get me in and out of where free speech is —uh — [laughter]. You know people are always talking about freedom of speech, and all these citadels of liberalism that I attend and visit where everybody’s supposed to be able to speak they piece? It takes about a thousand policemen to get me in to speak my piece. Hut when some of these folks who have the opposite viewpoint of Alabamians come down to Alabama, they are treated with respect, at least.
“I can remember when Senator Kennedy came to Alabama, it didn’t take a single policeman in or out the buildin’.
“When I went to Massachusetts, took five hundred policemen to get me in Harvard and I had to go out underground, and it took twenty-two hundred policemen to get me in the buildin’ in New York. So if it’s enough police force over the country I may go speak some. May carry my own — m-m-may carry my own police force w’me — and I gotta big un too!”
Reporter: “Do you think the federal government ought to withdraw some of the money it’s spending in Huntsville, Alabama?”
Visibly affronted and angered, Wallace seemed to swell. He puffed out his chest and angled his dark chin line in the reporter’s direction as he replied:
“Well, of course what you’re trying to say is that if you don’t—er — if you take any federal money which is taxpayers’ money! And the members of the press ought to emphasize that. IT’S TAXPAYERS’ MONEY! It’s not federal money. It’s not state money. It’s not county money, It comes from the pockets of the taxpayers. And just because some area of government puts some money into a location gives them no right then to tell ya who you kin sell-ya house to, or tell ya who you kin employ.
“So, ah, when you are sayin’ that if you accept money, uh, in Alabama, which is yore money too — uh—that then you should subject yourself to every whim and caprice and regimentation, then that’s —ah, poor government!”
The young newspaper reporters are right. It is unthinkable that a seventeen-state region with so many responsibilities and problems relating to race would not have anything pertaining to civil rights on the conference agenda formulated by its state governors. Yet such is the case, and it may always be thus, for this is as good a definition of the Southern mind as I know.
“The issue” certainly isn’t hidden. No more than the whiskey being drunk in this dry county, against this dry county’s law, is hidden. The racial issue as a subject dominates every private conversation. It takes over every press conference.
As a result, news coverage of the positive values of the conference is scanty. Little notice is given the South’s substantial progress in many programs — industry, agriculture, highways, communications, plans for using nuclear energy. The governors complain about the situation, but they are unable to face “the issue” out in the open.
They leave “the issue” in the hands of a Faubus or a Wallace. They resort to the most bland and open hypocrisy. They deny that there is any such problem in the South.
“So long as we are careful not to recognize its existence or its reality, this problem will go away and return to bother us no more.” This is what the Southern governors seem to be saying.