Skip to comments.Today In History:Judicial Power(September 26-27, 1962-Ole Miss)
Posted on 09/27/2007 5:41:16 AM PDT by Nextrush
The headlines by September 27, 1962 were ominous enough with hints of some sort of military action in Mississippi.
On Wednesday September 26th the first attempt of the day to enroll James Meredith at the University of Mississippi failed, but Attorney General Robert Kennedy kept trying to cajole Governor Ross Barnett into allowing Meredith in.
During the afternoon a convoy carrying Meredith came down from Memphis while negotiations by phone continued between Kennedy and Barnett. The convoy turned back when it became apparent that Merdith would not be allowed to enroll.
The audio record of these phone calls is available for history and it reveals a dickering over how to get Merdith enrolled while allowing Governor Barnett the honor of saying he was overcome by superior force.
Barnett wanted to save face and like Governor Orval Faubus in Arkansas five years earlier, be able to blame federal intervention for integration so he could appease white public opinion in Mississippi.
The Kennedy Administration needed to appease white liberals and black voters who had supported JFK in 1960.
They also had to carry out their responsibility to enforce court decisions. The Kennedy Administration desperately wanted to do it with as little force as possible.
JFK had actually criticized President Eisenhower for sending troops to integrate Little Rock Central High School when he campaigned in 1960.
The hope was that a small group of federal marshals could do the job.
Barnett and Kennedy argued over whether 24 marshals would draw their guns prompting Barnett to give way to Meredith.
Barnett: ...."We've got a big crowd there, and if one pulls his gun and we all turn, it would be very embarrassing. Isn't it possible to have them all pull their guns.
Robert Kennedy: "I hate to have all them draw their guns as I think it could create harsh feelings (an apparent reference to the crowd of integration opponents gathering). Isn't it sufficient if I have one man draw his gun and the others keep their hands on their holsters."
The two men wanted to keep any "deal" between them a secret for political reasons.
Barnett: "You understand we have no agreement."
Robert Kennedy: "That's correct."
Politics has been called the "art of the possible" and the recordings reveal that behind the scenes the "art of the possible" was being practiced with no principled stands for anything.......
The failure to reach agreement quickly on a political deal would force the situation to escalate in the long run, anyway.
For a more detailed transcript and audio of these conversations, go to this link:
“An American Insurrection” is a classic. A fantastic read. I recommend it to anyone.