Correcting the Democrat-Gazette on '57 — again | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 24, 2012

Correcting the Democrat-Gazette on '57 — again

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM

PEACEKEEPER: National Guard commander blocks entry of Little Rock Nine to Central High on Sept. 4, 1957. He said he acted on order of Gov. Orval Faubus not to admit them.
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  • 'PEACEKEEPER': National Guard commander blocks entry of Little Rock Nine to Central High on Sept. 4, 1957. He said he acted on order of Gov. Orval Faubus not to admit them.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette persists in attempting to reshape history to be more favorable to Orval E. Faubus, in whose cause the father of the paper's executive editor, Griffin Smith jr., labored during the school crisis. (The senior Smith represented the segregationist Mothers' League.)

Again today in an article (sub. reqd.) about a speech in Conway by Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the president who sent troops to Little Rock to protect the constitutional rights of black children, the newspaper used boilerplate suggesting that Faubus called out National Guard to keep the peace, as opposed to foiling desegregation. And then it repeated boilerplate about problems that erupted after "Faubus removed the guardsmen on the order of a federal judge" on Sept. 20.

There was no such order.

From a transcript of a hearing Sept. 20, 1957 before federal Judge Ronald N. Davies:

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: The issue today is not whether the governor had a right to use the guard, the National Guard. We concede that. The issue is not whether he had the right to use the National Guard for the preservation of peace and order.

In an oral order at the conclusion of the hearing, Davies granted the Justice Department's requested injunction, but not against the use of the Guard to keep the peace. Rather:

... such injunction shall issue without delay, enjoining those respondents from obstructing or preventing, by use of the National Guard or otherwise, the attendance of negro students at Little Rock Central High School under the plan of integration approved by this Court and from otherwise obstructing or interfering with orders of this court in connection with the plan of integration.

Not clear enough that the judge meant no limit on purported peacekeeping duties of the Guard and that he had ordered no removal of the Guard from Central? Here's what the judge said in his written order the next day:

Provided that this order shall not be deemed to prevent Orval E. Faubus, as governor of the state of Arkansas, from taking any and all action he may deem necessary for preservation of peace and order, by means of the Arkansas National Guard, or otherwise, which does not hinder or interfere with the right of eligible Negro students to attend the Little Rock Central High School.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court noted this distinction, too, in upholding Davies (Aaron v. Cooper, 158 F. Spp. 220). It said: "The evidence indicates that the Arkansas National Guard, which is composed of 10,500 men, could have maintained peace and order without preventing the eligible colored students from attending Central High School."

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