Correcting the Democrat-Gazette on the 1957 crisis 

Correcting the record

Billy Roy Wilson, a mule farmer in Bigelow and part-time federal judge, sent us a copy of a letter he'd sent to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette concerning its persistent misstatement of a key legal event in the 1957 school crisis. Since we've written about it before — and have a copy of the ruling in which a federal judge's words clearly contradict those in D-G boilerplate recitation — we thought we'd share it.

I enjoyed Kristin Netterstrom's article regarding the repeal of the Little Rock Board's pro-Faubus resolution. There was, however, one error. [Netterstrom] stated that Governor Faubus removed the National Guard from Central High on the order of a federal judge. There was no such order.

In fact, the federal judge's order directed that the governor not use the troops to block black students who were attempting to enter Central High School — which the governor had been doing. This same order specifically noted that the judge was not ordering the governor to remove the troops, and that they could remain to maintain peace.

The afternoon after the order was entered Governor Faubus called a press conference and asserted, falsely, that he had been ordered by the judge to remove the troops.

I showed a copy of the order to the governor (in the mid-'80s). He read it, and, with his famous grin, handed it back to me saying, "Perhaps I was misinformed." Although he knew that the judge had not ordered him to remove the troops, he continued to make this claim until his death.

Likewise, writers for the Democrat have continued to adopt Governor Faubus' false claim. I have written the publisher, editors, and reporters, bringing their attention to this error — to no avail.

I propose a deal. If the Democrat can provide me with a federal court order which directed the governor to remove the troops from Central High — during that fateful September of 1957 — I will eat a bale of alfalfa hay at the corner of Capitol and Main at high noon. If the order cannot be produced the Democrat should provide me a corked bottle of Laphroaig Scotch.

How about this proposed deal?

Billy R. Wilson


On the VA clinic uproar

It appears that some folks in Little Rock's South Main neighborhood may be scraping off those "support our troops" decals. I refer of course to the uproar over plans to locate a VA clinic in the area. By press time, officials may have resolved the issue, but it deserves attention nonetheless.

For me personally, the furor resonates on three levels. As a long-time supporter of the Quapaw Quarter and current resident, I have friends who express concern about the federal government's proposal to locate an outpatient clinic for veterans on South Main. It is altogether fitting and proper that they do so.

Investing in older neighborhoods requires moxie. Original members of the old Broadway Neighborhood Association speak of late night calls from banks threatening to call their mortgages when they protested a "block busting" proposal by a prominent Little Rock businessman. Today it means investing in property that has no protective covenants not knowing where the next gang activity epicenter may be. It is a far cry from buying a home in a gated subdivision. It is also a hell of a lot more fun.

It is understandable that property owners in older neighborhoods wish that, just once, a halfway house or rehab center would choose to locate on Chenal Parkway.

On a more personal level, as a veteran I shudder when opinions float around that my brothers and sisters pose a threat to the public health, safety and welfare. It causes a "1960s flashback" but not (necessarily) of the drug-related type. I remember when the San Francisco Airport would not process the baggage of service personnel with that of normal travelers. We had to descend three flights of stairs and retrieve our sea bags from a fenced enclosure so we didn't offend the full-paying customers. I also remember a personnel officer from an East Coast U.S. Navy ship explaining to me why he was assigning me to a particularly demeaning job. "We want to put you Vietnam boys in your place."

On a professional level, as an urban planner, I must say that the whole affair represents a tempest in a teapot. Geez, there are countless other uses for the property in question that would represent a far greater threat to the health, welfare, and safety of the civilized world. Consider, for example, a Tea Party headquarters.

From a "Hubble Viewpoint," we might gain a final thought. The modern world is complicated. There are issues about which reasonable people may, perhaps even should, disagree. I do wish that my mayor had used a more mature word than "idiotic" in describing a proposal that would serve American veterans. But the fact remains that governing a large city is a complicated issue. And politics is a messy but necessary function of a democracy. No matter now seductive it may sound when one says all we need to do is cut taxes or eliminate government entirely, we ultimately have to agree with Ernest Hemingway: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Jim vonTungeln

Little Rock

Numbers off

Some of the numbers in "When College Doesn't Pay for Itself" don't seem to make sense.

A student is described as having a principal balance on her student loan of $6,748; a monthly payment of "several hundred dollars;" and "roughly 70 percent" of that payment representing interest. Assuming a monthly payment of just $200 (and "several hundred" would seem to imply a much larger payment), $140 of that payment would be interest. That would indicate an interest rate of nearly 25%.

Surely that's not correct, is it?

Mike Watts

Little Rock

Editor: No, it's not. Originally this story mistankenly stated that the student's payments are 70 percent interest with 30 percent applied to her principal. In reality, 30 percent of each of her payments is interest and 70 percent is applied to her principal.

Submit letters to the Editor via e-mail. The address is arktimes@arktimes.com.


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