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The truth about ’57



Doug Smith’s recent article, “The Crisis Turned Upside Down” (May 10, 2007), reveals that Smith has fallen into the trap that has ensnared many other analysts of the Little Rock crisis of 1957. With regard to whether or not federal Judge Ronald Davies ordered Gov. Orval Faubus to remove the National Guard from Central High School on Sept. 20, 1957, court records reveal that from the bench Judge Davies ruled verbally on the afternoon in question: “It is very clear to this court ... that the plan of integration adopted by the Little Rock school board ... has been thwarted by the governor of Arkansas by the use of National Guard troops... . The petition ... for a preliminary injunction ... is granted; and such injunction shall issue without delay enjoining those respondents from obstructing or preventing by use of the National Guard or otherwise attendance of Negro students at Little Rock high school ... and from otherwise obstructing or interfering with orders of this court in connection with the plan of integration.” After consulting with his attorney, William Jennings Smith, who advised him that Davies had ordered the governor to remove the Guard, Faubus dismissed his soldiers and flew away to the Southern Governor’s Conference in Sea Island, Ga.

The next day, September 21, Judge Davies filed his formal orders, which federal government attorneys had written (following the standard practice that the winning lawyers write the order which the judge then signs). Only then did the judge’s order include a final paragraph (to which he had not alluded from the bench) stating that: “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 or desirable for the 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.” Only when the Justice Department realized it had created a monster (by leaving all responsibility for maintaining the peace in the hands of city officials) did the inexperienced federal judge correct his error and change his ruling. By then Faubus had already acted, quite clearly following the judge’s order from the bench.

No lawyers in Davies’ court had raised the issue of whether the judge should direct Faubus to implement the School Board’s plan by using the National Guard (i.e., to protect the nine black students). Since the position of the federal government (based on their falsified reporting of the FBI’s investigation) was that there was no threat of violence, it would have been inconsistent for government lawyers to ask for protection for the Nine. Judges are not God, simply ruling from on high on whatever issues may strike their fancy; they are bound by the rules of federal procedure to respond to the questions and the evidence placed before them. The issue of Faubus’ use of the Guard to protect the black students was not before the court.

Readers who are interested in studying this issue further may attend a legal conference at UALR’s Bowen School of Law in September, at which time I shall present a full paper on Federal Judge Davies’ mishandling of the issue before him.

Elizabeth Jacoway


Author of TURN AWAY THY SON: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation

Both the transcript of Judge Davies’ verbal ruling and his written order show that he told Gov. Orval Faubus to stop interfering with the integration of Central High School, by use of the National Guard or otherwise. He did not order Faubus to remove the Guard. The Justice Department, in seeking the judge’s order, said explicitly that it was NOT arguing that Faubus should be prevented from using the Guard to preserve peace. To borrow a phrase, because Faubus’ lawyer said he ruled that way does not make it so. Faubus’ lawyer is not a reliable witness in any case. The governor’s lawyers left the courtroom before its conclusion to demonstrate their belief that the court had no jurisdiction over Faubus’ actions as governor.

And, though the judge’s written order explicitly allowed him to do so, Faubus took no action to use the Guard subsequently to preserve the peace. The thesis of Jacoway’s book is that Faubus was repeatedly “betrayed” (her word) and thus more or less forced into resisting the admission of black students to Central.

Cartoon offensive

I became a former reader of your newspaper after reading the May 24 issue. I used to read the Times purely as amusement, even though most of it was directed toward those who do not stand with the moral majority. It is great for the bottom of parakeet cages, great for housebreaking puppies and great for wrapping fish guts in. But for a person with any sort of morality, this is definitely not a readable paper.

Apparently the cartoonist, Tommy Durham, is an atheist or an agnostic of the purest form. No doubt that he has a passion for being sacrilegious and is committed to crucifying Christians. He is an abomination to Christianity. I found his cartoon vulgar, reprehensible and extremely offensive.

Jane Smith

Heber Springs


As I sat reading your Arkansas Blog, I came across this item by Max Brantley:

“Some in the angry group anxious for Little Rock School Superintendent Roy Brooks’ departure also are seemingly anxious to destroy such centers of excellence as Central High School, a magnet for top students and teachers. It’s not a perfect place, but the district is richer for it, not poorer. Its destruction would be a bad idea symbolically and practically. It is on matters such as this that the new School Board majority, feeling its oats and showing unhappiness at being defined in racial terms, must demonstrate that their leadership is indeed not about race.”

I thought you were an enlightened man. Boy, was I wrong. Who do you think Central belongs to? The children of rich, white families from the Heights, Capitol Zoning District and Quapaw Quarter? It’s our school, too. The Little Rock Nine fought so hard for us to get the chance to be in that school. You may continue to try to keep us out of AP classes and other gifted programs. But we will continue to fight for our right to be part of them, regardless of race. By the way, your comment that the new majority is “feeling its oats” is one of the more racially insensitive remarks I’ve ever read in the Arkansas Times. We are not animals.

F.C. Lane

Little Rock

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