The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Rep. Hill & Sen. Elliott in Congressional Forum, Delta Leaders set for Oct. 13-14 Delta Summit by Zoom

Posted on September 10, 2020 at 01:08 PM

Congressional candidates US Rep. French Hill, AR Sen. Joyce Elliott, and Leaders from across the Delta will take part in the Delta conference by Zoom webinar on Oct. 13-14. This will be entirely by Zoom and there will not be any in-person meetings to avoid spreading Covid-19.

Sen. Elliott and Rep. Hill are confirmed and will be questioned by journalists Roby Brock of Talk Business and Politics and Michael Hibblen, news director of KUAR radio, the NPR affiliate in Little Rock in an objective, fair setting.

Sen. Elliott speaks at 10:30 a.m. and Rep. Hill speaks at 11 a.m. on Oct. 14.

The 2nd District race is seriously contested and is receiving national attention. We make no endorsement and want to hear from both sides fairly–thus the decision to have the forum conducted by two objective journalists.

Please sign up on the Zoom webinar link below and send in registration fees if you have not already done so–registration fees information is below in this email.

We have also confirmed Congressman Bruce Westerman; Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston, the top economic development official in Arkansas; Troy Wells, CEO of Baptist Health, the largest health care organization in Arkansas, Joel Berg, CEI of Hunger Free America–the national hunger and poverty organization based in New York; women and minority advocates, nonprofits, business leaders, universities and colleges and grassroots advocates from across the region.

We are inviting President Clinton and/or Chelsea Clinton, John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford and Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama.

Economic and health challenges during the pandemic are the key issues, including job creation and retention, health care, SNAP and other nutrition programs and rising food insecurity in Covid-19 era, a major infrastructure program to create jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure, and maintaining education and workforce development. As a diverse organization, we need to be acutely sensitive to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and recession on women and minorities.

Leaders from across the region who are participants are listed below the information on the Zoom link that will be needed to gain access to the Zoom webinar:

You are invited to the Oct. 13-14 Delta Summit by Zoom webinar.

Beginning time to start connecting to the Zoom link is Oct 13, 2020 04:30 PM Central Time, with the program being from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The program continues the next day, Oct. 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Topic: Delta Summit Oct. 13-14, 2020

Register in advance for this webinar:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HQG5xmpaSNGOqVai8KMjqg

Appreciation for Sponsors

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas

Municipal League of Illinois

TS Police Support League, Greene County, Alabama Black Belt

Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission

Partners Bank, headquartered in historic downtown Helena, Arkansas

Delta leaders participating or invited include:

–Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas;

–Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America, national anti-hunger and poverty organization;

–Donna Gambrell, CEO, Appalachian Community Capital, major nonprofit in our sister region in Appalachia; Philander Smith College professor (TBD);

–University of Arkansas representative (TBD); Tomiko Townley, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance;

–Janie Ginnocchio, Southern Bancorp Community Partners; Leesa Freasier, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Delta nutrition project;

–Anna Beth Gorman, Executive Director, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas;

–Rupa Dash, CEO, World Woman Federation;

–Harvey Joe Sanner, Delta Caucus senior adviser and President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas;

–(INVITED) Mayor Shirley Washington of Pine Bluff, Arkansas;

–Brad Cole, Executive Director, Municipal League of Illinois;

–Mike Marshall, CEO, Sikeston, Missouri Chamber and Economic Development Corp., former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority;

–Joey Keys, Executive Director, Southeast Missouri Food Bank organization;

–(INVITED) Bill Bynum, CEO, Hope Credit Union and Enterprise Corp.

–Wilson Golden, senior Delta Caucus adviser, Clinton administration Presidential appointee,

–Johnny Pettus, Society of St. Andrew and small farmers advocate in Arkansas;

–Peggy Bradford, former president of Shawnee Community College in Illinois, attorney, Delta regional advocate from southern Illinois;

–Alan Gumbel, Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce, Memphis, Tennessee;

–Sheila Smith, TS Police Support League, Greene County in the Alabama Black Belt;

–Mayor Sheldon Day, Thomasville, Alabama.

REGISTRATION FEES

The easiest way to pay the $40 registration fees is to go on the website at www.mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the page that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

Economic Reports Indicate Delta Still Suffering Severely; Need for stronger economic stimulus and safety net packages

Posted on August 25, 2020 at 11:09 AM

“Data Show Delta Region Still Suffering Severely from Pandemic”

Economic reports from nonprofits, universities, and grassroots leaders show that the Delta region is still seriously suffering economically. The Delta Caucus partners urge much stronger federal, state and local economic stimulus packages and safety net funding to jump-start the regional economy.

“The Delta continues to suffer seriously from the pandemic and a strong recovery is still not here. A collection of data from across the region indicate the need for a strong economic stimulus from federal, state and private sector sources. An overly rosy depiction of the Delta’s economy is counterproductive because we need to admit we still have a severe problem in order to solve it,” said Lee Powell, Caucus director.

Common themes from the economic reports are: –The Delta economy was vulnerable in many ways, including having many small businesses that were struggling before the pandemic, closed and have not come back yet;

–many low-income people who did not have large savings to see them through a downturn;

–the region’s diverse population with many African Americans and some other minorities has been hit harder by both higher virus infection rates and more economic losses. Minority women are especially hard hit because women have suffered the greatest job losses and as minorities they have higher virus rates;

–the region’s economy had major manufacturing, agriculture and other sectors that have been hit disproportionately by the recession. Some larger companies remain solid, but the overall picture is bleak.

Unemployment statistics improved for the state as a whole, but many Delta counties still lag behind:

Arkansas statewide figures improved from 8.1% in May to 7.1% in June. But the five worst unemployment rates were all from Delta counties, and 16 of the bottom 20 out of Arkansas’ 75 counties were from eastern and southeastern Arkansas and they were substantially worse than the statewide average.

Chicot County: 13.6%

Mississippi: 12.6%

Phillips: 11.8%

Crittenden: 11.6%

Other Delta counties included Jefferson County at 10%, St. Francis at 9.6%, Jackson and Lee counties at 9.5%, Monroe at 9.3%, Desha at 9.2%

The Jonesboro area was a bright spot as usual, having an unemployment rate in June at 7.7% after 8.5% in May. The Jonesboro area is historically a relatively prosperous exception to the rule in eastern Arkansas.

The regional economy has suffered from chronic economic dislocations for decades, with the mechanization of agriculture eliminating many farm jobs, outdated policies of attracting a big plant with tax breaks and promises of cheap unskilled labor only to see those plants to move to even lower cost countries some years later; need for much greater diversification and stronger small business growth.

Key findings from the compilation include:

• Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana had the four highest rates of food insecurity based on a Feeding America survey. The Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research found the highest food insecurity levels were in Mississippi (31.6%) and Louisiana (30.1%), with Arkansas the fifth highest at 25.9%.

• A survey of the University of Arkansas Department of Sociology and Criminology found that Arkansas and other Southern and mid-Southern states had elevated levels of food insecurity due to Covid-19. In the category of “reduced quality, desirability or variety of diet,” the four worst rates were all from “Greater Delta Region” states: Alabama (47.7%), Arkansas (47.4%), Tennessee (45.1%) and Kentucky (44%).

• A University of Louisiana at Lafayette report found that job losses in Louisiana were virtually twice as high in the pandemic as compared with after Hurricane Katrina–by 11% in the first half of this year, as compared with a 6% drop after Katrina in 2005. Louisiana’s gross domestic product contraction of 6% was one of the five sharpest drops among all states.

• An Illinois Municipal League survey found that 87% of municipalities expected a substantial revenue shortfall due to the pandemic. Many communities advised that they will need greater assistance from federal and state governments. The Southern Illinois Delta area chronically fares worse than the statewide economic figures for Illinois.

• Arkansas, Mississippi and the other Delta states are participating in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provides assistance to families with children eligible for free or reduced price meals dealing with school closures. This enables these states to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.

Harvey Joe Sanner, president of American Ag Movement of Arkansas in Des Arc, AR, said “Our job situation is worsening. as one our large employers in Lonoke, AR, Remmington Arms is laying off workers… I think most people feel that our situation both health wise and economically will get worse before it gets better. In summation, I’M WORRIED LIKE H*LL.”

Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, AR said Helena had recently lost an important new employer after ports in China closed to imports during the first months of the pandemic, but they hope to eventually lure the company back. They have seen a depression in hotels, restaurants, and tourist industry. An important day care facility closed. A “rare bright spot is that the internet sales tax approved by the legislature has made a tremendous difference to us.”

Millie Atkins, Delta Caucus senior adviser and veteran Delta regional advocate based in Monroe, Louisiana said “This pandemic has shed a great light on the many economic, social and educational inequities in a number of areas where the Delta was vulnerable” such as the large number of job losses, the many low-income jobs that made it difficult for people to accumulate savings that could see them through a downturn, the small business closures that have not come back yet.”

Delta Caucus partners across the region call for a strong economic stimulus and safety net package to jump-start the region’s economy: : • continuing larger unemployment benefit and strong federal and state economic stimulus and relief aid to deal with the unprecedented job losses,

• 15% increase in SNAP and other nutrition benefit programs during the pandemic,

• A major infrastructure expansion program to create jobs, repair our deteriorating infrastructure, and stimulate the economy;

• Job creation and retention programs through tax incentives for investing in economically distressed areas;

• Maintaining education and workforce development programs during the pandemic, which will require a major broadband access expansion initiative through programs such as USDA’s Rural Re-Connect high-speed broadband program and state programs like Arkansas’ Rural Connect (ARC).

Below in the extended content section is the 22-page collection of reports from local leaders across the region, nonprofits, and universities.

Sources regarding impact of the pandemic on the Delta economy as of August, 2020

  1. Executive Summary/News Release summarizing findings from economic reports of nonprofits, universities and grassroots leaders from across the region

  2. Millie Atkins, community leader and Delta regional advocate in northern Louisiana, and Louisiana United Way

  3. USDA Approves Program for Mississippi to feed kids during pandemic (all 8 Delta states now take part in this program)

  4. University of Arkansas research report on food insecurity during the pandemic

  5. Mayor Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

  6. Illinois Municipal League, Brad Cole, Executive Director

  7. Harvey Joe Sanner, President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Prairie County, Arkansas

  8. Mike Marshall, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce

  9. Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

  10. University of Louisiana Lafayette and Acadiana newspaper

  11. Northwestern University research on state food insecurity levels in the pandemic (recommended by Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America

Continue reading...

Zoom Registration for Oct. 13-14, 2020 Greater Delta Region Summit

Posted on August 10, 2020 at 12:28 PM

Due to the pandemic, most Delta Caucus partners will be participating at the Oct. 13-14, 2020 Greater Delta Region Summit by Zoom.

We are awaiting word from the two venues in Little Rock as to whether a small number of speakers will be allowed to be there in person, depending of course on the situation with Covid-19. The information for advance registration by Zoom is below in this email.

Key issues: We will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the White House Conference on the Delta, the Clinton administration’s bipartisan Delta Regional Initiative, and the origins of the Delta Grassroots Caucus.

This is a forward-looking initiative for 2020 and the years ahead to urge greater action by federal, state and local powers that be for job creation and retention, a strong relief aid package to deal with job losses, hunger and nutrition, health care, infrastructure improvements, and greater opportunity for women and minorities who have been hit hardest by the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus. We need to continue our candid dialogue about racial issues in the Delta.

Invited speakers: We are inviting President Clinton—or if he can’t schedule it, Chelsea Clinton, who is a vital force for the Clinton Foundation, Members of Congress, Gov. Asa Hutchinson or a senior official of his administration, state legislators, executives of foundations, corporations, nonprofits, universities and colleges, mayors and other grassroots leaders. This is bipartisan.

Congressional forum–We do not make endorsements of any candidates. There is a seriously contested race in the central Arkansas Congressional District between Congressman French Hill and state Sen. Joyce Elliott, and we will have a forum for those two candidates moderated by Roby Brock of Arkansas Talk Business and a journalist from Arkansas Public Radio.

We have about 70 RSVPs and we will need to have all of them register by Zoom. Estimated number of participants is about 100.

We are awaiting word from the Clinton Presidential Center officials and the Arkansas Capitol as to whether a small number of people will be permitted to be there in person for the two sessions scheduled earlier.

This depends entirely on the situation with Covid-19, about which we are deeply sensitive because we as a group include a substantial number of people with above average risk factors for contracting the virus.

If a small number of speakers will be allowed to gather wearing masks and practicing social distancing, (speaking by Zoom to the other attendees) these sessions will be:

Arkansas Capitol Rotunda, Oct. 13, 2020 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Clinton Library Great Hall, Oct. 14, 2020, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

PAYING REGISTRATION FEES

Registration fees for those participating by Zoom will be $40 each.

(If there is a small group of people in person, we will ask $75 each in registration fees for them.)

The easiest way to pay the registration fees is to go on the website at mdgc.us and go to the link at the top of the site that says “Donate.” This makes a written record for the transaction.

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

REGISTRATION FOR DELTA SUMMIT BY ZOOM WEBINAR, OCT. 13-14, 2020

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.

Beginning time to connect with the Zoom webinar is Oct 13, 2020, 4:30 PM Central Time, with the program from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Longer session is Oct. 14 morning and lunch, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Topic: Delta Summit Oct. 13-14, 2020

Register in advance for this webinar:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HQG5xmpaSNGOqVai8KMjqg

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

NOTE: We know that those attending by Zoom will take breaks during the program. We will send out an agenda with the main issues and times beforehand.

Please also note that President Clinton, Members of Congress, and Gov. Hutchinson have such hectic schedules that they usually confirm their speaking time much later than most and also frequently have to change their speaking times at the last minute, again due to their very busy schedules. So we have to have flexibility and will keep people informed of changes as rapidly as we can.

Thanks very much. Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347

A Factual Summary of Senator Fulbright's Record, as Part of Our Dialogue about Our Past

Posted on July 25, 2020 at 10:41 AM

Today our nation is going through a painful but beneficial assessment of our troubled racial history. One example of this dialogue is a proposal to move the statue of Senator J. William Fulbright from its prominent place on the University of Arkansas campus and remove his name from the College of Arts and Sciences. We would like to provide a concise summary of the facts regarding Fulbright’s record. I knew and discussed civil rights and other vital issues with Fulbright for 20 years. In my 1996 biography of Fulbright—J. William Fulbright and His Time—as the title states I sought to place his legacy within the historical context of the era in which he lived.

My goal and that of my colleagues who are signing this message is to provide the facts; people may then draw their own conclusions. Like all Americans we are concerned about these vital issues of war, peace, economic and racial justice.

Executive Summary

In America’s debate about our past in 2020, we face a serious challenge in assessing the legacy of controversial leaders such as Senator J. William Fulbright, who held a distinguished record of leadership in international relations and education, yet who made political concessions on civil rights that many historians, writers and political analysts have found profoundly disappointing. As a biographer of Fulbright, I believe we should carefully review the legitimate concerns about his civil rights record, but would advocate for analyzing his record in its entirety in the historical context of his era.

The UN and Fulbright Program–First, why did Fulbright win world renown for his accomplishments in foreign policy and education? As a freshman US representative in 1943, he worked with President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in passing the Fulbright Resolution, the first and most important Congressional resolution placing the US House of Representatives on record as supporting the creation of and US participation in a future United Nations organization.

In 1946 he sponsored legislation creating the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which has granted awards to 390,000 scholars (and counting) in more than 160 countries. 60 Fulbright Scholars won Nobel Prizes, 86 won Pultizer Prizes, and 37 Fulbright Scholars later became heads of state, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America. President John F. Kennedy described the Fulbright Program as “the classic modern example of beating swords into plowshares.”

Fulbright opposed Joe McCarthy and other extremists in the Cold War—He opposed General Douglas Mac Arthur’s call for air strikes against mainland China during the Korean War as gravely risking World War III. He resolutely refuted Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts throughout the early 1950s for smearing distinguished citizens as communists or communist sympathizers, exposing the lack of any evidence behind McCarthy’s bogus charges.

In February, 1954, he cast the only dissenting vote to cut off the funding for McCarthy’s demagogical investigations, losing by the margin of 85 to 1. This courageous action shocked many of his colleagues into opposing McCarthy, and Fulbright was one of the crucial leaders in the Senate’s eventual censure of McCarthy in late 1954.

Warning against the Bay of Pigs invasion–Fulbright opposed John Foster Dulles’ rigid Cold Warrior policies and the Eisenhower administration’s interventionism in the Middle East and Latin America. When President John F. Kennedy held the final strategy review on whether to go forward with Eisenhower’s plan to invade Cuba with CIA-trained Cuban exiles, Fulbright was the only high-level official present who warned him that an intervention would nullify the work of 30 years in trying to live down previous US interventions in Latin America. In the post-mortem review session after the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy turned grimly to Fulbright and said “You’re the only man here who can say I told you so.”

First challenge to the Cold Warrior consensus–After mistakenly believing that President Johnson sought a negotiated settlement in Vietnam in 1964 and accepting Johnson’s erroneous depiction of alleged North Vietnamese aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin—a mistake he later candidly admitted—Fulbright became increasingly alarmed about a rigid, militaristic anti-communist bias in Johnson’s foreign policy in 1965. In the fall of 1965 he publicly excoriated Johnson for what he accurately believed was a destructive intervention in the Dominican Republic based on a grossly exaggerated claim of leftist subversion, and was increasingly skeptical of the escalation in Vietnam.

In November, 1965, Fulbright received the greatest accolade he ever received from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who encouraged him to persevere in his courageous dissent from Johnson’s foreign policy. He praised the senator in glowing terms, such as: “Yours is one voice crying in the wilderness that may ultimately awaken our people to the international facts of life. I trust that you will not let any pressure silence you.” Fulbright replied to King with great appreciation for his encouragement, although he was pessimistic about being able to change the administration’s policies.

Opposition to the Vietnam War–Fulbright did indeed follow the advice of King and others to persevere in his dissent, holding the historic Vietnam and China hearings that profoundly strengthened the ant-war forces and transformed critics of the Vietnam policy from being considered a small number of voices on the political fringe into a powerful mainstream movement. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he relentlessly decried the folly of the war in hearings, speeches, and his famous book, The Arrogance of Power. In 1966 After long years of dissent against Johnson’s continuation of the war and Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, the opponents finally succeeded in ending the long nightmare of US involvement in the Vietnamese civil war in 1973.

Fulbright played a key role in the early 1970s détente with the Soviet Union and China that departed from the decades of Cold War confrontation and tensions. He called for a more evenhanded policy in the Middle East that would protect Israel’s security but also acknowledge that the Palestinians and other Arabs had legitimate issues and grievances. He received many accolades for his foreign policy accomplishments over the years; the New York Times was sharply critical of his civil rights record, but nonetheless called for recognition that his record on the whole displayed far more historic accomplishments than flaws: “His courage saved lives. Few politicians can lay claim to that epitaph.”

Civil rights record– Fulbright was born in 1905 and lived most of his life during a rigidly segregationist era in the South. He voted against the Fair Employment Practices Committee as well as most of the major civil rights bills in his career in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Under pressure from the Southern bloc he participated in filibusters against them and occasionally made statements supporting the segregationist status quo. On most occasions he tried to avoid controversial racial issues as much as possible. The Arkansan’s friend Senator Albert Gore, Sr. of Tennessee said that Fulbright saw his civil rights record as “his admission ticket” to the Senate to do what he regarded as his vital work in foreign policy and education.

Southern Manifesto and Faubus– In 1956 he warned his fellow Southerners not to go through with the anti-Brown decision Southern Manifesto because the ruling was the law of the land and it was folly to encourage constituents to think it could be obstructed. Under heavy pressure from fellow Southerners in the Senate, he decided opposition to the Manifesto would end his political career and allow a hard-line segregationist to replace him in the Senate, thus accomplishing nothing for civil rights and eliminating his ability to do his constructive work in foreign policy. In 1957 he was in Great Britain at the time Faubus sought to block desegregation of Little Rock Central High and stayed there for a long time in a clear effort to avoid taking a stand.

In 1960 President Kennedy’s first choice for Secretary of State was Fulbright due to his admiration for the Arkansan’s knowledge and expertise in international relations, but he eventually decided not to appoint the senator because of his civil rights record. Kennedy eventually chose the rigid Cold Warrior Dean Rusk, who later became one of the chief supporters and apologists for the Vietnam War, in contrast to Fulbright’s leadership of the opposition to US intervention in the Vietnamese civil war.

Evolution of Fulbright’s views–Fulbright’s views began to change in the early 1960s when he was deeply impressed by King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He seriously considered voting for the civil rights act in 1964. Throughout his career he was a strong proponent for federal aid to education, which was opposed by segregationists because these initiatives helped blacks as well as whites. He frequently described education as the chief strategy to combat racism. He reluctantly came to the conclusion that it would end his political career if he supported the 1964 bill, and his anguish over the decision was recorded for posterity in a White House audio-tape of his conversation with President Johnson on April 29, 1964: Fulbright:

“Jesus Christ, I’m really over a barrel on this thing. I wish to hell I could vote with you (in favor of the civil rights act). You know that.” Johnson was surprisingly forgiving and understanding of Fulbright’s position, given his reputation for tempestuous pressures on other politicians to vote with him, saying simply, “I know that. I know it.” Fulbright made a similar agonizing decision in 1965, voting against the Voting Rights Act.

Political context of his time: While in 2020 we would not see Fulbright’s civil rights record as “moderate,” that is exactly the way he was widely perceived at the time; this was because of the contrast between Fulbright and demagogues like Faubus, George Wallace, “Justice Jim” Johnson and others who intentionally inflamed bigotry and hatred, while Fulbright never engaged in such extremism and focused as much as possible on his work in foreign policy and education. Even this cautious record had risks in that era, as Faubus derided Fulbright as an “addle brained visionary.” Gov. Orval Faubus seriously considered running against Fulbright in 1962 and after Faubus’ tenure as governor ended in 1967, he again publicly speculated about running against him in 1968. On both occasions, powerful financial and political leaders in the state such as Witt Stephens who were supporters of the segregationist status quo privately warned Faubus not to run. The support of these powerful figures and the reality that Fulbright’s civil rights record had deprived Faubus of political ammunition on race to use against the senator led Faubus not to run.

1968 re-election–Fulbright faced “Justice Jim” Johnson—an racial extremist who also denounced Fulbright’s opposition to the Vietnam War in 1968. Fulbright’s vote for Thurgood Marshall’s nomination to the Supreme Court had antagonized many segregationists, and in 1968 during his election campaign Fulbright voted against the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Fulbright escaped a run-off against Johnson and other candidates in the primary with only 53% of the vote.

Fulbright’s votes for two civil rights bills and in favor of racial moderation in Supreme Court appointments over the latter part of his career–Fulbright did evolve and broke with the Southern bloc on several key civil rights vote over the last seven years of his career, including his crucial role in blocking Nixon’s appointment of the racist Harrold Carswell to the US Supreme Court. There was gradual change in Arkansas by 1966 when the moderate Winthrop Rockefeller was elected governor. Accordingly, Fulbright did break with the Southern bloc on several key votes over the latter part of his career. In 1967 he was one of only six Southern senators to vote for Thurgood Marshall as the first black Supreme Court Justice, responding to criticism by saying he thought Marshall was a well qualified legal expert and refused to oppose him on the basis of “the nominee’s race.”

Support for the Voting Rights Act of 1970 and blocking the racist Harrold Carswell’s nomination to the Supreme CourtIn 1970 he voted for the Voting Rights Act of that year extending and strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by such provisions as a nationwide ban on literacy tests that disfranchised many blacks. Again he was swimming against the contemporary political currents in the South as only four Southerners joined him in supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1970, as well as his stand on the 1972 antibusing bill. Most impressively, he played a crucial role in defeating President Nixon’s nomination of the racist Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court in a vote that was perilously close and that offended many of Fulbright’s constituents.

Blocking Nixon’s effort to obstruct the federal courts in the antibusing issues: President Nixon pursued his Southern strategy, promoting legislation that would have prohibited federal courts and agencies from requiring that any student be assigned to a school other than the one “closest or next closest” to his home that provided the proper grade level. Progressives in the North and elsewhere engaged in a filibuster, and most Southerners supported invoking cloture; the crucial bloc of votes were moderate Republicans and Fulbright. The New York Times reported that “Today, every Southern senator except J. W. Fulbright, the Arkansas Democrat, voted for cloture.” Fulbright not only voted against cloture but also voted with progressives in setting aside the antibusing bill. The Arkansas Gazette—which supported Fulbright on foreign policy but often criticized his civil rights positions–editorialized that Fulbright, who had some doubts about busing, had acted as a “great conservative” in opposing an antibusing bill that was an effort to obstruct the federal courts in their constitutional duties. The senator weathered the Nixon storm in 1972 and stood for the principles of thorough debate in the Senate, the constitutional system of checks and balances, moderation in desegregation, and respect for the proper role of the federal courts in fashioning remedies in desegregation lawsuits.

Retrospective discussions–In the 20 years that I knew him, Fulbright did not explicitly apologize for his civil rights record, although he said “Integration had to come.” The main thrust of his explanation was to say that a courageous stand on race would only have allowed Faubus, Justice Jim Johnson or another demagogue to destroy his career, provide them with an even larger platform in the US Senate for their demagogy, and end his ability to provide historic leadership in foreign policy. He acknowledged that many people he greatly respected advised him to speak up on civil rights and he seriously listened to them.

Rep. Hays’ example–Fulbright cited the defeat of his friend Congressman Brooks Hays in 1958 after calling for adherence to Brown as the law of the land as evidence of what happened to those who challenged the segregationist status quo. His critics countered that Hays won his Democratic primary election and was defeated by a very narrow margin in the general election in a vote marred by electoral fraud in a last-minute write-in vote by Faubus’s machine and his ally, Dale Alford. They would ask if Hays might have survived that election had he received stronger support from many moderates–above all Fulbright–who stood on the sidelines. By the mid-1960s, Arkansas was beginning to change with the election of Rockefeller in 1966. On the Central High crisis, critics would point out that this was deeper than a political issue and went to the fundamental concept of standing up for the rule of law. Fulbright would listen respectfully, but he ultimately returned to his conclusion: “Well, you could speculate about that, but I had no desire for martyrdom.”

We have quite a dilemma in assessing such a complex and gigantic legacy. Our goal here is to present the facts about both his great accomplishments and his flaws. We know you will draw your own conclusions after considering the facts.

For those who would like more detail, there is a longer summary in the extended content section.

Continue reading...

A Factual Summary of Senator Fulbright's Record, as Part of Our Dialogue about Our Past

Posted on July 25, 2020 at 10:41 AM

Today our nation is going through a painful but beneficial assessment of our troubled racial history. One example of this dialogue is a proposal to move the statue of Senator J. William Fulbright from its prominent place on the University of Arkansas campus and remove his name from the College of Arts and Sciences. We would like to provide a concise summary of the facts regarding Fulbright’s record. I knew and discussed civil rights and other vital issues with Fulbright for 20 years. In my 1996 biography of Fulbright—J. William Fulbright and His Time—as the title states I sought to place his legacy within the historical context of the era in which he lived.

My goal and that of my colleagues who are signing this message is to provide the facts; people may then draw their own conclusions. Like all Americans we are concerned about these vital issues of war, peace, economic and racial justice.

Executive Summary

In America’s debate about our past today, we face a serious challenge in assessing the legacy of controversial leaders such as Senator J. William Fulbright, who held a distinguished record of leadership in international relations and education, yet who made political concessions on civil rights that many historians, writers and political analysts have found profoundly disappointing. As a biographer of Fulbright, I believe we should carefully review the legitimate concerns about his civil rights record, but would advocate for analyzing his record in its entirety in the historical context of his era.

The UN and Fulbright Program–First, why did Fulbright win world renown for his accomplishments in foreign policy and education? As a freshman US representative in 1943, he worked with President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in passing the Fulbright Resolution, the first and most important Congressional resolution placing the US House of Representatives on record as supporting the creation of and US participation in a future United Nations organization.

In 1946 he sponsored legislation creating the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which has granted awards to 390,000 scholars (and counting) in more than 160 countries. 60 Fulbright Scholars won Nobel Prizes, 86 won Pultizer Prizes, and 37 Fulbright Scholars later became heads of state, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America. President John F. Kennedy described the Fulbright Program as “the classic modern example of beating swords into plowshares.”

Fulbright opposed Joe McCarthy and other extremists in the Cold War—He opposed General Douglas Mac Arthur’s call for air strikes against mainland China during the Korean War as gravely risking World War III. He resolutely refuted Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts throughout the early 1950s for smearing distinguished citizens as communists or communist sympathizers, exposing the lack of any evidence behind McCarthy’s bogus charges.

In February, 1954, he cast the only dissenting vote to cut off the funding for McCarthy’s demagogical investigations, losing by the margin of 85 to 1. This courageous action shocked many of his colleagues into opposing McCarthy, and Fulbright was one of the crucial leaders in the Senate’s eventual censure of McCarthy in late 1954.

Warning against the Bay of Pigs invasion–Fulbright opposed John Foster Dulles’ rigid Cold Warrior policies and the Eisenhower administration’s interventionism in the Middle East and Latin America. When President John F. Kennedy held the final strategy review on whether to go forward with Eisenhower’s plan to invade Cuba with CIA-trained Cuban exiles, Fulbright was the only high-level official present who warned him that an intervention would nullify the work of 30 years in trying to live down previous US interventions in Latin America. In the post-mortem review session after the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy turned grimly to Fulbright and said “You’re the only man here who can say I told you so.”

First challenge to the Cold Warrior consensus–After mistakenly believing that President Johnson sought a negotiated settlement in Vietnam in 1964 and accepting Johnson’s erroneous depiction of alleged North Vietnamese aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin—a mistake he later candidly admitted—Fulbright became increasingly alarmed about a rigid, militaristic anti-communist bias in Johnson’s foreign policy in 1965. In the fall of 1965 he publicly excoriated Johnson for what he accurately believed was a destructive intervention in the Dominican Republic based on a grossly exaggerated claim of leftist subversion, and was increasingly skeptical of the escalation in Vietnam.

In November, 1965, Fulbright received the greatest accolade he ever received from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who encouraged him to persevere in his courageous dissent from Johnson’s foreign policy. He praised the senator in glowing terms, such as: “Yours is one voice crying in the wilderness that may ultimately awaken our people to the international facts of life. I trust that you will not let any pressure silence you.” Fulbright replied to King with great appreciation for his encouragement, although he was pessimistic about being able to change the administration’s policies.

Opposition to the Vietnam War and support for detente–Fulbright did indeed follow the advice of King and others to persevere in his dissent, holding the historic Vietnam and China hearings that profoundly strengthened the ant-war forces and transformed critics of the Vietnam policy from being considered a small number of voices on the political fringe into a powerful mainstream movement. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he relentlessly decried the folly of the war in hearings, speeches, and his famous book, The Arrogance of Power. In 1966 After long years of dissent against Johnson’s continuation of the war and Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, the opponents finally succeeded in ending the long nightmare of US involvement in the Vietnamese civil war in 1973.

Fulbright played a key role in the early 1970s détente with the Soviet Union and China that departed from the decades of Cold War confrontation and tensions. He called for a more evenhanded policy in the Middle East that would protect Israel’s security but also acknowledge that the Palestinians and other Arabs had legitimate issues and grievances. He received many accolades for his foreign policy accomplishments over the years; the New York Times was sharply critical of his civil rights record, but nonetheless called for recognition that his record on the whole displayed far more historic accomplishments than flaws: “His courage saved lives. Few politicians can lay claim to that epitaph.” Civil rights record– He voted against the Fair Employment Practices Committee as well as most of the major civil rights bills in his career in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Under pressure from the Southern bloc he participated in filibusters against them and occasionally made statements supporting the segregationist status quo. On most occasions he tried to avoid controversial racial issues as much as possible. In 1956 he warned his fellow Southerners not to go through with the anti-Brown decision Southern Manifesto because the ruling was the law of the land and it was folly to encourage constituents to think it could be obstructed. Under heavy pressure from fellow Southerners in the Senate, he decided opposition to the Manifesto would end his political career and allow a hard-line segregationist to replace him in the Senate, thus accomplishing nothing for civil rights and eliminating his ability to do his constructive work in foreign policy. In 1957 he was in Great Britain at the time Faubus sought to block desegregation of Little Rock Central High and stayed there for a long time in a clear effort to avoid taking a stand. In 1960 President Kennedy’s first choice for Secretary of State was Fulbright, but he eventually decided not to appoint the senator because of his civil rights record. Fulbright’s views began to change in the early 1960s when he was deeply impressed by King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He seriously considered voting for the civil rights act in 1964. Throughout his career he was a strong proponent for federal aid to education, which was opposed by segregationists because these initiatives helped blacks as well as whites. He reluctantly came to the conclusion that it would end his political career if he supported the 1964 bill, and his anguish over the decision was recorded for posterity in a White House audio-tape of his conversation with President Johnson on April 29, 1964: Fulbright: “Jesus Christ, I’m really over a barrel on this thing. I wish to hell I could vote with you (in favor of the civil rights act). You know that.” Johnson was surprisingly forgiving and understanding of Fulbright’s position, given his reputation for tempestuous pressures on other politicians to vote with him, saying simply, “I know that. I know it.” Fulbright made a similar agonizing decision in 1965, voting against the Voting Rights Act. Political context of his time: Gov. Orval Faubus seriously considered running against Fulbright in 1962 and after Faubus’ tenure as governor ended in 1967, he again publicly speculated about running against him in 1968. On both occasions, powerful financial and political leaders in the state such as Witt Stephens who were supporters of the segregationist status quo privately warned Faubus not to run. The support of these powerful figures and the reality that Fulbright’s civil rights record had deprived Faubus of political ammunition on race to use against the senator led Faubus not to run. Fulbright faced “Justice Jim” Johnson—an racial extremist who also denounced Fulbright’s opposition to the Vietnam War in 1968. Fulbright’s vote for Thurgood Marshall’s nomination to the Supreme Court had antagonized many segregationists, and in 1968 during his election campaign Fulbright voted against the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Fulbright escaped a run-off against Johnson and other candidates in the primary with only 53% of the vote. Fulbright did evolve and broke with the Southern bloc on several key civil rights vote over the last seven years of his career, including his crucial role in blocking Nixon’s appointment of the racist Harrold Carswell to the US Supreme Court: There was evidence of change by 1966 when the moderate Winthrop Rockefeller was elected governor. Accordingly, Fulbright did break with the Southern bloc on several key votes over the latter part of his career. In 1967 he was one of only six Southern senators to vote for Thurgood Marshall as the first black Supreme Court Justice, responding to criticism by saying he thought Marshall was a well qualified legal expert and refused to oppose him on the basis of “the nominee’s race.” In 1970 he voted for the Voting Rights Act of that year extending and strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by such provisions as a nationwide ban on literacy tests that disfranchised many blacks. Again he was swimming against the contemporary political currents in the South as only four Southerners joined him in supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1970, as well as his stand on the 1972 antibusing bill. Most impressively, he played a crucial role in defeating President Nixon’s nomination of the racist Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court in a vote that was perilously close and that offended many of Fulbright’s constituents. Blocking Nixon’s efforts to hamper the federal courts in the antibusing issues: President Nixon pursued his Southern strategy, promoting legislation that would have prohibited federal courts and agencies from requiring that any student be assigned to a school other than the one “closest or next closest” to his home that provided the proper grade level. Progressives in the North and elsewhere engaged in a filibuster, and most Southerners supported invoking cloture; the crucial bloc of votes were moderate Republicans and Fulbright. The New York Times reported that “Today, every Southern senator except J. W. Fulbright, the Arkansas Democrat, voted for cloture.” Fulbright not only voted against cloture but also voted with progressives in setting aside the antibusing bill. The Arkansas Gazette—which supported Fulbright on foreign policy but often criticized his civil rights positions–editorialized that Fulbright, who had some doubts about busing, had acted as a “great conservative” in opposing an antibusing bill that was an effort to obstruct the federal courts in their constitutional duties. The senator weathered the Nixon storm in 1972 and stood for the principles of thorough debate in the Senate, the constitutional system of checks and balances, moderation in desegregation, and respect for the proper role of the federal courts in fashioning remedies in desegregation lawsuits.
In the 20 years that I knew him, Fulbright did not explicitly apologize for his civil rights record, although he said “Integration had to come.” The main thrust of his explanation was to say that a courageous stand on race would only have allowed Faubus, Justice Jim Johnson or another demagogue to destroy his career, provide them with an even larger platform in the US Senate for their demagogy, and end his ability to provide historic leadership in foreign policy. He acknowledged that many people he greatly respected advised him to speak up on civil rights and he always seriously listened to them. Fulbright cited the defeat of his friend Congressman Brooks Hays in 1958 after calling for adherence to Brown as the law of the land as evidence of what happened to those who challenged the segregationist status quo. His critics countered that Hays won his Democratic primary election and was defeated by a very narrow margin in the general election in a vote marred by electoral fraud in a last-minute write-in vote by Faubus’s machine and his ally, Dale Alford. By the mid-1960s, Arkansas was beginning to change with the election of Rockefeller in 1966. On the Central High crisis, critics would point out that this was deeper than a political issue and went to the fundamental concept of standing up for the rule of law. Fulbright would listen respectfully, but he ultimately returned to his conclusion: “Well, you could speculate about that, but I had no desire for martyrdom.” We have quite a dilemma in assessing such a complex and gigantic legacy. Our goal here is to present the facts about both his great accomplishments and his flaws. We know you will draw your own conclusions after considering the facts.

A Factual Summary of Senator Fulbright’s Legacy, 1942-1974 Opposing isolationism in 1940–Fulbright first attracted national attention in 1940 for a series of speeches denouncing the current isolationist policies of the United States and warning America to wake up to the dire menace Hitler posed to world peace. His foreign policy continued to be the main focus of his work in Congress as a freshman US representative, when he worked with President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in passing the Fulbright Resolution, which placed the US House on record as favoring US participation in a future United Nations Organization. When President Harry Truman announced the formation of the United Nations with American participation, he said it fulfilled the intent of the Fulbright Resolution. Fulbright Scholarship Program–In 1946 Fulbright sponsored the legislation creating the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which has granted 390,000 scholarships since that time and continues to grant them at the rate of 8,000 per year. 60 Fulbright Scholars won Nobel Prizes, 86 won Pultizer Prizes, and 37 Fulbright Scholars later became heads of state, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America. President John F. Kennedy described the Fulbright Program as “the classic modern example of beating swords into plowshares.” Among those who benefited early in their careers from Fulbright Scholarships are the following examples: • Boutros Boutros Ghali, Egyptian political leader and Secretary General of the UN, 1992-96; • John Hope Franklin, a great scholar in the field of African American history, author of the classic From Slavery to Freedom, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; • Eudora Welty, Pultizer Prize winner for fiction; • C. Vann Woodward, Pulitzer Prize winner in history; • Classical soprano Renee Fleming; • Composer Aaron Copland; • Gabrielle Giffords, Congresswoman from Arizona; • Baidyanath Misra, former Vice-Chancellor of Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, a major research institution in the Indian state of Odisha; • Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner, founder of Grameen Bank and pioneer in microcredit and microfinance. Opposition to Joe McCarthy and other Cold War extremists–In the late 1940s and early 1950s Fulbright opposed the extreme anti-communist positions of General Douglas MacArthur, Sen. Joe McCarthy and others who denounced the Truman administration for having “lost” mainland China to communism. Fulbright confronted MacArthur at a Congressional hearing when the general was advocating air strikes in the Korean War shortly after he was relieved of command by Truman for insubordination. MacArthur was widely considered a hero and briefly captured widespread popular support, although Fulbright and other moderate leaders eventually were perceived as correct in warning that air strikes were the inevitable prelude to combat troops and gravely risked World War III. Fulbright similarly opposed McCarthy’s efforts to smear loyal citizens with having affinity for “communist causes,” blocked his efforts to cut funding for the Fulbright Scholarship Program on the bogus grounds that many Fulbright Scholars were communists or communist sympathizers, and relentless exposed McCarthy’s failure to provide any evidence for his false charges. At one point, Fulbright stood alone in the Senate in opposing Joe McCarthy: In February, 1954, Fulbright was the only member of the US Senate to oppose funding for McCarthy’s investigations subcommittee, casting the lone dissent as the Senate voted 85 to 1 in McCarthy’s favor. This courageous act shocked many other senators who were concerned about McCarthy’s demagogy into joining Fulbright’s efforts to oppose McCarthy, who was finally censured by the Senate in late 1954 with Fulbright and other leaders of both parties in support. Dissent from the Dulles Cold Warrior strategy, and warning to President Kennedy not to order the tragic Bay of Pigs invasion against Cuba–Fulbright opposed the Cold Warrior policies of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and the Eisenhower administration’s interventionism in the 1950s in the Middle East and Latin America. He called then and for the remainder of his career for a more evenhanded policy in the Middle East that would protect Israel’s security while acknowledging that Palestinians and other Arabs also had legitimate issues and grievances. When President Kennedy was faced with deciding whether to continue the Eisenhower administration’s plan to invade Castro’s Cuba with a force of CIA-trained Cuban exiles, Fulbright was the only official present at the final strategy review before the Bay of Pigs who warned Kennedy that it would be a tragic mistake and would “nullify our work of 30 years in trying to live down earlier interventions in Latin America.” After Kennedy rejected his advice and the Bay of Pigs invasion ended in disaster, Kennedy grimly turned to Fulbright at a review session with Cabinet members and Congressional leaders and told him, “you’re the only man here who can say I told you so.” A serious mistake in supporting Johnson in 1964–Fulbright’s foreign policy record includes one serious error: in the early 1960s he supported the current Cold War attitude that the Presidency must take the lead in foreign policy, with Congress playing a much more secondary role. He was influenced by his experiences with McCarthy and other extremists in Congress, along with the reality that in Kennedy and Johnson he now had presidents of his own party. His greatest error in foreign policy was in trusting Johnson’s frequent pleas to him in 1964 that he agreed with Fulbright’s position in favor of a negotiated settlement in Vietnam and opposed a military solution. When Johnson presented to Fulbright, the Congress and the public a view of alleged North Vietnamese aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 that later research exposed to have been grossly exaggerated, instead of conducting a Congressional investigation and holding hearings, Fulbright accepted Johnson’s version of the events and supported the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which endorsed the use of military force to halt alleged communist aggression in southeast Asia. Fulbright’s candid admissions of error in supporting Johnson regarding Vietnam in 1964–Fulbright later admitted that he made a grievous mistake in believing Johnson without holding hearings, as well as in his expansive view of Presidential power in foreign policy that would ultimately bring such dire harm on the nation’s policies in Vietnam for the remainder of the Johnson and Nixon administrations. He admitted that he was influenced by the threat of Goldwater, who had spoken of defoliating the jungle trails in Vietnam with low-yield atomic bombs. As the US escalation in Vietnam continued in 1965, Fulbright became increasingly alarmed and repeatedly warned Johnson to seek a negotiated settlement. He broke with the administration over Johnson’s military intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965 based on a grossly exaggerated claim of communist aggression. By late 1965 he was increasingly critical of US bombing campaigns in Vietnam. Fulbright always opposed military escalation in Vietnam, even at the height of the Gulf of Tonkin incidents: We need to recognize that Fulbright opposed a military intervention, stating clearly during the debate: “I personally feel it would be very unwise under any circumstances to put a large land army on the Asian continent.” He mistakenly but clearly thought he was supporting a peaceful solution in Vietnam by supporting Johnson. He did not see the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as being the final word on US policy in Vietnam, and stated during the Senate debate that “I have no doubt that the President will consult with Congress in case a major policy change in present policy becomes necessary.” Fulbright would later conclude to his great distress that Johnson only consulted a narrow circle of advisers who were rigid Cold Warriors. We need to consider the historical context. Goldwater at the time was emphatically calling for massive escalation and the reference to atomic bombs is chilling. Without in any way denying the reality that Johnson’s Vietnam policy ended in tragedy, had Goldwater been elected there is no doubt he would have escalated the war even more rapidly and with even more massive military force. As it happened, Goldwater never garnered more than minority support and Johnson was elected by a landslide. Dr. Martin Luther King’s accolade to Fulbright’s foreign policy leadership in late 1965–Ironically, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the greatest accolade Fulbright ever received in November, 1965 correspondence. The Southern senator and the civil rights leader obviously held vastly divergent views and constituencies on civil rights, but King was becoming deeply concerned about American interventionism in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam. He encouraged Fulbright to persevere in his dissent, writing “In many respects the destiny of our nation may rest largely in your hands. I know the tremendous price you pay for your outspoken critique of administration policy, and I write to you these words simply as personal encouragement and to let you know that there are many of us who admire and respect your role in our nation’s international affairs… Yours is one voice crying in the wilderness that may ultimately awaken our people to the international facts of life. I trust that you will not let any pressure silence you.” Fulbright’s opposition to the Vietnam War–Fulbright replied with great appreciation for King’s kind words, but was pessimistic about his ability to change Johnson’s policies. Yet he did persevere, holding the historic Vietnam and China hearings in early 1966 that transformed the anti-war movement from what was widely perceived as a small minority on the fringes of American politics to an inexorably more powerful coalition that would ultimately end American involvement in the Vietnam War. His famous book The Arrogance of Power expanded upon the Vietnam and China hearings to warn America not to attempt to police the world and eradicate any movements that obtain even minor levels of leftist support. We must again consider the historical context—when Fulbright sought to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1966 on the grounds that Johnson grossly exaggerated the Tonkin incident and had violated his pledge in 1964 that he was not going to send American boys thousands of miles away from home to do what Asian boys should be doing for themselves, he mustered only four other votes—Fulbright lost the vote in the spring of 1966 by the vote of 92 to 5. Nonetheless, the opponents of the war gradually gathered strength, prevented any decision to allow the war to spread to China, and took the unprecedented step of threatening to cut off funds for the war. Fulbright denounced Nixon’s “Vietnamization” of the war, lamenting that it was needlessly prolonging the bloodshed in southeast Asia. The long nightmare ended in 1973. Assessments of the senator’s record varied tremendously: General Alexander Haig, for example, called Fulbright a “traitor” because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Presidents Johnson and Nixon were bitterly critical of him. While Fulbright lamented the prolongation of the war in spite of the dissenters, many others gave a more positive assessment of his opposition to America’s lost crusade. The famous writer Walter Lippmann called him the “bravest and wisest of counselors,” and John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, “Of all persons who, for their foreign policy, I’ve wished might be president, Fulbright stands first.” The New York Times was often scathingly critical of Fulbright’s civil rights record, but concluded “Most congressional careers featured the same sellouts without rising to the heights in a transcendental issue… He challenged powerful enemies and bad ideas at the flood tide of their power…His courage saved lives. Few politicians can lay claim to that epitaph.” Détente with the Soviet Union and China–At the end of Fulbright’s career, he collaborated with his long-time adversary President Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the détente with the Soviet Union and China that marked a departure from decades of Cold War international tensions and led many Americans to re-assess the rigid, militarist anti-communist ideology of the time. He called for a more evenhanded policy in the Middle East that would protect Israel’s security while acknowledging that Palestinians and other Arabs also had legitimate issues and grievances. After his career ended he was honored by many regions across the globe, including western Europe, Greece, Anwar Sadat in Egypt, and in the USA he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. We should consider the environment in which he held these foreign policy positions—in retrospect they were courageous and wise, but at the time he was harshly criticized by the many advocates of a hard-line, militaristic strategy. Fulbright and civil rights–Along with foreign policy positions that were controversial at the time but in retrospect have become widely considered to be thoughtful or even prophetic, Fulbright had a different record in civil rights. In his first campaign for the Senate in 1944, he sought to run on his international relations leadership as the United States finished World War II and sought to create a peaceful post-war order. His opponent was an adamant segregationist, Homer Adkins, who sought to question Fulbright’s views on domestic issues including race. Adkins’ most strident attacks against Fulbright concerned race. He bought full-page newspaper advertisements denouncing Fulbright for having been the only member of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation to vote for reinstating William Pickens, an African American Treasury Department employee who had been accused of communist associations by Congressman Martin Dies (D-Texas) and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Fulbright had contended that Dies never proved any of the allegations against Pickens and staunchly opposed the redbaiting witch hunts of the House Un-American Activities. In this case both racial and anti-communist issues were intertwined. In the context of the attack on his record merely because he had defended a loyal government employee and refused to support firing him because of his race, Fulbright responded with a general statement on civil rights stating that he was not in favor of social equality and he did not believe blacks should vote in primary elections. This was the position the vast majority of Southern politicians who had any hope of getting elected maintained at that time. Nonetheless, this statement was later bitterly criticized by progressive forces of both races. In 1948, he supported President Truman and opposed the hard-core segregationist Presidential campaign of Strom Thurmond, who condemned Truman’s progressive record on civil rights. In the late 1940s Fulbright worked for the desegregation of the University of Arkansas Law School. Initial hopes for moderation are dashed—the road to the Southern Manifesto–In 1954-55, Fulbright initially held hopes for a peaceful, moderate Southern response to the Brown decision. He advised his constituents that the Supreme Court’s desegregation ruling was the law of land, and responded positively to the early desegregation of schools in Fayetteville and Charleston, Arkansas. However, the forces of reaction gained powerful momentum in 1956, when the Southern bloc led by Sen. Harry Byrd of Virginia circulated the Southern Manifesto, a denunciation of the Brown decision. Fulbright was alarmed by the extremism of the document and sent a memorandum to his fellow Southerners warning that the decision was the law of the land and it was folly to give Southerners the false hope that anything could be done to obstruct it. While the senators deleted a few of the most incendiary phrases, they were relentless in pressing Fulbright to sign and not be disloyal to the Southern bloc. He eventually decided that he had to do so if he wanted to stay in the Senate to do what he regarded as his vital work in foreign policy and education. His private objections had no significant impact, and Fulbright’s name appeared on the Southern Manifesto along with those of Strom Thurmond, James Eastland, Harry Byrd and other adamant segregationists. Again, we need to consider the political context of the time. Fulbright believed that if he opposed the Southern Manifesto, he would invite an opponent for his re-election that was pending at the time of the Manifesto debate in 1956. Senator Byrd was ominously threatening Fulbright and all others who were wavering such as Sen. George Smathers of Florida that not signing the document would be “disloyalty” to the Southern region. A courageous break with the Southern bloc would have been greeted with banner headlines that “Fulbright Breaks with Southern Bloc on Race, Opposes Southern Manifesto.” Unquestionably any opponent would have been given powerful political ammunition to use against Fulbright. This is not to defend his position, but to point out that one likely consequence of such a dissent would have been that Fulbright would have been replaced in the Senate by a hard-line segregationist in 1956. People have taken differing views on the issue depending on their philosophies and life experiences ever since. There are plausible arguments on both sides. We must acknowledge the fact that most assessments of his signing the Manifesto have been sharply critical. Failure to oppose Faubus in the Central High crisis–In 1957, Fulbright remained a long time in Great Britain at the time of Gov. Orval Faubus’ attempt to block the desegregation of Little Rock Central High. He was clearly trying to avoid having to make any statement on the issue. Ever since he received severe criticism, because the Central High crisis was not just a “liberal vs. conservative” political issue but reached the fundamental level of standing up for the rule of law. Fulbright eventually published a statement saying: “It is regrettable and it is tragic that Federal troops are in Little Rock. The people of Little Rock and of Arkansas do not deserve this treatment. The citizens of Arkansas are, and always have been, law-abiding citizens.” Most observers criticized this cryptic statement as a criticism of Eisenhower and a defense of Faubus, although Fulbright denied it. It is a fact that the statement contained no criticism of Faubus, who was the primary instigator of the Little Rock Central crisis. Rusk instead of Fulbright becomes Secretary of State due to Fulbright’s civil rights record–Among the consequences of Fulbright’s troubling decisions on civil rights was the outcome of President-Elect John F. Kennedy’s selection of a Secretary of State in late 1960: Robert Kennedy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and many others close to JFK reported that his first choice was Fulbright, but the senator was opposed by many African Americans and other racial progressives in America. Having a Secretary of State with a segregationist voting record would have damaged American policy in Africa and most of the developing world. Thus Kennedy eventually selected the orthodox Cold Warrior Dean Rusk of Georgia, later a key supporter and defender of the Vietnam War in contrast to Fulbright’s historic dissent against the war. Rusk had been serving during the massive resistance era as a foundation executive and of course did not have to vote on civil rights legislation, unlike Southern elected officials. Knowledgeable historians and other political analysts have noted the stark contrast between Fulbright and Rusk in foreign policy and contended that America might not have intervened militarily in southeast Asia with Fulbright’s powerful mind and voice as Secretary of State in the Kennedy administration. We will never know. Fullbright compared Faubus to McCarthy– in an October, 1957 letter to a constituent, Fulbright derisively compared Faubus, “a small man from the hills,” to Joe McCarthy and lamented that “The most discouraging thing is that I believe the Governor now senses that he has a vehicle for publicity and notice, and that he will not permit it to be solved or even calmed down until after the next election.” He added that “When the facts begin to come apparent, there will be a reaction just as there was with McCarthy, but it will take time to develop.” Fulbright said that he would wait for people to calm down and examine the facts before speaking out regarding Faubus, but as it happened that time never came and he never publicly challenged Faubus. Later he did make a few comments along the lines that Faubus had handled the Central crisis badly, but the main record was to avoid public opposition to Faubus. Unfortunately for Fulbright’s assessment, Faubus would remain in power until January, 1967, despite such extremist positions as a 1958 speech comparing the massive resisters against the Brown decision to George Washington and the patriots who fought against King George III in the American revolution: “Suppose it (the Brown decision) is the law of the land, that does not mean it has to be obeyed. The orders of George III were the law of the land for the colonies, but they didn’t have to be obeyed.” On this view, the “massive resisters” against desegregation were similar to George Washington and the Supreme Court need not be obeyed. Congressman Hays’ defeat–Fulbright often cited the melancholy experience of his friend, the moderate Congressman Brooks Hays, who had called for obeying the Supreme Court as the law of the land. He defeated a segregationist opponent in the Democratic primary in 1958 by a solid margin. But then Faubus and an adamant segregationist ally, Dale Alford, devised the stratagem of a write-in campaign containing pre-printed stickers with a check by Alford’s name. This was illegal because write-in votes were supposed to be written in by hand. Despite the fraudulent tactics and the element of surprise of the last-minute write-in candidate after Hays’ victory in the usually decisive Democratic primary, Hays lost by the narrow margin of only 1,100 votes. In reflecting about Hays’ defeat, Fulbright concluded that if he had taken similar risks on civil rights, he would have been defeated by Faubus or a similar extremist, thus not only preventing him from achieving his historic work in foreign policy but also elevating Faubus to the US Senate and giving him an even more visible platform. A different analysis of Hays’ election emphasized that Hays had won the primary and narrowly lost the general election marred by electoral improprieties. Had Hays received stronger support from the more moderate forces in Arkansas—of whom Fulbright was not the only one but held the greatest influence at the time—some analysts Hays might have survived the election. We will never know, of course, but it was a close question. It must be emphasized that we are not talking about a flaming liberal position on race in the late 1950s—no Southern politician could have been elected at the time with such a stand. But the “moderate” view of the era that Brown was the law of the land and must be obeyed, was controversial but did have significant support. When I asked Fulbright if he had made a vocal, highly publicized effort to join Hays and the other moderates in simply calling for adherence to the rule of law, he replied, “Well, you could speculate about that but I had no desire for martyrdom.” In reflecting about Hays’ defeat, Fulbright concluded that if he had taken similar risks on civil rights, he would have been defeated by Faubus or a similar extremist, thus not only preventing him from achieving his historic work in the Senate in foreign policy but also elevating Faubus to the US Senate and giving him an even more visible platform. In addition to the strictly political argument, Fulbright’s critics would highlight the deeper argument regarding upholding the rule of law and opposing efforts to incite mob violence and assert that such profound values were worthy of risking his seat in the Senate. They would argue that the comparison to McCarthy was right, but Fulbright’s leadership in opposing McCarthy was needed just as badly against Faubus. The varying arguments all have their plausibility. Faubus seriously considered running against Fulbright in 1962. There was a gradually growing moderate minority led by Winthrop Rockefeller, civil rights leader Daisy Bates, the highly respected former Gov. Sid McMath, the progressive Arkansas Gazette that was the state’s largest newspaper included an editorial policy that was moving under the late James O. Powell to not only arguing that Brown was the law of the land but that desegregation was a positive and needed step, and other moderates. The Kennedy administration privately warned Faubus not to run against Fulbright, due to Kennedy’s admiration for Fulbright’s foreign policy positions and his desire to avoid the embarrassment of having one of the most vociferous racial demagogues in the US Senate. Sources close to Faubus later reported that it was likely not the presence of a moderate minority or the Kennedy administration’s private warning that led Faubus to eventually decide against challenging Fulbright, but rather the basic realities that Fulbright’s concessions on civil rights deprived him of political ammunition to use against the senator on race, and powerful leaders in Arkansas who were friends of both Fulbright and Faubus warned the governor not to run against the senator. Foremost among those was the state’s most influential power-broker, the financier Witt Stephens, who was a financial and political supporter of Faubus and warned him not to run against Fulbright. Fulbright defeated a minor segregationist by a comfortable margin in 1962. Fulbright’s views begin to change, but still public adherence to Southern orthodoxy–In the 1960s Fulbright was impressed by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and began privately advising the Kennedy administration of what the Southern segregationist bloc’s strategic plans were. After Kennedy’s assassination the senator seriously considered voting for the civil rights act of 1964. He ultimately once again concluded that the right wing in Arkansas was still too powerful, and when he informed his long-time friend and ally President Lyndon Johnson of his decision to vote against it, his anguish was captured in a White House audio-tape of his conversation with the President on April 29, 1964: Fulbright: “It’s a kind of embarrassing thing for me, as you know…Goddamn it, I’m never very enthusiastic.” Johnson: “I know. I know. I know it.” Fulbright: “Jesus Christ, I’m really over a barrel on this thing. I wish to hell I could vote with you (in favor of the civil rights act). You know that.” Johnson: “I know that. I know it.” Fulbright’s most controversial vote on a race-related issue—opposing the Voting Rights Act of 1965–Fulbright campaigned in Arkansas for Johnson against Goldwater in 1964, arguing that the passage of the civil rights bill had decided the issue and it was time to move on to other subjects. This was incorrect, because there was far more work to do in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Fulbright once again went through a lengthy round of consulting with his moderate as well as his more cautious, conservative friends, and once again he voted against the bill. By 1965, Arkansas was moving in a moderate direction and Winthrop Rockefeller would usher in a more centrist and constructive era in Arkansas politics with his election as governor in 1966, when Faubus did not run again. Fulbright had three years before his next re-election. This is not to say he definitely could have voted for the act in 1965 and still been re-elected in 1968. Indeed it is possible that Justice Jim Johnson would have used it to succeed in his campaign against Fulbright that year. But the vote in 1965 was different from the earlier votes, when it was clear that voting against the Southern majority would have meant the end of his tenure in the Senate. By 1965 the political equation was becoming more complex and it could be debated either way. Political context was still difficult–The threat of Faubus, Justice Jim Johnson or another right wing opponent continued to loom over the senator. After Faubus retired from the governor’s chair in 1967, he publicly expressed interest in running against Fulbright in 1968, but a similar calculation as in 1962 again led him not to run. Fulbright was opposed by four candidates in 1968, the strongest of whom was Justice Jim Johnson, who in addition to assailing Fulbright for opposing the Vietnam War, also blasted him for allegedly not being sufficiently pro-segregationist in domestic policy. Johnson’s dubious claim to fame was that he managed to establish a position on race that was more extreme than Faubus. Fulbright escaped a run-off in the Democratic primary (that usually assured election at the time) with only 53% of the vote, and the second place candidate was Justice Jim Johnson. In that year, with the Johnson electoral threat looming, he voted against the Fair Housing Act of 1968. We do not need to in any way excuse Fulbright’s vote, but it should be stated that replacing Fulbright with a militarist and full-fledged racist would have been a disaster not only regionally but nationally. Fulbright was a strong proponent of federal aid to education across the USA. This was controversial among many Southerners, because these initiatives helped African American students as well as whites. The senator steadfastly maintained that education was crucial in bringing about greater justice and economic opportunity for blacks. A victory for the environment on the Buffalo River: On another important domestic policy issue, Fulbright supported the burgeoning environmentalist movement, and he had a notable success in passing legislation that made the Buffalo River in Arkansas a national river. Fulbright’s stand in favor of preserving the Buffalo earned him the disapproval of those who argued that business development was more important than saving the Buffalo. The Army Corps of Engineers had built dams tht created large lakes in Arkansas that supplied electricity and flood control and led to the growth of large real estate investment projects. Some lakes were beginning to have problems with boat traffic jams and excessive sewage caused by the presence of too many septic tanks. In the 1960s and 1970s Arkanss promoters encouraged the Corp to dam more and more free-flowing streams. The Buffalo was one of the major free-flowing streams in Arkansas, and it provided spectacular scenery as it passed through the heart of the Ozark Mountains.

Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall called it a “national treasure,” and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas floated down the Buffalo and pronounced it “worth fighting to the death to preserve.” The entire House of Representatives delegation nevertheless supported the business promoters. Fulbright adroitly and fortunately enlisted unlikely allies in Gov. Faubus and Sen. McClellan, and endorsed National Park Service status for the river. In 1972 Congress made the Buffalo a national river. The debate for environmental preservation on the Buffalo continues to this day, and Fulbright would unquestionably oppose efforts to place large hog-feeding operations near the Buffalo. During his life-time, in any event, the environmentalists won the debate.

Break with the Southern bloc—Fulbright supports Thurgood Marshall’s elevation to the Supreme Court–Despite the ongoing threat from the right, in 1967 Fulbright broke from the Southern bloc and was one of only six Southern senators who voted for the elevation of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. He began giving substantial weight to more progressive advisers such as Wiley Branton, one of the first black graduates of the University of Arkansas Law School who was a nationally recognized civil rights leader. In responding to criticism from constituents for his vote for Marshall, he responded that Marshall was well qualified for the Supreme Court and he did not consider it appropriate to oppose Marshall because of “the nominee’s race.” Impact of the Vietnam War on African Americans and social programs: Fulbright was an admirer of President Johnson’s Great Society domestic reforms, and lamented the impact of the Vietnam War in devouring financial and human resources that could have been devoted to solution of social and economic problems at home. He lamented the disproportionate sacrifice blacks were paying in Vietnam, for twice as many blacks as whites in early 1967 died in combat (20.6%) in proportion to their numbers in the population. In the nationally publicized “Price of Empire” speech to the American Bar Association in 1967, he said “We are truly fighting a two-front war and doing badly in both…Congress has been all too willing to provide unlimited sums for the military and not very reluctant at all to offset these costs by cutting funds for the poverty program and urban renewal, for rent supplements for the poor and even for a program to help protect slum children from being bitten by rats.” The rat eradication program cost $20 million, about one percent of the war’s monthly cost. For those who dismissed the importance of $20 million to help eradicate rats from low income areas largely inhabited by African Americans, Fulbright replied that if rats are in your house you think it’s important to get rid of them, and while such actions would not be a panacea for racial unrest, “it would suggest that somebody cared. The discrepancy of attitudes tells at least as much about our national values as the discrepancy of dollars.”

In 1970, Fulbright was one of only five Southern senators to vote for extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 13 Southerners voted against it, six declined to vote, and only four others joined Fulbright in supporting it. The bill not only extended the Voting Rights Act but strengthened it through such provisions as a nationwide ban on literacy tests that continued to disfranchise many blacks. The Nixon administration did not flatly oppose it but sought to weaken the voting rights act. Congress blocked this effort and the vote was a significant victory for civil rights advocates. The importance of this issue is poignant today, as there are many forces in President Trump’s administration and in Congress who support weakening voting rights legislation.

Fulbright played a key role in defeating President Nixon’s nomination of the racist Harrold Carswell in 1970. Fulbright voted to recommit the nomination to the Judiciary Committee so as to allow more time for investigation into his record. This was greeted with great surprise at the time, with the New York Times editorializing that it was a major blow to Carswell’s prospects. The vote to recommit was crucial because it provided greater time in prolonging the debate and for undecided senators to reflect on the weaknesses of the nomination. From a situation where Carswell likely had enough votes to become a Supreme Court justice, his support declined substantially, although even so the final vote against him was only 51 to 45. John McClellan and most other Southerners voted for Carswell. Fulbright’s role in the debate was crucial and likely prevented a racist from being elevated to the nation’s highest court. A national wire service report at the time stated that Fulbright’s “break with the majority of his fellow Southerners was a key factor in Carswell’s defeat.” Many of his constituents lambasted his decision and stated that they would never vote for him again.

Vote against Carswell was controversial in Arkansas–On the other side of the spectrum, moderates, civil rights advocates and many African Americans lauded Fulbright’s stand. The senator’s African American staff member in his Little Rock office, Ben Grinage, gave one of the most poignant accolades in sending a memorandum to Fulbright saying, “I personally am prouder than ever to be a part of your team.” Sadly, he also dutifully reported that many white constituents had called to say that they would never again vote for Fulbright.

Blocking Nixon’s efforts to hamper the federal courts in the antibusing issues: President Nixon pursued his Southern strategy, promoting legislation that would have prohibited federal courts and agencies from requiring that any student be assigned to a school other than the one “closest or next closest” to his home that provided the proper grade level. Opponents of the bill argued that it would have obstructed progress toward desegregation made so painstakingly during the previous two decades. Progressives in the North and elsewhere engaged in a filibuster, and most Southerners supported invoking cloture; the crucial bloc of votes were moderate Republicans and Fulbright. The New York Times reported that “Today, every Southern senator except J. W. Fulbright, the Arkansas Democrat, voted for cloture.” Fulbright not only voted against cloture but also voted with progressives in setting aside the antibusing bill. The Arkansas Gazette—which supported Fulbright on foreign policy but often criticized his civil rights positions–editorialized that Fulbright, who had some doubts about busing, had acted as a “great conservative” in opposing an antibusing bill that was an effort to obstruct the federal courts in their constitutional duties. The senator weathered the Nixon storm in 1972 and stood for the principles of thorough debate in the Senate, the constitutional system of checks and balances, moderation in desegregation, and respect for the proper role of the federal courts in fashioning remedies in desegregation lawsuits.
Fulbright was defeated the next time he ran for re-election–1974. The reasons are complex. Fulbright carried the political baggage of 32 years of controversial stands on foreign policy, and now added the hotly debated votes for Marshall and the Voting Rights Act of 1970, and opposition to Carswell. There was a generalized anti-incumbent sentiment in Arkansas during Watergate to “throw the rascals out”—this was not particularly logical because Fulbright had nothing to do with Watergate and had bitterly opposed Nixon on Vietnam. Ironically, his opponent was his former political ally, the progressive Gov. Dale Bumpers, who waged a vague, generalized campaign stating that “there is a mess in Washington,” Fulbright has been there 30 years, and it’s time for a change. The tremendous political talents of the dynamic Bumpers were another important factor in the outcome. Fulbright was 69 and somewhat wearied by decades of political strife during one of the most tempestuous eras of American history. Bumpers would go on to become a distinguished, progressive senator in his own right, and the two eventually reconciled and renewed their earlier friendship and political agreement in Fulbright’s years as an elder statesman. Bumpers was an admirer of Fulbright’s foreign policy leadership, and paid tribute to him by saying: “He turned me against the Vietnam War before he even knew my name.”

Retrospective discussions–In retrospective discussions, Fulbright remained defensive about his civil rights record, whereas many scholars and political analysts believed a much wiser course would have been to express genuine regrets for his mistakes since he had acknowledged that “Integration had to come.” He did not apologize for his civil rights record, but simply tried to excuse it as based on his constituents’ views. This provides a sharp contrast to foreign policy where he would freely admit error as in the case of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. He would defensively cite the political pressures, and also philosophize that the crucial responses to the plight of African Americans should have been greater investments in education, housing, community development and other social programs. While these programs were undoubtedly important, as long as schools and other institutions remained separate the majority race’s institutions would always be superior. His views on race were not remotely “liberal” and espoused a fatalistic view that some domestic problems were so intractable that they lack a clear solution and we must patiently live with them. Critics would respond that with such a defeatist view, little or no progress in civil rights could ever have been achieved.

It is crucial to emphasize the sharp contrast between Fulbright and the Faubuses and Wallaces. He usually tried to avoid the issue as much as possible, occasionally making restrained calls for moderation and adherence to the law, but when under duress made statements expressing loyalty to the Southern bloc. This is in sharp contrast to the many other Southern politicians of the day who magnified their popularity by inflaming racial hatreds and actively attempting to defy the law. Had he been a racist, the popular and natural course was to join in the race-baiting. Not only did Faubus claim that the South need not obey Brown, but his language literally became bloody with a stark indifference to facts, depicting his native Arkansas as “under military occupation” in 1957 and ranting against the federal troops’ bayonets sent in by Eisenhower; he lamented “the warm red blood of patriotic citizens staining the cold, naked, unsheathed knives.” Actually the federal troops did not inflict any casualties. Faubus bashed Fulbright as an “addle-brained visionary” and warned that he had better make his scheduled speaking tours back in Arkansas in a clear threat to his political survival, with the only factual basis being Fulbright’s refusal to join in the extremism. Fulbright’s view was that he would risk his political career for foreign policy and education, but not for what he saw as a quixotic crusade to challenge the dominant segregationism of his time. This is not to excuse his record but to highlight the context of the virulent environment in which he lived. In the 20 years that I knew him, Fulbright did not explicitly apologize for his civil rights record, although he said “Integration had to come.” The main thrust of his explanation was to say that a courageous stand on race would only have allowed Faubus, Justice Jim Johnson or another demagogue to destroy his career, provide them with an even larger platform in the US Senate for their demagogy, and end his ability to provide historic leadership in foreign policy. He acknowledged that many people he greatly respected advised him to speak up on civil rights and he always seriously listened to them. Fulbright cited the defeat of his friend Congressman Brooks Hays in 1958 after calling for adherence to Brown as the law of the land as evidence of what happened to those who challenged the segregationist status quo. His critics countered that Hays won his Democratic primary election and was defeated by a very narrow margin in the general election in a vote marred by electoral fraud in a last-minute write-in vote by Faubus’s machine and his ally, Dale Alford. By the mid-1960s, Arkansas was beginning to change with the election of Rockefeller in 1966. On the Central High crisis, critics would point out that this was deeper than a political issue and went to the fundamental concept of standing up for the rule of law. Fulbright would listen respectfully, but he ultimately returned to his conclusion: “Well, you could speculate about that, but I had no desire for martyrdom.” Again, we face quite a dilemma in assessing such a conflicted, complex and gigantic legacy. We believe our goal should be to understand the greatness as well as the tragic flaw of J. William Fulbright.


Lee Riley Powell, author J. William Fulbright and His Time, 1996 (with a foreword by President William Jefferson Clinton, who admired Fulbright’s foreign policy leadership but strongly disagreed with his civil rights positions); Juris Doctorate in constitutional law and civil rights, University of Virginia Law School and graduate degree in recent US political history from the University of Virginia Graduate School, Clinton administration appointee focusing on economic policy for impoverished populations; executive director of the highly diverse economic equality advocacy organization, the Delta Grassroots Caucus in the 8-state Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt; Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes College; graduate of the Little Rock public school system.

Peggy Bradford, former president of Shawnee Community College in Illinois, Juris Doctorate, doctorate in education, African American leader in the diverse, impoverished southern Illinois Delta, lawyer, author of many scholarly works including a recent project on poverty, racial justice, and funding for rural community colleges, and a Fulbright Scholar.

Millie Atkins, African American community leader based in Monroe, Louisiana, regional advocate for racial and economic justice in the 8-state Greater Delta Region, executive at CenturyLink working on community and economic development, graduate of Grambling State University, graduate degree in Technical Communication from Tiffin University in Ohio.