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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.

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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.

Race relations issues at the University of Arkansas; Confederate statues, and the proposal to move Senator Fulbright's statue

Posted on July 01, 2020 at 03:37 PM

The Delta Caucus is always concerned about issues regarding civil rights and education. Currently we need to heed the complaints from some African Americans at the University of Arkansas about tolerance for racial discrimination on the campus.

We will address a wide range of issues related to our regional and national dialogue about race in this posting.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Condemn racism on campus and make an aggressive drive to increase numbers of black faculty and students

  2. Remove Confederate statues or any commemorations of racist demagogues

  3. In the more complex case of Senator Fulbright, the Delta Caucus is fine with moving his statue to a museum, or indoors to the international relations institute, and re-naming the college on the grounds that it could be misinterpreted as approving of his civil rights record. However, this should be accompanied by a thorough educational campaign to inform students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public about both the greatness and the tragic flaws of J. William Fulbright.

The Fulbright case should be part of our general re-assessment and historical reflections about the painful quarters in our nation’s past.

We should also acknowledge Fulbright’s great achievements in foreign policy and education, including the international Fulbright Scholar Program, opposition to the demagogy of Joe McCarthy, presciently warning President Kennedy NOT to order the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion against Cuba in 1961, leading the opposition to the Vietnam War, and serving as a key architect for the detente with the Soviet Union and China in the early 1970s.

The Fulbright Peace Fountain at the University of Arkansas by definition focuses squarely on his strong record in international relations, and should therefore be kept in place.

As a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and having the Fulbright Program–which has awarded scholarships to 390,000 scholars in 160 countries and counting–named after him, Fulbright has already received tremendous honors. We are NOT calling for “tearing down” the statue but for placing his record in the full historical context.

We would suggest that it is now time to give great honors at the University of Arkansas to Wiley Branton, one of the first black graduates of the University of Arkansas Law School who became a nationally recognized civil rights leader. This could be with a prominently displayed statue or re-naming the college after him, or both.

The Fulbright statue lacks any educational marker summarizing both his accomplishments in international relations and his troubling record in civil rights record. It is situated at the center of campus and people who find it objectionable have to walk by it regularly. Moving it to an indoors location where people who see it–with the essential educational marker prominently displayed–do so because they choose to, whereas they can’t avoid passing by a statue so prominently displayed on the campus.

Remove Confederates’ names from military installations, schools or other institutions.

1. Changes at the University of Arkansas: Many African American students complain that only 3% of the faculty is black and only 4% of the student body is black. They complain of patronizing comments from white professors to black students, such as confusing one young woman with another African American woman because the woman she was speaking to had changed her hairdo. Another professor seemed to be suspicious of an African American student who had surpassed her colleagues of both races, and allegedly the professor seemed to be probing to make sure the student had not cheated.

The racist epithets should be condemned, and the University needs to greatly increase the percentages of black faculty and students by all means through their disposal, whether stronger recruitment in areas with high black populations such as the Delta and Little Rock, more scholarship aid, or other means.

2. The students are calling for removal of the J. William Fulbright statue from the campus and the re-naming of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences due to the senator’s weak civil rights record.

The Delta Caucus is fine with moving the statue to a museu or to some in-door location such as the international relations institute, and re-naming the College of Arts and Sciences on the grounds that this recognition may be misinterpreted as supporting or at least tolerating his tragic flaws in the civil rights field.

However, these moves should be accompanied by a vigorous educational effort to inform people about both the greatness as well as the flaws of Senator Fulbright. His record in foreign policy in founding the Fulbright Scholarship Program, opposing Joe McCarthy and other Cold War extremists, courageously if unsuccessfully advising President Kennedy against the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, opposing the tragic folly of the Vietnam War, and supporting detente with the Soviet Union and China in the final years of his career constitutes one of the greatest foreign policy records in American history.

His greatness in international relations does not in any way excuse his gravely disappointing civil rights record in voting for most of the major civil rights bill even up to the late dates of the 1964 and 1965 historic civil rights legislation, signing the Southern Manifesto in 1956, and remaining silent during Gov. Orval Faubus’ demagogical effort to block the desegregation of Little Rock Central High in 1957.

To be historically accurate, we should note that even in civil rights Fulbright had some constructive accomplishments: he worked to desegregate the University of Arkansas Law School in the late 1940s, was one of the few Southern senators who supported the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967, voted for the extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1970 at a time when most Southern politicians were still opposing it, and above all played a crucial and courageous role in defeating President Nixon’s nomination of the racist Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court in a bitterly controversial debate. Again most Southerners supported Carswell.

None of this changes the reality that Fulbright’s civil rights record on the whole was unacceptable. Nonetheless, we are distorting the truth and the historical record if we lump flawed leaders like Fulbright along with Confederate traitors and demagogues like Orval Faubus and George Wallace who inflamed racial animosity to further their popularity. Fulbright was too often either silent or too weak in opposing these demagogues and occasionally under pressure made statements endorsing the racial status quo, but we are finding that many people today believe he engaged in the kind of racism of Gov. Wallace or Sen. Jim Eastland of Mississippi. We can make a fair distinction like that without backing away from our position that Fulbright was a failure on civil rights.

Rev. Martin Luther King’s accolade to Fulbright’s leadership in foreign policy: We need to see both the greatness and the tragic flaws of leaders like Fulbright, as did the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite their obviously different views and constituencies on race, Dr. King was magnanimous enough to praise Fulbright’s foreign policy dissent against US military interventionism in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam in a letter of late 1965: “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.”

We need to be 100% clear where the Delta Caucus stands on Fulbright’s legacy: We oppose his civil rights record on the whole and believe he is deserving of sharp criticism in this field. If such criticism includes moving the statue and changing the name of the college, so be it.

Delta Caucus executive director Lee Powell wrote a scholarly biography of the senator: J. William Fulbright and His Time (1995, with a foreword by President Bill Clinton, who for the record admired Fulbright’s record on foreign policy but totally disagreed with him on civil rights) and debated civil rights and other issues for 20 years. Powell’s assessment was that Fulbright’s record as well as his defenses of his concessions due to political pressures were ultimately unacceptable.

We know that college administrators at the University of Arkansas are taking these complaints seriously, and we would encourage the university to respond positively to their suggestions.

Among the racist comments was an incident where an intoxicated white fraternity student called out to an African American student, “What up, my n——-?” A friend of his tried to defend him by saying he was drunk. This is not an excuse.

Let us suggest a number of reforms that the majority of us can agree on. If anyone does not agree on any of them, we are going to respect their point of view.

1) At the late date of 2020, there is no excuse for any of our major educational institutions to have a faculty of only 3% black and a student body only 4% black. Northwest Arkansas where Fayetteville is located is a heavily white area, but the university should recruit much more heavily in Little Rock and the Delta where the black population is much larger. They should enhance whatever scholarship programs they have to get more black students. The black population in Arkansas is about 15%, and while we would probably not want an exact mathematical quota, the numbers must be much larger.

2) There should be zero tolerance for racial epithets or racial innuendo. That has to be stopped. The reports of ongoing racism are appalling.

3) Confederate statues should be moved to museums. Confederates took up arms against their country and that is the definition of treason. Some may say they were “fighting for what they believed in,” but they were primarily fighting to preserve the evil of slavery.

Similarly, Confederate names should be removed from military bases, academic institutions and elsewhere. For the historical record we have museums and scholarly publications.

There are thoughtful people who are civil rights advocates who believe that the Confederate statues do make a contribution to the historical record. We should respect their point of view, but the majority of our partners see it differently.

4) Demagogues of the Orval Faubus or George Wallace variety should also not be honored by statues, having institutions named after them, or other forms of commemoration.

5) Move the Fulbright statue to a nearby museum either on campus or in Fayetteville, and re-name the college, but engage in a vigorous educational campaign to inform students, alumni, faculty and the general public about both the greatness and the tragic flaws of J. William Fulbright in forums and conferences on campus, speeches by distinguished visiting lecturers, the curriculum of the college, and other educational efforts.

Judging by comments we have heard about Fulbright who seem to have gotten the idea that he was an extremist of the Eastland variety, we conclude that many alumni, students, staff and others are not well-informed about Senator Fulbright’s legacy.

6) Place a statue of Wiley Branton with a substantive, informative marker summarizing his career, on the campus. Branton was one of the first black graduates of the University of Arkansas Law School who became a noted civil rights leader. Branton was a civil rights leader and not a politician and therefore did not have to make the political compromises an elected official almost inevitably has to do.

It is a remarkable that an African American who grew up at the height of Jim Crow could have risen to become a nationally recognized civil rights leader and attorney.

Below is a summary of Fulbright’s legacy. Please draw your own conclusions.

Confederate statues should be removed, as well as removing Confederates or later racist demagogues from military bases and other institutions.

Fort Bragg in North Carolina is one of the largest military installations in the world with about 57,000 military personnel. It is named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

The Delta Caucus would suggest removing Bragg’s name and replacing it with that of a valiant solider who fought for America in World War II. Due diligence should be made, of course, in vetting this individual’s record.

This position is made with the enthusiastic support of Lee Powell, Delta Caucus director, who happens to be a descendant of General Bragg. Powell said, “I can no more help who my ancestors are than I can help being from Arkansas. What I can do is say that General Bragg was a traitor–however much he may have deluded himself into believing he was not–and honoring him sends the wrong message about our understanding of our past.”

“Bragg was dead long before I was born,” Powell continued. “Are we going to be held responsible for actions of ancestors 150 years ago? My more recent relatives had a far different and more enlightened record. My father was Editorial Editor James O. Powell of the old Arkansas Gazette, and he staunchly opposed Gov. Orval Faubus for many years from the late 1950s until Faubus’ tenure belatedly came to an end in January, 1967. When I was growing up in Little Rock my father received death threats when Faubus was at the height of his power, and my father was subjected to hostility in white segregationist quarters who were then the majority of the white population. Thank God the environment improved with the election of the moderate Winthrop Rockefeller in 1966.”

“If I call for removing an ancestor’s name from one of the world’s major military institutions, I don’t think anybody else should be squawking about re-naming Fort Bragg,” Powell said. “By the same token, I don’t think anyone should be suspicious of me for what an ancestor I never knew did 150 years ago.”

Bragg was actually not a very good general, to put it diplomatically, having botched the Confederate strategy at the vital Battles for Chattanooga. Powell notes that he had another relative who deserted from the Confederate Army.

“Between Bragg’s record as a weak general and the guy who deserted, my family has often joked over the years that we made a significant military contribution in the Civil War to the Union side,” Powell said. “Seriously, if having Confederate ancestors is a stain on Southerners living today, many progressive, constructive citizens will be smeared in painting with such an overly broad brush.”

Don’t honor Confederates or latter-day racist demagogues. For flawed leaders like Fulbright, assess the record in its entirety. You can read the summary below and draw your own conclusions.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF J. WILLIAM FULBRIGHT’S LEGACY

June 30, 2020

(Introductory note: By way of full disclosure in the context of African American students’ complaints of tolerance for racial discrimination at the University of Arkansas, my biography of Senator J. William Fulbright criticizes his civil rights record but recognizes his impressive achievements in the fields of foreign policy and education. I will address foreign policy and civil rights due to the different subject matter in two parts.

We are obviously passing through a painful re-examination of statues, naming of institutions and other monuments to our past. I would argue that Confederates and demagogues like Orval Faubus or George Wallace should not be recognized, but Fulbright is clearly in a different category. My purpose here is not to advise anyone as to whether his statue should be removed or the college re-named, but to present the facts about the entirety of his legacy. I would hope we can see both the greatness and the tragic flaw of J. William Fulbright. Please examine the facts and draw your own conclusions.)

Foreign Policy and Education

The post-World War II order—Fulbright first attracted national attention in 1940 for a series of speeches as the young University of Arkansas president opposing the dominant isolationism of the time, calling for Americans to wake up to the dire threat to world peace in Hitler’s insatiable campaign of military conquest. He followed up as a freshman congressman in 1943 in working with President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to pass the Fulbright Resolution placing Congress on record in favor of creating a postwar United Nations organization. He supported key building blocks of the postwar era as a freshman senator in the later 1940s for NATO, President Truman’s Point Four program for technical assistance to developing countries, and the Marshall Plan for economic rebuilding of Europe after the war.

Fulbright Scholarship Program: Fulbright worked with President Truman’s administration in passing the Fulbright Act creating the international educational and cultural exchange program. The Fulbright Program has granted awards to 390,000 American and foreign students and professors in more than 160 countries from its inception in 1946 to the present. Fulbright Scholars have won 60 Nobel Prizes, 86 Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 became heads of state, most of them in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Currently the program awards 8,000 grants annually. President Kennedy praised the Fulbright Program as “the classic modern example of beating swords into plowshares.”

Opposition to Joe McCarthy and other Cold War extremists: Fulbright became deeply concerned about Joe McCarthy and other extremists who denounced loyal, distinguished Americans on false charges of communist sympathies and having “lost” China to communism. In 1951, he opposed General Douglas MacArthur’s call for air strikes against China after the general was removed for insubordination by President Truman in the Korean War. Fulbright warned that the air strikes would be the inevitable prelude to combat troops in China and posed a grave risk of igniting World War III. Throughout the early 1950s he lambasted McCarthy for smearing loyal officials in the State Dept. and elsewhere as having communist affinities without presenting any evidence for his claims. He blocked McCarthy’s effort to cut funding for the Fulbright Program on the bogus grounds that many Fulbright Scholars were communists or communist sympathizers.

In February, 1954 he was the only senator to vote against funding for McCarthy’s Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, which passed 85 to 1 with Fulbright casting the lone dissenting vote. This vote shocked the conscience of many thoughtful senators and in retrospect was crucial in beginning strong opposition to McCarthy. Fulbright was one of the leaders in the drive that finally led the Senate to censure McCarthy in late 1954.

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Delta Caucus Supports Peaceful Protests across the Region in Aftermath of George Floyd's Murder

Posted on June 10, 2020 at 11:32 AM

The Delta Caucus partners support the many peaceful protests that are taking place across the Greater Delta Region and the rest of the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. In light of our highly diverse organization and the vital importance of civil rights and race relations in the Delta’s history, we believe it is important to speak up at this crucial time.

We condemn the looting, arson and any extremists who are taking advantage of this situation. The vast majority of the protesters are peaceful. The demonstrations come primarily from concerned, peaceful citizens based in their home areas and not from “professional outside agitators.”

We are urging all protests to be peaceful and safe, with everyone wearing masks to avoid spread of Covid-19.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS NEWSLETTER

I. EXAMPLES OF PEACEFUL PROTESTS ACROSS THE GREATER DELTA REGION

II. REFORMS TO REDUCE POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS

III. FACTS ABOUT THE INSURRECTION ACT

I. EXAMPLES OF PEACEFUL PROTESTS ACROSS THE GREATER DELTA REGION

We will cite a number of examples of predominantly peaceful protesters reported from our partners based in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama and the Washington, DC area.

Mayor Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas: Mayor Smith held a peaceful march and rally in his highly diverse Mississippi River town. The Mayor and many local leaders took part. There were about 100 people there, including blacks and whites. They were wearing masks. There were no “Antifas,” KKK or other extremists there.

Mayor Smith has emphasized open channels of communication on Facebook, in person and in meetings like the one they held in Helena. There were a series of speakers and they had a candid, constructive dialogue.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas held an innovative “Pine Bluff Solidarity Rally” where about 300 people listened from their cars in the Pine Bluff Civic Center parking lot due to coronavirus concerns to a series of speakers including Mayor Shirley Washington of Pine Bluff, Rep. Vivian Flowers and Sen. Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff, and the Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant. It was broadcast live by Deltaplex Radio in Pine Bluff.

The speakers and organizers including the nonprofit Arkansas Public Policy Panel urged attendees to get involved in the political process and channel the anger felt by Floyd’s death in positive directions to bring about systemic changes.

North Louisiana Delta: Professor Herb Simmons, Professor of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University and head of the nonprofit Greater Northern Louisiana Community Development Corp. said there have been peaceful protests in Monroe, Shreveport, Alexandria and his home town of Jonesboro, among others.

On Sunday, June 7 in Jonesboro there was a peaceful march and protest by about 200 people—a large turnout for the relatively small town of about 5,000 people. There were both whites and blacks there, wearing masks, and Professor Simmons said “I’ve never seen the magnitude of the gatherings all across the country. Jonesboro and Jackson Parish, Louisiana was one of the hotspots in race relations over the years since the civil rights movement so I was surprised and happy to see it so peaceful, with blacks and whites taking part.”

Simmons was involved in the civil rights movement in his lengthy, distinguished career, and he said that “I regret that 60 years later it had to come to marches and protests, but let’s hope and pray that this moment will truly be the turning ppoint we that we can be the great nation we originally set out to be.”

Jonesboro, Louisiana was the birthplace of the civil rights organization “Deacons of Defense,” which was formed to counter the racism and hatred of the Ku Klux Klan. Simmons said he was glad to see many young people getting involved, because those who have been concerned about civil rights and equality in our region in recent years have tended to be middle-aged to older age groups.

“The young people had the spirit that ‘Let’s take up the mantle for one America, because if we don’t live together we will perish together.” He said that “If we don’t get it right this time I weep for our nation,” but fundamentally he wanted to strike a positive note that this will be the historic moment when we as a nation finally bring about permanent change and end racial violence.

From Thelma Collins, who for many years served as mayor of the historic Delta heartland city of Itta Bena, Mississippi:

“For many years the African American Male and Female have been the targets of a suffering people. So many unjust acts have been committed; yet, I am assured that in God ‘s time, justice will reign. We can see it in our younger generation that the time is now and all of us must come to the realization that love is the ingredient that binds all of God’s creation.”

“We are all saddened by the death of Mr. George Floyd; therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to take an inventory of how we would feel if that had happened to one of our children. It is so unfortunate that as African Americans and other minorities, we have to talk to our children–especially males—about the manner in which specified actions must be taken if they are detained by a policeman.”

Birmingham, Alabama: Our contacts there indicated that after an initial bad incident of looting in the early demonstrations, the protests have been fundamentally peaceful. One of our white contacts there who grew up during the Jim Crow era said she was utterly horrified by the video of Floyd’s death and shared her feelings with African American friends in the area.

She said she supported the peaceful protests and would have participated herself but could not, being 77 years old with underlying conditions making her vulnerable to the virus, and had difficulty walking. “I don’t walk well now but I have a voice and can speak out,” she said. She said the officer with his foot on Floyd’s neck seemed to be acting more like an animal than a human being.

Sikeston, Missouri—Mike Marshall, CEO of the Sikeston Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp. and a former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said there was a peaceful protest in his southeast Missouri Delta community. Sikeston has a diverse population of about 69% white, 25% African American, and smaller numbers of other minorities.

There were people from both races, they were wearing masks, and the Sikeston, Missouri protest was peaceful and constructive.

Washington, DC, area—We have contacts in this area and our colleagues here observed peaceful protests. If there were any violent protesters we didn’t see them. The demonstrators outside the White House were typical of the nonviolent mood and the overwhelming force used against them was completely unnecessary, as a factual matter. As for the “outside agitators,” 90% of those arrested were based in the local area of Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia—and this is in one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth where people from all over the country and all over the world are always passing through.

Data on arrested people refute allegations of protests being heavily influenced by outside agitators, indicating the vast majority are local residents:

In addition to the direct observations of everyone we have consulted in our coalition, court records, employment histories and social media posts of 217 people arrested in Minneapolis and Washington, DC compiled by the Associated Press indicated that more than 85% were residents of their local area.

Of those arrested for curfew violations, rioting and failure to obey law enforcement, there were only a very small number having any affiliation with organized groups.

For those arrested for more serious offenses related to looting such as arson, burglary and theft, they often had criminal records but were local residents taking advantage of the situation caused by the demonstrations. These people are obviously despicable and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

In our region we recall the many erroneous complaints of segregationists during the civil rights movement that protests were not the result of local concerned citizens but instead were “out-of-towners” who came in to stir up trouble. This was not true then and it is not true now. Politicians and law enforcement officials have typically exaggerated the outside elements in order to excuse their reliance on greater force to quell the demonstrations.

II. A SHORT LIST OF BASIC REFORMS TO REDUCE POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICANS

We would urge our partners to contact their Members of Congress, state officials, and local mayors and police chiefs in support of constructive reforms to improve law enforcement accountability, reduce racial profiling, and change police practices to put an end to the tragic succession of violence by police officers against African Americans. We all know that the George Floyd killing was the latest—if one of the most graphic and recorded on video—of these tragic events:

We should emphasize that most of these reforms have been presented many times in the past but were defeated either by politicians depicting themselves as champions of “law and order,” police unions, and fear of hampering police. We all agree that most police are not excessively violent racists, but the minority who are guilty must no longer be protected and this will not cause any problems for lawful, appropriate actions by the police.

THE FEDERAL LEVEL

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 now being debated in Congress includes some long overdue provisions, but we need to understand that this is just one important step and many others will be needed at the state and local level as well. This bill would:

–Ban chokeholds and restraints such as the knee applied to the neck of Mr. Floyd;

–Establish a national database to track police misconduct, which will prevent officers with a track record of misconduct from moving from one law enforcement agency to another to find work;

–Place restrictions on no-knock warrants and prohibit them in drug cases at the federal level (the 26-year old emergency room technician Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times at her own home by Louisiville police when they were serving a no-knock drug warrant at the wrong address;

–Provide pressures for states and municipalities to enact similar prohibitions on chokeholds, carotid holds, no-knock warrants and other changes by withholding federal funding;

–Change federal law so that victims of excessive force or other misconduct only have to prove that officers “recklessly” deprived them of their rights, as opposed to the current requirement for victims to show that the officers’ actions were “willful”;

–Expand the US Justice Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute police misconduct;

–Make lynching a federal crime and limit transfer of military equipment to state and local officials.

PLEASE NOTE: This bill does NOT in any way support “de-funding” or “disbanding” the police. No serious analyst proposes disbanding local police departments. Obviously a civilized society cannot function without police.

Funding aimed at prevention of conditions that lead to crime: there are reasonable people who would argue for re-directing some police funding to black communities for schools, jobs, housing, health care, substance abuse and other preventive programs that will reduce crime rates.

Changing priorities in funding to allocate more for pro-active social programs is sound policy. Over the past 40 years, policing has expanded beyond its original boundaries to fight not just crime but homelessness, mental illness, youth violence and other social ills. This over-reach of police duties needs to be cut back and law enforcement should leave civilian authorities to handle these social issues.

Local issues always have to be taken into consideration: We understand that higher-crime areas have to be dealt with somewhat differently than other areas, but the basic policy of pro-active social funding and reasonable cutbacks in the recent over-expansion of police roles is a solid principle. De-funding or crippling the budget for police would be counterproductive.

Congress should provide financial incentives to reward those departments that maintain high standards regarding use of force so as to have a “carrot and a stick”: Since leaving police with inadequate budgets and lower pay naturally makes it more difficult to recruit high-quality officers, Congress should provide not just the stick of withdrawing federal funding for misconduct but the carrot of financial incentives to assist police who meet high standards of policing such as the one to be established in the national database on police conduct.

Reform should not be vindictive but should employ both a carrot and a stick—incentives and pressures regarding funding.

STATE AND LOCAL LEVELS

More systemic reforms in how police operate — in hiring, training, deployment, and accountability — will have to take place at the state and local levels. There are roughly 18,000 police agencies in the country.

We are seeing some reforms take place at the state and local levels and this must be encouraged across the country:

–Greater levels of training on the appropriate use of force, understanding of civil rights, and developing safeguards at the recruiting and training levels;

–There needs to be ongoing training and monitoring and police should not just rely on training at the academy. Follow-up and continuing training needs to continue on an ongoing basis after officers join the force;

–Greater discipline for a pattern of offenses revealing racial bias and misconduct short of lethal violence. A preventive approach applied to officers who have received complaints could prevent lethal violence before it happens by firing officers who reveal a pattern of misconduct;

–More hiring of African American and Hispanic officers with incentives for doing so;

–Police and municipal officials should include in the department’s use of force policy a “duty to intervene” requirement in which officers who observe improper misconduct by another officer must make best efforts to stop the misconduct. The City of Little Rock announced plans for such a requirement and we hope it is finalized.

–Engagement with the community by recruiting residents throughout the city to take part in “constructive, creative” dialogue with police officers on a regular basis. Little Rock has also announced plans to take this step.

–Independent reviews of local police departments by state entities or other third parties to examine their records regarding the use of force need to be enacted. A department that pledges to examine its own conduct is unlikely to produce needed reforms.

–Local prosecutions and firings of police who have engaged in excessive use of force send a profound message. We can all encourage them to take such tough discipline. They need to know the public is watching their conduct more closely than ever. We need to require change, not just ask for it.

THIS IS A SHORT LIST OF NEEDED REFORMS—LIKELY MANY OTHERS ARE NEEDED, BUT WE CAN DO AT LEAST THIS MUCH—THESE HAVE BEEN ADVOCATED IN MOST CASES FOR YEARS IF NOT DECADES.

As many of our African American leaders have said, with these unprecedented demonstrations and the most graphic killing yet captured on video, “God help us if we can’t put an end to this racist violence this time.”

III. FACTS ABOUT THE INSURRECTION ACT

We have all seen the statements by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and other military leaders opposing the use of active-duty military forces to deal with unrest in US cities. The Posse Comitatus Act states that the military cannot be used to enforce laws in states and territories without the express authorization of Congress.

As with most laws, there is an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act: the Insurrection Act, of 1807, which can be invoked if there is an insurrection against state law and a state government requests federal help in restoring order. After the Civil War, Congress added a vital provision enabling the president to invoke the Insurrection Act without a state’s permission if the state is failing to protect the Constitutional rights of its citizens.

Washington, DC is in a different category because it is a federal district, so the president has authority to deploy troops there—albeit whether it is wise or justified to do so even if he has technical legal grounds is an entirely different question. The Insurrection Act throughout American history has usually been utilized either when a state requests it or when a state is obstructing federal law. Key examples include:

–President US Grant used the Insurrection Act against the Ku Klux Klan that was thriving after the Civil War in some South Carolina counties. He organized 1,000 troops in 1871 to detain more than 600 men and most were tried and convicted in federal court.

–In 1932 President Herbert Hoover sent US troops to disperse a group of 20,000 World War I veterans in Washington, DC. The unemployed veterans were seeking bonus payments from Congress in what became know as the “Bonus March.” Some of the veterans engaged in a physical confrontation with police, whereupon Hoover called in the military including tanks. General Douglas MacArthur led armed military forces against unarmed veterans, despite being warned by his aide, Major Dwight Eisenhower, that such action was improper. One veteran was killed and 60 were hurt, according to Washington Post reports at the time.

–President Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort African American students into Little Rock Central High in 1957 after Gov. Orval Faubus used National Guardsmen in an effort to obstruct the desegregation of the school as required after the Brown decision.

–President George H. W. Bush invoked the Insurrection Act to calm riots in the acquittal of a policeman in the beating of Rodney King. Gov. Pete Wilson had asked for federal aid, but he had not demonstrated that state and local agencies were unable to enforce the law. Legal scholars and law enforcement experts later criticized Gov. Wilson’s request as an over-reaction.

There have been many other historical examples. The fundamental American tradition is that we have always been deeply skeptical about using the military to enforce federal law within the United States. We believe it would be wise to adhere to that sound tradition in the current environment.

In the current environment some governors such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois have publicly stated that they do NOT need troops to be sent into their states. Others may have a different inclination, but with the current peacefulness of the demonstrations even though seem unlikely to request federal forces.

President Trump could still send in troops, but he would have to make the case that federal law is being obstructed in the state, or the state is failing to protect the rights of its citizens.

As a matter of constitutional law, Delta Caucus director Lee Powell (who holds juris doctorate and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia Law School and Graduate School in recent US history) cites the analysis of Professor Saikrishna Prakash of the University of Virginia Law School, an expert on executive power issues.

Prakash said that if President Trump were to invoke the Insurrection Act in the states, he would likely be challenged in court. A federal district judge might rule the move was unlawful, but given the higher federal courts’ reluctance to challenge the President’s actions as Commander in Chief, Prakash was of the opinion that his invocation would probably be ultimately upheld. Of course, it is always difficult to predict court decisions and such rulings are inevitably influenced by the judicial philosophies of the justices at any given time; The current make-up of federal appellate courts and the US Supreme Court has a strong bent in favor of upholding Presidential authority. Professor Prakash pointed out in an interview with Time that even if the President eventually prevailed in the legal battle, an injunction could delay troop deployment and limit his ability to send in troops regarding the current protests.

The major conclusion is that while the President may or may not have the legal authority to use the Insurrection Act to send in troops, the wisdom and need for such a decision should be the basic criteria and not technical legality. Based on all the facts that we have been able to ascertain, the protests have largely been peaceful up to June 9 and they are trending even more in a decidedly non-violent direction.

We need to let protesters continue to exercise their First Amendment rights in peace. There is no need here to invoke the Insurrection Act.

Legislation to Aid Local News Organizations Harmed by the Pandemic's Economic Impact

Posted on May 22, 2020 at 01:04 PM

The Delta Caucus supports bipartisan legislation to expand access to Paycheck Protection Program aid for local news organizations who are suffering from a deep fall in advertising revenue caused by the pandemic. Key sponsors include Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

We would ask our partners across the 8 states of the Greater Delta Region, the Washington, DC area and elsewhere to read this summary of the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020 and then contact your Members of Congress about the need to keep local newspapers and broadcasters who were struggling even before the crisis from going out of business due to the recession.

The goal is to get this included in the next phase of Covid-19 relief. Congress is now considering the many phases of relief that are needed. We appreciate Sen. Boozman and others in the Delta Congressional delegation who are working diligently on this important issue.

Almost everyone, of course, is harmed to a greater or lesser degree by the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. The Delta Caucus is focusing on a number of key vulnerable areas, including food insecure families in our region, those who have lost their jobs, vulnerable small businesses, people who lack health insurance, our struggling rural hospitals, lack of access to broadband. Local media outlets are also hit very hard and we focus on their plight in this message.

These organizations are the main source of information about news in the many small towns and local areas across the region and they make a significant contribution to the democratic process.

The bill expands access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided that the funding is used in the process of continued provision of “local” news, content or emergency information.

This will provide aid for locally operated newspapers, radio and TV stations across the Delta who were not eligible for the earlier PPP aid because they were owned by a larger corporation, even though they were operated and managed at the local level.

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act based eligibility on the size of a newspaper’s parent company, and not the size of a local paper’s staff.

The Local News and Emergency Information Act would base eligibility on the number of employees at a publisher’s or broadcaster’s “individual physical location.” The funding can only be used for activities of the “individual physical location.”

A newspaper with fewer than 1,000 employees at the site would qualify, as would broadcasters with gross receipts of less than $41.5 million. These criteria are set by the Small Business Administration’s definition of a “small business.”

The PPP program funds are administered on a first-come, first served basis and any larger companies who apply will not get any special consideration.

Of course, most local newspapers and broadcasters in Arkansas and the 8-state Greater Delta have far fewer than $1,000 employers or less than $41.5 million. Again, these are standard SBA definitions. These limits will prevent huge entities from taking large amounts of funds intended to help local, smaller entities.

Newspapers had already suffered from sharp reductions in ad revenue for more than 10 years as readers and advertisers moved from print to online products.

We would ask two key (rhetorical) questions:

How would you like to get all your information and news from Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other behemoths?

How often do huge entities like those listed above provide news and information about your local region?

Think about a world where only the huge news conglomerates disseminate information.

For your convenience, below is a list of Delta US senators and representatives phone numbers.

We would request that if you contact one of your Members of the House and/or Senate, that you send a quick one-sentence note to Lee Powell’s Delta Caucus email address at Leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net and just say “I called Sen. X or Rep. Y to support local news aid bill.”

Of course, those partners who have lobbying restrictions either would want to only discuss the general subject of helping media outlets survive during the pandemic and would not refer to the pending bill, or may not wish to call them on this subject, while those without any lobbying restrictions can make a direct lobbying pitch.


US House and Senate phone numbers, 8-state Greater Mississippi River Delta Region (listed in the “Extended Content” section)

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