Governor Orval Faubus

Orval Eugene Faubus was born in Arkansas on 7th January 1910 in a poor, farming family. Faubus originally trained to be a teacher and then became interested in politics and joined the Democratic Party. However, despite his upbringing by a liberal family, Faubus became increasingly right-wing in his views.

Faubus joined the Army during World War II and rose to the rank of major in Army Intelligence. After the war he returned home and continued in politics and ran for governor in 1954 as a liberal promising to increase spending on schools and roads. In the first few months in office, Faubus desegregated state buses and public transportation and began to investigate the possibility of introducing multi-racial schools. This resulted in him being attacked by conservatives. Fearing he would lose office Faubus decided to fight the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that said separate schools were not equal and were therefore unconstitutional. 

On September 2, 1957, the day before the nine black students were to enter Central High, National Guardsmen surrounded the school. In a televised speech that night, Governor Orval Faubus explained that he had called the National Guardmen because he had heard that white supremacists from all over the state were descending on Little Rock. He declared Central High School off-limits to blacks and Horace Mann, the black high school, off-limits to whites. He also proclaimed that if the black students attempted to enter Central, "blood would run in the streets."

On September 20, 1957, Judge Ronald N. Davies granted the NAACP lawyers, Thurgood Marshall and Wiley Branton, the right to stop Governor Faubus from using the National Guard to stop the students from entering the high school. Governor Faubus finally agreed with them about not using the National Guard, but he wished the nine would stay away from Central High until integration could occur without violence. He knew there would be violence because of the violence last time when the Whites beat the Blacks because they didn't want African-American kids in their school.

On 24th September, President Eisenhower went on television and told the American people that the Little Rock Crisis was a matter of national security and that integration must be permitted. After trying for eighteen days to persuade Faubus to obey the ruling of the Supreme Court, Eisenhower decided to send federal troops to Arkansas to ensure that black children could go to Little Rock Central High School. The white population of Little Rock was furious that they were being forced to integrate their school and Faubus described the federal troops as an army of occupation. 

Faubus was elected governor of Arkansas six times and served in the post for twelve years. After the 1965 Voting Act making it easier for African Americans to vote, Faubus political career came to an end. Attempts at re-election in 1970, 1974 and 1986 all ended in failure. Orval Faubus died of cancer in December 1994.    

The following audio clip is from an NPR story about the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Crisis.

What role does the reporter suggest Faubus played in the segregationist mob? What is the explanation provided for Faubus's decisions? 

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