In lesser hands this interview would have been a shambles and it probably would have become a forum for the Jabberwocky that flew out of his mouth, but this interview with Senator James Eastland (D-Mississippi) gives some idea just how entrenched, how arrogant and how racist the bloc of Senators known as Dixiecrats were.
I am still hot on the trail of the infamous (and somewhat legendary) Meet The Press interview with Senator Bilbo, another Dixiecrat from Mississippi who proudly proclaimed his membership in the KKK in 1946. But until I find it, this will have to do for the Mississippi contingent who made up the States Rights South in the 1950's and 60's.
A sampling of the interview:
Lawrence Spivak: “Senator, by what inalienable right do you ask certain freedoms for yourself and the other white people of Mississippi that you refuse to grant to the Colored people of your state?”
Sen. James Eastland: “ Why they have all the . . .there is no discrimination. Now, I believe in full economic equality, for every man.”
Spivak: “You say there is no discrimination . . . .
Eastland: “Wait, wait, just a minute now. For every man, regardless of race. But there are social questions and we do have a problem that we think we know more about than people who do not have that problem, And that we think the system of segregation is in the best interests of both races. It doesn’t mean . . it’s not based on any doctrine that one man is superior to another. It’s not based on any doctrine that one man is better than another, but that experience has shown that both races develop their own culture and develop better when they’re separated, because there is more to this question of race than merely the color of a man’s skin. There are different characteristics, different traits.”
And it stays pretty much the same for the entire interview.
This interview comes just about a year before the Central high school integration confrontation in Little Rock Arkansas. But you can see just how deeply the resistance was and what a political thorn these Dixiecrats were in the side of any Civil Rights reform on a Federal level. Which is certainly one reason the struggle lasted so long. The irony in all of this is that Eastland rose very high in the ranks of the Senate and, in addition to being second in line of succession to the Presidency in case of emergency he was also the longest serving Senator, having retired in 1978. In short, he wielded an enormous amount of power.
Here is Meet The Press with Senator James Eastland from January 29, 1956.