Arlington--Another Little Rock?
School Integration Fight on Washington's Doorstep
With Arlington, Virginia, threatening to become another Little Rock, two experienced observers here analyze the background of the local struggle over school integration.
The volcano of hatred and violence that erupted in Little Rock last September is now rumbling on the doorstep of the nation’s capital. This September all eyes are focused on Arlington, Virginia, where a small number of Negro children, recently given the blessing of a Supreme Court decision, are contesting Virginia’s “massive resistance” program, the most open challenge yet offered to the Court’s 1954 ruling outlawing school segregation. Seven of the eligible Negroes have been kept from entering white classrooms for two years—so long that one of them has now been graduated from high school—while Virginia has been exhausting every appeal to the Federal courts. There is nothing left now for Virginia but to flout the Court decree directly.
A series of laws passed by the 1958 session of the state legislature requires that Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., must close any school that becomes integrated. The local school board and the local governing body—in Arlington’s case, the County Board—may jointly request that schools be reopened, but, in contrast with an earlier law which permitted local option, the Governor is not obliged to reopen the school. And even if he permits the schools to be reopened, state funds are automatically cut off from an integrated school system. Finally, by the so-called “Little Rock” law, the Governor can close down all schools in the local area if Federal troops are brought in.
It was Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia who first announced, in February 1957, the “massive resistance” formula. A complex foundation of legal devices designed to uphold a sagging segregationist structure was then erected. Nowhere was a gap to be permitted. As Governor Almond remarked, one falling stone might lead to an avalanche. If Arlington crumbled before the onslaught of integrationist forces, so too might the rest of Virginia, and after Virginia the entire crazy-quilt pattern of Southern resistance. Thus, whatever happens in Arlington this fall may become the model for the rest of the South. Yet Arlington is one of the most “un-Southern” of communities below Mason and Dixon’s line. A rapidly expanding city on the southern threshold of the District of Columbia, Arlington is directly connected with D.C. by four bridges; but its real tie to the capital is by the purse strings. More than half the personal incomes and consumer expenditures of Arlington can be traced to Federal employment, which has put the bulk of Arlington families in the upper-middle-income category. Federal aid equals approximately 12 per cent of the current revenue of Northern Virginia.
In addition to economic attachment there are cultural, social, and civic ties that make Arlington citizens regard themselves as part of Greater Washington. Washington newspapers are widely circulated in the area; national politics are followed with great interest; plays, concerts, lectures, and other events in D.C. are heavily attended by Arlingtonians. Most of the population are new to Arlington, and many of these are Northerners in origin. Transients in many cases, they have been attracted to Arlington by the availability and quality of its municipal services—public education, community recreation, health programs. The median number of school years completed by Arlington residents is 12, as compared with 8 for the rest of Virginia and less than 10 for the U.S. This high educational level probably explains in part the community’s intense interest and active participation in civic affairs.
Less than 6 per cent of the county’s population is Negro. There are four Negro schools and 44 white schools in the county. Of 22,677 pupils in Arlington public schools, only 1,432 are Negroes, but estimated on a geographical basis, the total of Negro pupils eligible for integration into white schools is 189. All of these factors—the large number of Northerners and transients, the high level of education and large degree of civic responsibility, together with the tiny proportion of Negroes—probably account for the relatively limited amount of race prejudice, in spite of an all-out hate campaign conducted by professional racists over the past three years.
On September 4, 1958, in addition to the original small group, more than two dozen Negro youngsters who have recently applied to white schools may, under Federal court order, walk into integrated classrooms in Arlington County. (It is now apparent that the so-called “Charlottesville plan”—a complex system of devices to disqualify Negro applicants by special examinations, interviews, and other pressures—will be used by the state to prevent the recent applicants from even registering. This plan, however, cannot affect the original group, and because it may be declared unconstitutional, it may not even affect the additional applicants. On advice of counsel, all Negro applicants have refused to appear for special interviews ordered by the State Pupil Placement Board.) Under the laws of Virginia, the Governor must then order the closing of the integrated schools, and unless an injunction forces his hand, the decision to reopen the schools rests solely with him. His public statements to date indicate that he will not reopen the schools, except by the elimination of an entire class that is integrated. “Any school closed anywhere in Virginia will be the direct result of the exercise of inordinate power vested in the NAACP by the Federal judiciary,” he said early in May.
Before his election in November 1957, Governor Almond was not opposed to a local option plan. During the campaign, however, he identified himself with “massive resistance.” In his inaugural, he said: “I cannot conceive such a thing as a little integration any more than I can conceive a small avalanche or a modest holocaust. . . . To sanction any plan which would legalize the mixing of the races in our schools would violate the clear and unmistakable mandate of the people. This I cannot do. . . .” Shrewd observers of the Virginia political scene estimate that three factors were responsible for Almond’s embracing “massive resistance.” First, his Republican opponent had advanced the idea of local option, so he felt he had to be against it. Second, after Little Rock, moderation tended to be identified, in Southern eyes, with integration and surrender of states’ rights, thus pushing the hard core of Southern Democrats into an uncompromising segregationist stance. Finally, Almond was politically dependent on the solidly segregationist 4th and 5th Districts in south-side Virginia; in these areas he could count on a loyal 100,000 votes, while the same number of votes in the northern 10th District were uncertain.
Having set his course in an extremist direction, Governor Almond stuck to it. Late in May he refused to reappoint a conservative Richmond banker, Thomas C. Boushall, a supporter of local option, to the state board of education. To replace him, Almond appointed an ardent segregationist, William Storey, Jr., South Norfolk school superintendent. The Governor had been encouraged in his stand by Federal Judge Lemley’s “Little Rock decision” (recently overruled) calling for a “moratorium” if integrating orders bring on “impairment of educational standards and demoralization of the faculty and student body.” Almond called the ruling “most wholesome” and said he was “more convinced than ever to resist to the utmost the mixing of the races in the public schools of Virginia.”
Governor Almond has said he hopes the violence which occurred at Little Rock will not occur in Virginia. But he has hinted that the “peace and tranquillity” may be broken by “explosions, inflammatory feelings, threats, or undercurrents.” Although the Governor has expressed his desire not to “say or do anything that would inflame the passions of the people,” there are those who believe he has invited violence by his public allusions to its possibility. These citizens point out that Governor Faubus, too, prophesied violence—a prophecy which some of his supporters arranged to fulfill.
In Arlington County and nearby, there are individuals and organizations who have long peddled the racist line and who would welcome any opportunity to make Arlington the major battlefield for a final test of massive resistance. For three and a half years the “Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties” have been grinding the hate mills of Virginia. With thirteen chapters throughout the state, the Defenders have an estimated statewide membership of 7,500, and less than 100 in Arlington, although its local leaders boast a figure of 1,200. Jack Rathbone, head of a local plumbing concern, executive secretary for the Arlington Defenders and its chief spokesman, predicted “racial disturbances” in telegrams to the Arlington chief of police and the press on the day seven Negro children were registered in white schools in Arlington last September. The chief targets of the Defenders were those white citizens of Arlington who had joined the Negro complainants in school suits, or who simply spoke out in defense of the Negroes. When their names appeared in the press in connection with these activities, they were besieged day and night by obscene and threatening telephone calls, as well as letters and telegrams. When asked later about his activities in connection with the harassment and threat of violence, Rathbone replied: “Why, we just take every advantage of every opportunity to ridicule these people. We don’t mean any harm.”
“A lot of people are afraid of the Defenders,” Dr. E. B. Henderson, a leading officer of the North Virginia NAACP, said. “They would be likely to picket the school in case of integration. They have a lot of influence over well-wishing people in Arlington. They just about ran the Orndorffs out of town.”
Mr. and Mrs. Jack Orndorff joined the Thompson Case, the original suit to bring about integration, on behalf of their son Eugene. Together with their friend and neighbor, Mrs. Barbara Marx, who filed on behalf of her two daughters, they complained that so long as segregation prevailed their children were discriminated against, in that they were being deprived of a democratic environment, a chance to know persons of different races and creeds. All three were subjected to constant harassment by telephone, telegram, and letter. Three days after the suit was reported, the Orndorffs bowed out, and later moved to Maryland, but Mrs. Marx stubbornly remained.
A special target of the Defenders is the youthful Ross Weston, pastor of the Arlington Unitarian Church. Weston has spoken out against segregation from the pulpit many times, attacking the extremists. In November 1957, he denounced the Byrd machine as “totalitarian” and compared Byrd Democrats with the “brutes of prehistoric times.” The Defenders sent Weston and other Arlington citizens a reprint of an editorial which contained an attack on his sermons. In the margin was a “special note,” from the Defenders: “It is now open season on squirrels. There is no bag limit on the two-legged variety this season. . . . Hunting with firearms or bow and arrow is prohibited in Arlington County, but the use of the horsewhip is still legal and most effective. The 4400 block of Arlington Boulevard is not a state-protected game preserve.” Weston’s church and parsonage are at 4444 Arlington Boulevard. Commenting on the circular, Rathbone said: “You’ve heard of tar and feathers, haven’t you? Well, that’s one way to get rid of a scoundrel”; asked if it was a threat, he said: “It’s in English. Read it and decide for yourself.”
Another leading Defender is Charles William Carter, who works for a brokerage firm in D.C. Carter was a regular columnist for the Virginian, a slick bi-monthly which specializes in racism and anti-Semitism. A typical excerpt from a recent Carter column reads: “The Jew’s money is his power and he is merciless in its use. . . . Typical of this is his use as a catspaw of the Jewish-financed and led NAACP, intended to gain for the Jew the coveted social equality and power he craves. . . . The South’s problem—its implacable enemy—is not the Negro but the Northern Jew. . . .” He concluded by obliquely threatening the Jews with expulsion from the U.S. Another Defender, Mrs. Vivian Jarrell, chairman of a Defender real estate committee whose objective is to secure space for some 4,000 private students when the hoped-for closing of the schools takes place, repeatedly appeared on an audience-participation radio program in Fairfax and read portions of well-known “hate” literature. The station management finally reprimanded her, calling her attention to the fact that the literature she was promoting was cited by the House Un-American Activities Committee as “neo-fascist.”
The Defenders have not limited themselves to attacking school integration; a secondary target is the system of education itself in Arlington. They have unsuccessfully called for the abandonment of the core curriculum, for censorship of library books, return to letter grades at the elementary level. They have attacked the cumulative record files, and demonstrated against speakers whom they found objectionable.
Two years ago the Defenders were a small band of reactionary extremists who enjoyed little influence and even less respect in the community. Since that time, however, their attitude has been more and more in tune with official policy, and the amount of noise they have made has brought them influence on the state level. According to Rathbone, “The tide is turning and the Defenders are no longer conducting a rear guard action. The self-appointed mentors of our lives and our children’s lives have placed themselves on target. This we have been waiting for.”
Arlington citizens fear that violence may be instigated by outsiders. Several community leaders, including former School Superintendent Edward Rutter, are worried about the likelihood of intervention by “hate” groups from Maryland, D, and southside Virginia. The organization most feared is the Seaboard White Citizens Council, led by John Kasper, the man behind the violence in Clinton, Tennessee, in September 1956, and in Nashville, Tennessee, in September 1957, the latter climaxed by the bombing of an elementary school. “We will spill blood before we will bow to this creeping Federal dictatorship,” Kasper said in 1956. In almost the same breath he claimed credit for Virginia’s original “massive resistance” program, passed in 1956 under former Governor Thomas B. Stanley. In the late summer of 1956, Kasper’s outfit published a pamphlet, Virginians on Guard, which was mailed to every legislator of the Virginia General Assembly, then in special session to consider “massive resistance” laws. The pamphlet proposed a fifty-point program ranging from Virginia’s issuing its own currency to her purging from electoral lists all “nomads” from the North. It called for the outlawing of all laws for compulsory education of school-age children. “Governor Stanley’s plan, which came out a short time later, contained at least 35 per cent of this, and in some cases, even used the same language,” Kasper claimed.
The president of the Seaboard White Citizens Council is a twenty-six-year-old native Arlingtonian, Eugene Collton. Boasting a deep admiration for Hitler, Collton states: “Niggers are not difficult to get along with until the Jews get hold of them.” He has openly warned that violence will befall Jews if Arlington integrates.
Another segregationist group operating nearby is the Fairfax Citizens Council. The Council has published a sheet called “The Shocking Truth,” a smear attack on such organizations as the National Education Association, the Ford Foundation, and UNESCO, that was used by a state investigating body to harass the NAACP and others. Mimeographed letters addressed to 700 Arlington school teachers, urging them to join “the Governor of Virginia, the Virginia Assembly, and the overwhelming majority of our Virginia citizens in this fight to preserve our liberties,” were mailed by the Fairfax Citizens Council in June. The Fairfax Council sponsored the appearance of Amis Guthridge, a leader of the Little Rock White Citizens Council, who was given the unusual privilege of holding a private meeting in the Hall of Delegates of the State Legislature, in February 1958, at the time the Virginia General Assembly was deliberating on the new massive resistance laws. Guthridge called the Little Rock incident a Communist conspiracy that was also being planned for Virginia. Among other groups labeled as part of this conspiracy were the National Council of Churches of Christ, some PTA groups, the NEA, and, of course, the NAACP.
There has been a series of anonymous mailings of racist pamphlets and letters to seniors at Washington-Lee and Wakefield High Schools in Arlington. The first quoted Abraham Lincoln as being opposed to social and political equality for Negroes. The second contained a 32-page booklet, White Man Awaken, by Gerald L. K. Smith. It accuses “the Communists, the Jews, and the demagogues” of fomenting racial strife. A third contained the same issue of Common Sense which had been circulated among Little Rock students. It stated that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is controlled by Communists and Jews. A fourth contained a defense of Gerald L. K. Smith and a crude cartoon showing “brotherhoodism” being funneled into the public’s brain by the press. Then in February of this year came a letter exposing a “conspiracy” by a Communist named Israel Cohen, who was later proved to be non-existent. The most recent mailing, in April 1958, contained a warning to students against being seduced by “cunningly deceitful . . . brotherhoodism propaganda.” After a significant number of parents and students protested the contents of the mail in telephone calls and letters to Arlington school superintendent Rutter, Rutter asked the postmaster to stop the mailings. Learning that they were not in violation of any postal regulation, Rutter said that it was “most unfortunate” that the postal service “can be used with impunity.” However, Rutter added that he believed the students “ignored” the mail, that they “recognized it for what it is—un-Christian, un-American, and undemocratic.”
The evidence indicates that Arlington is going to fight to keep its public school system, which ranks as one of the best in the nation. The first to offer defiance to the State of Virginia was State Senator Armistead L. Boothe, of Alexandria. When the bill to force closing of a school even if the locality wanted to operate it at its own expense was first introduced in the State Legislature, Boothe said: “Do you think in the shadow of the capitol of the United States, just across the historic Potomac River from a capital named for our first President, George Washington, the most important capital on earth today, with all eyes of the world focused upon it, topped by the hills of Arlington where Lee himself lived—. . . do you think the schools these people have built and paid for are going to stay closed, even with all the might of the commonwealth of Virginia thrown into the battle? . . .”
“The County Board has promised to keep the school open at any cost,” Mrs. Elizabeth Campbell, an Arlington leader of the United Church Women and a former school board member, asserted. Her husband, Edmund Campbell, is a D.C. lawyer, who has been a sparkplug of an Arlington organization to keep the schools open. “Perhaps in September,” she speculated, “you will see the strange phenomenon of the Governor sending the state militia to Arlington to keep the local police from opening the schools.
“If the schools are closed in September, you might see a huge demonstration of moderates parading outside the schools, demanding that they be opened—intelligent, educated, respectable people who ordinarily wouldn’t come out for such a demonstration, but under the circumstances there may be no other way for them to express themselves, and to focus public attention on the problem.”
The overwhelming majority of Arlington citizens are determined to keep their schools open even if it means some integration. In May, 23 leading Arlington citizens from various walks of life organized a Committee to Preserve Public Schools. Its membership has since skyrocketed to 3,000. More than two-thirds of Arlington’s 39 white Parent-Teachers Associations have expressed support of the Committee and many of these organizations have pledged funds totaling more than $1500 to support the organization. Arlington County’s Council of Parent-Teacher Associations has voted unanimously to oppose the closing of public schools if integration occurs. The Northern Virginia PTA group has gone even further and has called on local PTA’s to support only those candidates for public office who oppose closing of the schools. Other influential groups who have urged their members to support the Committee and to work toward keeping schools open in an integration crisis are the 460 member Arlington Citizens’ Committee for School Improvement, the socially important Arlington Civic Federation, and the active Arlington League of Women Voters.
The Arlington School Board bears the responsibility for the operation of the schools. Two years ago the Board was elected by the citizens of Arlington. Upon hearing, however, of a plan for limited integration proposed by the Board, the Virginia Legislature promptly killed the elections, and Board members are now appointed by the County Board and operate under the watchful eye of the Governor and the General Assembly. James G. Stockard, until recently chairman of the Board, said that “We have done absolutely no planning since about two years ago. Arlington does not have the initiative in this.” Later, Stockard emphasized: “I have no intention of placing myself in contempt of court”; he made it clear that the School Board will refuse to close the schools. “The Negro children will be registered,” he stated. His view is not, however, the view of the entire Board. Recently, a militant segregationist, Robert Peck, was elected chairman of the School Board following some confused maneuvering. Another segregationist was chosen as vice-chairman. Two of the Board members are liberals; the fifth and last School Board member will probably vote with the liberals in the event of a showdown on keeping schools open.
Four of the five members of the County Board have expressed their determination to keep the schools open. “Public schools are not going to be put out of business,” asserted Herbert L. Brown, Jr., who pledged that the Board will “provide the moral support this September so sorely needed to run our schools.” “It is unthinkable that our children will go without schooling,” Ralph Kaul, the chairman, said. Candidates for nomination to the County Board on the Arlingtonians for a Better County ticket have made strong pledges to keep the schools open and to compel state authorities to pay “our fair share of money to maintain public education,” by injunction if necessary.
In the event of violence, Arlington can count on a crack police force backed up by the County Board, and not likely to wink at rioting. In response to a suggestion to set up a riot squad in preparation for any disorders arising over desegregation, Police Chief Major William G. Fawver expressed confidence in the ability of the present police force to handle such a situation. “All our personnel are trained to act as riot squad men,” he said, adding that the Arlington force has riot-breaking equipment on hand at all times.
Arlingtonians have been advised that the earliest and most effective legal relief which they could obtain would be a temporary injunction, and if necessary a permanent injunction, against state authorities, prohibiting them from closing the schools. There are several grounds for appeal to the Federal courts. The primary basis would be that the state’s action in closing any school—or all schools—in Arlington County, while all segregated schools in the state remained open, would deprive Arlington pupils of the equal protection of the laws, and thus violate the 14th Amendment. By this logic, the only valid recourse open to the state against a court order to desegregate Arlington County public schools would be the discontinuing of public education throughout the state. Another charge which could legitimately be made by the people of Arlington County is that the sole motive for closing the schools is to resist integration. Finally, parents may complain that closing the schools for any appreciable time will result, from the very nature of the educative process, in an educational loss to children for which they can never be compensated.
Even assuming that the Governor agrees to release each school affected by integration and permit it to be operated by the county, or that Arlington citizens obtain an injunction, there is still the state provision requiring the Governor to cut off all state funds to an integrated system. Federal financing is possible but not likely. “I don’t know where we would get the money to pay for the maintenance of schools locally,” Dr. Rutter has said. “We might curtail our program,” he suggested. “Two other possibilities would be to raise taxes or call for voluntary contributions.”
Arlington would have to raise its taxes about 20 per cent, it has been estimated, to compensate for the loss of state aid to its schools. The added taxes could conceivably be raised in a high-income community like Arlington. There may also be the possibility of an injunction against the state preventing it from withholding funds as a violation of taxpayers’ rights. Because it is a relatively high-income area, Arlington contributes a great deal more to state revenue than it receives. Last year, Arlington paid $9 million in taxes to Virginia, and got back $1.3 million for the operation of its schools. Some citizens have called for a “taxpayers’ strike” to obtain withheld funds.
While Arlington moderates are getting set for a fight to keep the schools open, the segregationists are preparing for a standby private school system for use in order to keep desegregated schools closed. The 10th District Educational Corporation, established by the Defenders, would, in addition to preparing for a private school system, also volunteer “free educational services to public school authorities in order to maintain operation of schools in strict accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth.” “We’re setting up our own schools,” Rathbone explained. “We’ve got churches, private houses and vacant commercial property lined up for use.” Rathbone also mentioned the possibility of giving classes through closed-circuit television to segregated classrooms.
Arlington segregationists are part of a statewide group, “the Coordinating Committee to Maintain Efficient Education in Virginia,” which has organized for the purpose of offering advice and help to localities threatened with integration in setting up private segregated schools. However, no responsible leaders of the community have identified themselves with the group that is organizing private schools. Rathbone’s boast that the churches are ready to provide classrooms seems flimsy in the light of the strong opposition by Arlington church leaders to private segregated schools. In May, the Arlington Council of Churches voted unanimously to oppose the use of the facilities of churches “in any educational activities intended as a substitute for the continuation of the public school system in Arlington.” Following the Council of Churches resolution, 28 ministers signed a statement opposing the use of churches for private school classrooms and objecting to “enforced segregation.” Rathbone maintains that if his group needs churches for emergency classrooms, they will go to the congregations, not the ministers. “We are reasonably confident that the white congregations will respond to the needs of any displaced white pupils,” he has said.
In spite of all the sound and fury little has actually been done by the segregationists to recruit teachers or administrators or to plan a curriculum for a substitute school system. “Of course,” Rathbone says, “we’ll stick to the fundamentals in our private schools—we’ll have to curtail art and physical education and all those frills.” Rathbone’s model school, which opened in the middle of July, was quickly closed by county officials for failure to meet building code and sanitary regulations. His ally Carter said of the private school system: “When the NAACP and its supporters succeed in closing all Virginia schools, its temporary success may mark the end of public education as we know it. That which evolves, however, may be a concept of education so superior that it will sweep the country and end, once for all, the Communistic trends of public education. Private enterprise must and will furnish the type of education parents want, not that dictated by educational crackpots.”
If schools are converted to a private basis to escape a Federal court order, the county would lose its Federal aid which, it has been estimated, would boost taxes another 20 per cent. Federal aid has been high in Arlington because of national legislation providing assistance to schools in federally impacted areas.
Threats of harassment and intimidation by the Defenders and other segregationist groups have caused the Arlington School Board, and even the State Pupil Placement Board, to refuse to release the names of the Negroes who have applied for entry to white schools. The names and addresses of those involved in the original suit, however, have been published. “We wouldn’t hesitate to put economic pressure on these niggers,” Rathbone has asserted. “We know the names and addresses of those who applied last year, and also where their fathers work. And we’ll find out the names of the others. One parent is the custodian of an apartment house and the owner of the house is in our group. If his two kids try to go to a white school next fall, he might be out looking for a job.” In the face of these threats parents of the children involved in last year’s case, except one, have declined to comment on whether they would seek admission to a white public school again. The one exception, Mrs. Arthur Costley, announced that, in addition to her two sons who had already applied, her daughter, Anita, would seek admission to a white school this fall. Several days after this announcement had been printed in the newspapers, with her name and address, Mrs. Costley received a telephone call asking for her daughter Anita. She told the caller that Anita was not home. The reply was: “Give her this message-once a nigger, always a nigger.”
State Senator Charles R. Fenwick, of Arlington, wrote to the Committee to Preserve Public Schools, suggesting that the “simplest” way to keep schools open was to persuade the Negroes not to apply for admission to white schools. “Your Committee can utilize a legal way of keeping our public schools open by meeting with the parents of the Negro children and pointing out to them the consequences of their insisting on sending their children to white schools. Should this result in the parents deciding not to persist in this procedure, both you and they would be performing a great public service to the community.” Shortly thereafter, Rathbone called Mrs. Peter Henle, an officer of the League of Women Voters, and one of the leaders of the Committee and asked her if her organization were planning to follow Fenwick’s suggestion. When she replied in the negative, Rathbone declared, “Well, I think I’ll go visit some of the niggers myself.”
Looming in the background of the controversy between the county and the state is the specter of Federal troops marching into Arlington, a stone’s throw from the capital. While many would welcome Federal intervention and aid, others fear it if it means more than financial and legal assistance. “God forbid,” exclaimed State Senator Boothe in speaking of the possibility of Federal force, a sentiment echoed by many Arlingtonians. On the other hand, there are groups in Arlington who are considering a direct appeal to the President. “We’ll have to plead with the President to take over the financing of the schools,” Reverend Ross Weston has suggested. “The closing of public schools in Virginia to circumvent the law of the land constitutes a national emergency. Even if the Governor permitted us to reopen the schools, the community cannot afford to do it alone. The Federal government will, at least, have to subsidize the reopening of the schools.”
In a recent letter to President Eisenhower, Representative James Roosevelt asked the President to assume leadership now to prevent another Little Rock in the fall, citing Arlington as an example of a potential trouble spot. Earlier, Roosevelt had advocated that Federal funds be provided to operate racially integrated school systems deprived of state financial support. But at a press conference on May 14, the President said he would not try to predict the role of the Federal government in future school crises, though he added that Federal court orders must be obeyed. “I did not send troops anywhere because of an argument or a statement by a governor about segregation. There was a court order, and there was not only mob interference with the execution of that order, but there was a statement by the governor that he would not intervene to see that the court order would be executed.”
Both of these conditions—explosive demonstrations and refusal by the Governor to see that the Federal court order is carried out—are not unlikely possibilities in Arlington this September. But as late as August 6 the President told his press conference he had no plans to head off the tension arising from the September school openings, although he later hinted that troops might be used to force compliance with court orders.
The echoes of Little Rock have been heard from New Delhi to Caracas. The United States cannot afford the blow which would be dealt its international prestige by another such disaster, and one occurring in the shadow of the capital. But if there is uncertainty about the intentions of the White House there is no doubt about the determination of most Arlingtonians. Unlike the Little Rock citizens who capitulated to the pressures of the state government and the segregation leaders, the citizenry of Arlington is prepared to stand its ground for law and order and the free public school system. If another Little Rock occurs, it will not be because the majority of Arlingtonians have not made a determined effort to avert it.