Broadway, where Guthridge and a couple of other Citizens Council members put two African-American women and their 23 children on a bus with tickets to get them to Hyannis Port, Mass., where President John F. Kennedy had a family compound. The Citizens Councils in Arkansas and other Southern states that summer put poor black people on buses with a few dollars and shipped them to Hyannis Port — the famous Reverse Freedom Rides of that year. Guthridge made a grinning little speech in which he said he was sure the Kennedys would see to it that “these fine people” were given a good life up there. I drove over to Guthridge’s shabby little law office on West Markham Street just as
“I guarantee you,” Cox replied, “they would mix without incident if the courts said so.” As he barged out, Cox said to me, “I’m a humanitarian and I wouldn’t give a blind man the wrong directions.” Pointing at Guthridge, he said, “I think he would.” A week or so later, I drove up to Weiner on a Saturday for Cox’s kickoff fish fry, which was to be in a small park beside the Union Pacific railroad track. He had a couple of tubs of fresh catfish sitting in the June sun, but the two men he had hired to fry them didn’t show up — bought off by Orval Faubus, Cox guessed. The handful of hungry townspeople walked away. Amid bursts of cursing, Cox began to gather up a lot of liquor bottles to tote back
‘If God didn't create us all integrated, who did?’ — Dave Cox to Amis Guthridge, head of the white supremacist Capital Citizens Council. Cox spun into the gravel parking lot in his red Chevrolet Impala, on which he had strapped a sign saying “Dave Cox for Governor.” He stormed into Guthridge’s tiny office, where two black men were seated. Cox offered one of them a cigarette, which he declined. “Hell,” Cox said, “we might be riding on the same bus.” Guthridge came out of his cramped office and Cox accused him of “inhumanity, injustice and insulting the people of Arkansas.” Guthridge took him inside his private office and tried to close the door. They argued for 40 minutes. Cox demanded to know what the Capital Citizens’ Council stood for, and Guthridge demanded Cox’s position on integration. Cox launched into a long spiel that ended, “If God didn’t create us all integrated, who did?” Guthridge had no answer. Cox wanted to know if Guthridge, as a lawyer, thought it was a just thing to do to put two poor women with their huge families on a bus for a New England town without telling them what was likely to be in store for them. Guthridge asked him what the people of Weiner would do if the government said they had to integrate.
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across the railroad to his car and asked for my help. He stumbled and fell while crossing the tracks and most of his whiskey drained between the crossties. We picked up the unbroken bottles and the fish and got them into his car. After he drove away, the town’s mayor sauntered over and talked about Cox. Dave is an expert farmer, maybe the best around, the mayor said, but he would go off to Memphis and get drunk for days at a time and his house was just a mess. Shaking his head ruefully, the mayor said you could walk into Cox’s living room and he’d be sitting on the floor working on a tractor engine right there, with oily parts all over the rug. One of the first appearances of the candidates was at the convention of the Arkansas Press Association at Fort Smith. After their brief talks, the five candidates who were present fielded a few questions from the newspaper folks, and a high school senior — there, no doubt, with an editor parent — asked the candidates what advice they had for a person who was graduating and going out into the world. Each of them got up and gave some variation of the standard spiel: Arkansas is a state with rich opportunities, great colleges,
good industries and abundant natural resources; you could build a wall around the state and it would be self-sufficient. Cox, slouched deeply in a chair on the flank, was last. He strode to the lectern, pulled up his britches, leaned into the microphone, and said: “I’d tell ’em, ‘She’s a low-wage state. Git out and git out fast!’ ” He went back and flopped into his chair. It was a standard for honesty that I would never see matched. Shelton assigned three reporters to follow the three main candidates — Faubus, McMath and Alford — for the final three weeks of the campaign, and each of us was supposed to drop off now and then and see what the three also-rans were doing so that we might write profiles of them for the Sunday paper before the primary. I caught Cox at one event and arranged to travel with him the morning after the Mount Nebo Chicken Fry, an annual political event sponsored by the Arkansas Poultry Federation. I left my car near the Gazette building that day and traveled to Mount Nebo with a Gazette photographer. Cox caused some murmuring in the crowd at that event by cursing several times and by declaiming, “I aim to live to see the day when we’ve got a Negro president,” although I believe he used the cruder adjective. Before dawn the next morning, I met Cox at the nearby Old South restaurant at Russellville for breakfast and the two of us took off in his Impala. He had attached speakers on top of it. It was a fruitless morning. We would park on the square at cities along the Arkansas River — Russellville, Clarksville, Booneville, Ozark — and he would get into an argument with the first oldtimer he encountered, declare it a Faubus county, and move on. In Fort Smith, we stopped for a hamburger and a beer. Like the rest of the day, lunch lapsed into a monologue about Faubus, the racist culture of the state, and the special interests’ control of the state government. The little people didn’t have a chance, didn’t know it and didn’t care. And he kept downing beers. In the late afternoon, spotting the bus station down the block, I told Cox I had to get back to Little Rock and caught a bus. Arriving back in Little Rock about midnight, I walked into the Gazette city room. The night editor said they were wondering where the hell I was, and he showed me an Associated Press story from Springdale. Cox had been arrested there earlier in the evening for being drunk in a public place. People complained that he was playing popular band music — Guy Lombardo, I believe — over his loudspeakers in a residential neighborhood and trying to make a speech. He spent the night in the Springdale jail in a cell with three snoring drunks. He couldn’t make bond the next morning because he had only $4, which included a lucky $2 bill that he didn’t want to give up. He tried to offer his glass eye as collateral, but the police wouldn’t take it. They finally
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