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2ECOND THOUGHT A publication of the North Dakota Humanities Council

summer 11

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[the JUDGE DAVIES issue]

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note from the executive director

Caring About Justice

Just because something is legal does not make it moral; sometimes laws are unjust. In U.S. history plenty of laws (or the way the law was interpreted and applied) resulted in great injustices: women and minorities being refused the right to vote, the system of slavery, the genocide of Native American tribes. Justice hinges on empathy—we must be able to see the world through the eyes of other people, feel their emotions, and understand their reasoning. (And expect them to do the same for us.) The experience of empathy allows us to encounter the values and beliefs of other people and deepen our understanding of our own. From the place of empathy we realize that we would not want to be denied the right to vote, the right to freedom, or the right to live. The practice of empathy and ethical inquiry allows our democracy to safeguard freedom and liberty and to correct injustice. The job of every citizen is to question their government and its laws and engage in open and civil debate regarding issues of public policy. During the civil rights movement a brave group of people attempted to bring such a conversation before the American people. The central question they wanted to debate was whether separate but equal rights and the racism it engendered was a form of injustice. Unfortunately, many of those who believed segregation was a social good did not defend their beliefs in civilized debates, but instead resorted to violence, intimidation, and racist rants. In the end there was a showdown in court over the issue and the Supreme Court ruled to correct a past injustice­—segregation was no longer upheld by the highest law of the land. The fallout was immediate, and, as witnessed in the iconic photographs reprinted in this issue, hatred and violence continued to take the place of careful consideration. Fortunately, a federal judge from North Dakota had the resolve to stand firm in the face of intimidation and did not waver in fear over the social change the law would usher in. Today we face similar crossroads in America with immigration laws, gay marriage amendments, and debt ceiling discussions, among other socially divisive issues. Once again there are voices calling for civil, open-minded debate to help the American public decide how best to ensure liberty and justice for all, and once again hate speech, prejudice, and fear have invaded public discourse. History does not often look kindly on instigators of incivility; it prefers to honor the calm, articulate, independent thinkers like Ronald N. Davies. As today’s leaders contemplate their own legacies they would do well to remember that. Americans, and especially our leaders, need to renounce the volatile rhetoric and deeply divisive politics of today and call for a renewed commitment to empathy and civility in public debate. Empathy does not guarantee that we will agree with other people’s values and beliefs, but it does help us disagree respectfully and work toward positive outcomes instead of bitter animosity and destructive reactions. Brenna Daugherty Gerhardt Executive Director


features [contents] JUSTICE AND JUDGE DAVIES

2 Little Big Man

By William R. Wilson, Jr.

10 From Fargo to Little Rock: Federal Judge Ronald N. Davies and the Public School Desegregation Crisis of 1957

By Colleen A. Warner

26 Lessons from Little Rock

By Carl Oberholtzer

32 Remembering the Times and Life of Judge Ronald N. Davies

By Kermit Edward Bye

38 Beyond Inclusion or Exclusion: Rethinking the Boundary between Religion and Democracy

By John Robichaux

PLAIN THINKING 46 Addressing National Security and Other Global Challenges through Cultural Understanding

By David Skorton

ON SECOND THOUGHT is published by the North Dakota Humanities Council. Brenna Daugherty Gerhardt, Editor Jan Daley Jury, Line Editor Dakota Goodhouse, Researcher To subscribe please contact us: North Dakota Humanities Council 418 E. Broadway, Suite 8 Bismarck, ND 58501 800-338-6543 council@ndhumanities.org

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Many of the iconic photographs in this issue were taken by Will Counts and appear in the book A Life Is More Than A Moment: The Desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High (Indiana UP, 1999). Reprinted with permission.


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Judge Ronald Davies posed in his Little Rock federal court chambers. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

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Little Big Man By William R. Wilson, Jr.

When Judge Davies stepped off the train in Little Rock in late August of 1957, the North Dakota judge undoubtedly thought he would be handling routine cases in the Eastern District of Arkansas. Chief Judge Archibald assigned him temporarily to the Eastern District to help clean up a backlog of cases caused by the retirement of United States District Judge Thomas C. Trimble. We now know that, soon after he arrived, he took over the first Little Rock school case—Aaron v. Cooper—which catapulted him onto the international stage. Let us look at a timeline of the events that placed Judge Davies in the white-hot limelight:

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May 18, 1896 – In Plessy v. Ferguson, “separate but equal” was held constitutional by the United States Supreme Court. May 17, 1954 – In Brown v. Board of Education, the High Court held that separate is neither equal nor constitutional. May 31, 1955 – In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ordered local public schools in the United States to proceed with desegregation “with all deliberate speed.” February 8, 1956 – in John Aaron, et al v. William G. Cooper, et al, thirty-three public school children, with Thurgood Marshall as one of their lawyers, filed a class action suit asking that the Little Rock School Board be ordered to admit African American students to “white schools” in Little Rock. August 27, 1956 – United States District Judge John Elvis Miller of the Western District of Arkansas (sitting by assignment to the Eastern District) ruled in favor of the defendants, holding that their plan for gradual integration to commence in the 1957-58 school year complied with the Constitution and the Supreme Court Mandate. This was affirmed by the Eighth Circuit with the proviso that as the plan began to operate “a showing could be made…that more time was being taken than was necessary…” August 22, 1957 – The firebrand segregationist governor of Georgia, Marvin Griffin, made a speech in Little Rock to the Capital Citizens’ Council, a white supremacist organization, urging all “legal” means to avoid integration, pouring kerosene on the smoldering embers of racial bigotry. August 24, 1957 – Chief Judge Garner assigned Judge Ronald N. Davies to the Eastern District of Arkansas to help clear up a backlog of cases. The Little Rock desegregation case, however, was not among the cases assigned to him, because Judge Miller was presiding over it. August 27, 1957 – Mrs. Clyde Thomason v. Dr. William Cooper was filed in Chancery Court in Little Rock seeking an injunction against integration. Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus testified in support of the request for the injunction, averring that Governor Griffin’s speech had greatly increased the risk of violence. August 29, 1957 – Chancellor Murray O. Reed entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting integration for the time being. When Judge Miller learned of the temporary restraining order, he called Chief Judge Gardner, asking that he be removed from the case and that Judge Davies be assigned to it. The request was granted and history was soon to be made. The judge from North Dakota who walked into this maelstrom was 5’1” tall and weighed about 145 pounds, but he had excelled as an athlete at North Dakota University (UND) in the mid-1920s—he ran the 100 yard dash in 10 flat, setting a school record. In 1957 he was still wiry and proved to be as sound of moral resolve as he was of body.

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On August 30, 1957, six days after he was assigned to the case, Judge Davies heard arguments on a request by the Little Rock School District Superintendent Virgil T. Blossom that the Chancery Court’s temporary restraining order of August 29, 1957, be declared void. Judge Davies held that the Chancery Court did not have the authority to block the school district’s integration plan, and he enjoined all persons from interfering with the plan. On September 2, 1957, Governor Faubus, claiming a fear of violence, called out the Arkansas National Guard to ensure that “the schools in Pulaski County, for the time being…be operated on the same basis as they have in the past,” that is on a segregated basis. The guard surrounded Central High School to “maintain or restore the peace and good order of this community,” according to Governor Faubus, a position he carried with him to the grave. This development put the school officials in a quandary—they had a federal court order opposed by an order of the governor. What to do? They petitioned Judge Davies for direction. Late on September 3, 1957, after a short hearing, Judge Davies ruled that he was accepting the governor’s statement that he was using the guard to “keep the peace”; therefore, the integration plan was to be implemented “forthwith.” On September 4, 1957—a signal day in the saga—nine black students, now known as the “Little Rock Nine,” attempted to enter Central High. In spite of Governor Faubus’s protestations that the guard was at the school to preserve the peace,

Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

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guardsmen instead physically blocked the Nine from entering the building. One of the Nine, Elizabeth Eckford, then fifteen years of age, was photographed as she was being harassed by a horde of enraged white protestors. These photos were shown around the world. School officials, citing a fear of riots, asked Judge Davies to modify his September 3 order, to permit a delay in integrating. On September 7, Judge Davies held another hearing during which he discounted the threats of violence and ruled that the petition for delay was “in all things denied.” He set a hearing for Friday, September 20, 1957, destined to be another signal day. On Monday, September 9, 1957, the guard continued to deny entry to the black students. Based upon a report by the Eastern District United States Attorney Osro Cobb, Judge Davies asked the United States Attorney to enter the case. On Friday, September 20, 1957, at 10:00 a.m., court convened. (The Arkansas National Guard was still in place at Central High, blocking entry of the Little Rock Nine). For some reason the historic hearing of September 21, 1957, still spawns questions. The transcript of the hearing reveals no basis for any such speculation. For example, one author quotes one of Faubus’s longtime lawyers and patrons: “I have seen some despicable actions by judges in my day, but I’ve never seen anything like Davies….It wasn’t a trial, it was a star chambers proceedings [sic]….” The record, however, reveals just the opposite. The governor’s lawyers presented a series of motions, all specious. Some of the governor’s arguments might have been considered weighty during the John C. Calhoun era, but they simply raised questions settled by the Civil War, if not by the Supreme Court. After each motion was argued orally, Judge Davies denied each one. After the ruling on their last motion, the governor’s lawyers, disputing the authority of a federal court to entertain the case, asked to be excused. Judge Davies cautioned them that the hearing would continue, but

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granted their request. At that point, the governor’s lead counsel addressed the court: “May I express our appreciation for the Court’s courtesy.” This was hardly the expression of an advocate who felt that he had been “Star Chambered.” The precipitous exit of the governor’s lawyers was a grandstand play, and it received full media attention, as it was designed to do. The federal court was being snubbed because the governor’s forces contended there was no federal jurisdiction. Another misperception that continues even today is that Judge Davies ordered Governor Faubus to remove the National Guard from Little Rock Central. He did not. In fact, the Justice Department lawyers specifically noted, during the September 21 hearing, that removal was not requested: The issue today is not whether the Governor had a right to use the national guard. We concede that the issue is not whether he had the right to use the National Guard for the preservation of peace and order. The only issue, I repeat, is whether he used the National Guard unlawfully and in violation of the Constitutional rights of these children. Apparently the governor and his advisors claimed they thought the judge had ordered removal of the guard. If, in fact, they thought this, they would have to be considered among those who have “eyes to see, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.” In concluding the hearing Judge Davies stated: The petition of the United States of America as amicus curiae for a preliminary injunction against Governor Faubus, General Clinger and Colonel Johnson, and all others named in the petition is granted; and such injunction shall issue without delay, enjoining those respondents from obstructing or preventing, by use of the National Guard or otherwise, the attendance of negro students at Little Rock Central High School under the plan of integration approved by this Court and from otherwise obstructing or interfering with orders of this Court in connection with the plan of integration. At about 6:30 p.m. that day (September 20), Governor Faubus called a press conference to announce that he was removing the national guard from Central High


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Another misperception that continues even today is that Judge Davies ordered Governor Faubus to remove the national guard from Little Rock Central. He did not. as “ordered” by a federal judge. He did remove the guard, but he surely knew he had not been ordered to do so by the federal judge. On Saturday, September 21, Judge Davies entered his formal order that had been submitted by the government lawyers at his direction. The formal order reads, in part: Provided that this order shall not be deemed to prevent Orval E. Faubus, as governor of the State of Arkansas, from taking any and all action he may deem necessary or desirable for the preservation of peace and order, by means of the Arkansas National Guard, or otherwise, which does not hinder or interfere with the right of eligible Negro students to attend the Little Rock Central High School. If somehow Governor Faubus initially believed he had been ordered, on Friday, to remove the guard, the plain language of the written order of Saturday, September 21, disabused him. At that point, if his goal had been to preserve the peace, he had time aplenty to recall the guard before school was to open on Monday, September 23. There is no evidence that the governor considered a recall. Likewise there is no evidence that the guard could not have preserved the peace and assured safe entry of the black students, if the governor had left them in place or recalled them the following day. It has been noted that there might have been bloodshed if the guard had been left in place at Central High to “keep the peace” and ensure the entry of the students. But if the nine teenagers had the courage to take the risk, should not the governor have had the courage to help facilitate their safe passage? Is not keeping the peace and upholding the Constitution in a time of crisis precisely the purpose of the national guard and the sworn duty of the state’s chief executive? It should be noted that there has never been any appreciable evidence of the rumored hordes of “outside” segregationists descending upon Little Rock. If they had appeared on the scene, however, there is no evidence that the national guard could not have quelled the threat.

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With the guard gone, the situation was extremely ugly in Little Rock the next week. President Eisenhower had been reluctant to intervene, but by September 23, he had had enough. He issued a presidential proclamation ordering the obstructionists to “cease and desist,” and the next day the 101st Airborne Infantry Division (“The Screaming Eagles”) arrived in Little Rock. Order was rapidly restored. This thumbnail sketch of the events that unfolded in Little Rock in August and September of 1957 barely scratches the surface of the social and political crosscurrents casting Little Rock, Arkansas, and Judge Davies reluctantly into the glare of center stage. Numerous books and articles have been published on the subject, examining those events from every angle. When considering the heroes of this crucial struggle, the nine brave children must be at the top of the list. The courage of those teenagers is awe inspiring. There were other heroes, of course, but the focus of this article is the role of Judge Davies. Governor Faubus saw the assignment of a “northerner” to the case as sinister. In fact, there was nothing sinister about it. It was an assignment made at the request of Judge Miller, an Arkansan, while Judge Davies was here to handle run-of-the-mill cases. Others suggest that Davies just did not understand southerners and “our way of life.” A review of the court records, however, reflects that he had a firm purchase on “southern thinking” of the time. Much later, Judge Davies observed in an interview that Governor Faubus’s actions and pronouncements were “a purely political ploy.” Although writers through the years have gone at this issue in more ways than a kitten goes at a toy mouse, the record establishes beyond peradventure that the judge had it down to a gnat’s eye. One writer who has carefully studied the events aptly summed it up this way: Into this legal predicament arrived a U.S.district judge from North Dakota. Appointed to the federal bench in August 1955, Davies had spent more than fifteen years as a trial lawyer and eight years as a municipal judge in his home-town of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Although Judge Davies had served two years on the 8

federal bench by the time of his assignment to the post in Little Rock, he had not previously encountered a racial integration case. Yet the decisions rendered by Davies in his brief tenure in Little Rock and the ensuing constitutional controversy would change the nature of public school integration in the United States. While other federal judges equivocated in the face of segregationist pressure, Davies remained resolute in upholding the United States Constitution and the decrees of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, he was one of the first federal jurists to lend definitive meaning to the vague Brown II phrase “with all deliberate speed.” Tenacity and tough-mindedness in the face of adversity were the hallmark characteristics that guided Judge Davies’ judicial career, and they were not at any time more apparent than in Little Rock in September 1957. The judge’s “steady as she goes” performance during the hurricane puts one in mind of lines from a famous poem: If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you But make allowance for their doubting too, If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: You’ll be a Man, my Son! – If by Rudyard Kipling The judge, a devout Catholic, attended Mass each Sunday when he was in Little Rock. His diary reflects that after the first Sunday, he was accompanied by a bodyguard. By his preparation and nature he was strong, and he did not “faint in the day of adversity” (many did).

William Wilson, Jr. served as a street lawyer for the Unites States Navy for twenty-five years. He is currently United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas and also a swamper at the Wye Mountain branch of the internationally famous Rasputin Mule Farm, headquartered in Waldron, Scott County, Arkansas. This article was prepared for and first published by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review in Volume 30, Issue 2, and is reproduced with its permission. Further information about the UALR Law Review is available at www.ualr.edu/lawreview.


Dedication Ceremony for Judge Ronald N. Davies High School Sunday, August 21, 2011 2:00 p.m. 7150 25th St. S, Fargo, ND

Honored Guests: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Breyer Judge Mary Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit Members of the Little Rock Nine: Carlotta Walls LaNIEr, Dr. Terrence Roberts

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From Fargo to Little Rock:

Federal Judge Ronald N. Davies and the Public School Desegregation Crisis of 1957 by Colleen A. Warner

On Sunday, August 25, 1957, Federal District Court Judge Ronald Norwood Davies of Fargo, North Dakota, boarded a train bound for Little Rock, Arkansas, a place he had never been and one he would never forget. Assigned to that southern post to clear the federal calendar of backlogged cases, Judge Davies’s seemingly routine stint in Little Rock would become anything but ordinary. The turbulent legal, political, and social events which transpired in Little Rock in September of that year, together with the federal district court decisions rendered by Davies, would change the course of public school integration in the United States. Steadfast in upholding the edicts of the highest court in the land, particularly with respect to the landmark Brown rulings, Davies’s unequivocal demand for immediate implementation of a federal court-approved plan for integration of the public schools in Little Rock reverberated throughout the South, the nation, and the world. The North Dakota jurist’s legal convictions, devotion to duty, and penchant for laconic commentary provoked outrage over and defiance of his judicial decrees.

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Judge R. Davies Rough Rider portrait, painted by artist Vern Skaug, 1987. Courtesy Office of Governor, North Dakota.

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The events in Little Rock catapulted Davies into the media limelight. Eventually, the Davies decisions and the ensuing events in Little Rock regarding the integration plan precipitated a tense constitutional battle over control of public school desegregation in Little Rock that involved the highest levels of state and federal governments, and ultimately, the president of the United States and the military forces at his command. THE LEGAL PRELUDE TO LITTLE ROCK The legal underpinnings of racial equality in public school education are rooted in three critical moments in constitutional history: first, the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, known as one of the “Civil Rights Amendments,” to the United States Constitution in 1868 during the dark days of post–Civil War America; second, the United States Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, when racial separation was part and parcel of the Gilded Age; third, the high court’s reinterpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the reversal of the Plessy decision through Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, a decade when racial unrest and the quest for educational equality reached a crisis. The Fourteenth Amendment, one of the most profound legal accomplishments of the Civil War–Reconstruction era, suffered considerable circumvention throughout the Gilded Age as racial apartheid became a distinguishing characteristic of American society, most conspicuous in the New South through proliferation there of the overtly discriminatory edifice of Jim Crow. The Supreme Court laid the capstone on the “color lines” when it declared in the Plessy case that if equality of accommodation existed, then segregation did not constitute discrimination, and “the colored man” was not deprived of the equal protection of the laws within the context of the Fourteenth Amendment. During the early twentieth century, as the Old South’s “King Cotton” economy declined, industrialization in the North lured thousands of jobless African Americans in search of a better life. The resulting urbanization created an expanded black laboring class with emerging hopes and desires. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, became the preeminent civil rights organization in the United States, with the specific 12

mission to end racial inequality by all legal measures. Yet, in the legal shadow of Plessy, discrimination and disenfranchisement in all facets of black life— employment, housing, transportation, religion, politics, and education—became commonplace. The post–World War II era, however, posed a glimmer of hope toward liberalization of race relations in America. Returning African American war veterans, who had dutifully borne arms, along with their white compatriots abroad, now rightly protested against discriminatory practices at home. A robust economy fueled by a quantum leap in industrialization, rising rates in literacy and voting among African Americans, and a burgeoning black urban middle class contributed significantly to rising expectations for racial reforms. The Cold War–era foreign policy commitment to freedom and equality abroad exposed an embarrassing hypocrisy in the face of legalized racial segregation at home. The NAACP, armed with a battery of brilliant young lawyers, assaulted segregation in every facet of American life. These embryonic stirrings for racial equality were, nonetheless, confronted with the seemingly insurmountable retributory acts of violence and economic intimidation by intransigent whites committed to segregation. As a legal and moral dilemma, racial inequality in public education reached critical mass by the early 1950s. In challenges to state constitutions and statutory codes requiring segregated schools, plaintiffs in five separate cases, joined under the title of Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, sought relief from perceived discriminatory practices in public school administration. Through a team of legal experts, which included future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the African American plaintiffs claimed that segregation was a clear violation of the rights of citizens as defined under the Fourteenth Amendment. Marshall argued that public school education was, indeed, within the “reach” of the Fourteenth Amendment. In their efforts to reverse Plessy, Marshall and his colleagues strategized a legal course that challenged the constitutionality of the “separate” premise of Plessy rather than the “equality” premise, arguing that separate educational facilities were inherently inequitable. On May 17, 1954, following months of constitutional debate, the Supreme Court delivered its unanimous


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opinion in the Brown case. Chief Justice Earl Warren, speaking for the court, declared: We come to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. To separate them [black children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. In light of such impending inequities, Warren concluded, “[I]n the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” In the following year, the Supreme Court undertook the thorny issue of implementing the Brown decision in spite of a racially divided America. Some justices feared that a stringent standard for compliance with Brown would only antagonize the South, while others were more confident that the majority of white southerners would express at least a “sympathetic consideration” toward desegregation.

...the Brown decisions were “the most ambitious attempt in twentieth-century America to bring about social change through law...”

In a calculated move for moderation, reconciliation, and compromise, the Supreme Court equivocated on the matter by issuing an ambiguous standard for compliance. The southern schools were directed to integrate “with all deliberate speed,” a rather vague and incongruous directive. But, the high court reasoned that it was realistic in light of the South’s predictable reactionary mindset, and the probable long and rocky road to school desegregation. The primary responsibility for the creation and implementation of desegregation plans was placed in the hands of local school officials, and such plans were to be made in “good faith” and instituted at the “earliest practicable date.” Judicial oversight of the segregation cases was placed in the hands of the federal judges in the district and appeals courts throughout the South. The formidable task before the lower courts was to acknowledge the vagaries of local school conditions and community attitudes without yielding to them as tactics for delay, and thereby denying the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs. On May 31, 1955, in what became known as Brown II, the Supreme Court ordered local school officials throughout the nation to begin “a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance” with the constitutional edicts mandated under Brown I. The legal interpretation, and in many respects the moral implications, of the Brown decisions fell, primarily, to the forty-eight federal district court judges located in the judicial districts that encompassed the southern states. And, in the racially charged South, the adjudication of the public school integration cases became an onerous responsibility. In gauging the unsavory predicament of the southern judges and the discordance of Brown II, political scientist J. W. Peltason surmised that it would take “a man of unusually strong 13


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The NAACP’s chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall, holds the door for Daisy Bates, Gloria Ray, and Minnijean Brown as they exit the Little Rock Federal District courtroom. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

resolve to force integration when he can just as readily and respectably construe the law to avoid an immediate showdown.” According to constitutional historian Tony Freyer, the Brown decisions were “the most ambitious attempt in twentieth-century America to bring about social change through law . . .” SOUTHERN RESISTANCE, PUBLIC SCHOOL INTEGRATION, AND LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS The Supreme Court’s rulings in the Brown cases evoked outrage, resentment, and resistance throughout the South. In March 1956, just over one hundred U.S. senators and representatives signed the “Southern Manifesto,” which denounced the high court’s decisions as “a clear abuse of judicial power.” The White Citizens’ Councils, determined to preserve “the southern way of life,” emerged as the most virulent of all white supremacy groups in the South by exploiting long-simmering racial fears and cultural discord. In an attempt to nullify the Brown decisions, southern state legislatures invoked the doctrine of “interposition” which placed the sovereign powers of a state government between its citizens and the federal government. As a result, state legislators and public officials passed pupil assignment laws, gerrymandered school districts, and invoked similar measures to circumvent compliance with the desegregation order. These measures, cleverly devoid of any racist language, were nevertheless intentionally discriminatory and thereby established de facto segregation through every conceivable legal and extra-legal means. In spite of the tide of “massive resistance,” most southern moderates were of the general opinion that although they were morally opposed to integration, they were, nonetheless, obliged to obey the law of the land. Consequently, desegregation of many public schools in the South, however undesirable, was underway by 1957. In Arkansas, considerable strides had been made with respect to integration. By 1957, under the administration of Governor Orval E. Faubus, Arkansas had more desegregated schools than eleven other southern states combined. Yet the political winds were shifting, and Faubus, although a moderate on the integration issue, would, in short

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order, capitulate to the segregationist forces. In spring 1957, resistance to integration in Arkansas intensified to the point where the state legislature passed four pro-segregationist measures which were signed into law by Governor Faubus. One created the state sovereignty commission with sweeping investigative and police powers. Another measure relieved schoolchildren of compulsory attendance in racially mixed school districts. These and other measures were designed to frustrate compliance with the Brown decisions. Little Rock, the picturesque capital of Arkansas, was proud of its reputation as a community of “excellent race relations.” Located in Pulaski County in the heart of Arkansas, Little Rock was a booming commercial and industrial metropolis by 1957, with a population of 107,000 people, including 82,000 whites and 25,000 blacks. In the post–World War II years, Little Rock achieved a respectable record on desegregation. African Americans were admitted to the Medical School of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock by 1948. The public library opened its doors to blacks in the early 1950s. The city’s public transportation system was integrated by 1956. African Americans served on Little Rock’s police force. Drinking fountains, once the clear and present reminders of segregation, no longer carried racist signage. Despite accomplishments in race relations, Little Rock, through a series of unsettling legal and political events, would be propelled into the national focus as the seat of southern state resistance to integration by fall 1957. As the constitutional crisis over the validity of the Brown decisions escalated, “the first really fundamental test of the national resolve to enforce Negro rights in the face of southern defiance” would be played out in Little Rock. On May 18, 1954, the day after the Supreme Court issued the first Brown decision, the Little Rock School District board members announced that they would comply with the edict of the highest court, albeit with considerable reservation in light of the complexities of integration. Under the leadership of Superintendent of Schools

Virgil T. Blossom, a plan evolved throughout the following year in which integration would begin in September 1956 at the junior and senior high school levels following the construction of two new schools—Horace Mann High School and Hall High School. Integration of the elementary schools would occur at a slower rate with no specific start date. The plan also outlined school attendance areas throughout the city without regard to race, and included the Hall High School attendance area where 700 white students and 6 black students resided, the Horace Mann High School attendance area with 426 white students and 533 black students, and the Central High School attendance area with 2,135 white students and 516 black students. This was known as the original Blossom Plan. However, in late May 1955, in an apparent move to appease growing skepticism among white moderates, the school board radically revised the Blossom Plan into a more restrictive, slower-paced plan known as the Little Rock Phase Program. Under the revised plan, integration would begin at the senior high school level (grades 10-12) during the 1957-58 academic year. If successful, integration would then proceed in the junior high schools (grades 7-9) by 1960, and eventually the elementary schools (grades 1-6) no later than 1963. Moreover, students from a racial minority would be allowed to transfer out of their school attendance areas. Horace Mann, when completed, would become a black segregated school. Finally, the Little Rock Phase Program provided for a selective screening process, which literally ensured that only a few blacks would be “eligible” for integration. As a result of these provisions, two of the city’s three high schools, including Hall High in the affluent white suburbs of the northwest and Horace Mann in the heavily black neighborhoods of the east side, would not be greatly affected by the desegregation plan. Consequently, the burdensome responsibility for integration would fall to the working-class residents of the raciallymixed third school attendance area—Little Rock’s Central High. The school board’s slow-paced phase program and selective attendance policies were not greeted with great fanfare by some black constituencies, 15


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who viewed the plan as “token” integration. The most outspoken were members of the local chapter of the NAACP and a number of determined AfricanAmerican students and their parents seeking equal educational opportunities. With the opening of Horace Mann High School in January 1956 on a segregated basis, a group of black parents attempted to register their children at white schools throughout Little Rock, but were turned away. Subsequently, on February 8, 1956, with Thurgood Marshall and Robert L. Carter of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund (an affiliate of the NAACP) as their legal representatives, thirtythree school-aged children filed a class action suit against the Little Rock School District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas under the title John Aaron et al., plaintiffs, v. William G. Cooper et al., defendants. The plaintiffs claimed that the school board had conspired to deny their rights to equal education as citizens of the United States by maintaining a segregated public school system, and that the integration plan was moving too slowly, and therefore, an evasion of the mandates of Brown I and II. On August 27, 1956, U.S. District Judge John E. Miller of the Western District of Arkansas presided over the case due to a vacancy in the eastern district, and rendered an opinion in favor of the Little Rock School District. Miller stated: “The plan which has been adopted after thorough and conscientious consideration . . . will lead to an effective and gradual adjustment of the problem . . . ,” and concluded that school board president William G. Cooper, Superintendent Blossom, and other school board officials had acted in “good faith.” The district court judgment was later affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on April 26, 1957. The appeals court opinion supported the lower court’s conclusion that the integration plan constituted “a good-faith, prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance with the Supreme Court’s mandate.” Throughout the summer of 1957, tensions mounted as segregationists, white supremacists, and the NAACP clashed over the controversial integration issue. Meanwhile, school officials, in pursuance of the gradual integration plan, enrolled nine black students in the formerly all-white Central High. Time and history would remember those courageous young people as the “Little Rock Nine.” By late summer racial tensions had reached a climax. On August 22, one of the South’s 16

most outspoken segregationists, Governor Marvin Griffin of Georgia, arrived in Little Rock at the invitation of the Capital Citizens’ Council, a white supremacy group. In a raucous speech, attended by many rabid segregationists from outside of Little Rock, Griffin advocated the use of all legal machinery to circumvent integration. The following weekend, an eight-foot-high cross stood burning in the front yard of the home of Mrs. Daisy Bates, the president of the state chapter of the NAACP. Superintendent Blossom, fearing possible violence with the opening of the fall school term, particularly from outside segregationist factions, relayed his concerns to Little Rock police chief, Marvin Potts, Judge Miller, and Governor Faubus. Although opposed to integration, Chief Potts nonetheless assured Blossom of police protection and preservation of order at Central High School. Blossom requested Miller to issue a general warning that the federal court would not tolerate interference with implementation of the integration plan, but Miller declined. In addressing his concerns to the governor, Blossom asked for a public statement urging respect for law and order and condemnation of violent acts. The governor, however, remained hesitant to intercede, stating that school desegregation was a local problem best resolved at the community level, and insisted that enforcement of integration plans was the responsibility of the federal government. As apprehension mounted, support for a delay in integration of the Little Rock schools grew. A group of concerned mothers (all white) formed the Mothers’ League of Central High School, an adjunct of the Capital Citizens’ Council, with the specific mission to halt integration. Governor Faubus, cognizant of the rising anti-integration sentiment among a large majority of white voters throughout Arkansas, relinquished his laissez-faire stance by recommending a delay in desegregation. The governor reasoned that a state court suit challenging the constitutionality of the state interposition statutes would, of necessity, create such a delay. Ostensibly acting on the governor’s behalf, Mrs. Clyde Thomason, recording secretary of the Mothers’ League, filed a suit against the school board in the Arkansas Chancery Court for an injunction to prohibit the school board from admitting the African American students. In the chancery court case, Thomason v. Cooper,


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Governor Faubus testified that it was a “most inopportune” time to begin school integration based upon his assertion that the potential for violence had risen considerably following Governor Griffin’s inflammatory speech, and, as such, school officials would not be able to control a mob situation. Thomason testified that youthful gangs armed with knives and guns were forming, but refused to identify her sources. Blossom, apparently recanting earlier statements of impending violence to Governor Faubus, testified that he had no expectation of disorder from the citizens of Little Rock, but feared disturbances from outside agitators. On August 29, Chancellor Murray O. Reed issued a temporary restraining order, based principally upon the governor’s testimony, that forced the school board to refrain from putting the plan of integration into effect on September 3, 1957. The Little Rock School Board members now found themselves in a legal quandary— by obeying the chancery court ruling, and thereby acknowledging the will of the local people, they would be defying the U.S. Constitution and the dictates of the highest court in the land. JUDGE DAVIES, AN OPPORTUNIST GOVERNOR, AND THE LITTLE ROCK NINE Into this legal predicament arrived a U.S. district judge from North Dakota. Appointed to the federal bench by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in August 1955, Davies had spent more than fifteen years as a trial lawyer and eight years as a municipal judge in his hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Although Judge Davies had served two years on the federal bench by the time of his assignment to the post in Little Rock, he had not previously encountered a racial integration case. Yet the decisions rendered by Davies in his brief tenure in Little Rock and the ensuing constitutional controversy would change the nature of public school integration in the United States. While other federal judges equivocated in the face of segregationist pressure, Davies remained resolute in upholding the U.S. Constitution and the decrees of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, he was one of the first federal jurists to lend definitive meaning to the vague Brown II phrase “with all deliberate speed.” Tenacity and tough-mindedness in the face of adversity were the hallmark characteristics that guided Judge Davies’ judicial career, and they were not at any time more apparent than in Little Rock in September 1957. A key question in this entire story is, Why was a judge from North Dakota rendering decisions on racial integration in Arkansas? In 1957, the federal court system was divided into eleven judicial circuits with the eighth circuit including the states stretching from Arkansas to North Dakota. Arkansas had three authorized judgeships, one for each of its two districts along with a roving third judge who heard cases in both districts when necessary. As a routine matter, judges presided over cases in different district courts throughout the circuit when warranted by the chief judge. When seventy-nine-year-old Judge Thomas Trimble of the Eastern District of Arkansas took senior status in January 1957 and no successor was immediately appointed, cases began to pile up. In an effort to alleviate the backlog, Eighth Circuit Chief Judge Archibald Gardner assigned Davies to the eastern district in Little Rock for a temporary term of six months commencing August 24, 1957. Shortly after Davies’s arrival, Judge Miller of the western district, who still retained jurisdiction of Aaron v. Cooper, learned of the chancery court’s injunction of August 29 and asked to be relieved of any further involvement with the integration case. Miller’s request was granted, and litigation of Aaron v. Cooper would now proceed before Judge Davies who was now on the bench in Little Rock. With the opening of the fall school term just a few days away and the school board in a legal quandary, Blossom, through legal representative A. F. House, petitioned the federal district court to restrain “Mrs. Clyde Thomason and the class she represents . . . from using in any manner the Order of the Pulaski Chancery Court entered on August 29, 1957, for the purpose of preventing or interfering with the plan of petitioners to integrate the high schools of Little Rock School District on September 3, 1957 . . . .” After hearing arguments on Thursday, August 30, Judge Davies issued the first in a series of pivotal decisions wherein he ruled that the chancery court did not have jurisdiction to interfere with the school board’s integration plan. More importantly, Davies prohibited all persons from interfering with or preventing the opening of an integrated 17


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Central High scheduled for September 3, 1957. When news of the Davies decision reached Faubus, he secretly ordered the Arkansas National Guard to “prepare for action.” Governor Faubus regarded the temporary appointment of Davies to the judicial post in Little Rock as “sinister.” Upon the chancery court’s injunction, Faubus anticipated that Judge Miller, if he had presided over the case, would have supported a delay in desegregation, thereby extricating the governor from the brewing racial controversy. However, when a “northern” judge was chosen to preside over the case, the governor’s strategy was foiled. Faubus would soon become a principal actor in the legal drama surrounding public school integration in Little Rock. Fearing an outbreak of violence, Governor Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard on the evening of Monday, September 2, 1957. In a televised speech, with language denoting a segregationist stance, the governor stated,

On the evening of September 3, 1957, in a hearing that lasted only four minutes, Judge Davies handed down a landmark ruling. With regard to Governor Faubus’s calling out the state militia, Davies stated that he was taking the governor’s actions at their “full face value”—to maintain public order and not to circumvent integration. In light of this interpretation, Davies instructed the school board officials to proceed immediately: “An order will issue tonight directing you to put into effect forthwith the plan of integration which you presented to a Judge of this Court and which was approved by him and by the Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit sitting in St. Louis.”

Faubus then ordered units of the national guard to the grounds of Central High School with the ostensible mission to “maintain or restore order” and not to act “as segregationists or integrationists, but as soldiers called to active duty . . . .”

Noting the inability of federal jurists to cite clear language from the Warren Court on Brown II, it is possible that Judge Davies sought guidance in the appellate court ruling of April 1957, which stated that timelines of integration programs, once in operation, were subject to review by the district courts to determine whether or not they should be accelerated. Without clear language and firm legal precedent, Judge Davies nevertheless rendered a decision that translated the high court’s ambiguous phrase “with all deliberate speed” into definitive action for compliance with the court-approved integration plan through use of the singular, candid term “forthwith.” Moreover, the alacrity and laconic language of his judicial fiat quickly achieved a psychological and political force that transcended the legal nebula of Brown II. Aided considerably by the national press, the impact of his decision was not lost upon the people of Little Rock and their truculent southern countrymen who perceived the judge’s ruling as the clarion call for public school desegregation throughout the American South.

The governor’s show of force in surrounding Central High with troops propelled the school board into another legal dilemma. Caught between a state governor’s discretionary police powers and federal judicial decrees, the troubled school officials appealed to Judge Davies for instructions. Attorney House filed a petition on behalf of the school board in which he

In accordance with the federal bench ruling, the school board issued a statement indicating that Central High would open its doors to the black students the following morning. Melba Pattillo, one of the Little Rock Nine enrolled at Central High, greeted Davies’s ruling to defend her right to equality in education with quiet jubilation.

We are now faced with a far different problem, and that is the forcible integration of the public schools of Little Rock against the overwhelming sentiment of the people of the area. This problem gives every evidence and indication that the attempt to forcibly integrate will bring about wide-spread disorder and violence. . . . It will not be possible to restore or to maintain order and protect the lives and property of the citizens if forcible integration is carried out tomorrow in the schools of this community. The inevitable conclusion therefore, must be that the schools in Pulaski County, for the time being, must be operated on the same basis as they have been operated in the past.

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stated that, in light of the governor’s actions, “we ask that no Negro students attempt to attend Central or any white high school until this dilemma is legally resolved,” and requested that the school board not be held in contempt for violating the court-approved integration plan.


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As the calendar turned to the fourth day of September, residents of Little Rock witnessed their own “day of infamy.” Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, another of the Little Rock Nine, clad in a gingham dress with a notebook cradled in her arms, made three attempts to enter Central High, but each time was blocked by a solid line of national guardsmen armed with rifles. Retreating to a bus stop, a trembling Eckford was repeatedly jeered by a crowd of more than two hundred angry white demonstrators hurling insults and chanting “two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate!” The other eight African American students also attempted to enter the school, but were summarily turned away by the national guard. Newsmen and photographers eagerly captured the troubling events that had transpired in the early morning hours. Haunting photographs of a lone young black girl suffering the intimidation of armed state militia and the threats of an ugly white mob received considerable local, national, and even international media attention. Alerted to the situation, President Eisenhower requested further information from U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell who reported that the national guard had, indeed, “stopped seven to nine Negro children from going to school today.”

Ever-present pipe in mouth, Will Campbell listens on September 4, 1957, as Lt. Col. Marion Johnson, commander of the Arkansas National Guard troops at Central High, tells students Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray, Ernest Green, and Jane Hill (in back) that his troops are under orders from Governor Orval Faubus not to allow the desegragation of Central High to begin. Campbell was one of several ministers, both black and white, who escorted the students to school. Only two weeks earlier, he had been under Lt. Col. Johnson’s command at a summer national guard camp. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

When classes resumed on Wednesday, September 5, on a nonintegrated basis, the paramount question of the day remained unanswered: Was the national guard there to preserve peace or to prevent integration? Suspicious of the governor’s intent, Judge Davies requested U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas

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...it must never be forgotten that I have a constitutional duty and obligation from which I shall not shrink... Osro Cobb “. . . to begin at once a full, thorough and complete investigation to determine the responsibility for interference with said order, or responsibility for failure of compliance with said order of this Court . . .” and to report his findings “with the least practicable delay.” Cobb subsequently enlisted the services of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Marshal’s office in Little Rock. The executive branch of government, specifically the Department of Justice, had now become a legal participant in the public school integration case. Meanwhile, with the potential for race riots looming on the horizon, Blossom and the school board members requested a stay of the federal court’s order of September 3, thereby temporarily delaying the start of integration. Two days later on Saturday, September 7, in a crowded courtroom, Judge Davies responded firmly, expeditiously, and with a certain measure of sternness to the petitioners’ arguments for delay: The testimony and the arguments this morning were, in my judgment, as anemic as the Petition itself; and the position taken by the school directors does violence to my concept of the duty of the Petitioners to adhere with resolution to its [sic] own approved plan of gradual integration in the Little Rock Public Schools. It must never be thought that this Court has not given careful consideration to this problem and all that it entails, but it must never be forgotten that I have a constitutional duty and obligation from which I shall not shrink. . . The chief executive of Little Rock has stated that the Little Rock Police have not had a single case of interracial violence reported to them and that there has been no indication from sources available to him that there would be violence in regard to this situation. In an organized society there can be nothing but ultimate confusion and chaos if court decrees are flaunted, whatever the pretext. That we, and each of us, has a duty to conform to the

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law of the land and the decrees of its duly constituted tribunals is too elementary to require elaboration. The petition of the Little Rock school district . . . for an order temporarily suspending enforcement of its plan of integration . . . is in all things denied. Judge Davies’s emphatic decision received a mixed response in Little Rock. Superintendent Blossom found himself “right back on the same old merry-go-round, under orders to integrate but with no power to do it.” Segregationists were quick to claim that Davies had made his decision prior to the hearing and “was determined to ram integration through at any cost.” Governor Faubus appeared on national television with a riveting statement challenging federal authority and specifically indicting Davies, citing the judge’s swift decisions as “high-handed,” “arbitrary,” and “without consideration of the consequences.” The governor declared again that he was not opposed to integration, and stated firmly that the federal government must recognize the sovereign rights of the state of Arkansas and the discretionary duties of its chief executive to maintain the public peace. On the following Monday, September 9, the veracity of the governor’s actions with respect to his deployment of the national guard was seriously challenged. While the guardsmen continued to surround Central High, barring the Little Rock Nine from the schoolhouse doors, U.S. Attorney Cobb delivered the findings of the FBI investigation to Judge Davies. The five-hundred-page report included more than one hundred interviews with key individuals from the governor’s office, the school board, civic officials, members of the Mothers’ League, and the nine African American students. The document provided irrefutable evidence of complicity on the part of the governor to obstruct integration. In a succinct, summary report to Judge Davies, Cobb laid the foundation for legal action against Faubus. He stated that the Arkansas National Guard was still


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occupying the premises of Central High and that the black students had been “physically denied access to the school by shoulder-to-shoulder formations of the Guard.” Furthermore, affidavits secured from national guard commanders General Sherman T. Clinger and Colonel Marion E. Johnson “clearly reflect that since September 3, 1957, the Guard unit has been under direct orders from Governor Faubus to make certain that white students were not to be allowed in the colored schools and, conversely, colored students were not to be allowed in the white schools.” In closing, Cobb stated that “[u]nquestionably there presently exists a state of defiance of the orders of this court and continuance of the defiance is threatened.” Cobb’s telling statements suggested that Faubus would not back down. The case of Aaron v. Cooper had now become not only the fight of a handful of black children for equal education; it had been transformed, through Davies’s decisions and the actions of Faubus, into a power struggle between the federal government and a state governor. The central question of the controversy had now become: What legal action should be taken against Faubus, and by whom? Judge Davies? The Department of Justice? Perhaps President Eisenhower himself? One hour after receiving the Cobb report, Judge Davies requested the U.S. attorney to enter the case as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, stating that “the public interest in the administration of justice should be represented in these proceedings . . .” He then requested that Cobb and attorneys within the Department of Justice submit evidence, arguments, and briefs to support their findings of interference. Options for legal action against the governor included the following: The Department of Justice attorneys could request an immediate contempt citation against Faubus for interference with the court-approved plan. Or they might ask Davies to issue an immediate restraining order, thus forcing Faubus to admit the black students or risk contempt. In an apparent move toward an amiable resolution, Davies instructed the attorneys to file an immediate petition against the governor and the national guard commanders for an injunction

to prevent interference. However, Judge Davies’s order provided for a ten-day delay before a scheduled court hearing on September 20, thus allowing Faubus ample time for a respectable retreat. Davies refused to allow the situation in Little Rock to degenerate into a “contest of wills” between a federal judge and a state governor. Furthermore, the judge contended that the grandstanding by Faubus was “a purely political ploy” to secure a coveted third term as governor of Arkansas. During the brief and unsettling interlude between September 10 and September 20, Little Rock remained the focus of national attention. School officials and civic leaders expressed attitudes of uncertainty, apprehension and fear as the legal crisis escalated. Classes at Central High School continued in a “nightmarish fashion.” Governor Faubus, at the urging of Arkansas Congressman Brooks Hays, met with President Eisenhower and promised to abide by the Supreme Court decisions. Yet on September 20 the national guard still remained on duty on the grounds of Central High. Faubus had refused to retreat and the showdown had arrived. At 10 a.m. on Friday, September 20, Judge Davies entered the federal courtroom, which was crowded to capacity. Newspaper reporters from across the United States and abroad were packed into the jury box. A large contingent of segregationists occupied the left side of the courtroom, while African Americans clustered on the right side. The Little Rock Nine sat immediately to the right of the judicial dais. More than one hundred witnesses, subpoenaed by the Department of Justice, sat in various anterooms near the courtroom. Hundreds of spectators crowded the narrow corridors of the federal building. As Judge Davies entered the courtroom, Melba Pattillo recalled, I held my breath. I had read so much about him. What would he be like? A very small man wearing a black robe entered and moved swiftly toward the massive desk. His smooth dark hair was parted in the middle, framing his pleasant round face. As he climbed up to the imposing leather chair and settled in, what stood out most of all were his huge 21


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eyes peering through thick horn-rimmed glasses. From where I sat, I could see only the top part of his black robe, his round face, and those all-seeing, all-knowing eyes. Governor Faubus, who chose not to appear, sent a battery of lawyers to seek disqualification of Davies as presiding jurist, and to enter motions challenging the federal court’s jurisdiction to restrain the orders and operations of a state’s chief executive. Davies responded by overruling all motions, whereupon Faubus’s attorneys walked out of the courtroom. The Department of Justice attorneys then secured key testimony from city and school officials, indicating that there had been no violence in Central High, officials were fully prepared to handle any situation and had made no request for assistance from the state militia via Governor Faubus, and integration would have proceeded without serious disturbance. At the conclusion of the long hearing, Judge Davies granted an immediate injunction against Faubus for clearly thwarting the court-approved integration plan. In a ten-page “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,” Davies stated that an injunction against Faubus and the national guard commanders was necessary to protect not only the constitutional rights of the young plaintiffs, but also the judicial process of the federal courts. In issuing the injunction Judge Davies declared, Although the use of the armed force of the State of Arkansas to deny access to the school by Negro children has been declared by Governor Faubus to be required to preserve peace and order, such use of the Arkansas National Guard was and is unlawful, and in violation of the rights of the Negro children under the Fourteenth Amendment as determined by this Court. At 6:20 p.m., in a televised speech, Governor Faubus withdrew the national guard from Central High. With the Arkansas guardsmen gone and integration on schedule once again, Little Rock officials repeatedly raised concerns regarding the ability of limited local law enforcement officials to prevail in the event of an unruly situation at Central High. Although more than 150 state and local law officers were dispatched to the school, Superintendent Blossom requested federal assistance from the U.S. Marshal’s office through Judge Davies. U.S. Attorney Cobb denied the request after failing to secure the necessary authority from the Justice Department. The school board found itself, once again, in a precarious position. Blossom had reason to fear the opening of school the following Monday. Little Rock residents later referred to the infamous day as “Black Monday.” By the time the school bell rang at Central High on September 23, the mob outside the police barricades had grown to over a thousand, many of them from outside of Little Rock. Amid angry shouts, threats, and profanity, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into the school under the watchful protection of their parents and the city police. Inside the building, classes resumed without serious altercations. Shortly thereafter, Little Rock Mayor Woodrow W. Mann, alarmed at the growing mob outside, suggested that the black students be removed from the school for their own safety. Blossom complied, and the nine students were escorted by the Little Rock police down through the loading dock of the school to avoid confrontation. There, they entered two cars with armed drivers who hastily maneuvered through the angry mob outside as rocks and sticks pelted the vehicles. By the end of the day, the disgraceful events that had transpired in Little Rock echoed across the country. President Eisenhower, heretofore reluctant to intervene, issued a stern warning: “I will use the full power of the United States —including whatever force may be necessary—to prevent any obstruction of the law and to carry out the orders of the federal court.” That force arrived in Little Rock under presidential orders the following evening in the form of the elite “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st Airborne Infantry Division. Little Rock was now under federal siege. The Davies decisions, the actions of Governor Faubus, and the ensuing events had precipitated a move by an American president that had been rare since the days of the Civil War—to call out troops against his own people. In the days and weeks which followed, Little Rock was a demoralized community divided by color, a local economy 22


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on the verge of decline, and integration by force. U.S. government soldiers with bayoneted rifles surrounded Central High as helicopters surveyed the situation overhead. Superintendent Blossom and the high school faculty maintained a disquieting calm as a tiny contingent of black students co-existed with two thousand white students. The Little Rock Nine remained under armed military escort to each and every class, and, in spite of daily episodes of harassment, humiliation, and physical abuse, they stayed the course of integration. Education at Central High was anything but normal. The Capital Citizens’ Council and the Mothers’ League escalated their campaigns of hatred and bigotry. Judge Davies resumed hearing the logjam of federal court cases. The constitutional crisis in Little Rock went unabated as the weeks and months passed, and eventually the Brown rulings and the Davies decisions in Aaron v. Cooper were litigated all the way to the Supreme Court. Although Judge Davies had returned to North Dakota, he contacted Chief Judge Gardner indicating that he still retained jurisdiction in Aaron v. Cooper and would return to Little Rock without hesitation. Judge Gardner replied that Davies had endured “enough trouble”; and, noting the extensive local criticism of Davies as a “foreigner,” chose U.S. District Judge Harry J. Lemley, a southerner, to preside over the case. In June 1958, upon petition of the school board, Judge Lemley granted a postponement of the Little Rock Phase Program until January 1961, citing “the deep seated popular opposition in Little Rock to the principle of integration. . .” The NAACP attorneys immediately filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit, which overturned Judge Lemley’s decision. In September 1958, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, upheld the decision of the appellate court. The justices declared, {T]he constitutional rights of children not to be discriminated against in school admission on grounds of race or color declared by this Court in the Brown case can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers, nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether

attempted ‘ingeniously or ingenuously.’ The judgment of the high court was to take effect immediately, and called for the reinstatement of the integration plan with said order communicated “forthwith” to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. RETURN TO NORTH DAKOTA Judge Davies returned home to North Dakota on October 2, 1957. The soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division remained at their posts in the corridors of Central High until their recall on November 27, 1957. The Little Rock Nine, steadfast and courageous, fought for an education that had long been recognized as the fundamental right of the children of another race. On Tuesday evening, May 27, 1958, Ernest Green became the first African-American student to graduate from Little Rock’s Central High School. In a stadium amid 5,000 spectators, 100 city police, and 200 national guardsmen, young Green quietly received his diploma without fear or fanfare. The events in Little Rock can be deemed a watershed in the history of public school integration in the United States. As the seminal test of the 1950s to enforce the Brown rulings, Little Rock became a crucible of conflict. And in this crucible emerged a discordant people divided by color, an embattled school board vacillating on the timeline for token integration, a recalcitrant governor who sold his soul in the face of perceived political exigencies, an executive branch of the federal government reluctant to intercede until military force was necessary, nine brave black children who refused to walk away, and a federal judge determined to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the edicts of the Supreme Court. The decisions rendered by Davies while in Little Rock represented a critical moment in public school integration. In the face of staunch adversaries, he refused to surrender his legal principles and allow the subversion of the established judicial process for implementing federal court decisions by political opportunists, insurrectionists, and mob violence. In his frank 23


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and emphatic order to implement the court-approved integration plan “forthwith,” he translated the incongruent language of the Brown II ruling into explicit action for compliance. In the hearts and minds of the people of Little Rock and beyond, the Davies rulings were perceived as the mandate for public school desegregation throughout the American South. He insisted upon less deliberation and more speed, and in doing so, incurred the wrath of many and the admiration of many more. Judge Davies rarely spoke of his days in Little Rock and always claimed, “I was just doing my job.” Despite a selfeffacing stance, Davies received praiseworthy commentary from the national media. Time Magazine hailed him as one of the “trail blazers” for civil rights and “a no-nonsense judge who could cut incisively through legal complexities.” The Minneapolis Tribune reported, “[B]eneath his Casper Milquetoast appearance, the short (5-foot, 1-inch), graying jurist hides a wiry toughness and unyielding principles.” The Honolulu Star-Bulletin stated “a historic new figure is emerging on the American legal scene.” According to Catholic View, it was Davies who made “integration a fact rather than a theory,” and named him “Man of the Year” in 1958. Although Davies remained in the national limelight for some time, he rejected all speaking engagements and all publication offers, and only late in his life did he grant interviews regarding the integration case. Reflecting on his days in Little Rock, Davies stated, I was interpreting the law. I take the law as I find it, and the law to me was very clear. They said integrate. They used some bad language, I think, ‘with all deliberate speed.’ That’s a little difficult for a federal judge to interpret, but to me Judge Ronald Davies, his daughter Jean, Mrs. Davies, and lawyer Norman Tennyson, returning from Little Rock, October 1957. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

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it meant go, and we went. . . . If he [Faubus] had been permitted, for example, not to integrate on the threat of violence, there would have been no integration in the entire South. . . . There was no way that the governor of any state was going to interfere with the pronouncements of the Supreme Court of the United States. In his twilight years, Davies was often recognized for his steadfast principles and inflexible devotion to law. In 1986, he became the first recipient of the “North Dakota Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.” In the following year he became the twenty-first recipient of the prestigious “Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award,” the highest honor bestowed by the state of North Dakota. The award recognized Davies for achieving national prominence for the successful adjudication of critical legal issues. In 1994, Melba Pattillo Beals recounted her trying days at Central High School in a provocative memoir entitled, Warriors Don’t Cry, and gratefully acknowledged the North Dakota jurist for “the courage of his convictions.” Davies, however, maintained that the real courage in Arkansas in September 1957 was found in the hearts and minds of the intrepid Little Rock Nine. Judge Davies succumbed to a fourth and fatal stroke on April 18, 1996, at the age of ninetyone. Five years later, through an act of the U.S. Congress, the newly renovated federal building in his hometown of Grand Forks, was renamed in his honor. When news of the “Ronald N. Davies Federal Building and United States Courthouse” reached Beals, she replied fervently, “A building isn’t enough . . . Davies deserves to have a planet named after him . . .”

This article is a revised and shortened version of an article originally published in Western Legal History, 17(Winter/ Spring, 2004): 1-44. Colleen A. Warner is a professional historian and a private consultant in archives and historical records in Toledo, Ohio. In the mid-1980s she negotiated the acquisition of Judge Davies’ papers for the Robinson Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota, the judge’s alma mater. Copyright Colleen A. Warner. All rights reserved.

...Davies, however, maintained that the real courage in Arkansas in September 1957 was found in the hearts and minds of the intrepid Little Rock Nine. 25


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by Carl Oberholtzer

How did we arrive here? A divided nation unwilling to compromise. Politicians making false and damaging accusations against other politicians and justifying this scurrilous behavior by using the age old phrase “the end justifies the means.” The federal government imposing its will on state governments. The courts creating law, when the Constitution clearly explains that the job of the courts is to interpret the law not to make it. The media being used to incite anger and hatred by those individuals who hope to enjoy political gain by attacking any group threatening to disrupt the status quo in society. Groups using religious teachings and the fear of foreign threats to our way of life to argue against social change. Events seem to be throwing curve balls at us at a time when we cannot even find a bat to hit the ball with. What type of American society will survive these turbulent times? This may be perceived as the current state of affairs in the United States by some Americans in the twenty-first century. For many Americans, this was the state of affairs in the United States during

Can we take the lessons of the 1950s and use them to help us understand our current situation? At the very least we can study

the 1950s.

the events leading up to the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, along with the actions of U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Davies, to guide us in our contemporary thoughts and actions when attempting to make sense of the issues facing the United States in the this century. First, we need to refresh our high school lessons on government. The U.S. Constitution provides the foundations for the legal workings of the United States. All states accepted this when they joined the U.S. This also means that all laws created by the federal and state governments must not go against the framework and workings established in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution clearly describes the responsibilities of each branch of government: the executive branch to carry out the laws, the legislative branch to make the laws and the judicial branch to interpret the laws. Let us focus on the role of the judicial branch before we progress. The Constitution clearly states that the judiciary will interpret the law. Why is this necessary? Many issues could not have been foreseen by the individuals who composed and signed the U.S. Constitution, including some of, today’s questions related to everyday issues such as music, television, pornography, seat belts, smoking, and birth.

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History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. –Maya Angelou


In earlier encounters between school-segregationist protesters and Little Rock police, the city firemen had refused to allow their fire hose to be used to control the crowd. In August 1959, however, high-power water helped keep marchers from reaching Central High School. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

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Lessons From Little Rock

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Thus judges are needed to interpret the principles of the Constitution as they apply to everyday issues. In 1955 Ronald Davies was appointed to the U.S. 8th District Circuit Court by President Eisenhower for the state of North Dakota. The 8th District Court included the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, North Dakota and Arkansas. Judge Davies had been hearing cases in eastern North Dakota until August 1957. In August 1957, Ronald Davies was given a six-month temporary assignment in the state of Arkansas. Judge Davies arrived in Little Rock at a time when groups were battling over the integration of public schools in that city. In 1957 U.S. District Judge Ronald Davies issued a ruling to desegregate Little Rock Central High School “forthwith.” This ruling went against the wishes of several regional religious groups, state political powers, members of the legislative branch of the federal government and a significant portion (if not majority) of the population in the southern region of the United States. The question asked by the people represented in these groups centered on, “how could this happen?” A person [Judge Davies], not from the region or state, making a decision that seemed to have no support in law and going against the popular opinion of the people in the state did not seem right. Many southerners believed that Davies, as a northerner, possessed a desire to end what many southerners viewed as their way of life.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States... are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States...

Minnijean Brown chatted with classmates as they clustered during a Central High bomb scare in 1957. Minnijean said in 1997 that she believes the students would have eventually accepted her as a classmate and friend. However, she was expelled for dumping chili on a white student who had been harassing her in the cafeteria. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

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The rulings Davies made in Little Rock were not based on personal, political or social philosophy. The decision Judge Davies rendered was based on law and the Constitution. The historical events leading to this case may shed some light on Davies’s decision. In 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. A portion of this amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In the 1896 court case, Plessy v Ferguson, the federal courts upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses (particularly railroads), under the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Much of the South used this court ruling to continue to segregate society. At this moment in time the courts were obviously correct, in the minds of many southerners, with their interpretation of the U.S Constitution. Legalized segregation became the norm in many areas of American society. There were attempts to change this ruling in the following years but to no avail until 1954. In 1954 the Federal court case of Oliver Brown et al. v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas reversed the Plessy v Ferguson ruling. In Brown v Board of Ed. the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that “separate but equal has no place in American education.” State governments were now faced with the decision on how to carry out integration in 1955. Many southern school districts took the ruling at face value and established plans to desegregate. Some of those plans were sincere and some were designed to place insurmountable, if not impossible, barriers before the integration process. The goal of many school districts was to delay the process as long as possible, perhaps even suspend these decisions until another court ruling would reverse the previous court’s finding. In 1954, the Little Rock School Board announced they would comply with Brown v Board of Education. The “Blossom Plan” (named after the Superintendent of Schools) would, in two years, begin the integration process. The plan called for all Little Rock schools to be integrated by 1963. It should be noted that Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had been a moderate concerning integration when he was elected and that the state of Arkansas had more integrated schools than any other southern state in 1957. Little Rock had an integrated police force, few busing restrictions based on race, along with the elimination of segregated water fountains and bathroom facilities. The social norm in Little Rock appeared to be changing prior to 1957. In 1957 the Blossom Plan began by enrolling the first black students (The Little Rock Nine) at Central High School. During the summer of 1957, the Little Rock School Board, fearing violence, began to reconsider its decision to begin the integration process at Central H.S. Southern congressmen cited the communist threat to our way of life as the primary factor

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behind the integration movement. A local group, the Mothers’ League of Central High School, went to state court asking for a restraining order to stop the plan for integration. This group quoted biblical scripture as a basis to maintain segregation. The Mothers’ League was granted the restraining order by an Arkansas State court at the urging of Arkansas State Governor Faubus who had felt the pressure of local segregation groups. Little Rock School Superintendent Blossom, not knowing whether to follow Federal Court rulings or the State Court ruling looked for guidance in Aaron v Cooper. The stage was now set for a showdown between the state government (executive and judicial branches) and the federal courts. On August 30, 1957, Federal District Judge Ronald Davies ruled the state court had no jurisdiction to interfere with the integration process and “enjoined all persons from interfering with the opening of Central High School on September 3.” In response to Judge Davies ruling, Gov. Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard on September 2, “… to maintain order and protect the lives and property of the citizens…”. The Little Rock School board now faced a showdown between the governor’s decision to use force to prevent the integration of Central High School and Judge Davies’s decision to integrate. The next day, the school board brought a petition to Judge Davies asking him to delay integration. It took the judge a total of four minutes to reach his decision. Judge Davies ordered the school district to follow the court approved integration plan, “FORTHWITH.” Integration would begin the next day. Govenor Faubus then issued the following statement: “…the forcible integration of the public schools of Little Rock against the overwhelming sentiment of the people … gives every evidence and indication that the attempt to forcibly integrate will bring about wide spread disorder and violence … it will not be possible to maintain order and protect lives … the schools for the time being, must be operated on the same basis as they operated in the past.” During the following days the Arkansas National Guard prevented the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High School. On September 20 Judge Davies ruled, “Although the use of the armed force of the State of Arkansas

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to deny access to the school by Negro children has been declared by Governor Faubus to be required to preserve peace and order, such use of the Arkansas National Guard was and is unlawful, and in violation of the rights of the Negro children under the Fourteenth Amendment as determined by this court.” Govenor Faubus then ordered the Arkansas National Guard to be removed from the school campus. During the next three days, fear of violence rose throughout Little Rock and on September 23, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Infantry Division of the U.S. Army to Little Rock to keep the peace. U.S. army personnel protected the Little Rock Nine students as they entered the school each morning. During the next nine months the Little Rock Nine students experienced challenges, hardships, and threats which eight of the nine endured until the last day of school in May, 1958. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green became the first African-American to graduate from Central High School. The events which unfolded in Little Rock during the last half of the 1950s reverberated throughout the United States for decades to come. To say that Judge Davies impacted the lives of the “Little Rock Nine” would be accurate but not complete. The actions and decisions by Judge Davies impacted the lives of all students in the United States. We are all teachers. Every time we meet another person we teach them something about ourself. If we yell and scream we teach anger. Or we may choose to teach kindness by our words. The “Little Rock Nine” taught the students and staff at Central High mental toughness, courage, a desire to succeed, and personal discipline. These students also taught the watching world uncompromising strength and determination. The decision by Judge Davies to require the integration of Little Rock High School “forthwith” provided the opportunity for all Americans to grow, prosper and teach the world that the ideals found in the U.S. Constitution are not simply empty promises on paper. Catholic View, which named Davies as Man of the Year in 1958 stated, “he [Davies] made integration a reality instead of a theory in the U.S.” What lessons can we take from this moment? What


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teachable moments does this event present us? Obviously the power struggle that exists today between the different branches of government is not new. The power struggle which has always existed between the federal and state levels of governments will, for all practical purposes, continue. The evolution of Govenor Faubus from a moderate to a staunch segregationist was the result of political pressure upon a man whose principles changed with the winds. The use of fear to create a crisis situation to justify one’s political beliefs has been repeated throughout the history of the U.S. These are lessons worthy of study in any government or civics class. On a human side, the lessons are much deeper. District Judge Ronald Davies demonstrated a toughness seldom found on the national stage during the twenty-first century. He did not bow to powers which tried to intimidate and coerce. He did not postpone or delay what he perceived as the right thing to do. Judge Davies exemplified the qualities of responsibility, integrity, determination and courage, which benefit all society. Judge Davies interpreted the law of the land without political influence or motive. He did so in a humble and professional manner. When asked about his decisions in Little Rock he stated, “I was interpreting the law. I take the law as I find it, and the law was very clear. They said integrate. … If he [Faubus] had been permitted, for example, not to integrate on the threat of violence, there would have been no integration in the entire south … There was no way the governor of any state was going to interfere with pronouncements of the Supreme Court of the United States.” What has been left out of this brief article is the story of the Little Rock Nine. The bravery and determination these students demonstrated goes beyond a small article. As Judge Davies stated countless times later in his life, “the real courage was in the hearts and minds of the courageous students who changed America.”

I take the law as I find it, and the law was very clear. They said integrate. –Judge Davies

Ernest Green waited for graduation ceremonies to begin at Central High’s football stadium in May 1958. Green was the only senior among the Little Rock Nine, becoming the first black student to graduate from the school. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

Carl Oberholtzer earned his Bachelor and Master Degrees from North Dakota State University. Carl taught social science courses at the secondary level for 34 years in North Dakota. He currently teaches education courses for North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

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Remembering the Times In Summer/Fall 1957, when relatively recently minted Federal District Court Judge Ronald N. Davies stepped off the train in Little Rock, Arkansas, the North Dakotan was advised he would be assigned routine cases in that had built up following the retirement of a local district court judge. Among those routine cases Judge Davies undertook was the Little Rock Central High School desegregation case, Aaron v Cooper, which catapulted him onto the international judicial stage in meteoric time. Judge Davies is most known for the courageous stand he took in upholding the rule of law and furthering civil rights during one tumultuous monthlong time period in 1957. However, this humble man, who grew up in Minnesota and North Dakota, never lost sight of his loyalty and dedication to the rule of the law. The Little Rock assignment lasted one month. It is the other 1,095 months of Ronald Davies’ life, however, which not only shaped the man, but established his legacy as a fair but strict judge, who was well respected by the North Dakota and Eighth Circuit legal community, to be long remembered for his commitment to upholding the law and protecting the individual. Judge Davies, born in 1904 in Crookston, Minnesota, moved with his family to Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1917. As a paper delivery boy who earned all of $1.50 per week, he briefly considered, then quickly rejected, a career in the newspaper industry. Davies found himself tagging along to court with

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Judge Davies while at UND, 1926. Courtesy of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota.


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and Life his grandfather, the chief of police in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, becoming “absolutely fascinated watching that municipal judge and listening to those lawyers. From then on, that’s all [he] ever wanted to be.” Davies once reminisced, “I don’t quite know how I escaped the smell of printer’s ink, but I told my father and my uncles almost from the start” about wanting to become a lawyer. Davies demonstrated a competitive and determined spirit in much of his early life. When confronted with a challenge, he rarely backed down. During his freshman year of college at the University of North Dakota, his debate coach assigned him to defend the Ku Klux Klan. Davies had no desire to do so, but carrying out his duty, he was able to persuade the debate judges the Klan was merely a boy scout troop. Even more, during college, Davies yearned for a sports career, but with his short stature, Davies was scoffed at by coaches. Taking full advantage of the North Dakota winters, Davies sprinted across snow-covered railroad spurs to build strength and stamina. This commitment to rigorous training resulted in a tensecond-flat 100-yard dash, a school record that stood for five years. Beyond his competitive spirit, Davies was active in the university community. At UND, in addition to debate, Davies found time to act as president of the Newman Club (a Catholic student group), while working as a soda jerk and a clothing-store clerk. It is well known that his big love was politics. After graduating from UND in 1927, Davies enrolled in Georgetown University Law School in our nation’s capitol. Working his way through law school, Davies first had a stint as a capitol police officer on the night shift where as he put it, “I had a perfect record though—didn’t make an arrest.” Later, Davies worked for the Senate Indian Affairs committee under Senator Lynn J. Frazier. Davies’s drive and commitment brought him back to North Dakota upon earning his Juris Doctorate in 1930, and with $2.50 in his pocket, he opened a law office practicing, as Davies put it, “[c]riminal, civil, probate-anything any misguided client would retain a young lawyer for. It was tough going.” In 1932, the “tough going” of solo practice led Davies to run for and get elected as municipal judge. With characteristic wit, Davies explained his decision to run for a judgeship, “You see, I didn’t like to get out of the habit of eating.” Davies met and married Mildred Doran, a nurse at Saint Joseph Hospital in Grand

of Judge Ronald N. Davies by Kermit Edward Bye

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Forks, in October 1933 and had five children. Their two sons, Tim and Tom, followed their father into the legal profession. In 1940 he enlisted in the army. Because of his height, the army required Davies to obtain a waiver, which he did, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel serving in various stateside roles. Upon his discharge, he returned to private practice in Grand Forks. In 1947, he became executive director of the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND). From 1947 until his appointment to the federal bench in 1955, Davies demonstrated commitment to the community as he was active in many public areas and worked for numerous civic drives and organizations. He taught classes at the University of North Dakota School of Law and remained active in North Dakota politics. Indeed, the influence of his friend Senator William Langer (Davies successfully managed Langer’s 1932 gubernatorial campaign) played a role in Davies’s nomination by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for a federal district court judgeship. Because of his excellent reputation in the legal community, he was the first choice of North Dakota’s lawyers in their judicial preference poll. At a celebratory gathering of old friends, Davies graciously accepted congratulations and best wishes from his close friends by asking those in attendance if there were any questions, such as about a visit to the White House or face time with the president, that sort of thing. His long-time friend, banker Pershing Boe, spoke up by asking the soon-to-be federal judge:

Where do you get those “little clothes”? His remark nearly brought the house down, but Davies’ well-wishers continued to celebrate their friend’s appointment.

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During his investiture ceremony, Davies demonstrated his humility and recognition of the awesome responsibility placed upon judges. His short acceptance speech concluded, “I would like you to know that I am painfully aware that the appointment to a federal judgeship does not of itself endow the appointee with any special graces or special wisdom. I only hope that, agreeable to the oath which I have just taken, I shall have the courage to meet and honorably discharge the responsibilities which are now mine.” In 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka held segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. One year later, the court ordered desegregation to proceed with all deliberate speed, although this concept was loosely defined. Against this backdrop, in the fall of 1957, Judge Davies squared off against Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who had called in the state’s national guard (presumably to keep the peace) to forcibly prevent nine black students from entering Little Rock’s Central High School. In a series of related rulings, called a “landmark legal decision in racial integration” by the New York Times, Judge Davies ordered the Little Rock School Board to proceed with integration, in the face of Governor Faubus’s maneuvering and mounting anti-integrationist pressure. After Judge Davies enjoined Faubus from interfering with integration, Faubus withdrew the national guard, but the inflamed racial passions of local citizens necessitated further action from President Dwight Eisenhower, who ultimately called in the 101st Airborne Division, and later the federalized Arkansas National Guard, to control the angry mob who sought to defy the rule of law. The 39 days Judge Davies spent in Little Rock weighed heavily on his shoulders. He received hoards of bitter hate mail and death threats, requiring protection from U.S. Marshals. During a brief recess when he was able to return to North Dakota for his daughter’s wedding, his wife noticed Davies, later named “Catholic Man of the Year” by a national publication, would remain on his knees longer than usual when praying at his bedside. In the end, bolstered by Judge Davies’s strength and tenacity, the rule of law prevailed in the


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face of this adversity. In his September 7, 1957, ruling, Judge Davies firmly declared, “I have a constitutional duty and obligation from which I shall not shrink.” When the case later reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Frankfurter agreed, “To yield to [the state’s illegal interference] would be to enthrone official lawlessness and lawlessness if not checked is the precursor of anarchy.” Although the events in Little Rock confirmed the deep racism in our society and its lasting grip, Judge Davies strengthened the hand of the law, leading some to call his actions the turning point against segregationist efforts. At the same time, Judge Davies spoke little about his time in Little Rock, stating, “I have no delusions about myself. I’m just one of a couple of hundred federal judges all over the country. That’s all.” Judge Davies celebrated his return to less-publicized times, noting, “That’s what I want—to return quietly to the obscurity from which I sprang.” When he returned to North Dakota, Judge Davies later recalled that the typical response of people from Fargo to the events in Little Rock was, “So you were in Arkansas, what else is new!” Judge Davies did not seek fame or attempt to extend his time in the spotlight. When, on a rare occasion, he did speak of his days in Little Rock, often later in his life and with friends or family, his only remark was, “I was just doing my job.” With fanfare gone, he returned to the ordinary “mine run” of cases, which did not receive the grace of national eminence but were every bit as important to the litigants involved in them. He appreciated this truth and, according to one of his daughters, strived to do “the best he could on every case.” The case Judge Davies himself remembers as one of the most significant in his career, and the materials about which he preserved at home Courtesy of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota.

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after retirement, was a personal injury action against a large drug manufacturer for an unsafe vaccine which left a five-month-old child with irreparable brain damage. The case was tried in Grand Forks, at the federal courthouse which now bears Judge Davies’s name, and resulted in a judgment of $599,033, a record at the time. In another case, Judge Davies awarded $200,000 in damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, based on a veteran hospital’s negligent release of a mental patient who went on to kill his wife. Not unlike his time before Little Rock, Judge Davies maintained an intense work schedule, often holding court sessions at night, on legal holidays, and occasionally even on Saturdays. His philosophy was judges should earn their salaries by trying more cases—as many as Congress will allow them—and working longer hours. “I have never known a federal judge to expire from overwork,” quipped the quickwitted judge. In a telling portrayal of his devotion to work on behalf of regular people, Judge Davies once drove two hours to a small town to perform a naturalization ceremony at the home of an eightyone-year-old woman who could not make it to the courthouse on her own. In doing so, Judge Davies did not forget about the details. Having administered the oath, he shook the new citizen’s hand and ceremoniously announced, turning to the bailiff, “This session of United States district court is adjourned.” In the decades following his time in Little Rock, Judge Davies never lost the strict, just demeanor for which he was revered. As a no-nonsense judge who could cut incisively through legal complexities, a friend explained, “There’s no one I’d rather have with me on a camping trip, but I’d take any other judge in the state if I were in court and guilty.” Judge Davies was notably fair and objective, not allowing lawyers to take over his courtroom. Despite his expectation of model of decorum in his courtroom, Judge Davies’s wit shined through. As one of his sons recalled, “If things were too tense, he’d crack a joke in court to lighten up the atmosphere…. He was serious in court but had a real good sense of humor.” Judge Davies himself explained he found a bit of humor in the courtroom helped “[t]o take the tension away, just a little bit.” For example, in appointing a lawyer for a woman found to be indigent despite her husband having some available funds, Judge Davies quipped, “When you got married, your husband just promised to love, honor, and obey. He didn’t promise to defend you in court.” Besides continuing with his professional and civic engagements, Judge Davies spent his post–Little Rock days enjoying time with family and

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friends. A Milwaukee Braves fan, he was fond of attending their ball games. In the summer, he went to the Minnesota lakes to do some fishing and, as a contemporary recalls, drink a little bourbon. Toward his twilight days, Judge Davies missed the richness of his earlier days, lamenting to a reporter once, “there was one time I knew every lawyer in the state by name.” He assumed senior status in 1971, while continuing to serve on the bench actively. He retired permanently in 1984. He died in 1996 at the age of 91, having received countless awards and distinctions. Among them were the Sioux Award by the UND Alumni Association, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Award from the North Dakota Peace Coalition, and the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the state of North Dakota’s highest honor. Judge Davies made national history in his one month in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the more than a thousand other months since Little Rock, he established a legacy in North Dakota and elsewhere for his commitment to upholding the rule of the law for our citizens, the legal community, and his unyielding determination to fairly and objectively determine each case he was called upon to decide. U.S. Circuit Judge Kermit Edward Bye has compiled this collective on the life and times of U.S. District Judge Ronald N. Davies based upon what has been previously written and his own experiences in appearing before Judge Davies in court on numerous occasions going back to the mid-1960’s as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of North Dakota, as well as a private practicing lawyer thereafter until Judge Davies retired in 1984.


The North Dakota Humanities Council interprets the past, engages the present, and informs the future. We are the stories, ideas, and words that help us make sense of our lives and our world. We’re engaging people we’ve never met, visiting new places, and discovering ideas that have never crossed our minds. We are exploring the human endeavor.

Your generous donation to the public humanities will help us build a more thoughtful and informed society. Recent Donors Associate $100 - $499 Najla Amundson Virginia Dambach Joann Ewen Rolf Gjorven Joseph Jastrzembski Kay M. Moxness Brian Schill Melissa Spas in Honor of Brenna Daugherty & Tom Gerhardt in their recent marriage Kathleen Tiemann Rande & Peggy Zander Contributor $25-99 Frank Beaman Mary Frojen Patricia Grantier Margaret Hagler Judith Hammer Marie D. Hoff Margine & F. D. Holland, Jr. Estelle Jelleberg Marilynn Sawchuk Janet L. Trout Michael Wilz

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Beyond Inclusion or Exclusion: Rethinking the Boundary between Religion and Democracy by John Robichaux

Among the perennial issues facing U.S.-style democracy is the question of the proper relationship between religion and the legal and political dimensions of democracy. But all too often the public and political discussions surrounding the matter fail to understand either religion or democracy adequately, or, worse, they outright distort them. The occasion of reflecting on the U.S. Civil Rights’ era, of which Judge Davies was an integral part, gives us an opportunity to offer a better grasp of this important debate. I propose in this article that it also gives us the chance to rethink the boundary between religion and democracy in the U.S. democratic experiment in ways which do greater justice to the complexities of both religion and democracy. Inclusivists and Exclusivists: Arguments and Impasse In scholarship and in public, there are often two sides of the debate regarding whether religion should be an acceptable source for democratic laws and political decisions. On the one hand, there are

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Some Little Rock churches organized demonstrations for Governor Faubus. Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

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The debate about religion in democratic legal and political life often oscillates between these two poles, between the inclusivists and the exclusivists, between, so to speak, Dr. King and the KKK. those who point to discrimination or harm perpetrated in the name of religion, or to particularly egregious or objectionable forms of religious expression, which have sought to gain access to the legal or political sphere of public life. Favorite examples of this camp often include the KKK or the Taliban, for example, inasmuch as they are often (though certainly not always) religiously motivated and seek to advance retrograde or discriminatory legal and political stances. This side of the debate is made of what I call the exclusionists. They seek to exclude religion from the legal and political realm of U.S. democracy because of the dangers it can unleash upon a democracy in law and politics. On the other side of the debate, there are those who point to the great contributions religion has made to civil liberties, human rights, respect, tolerance and even democracy, or else those who point to particularly praiseworthy examples of religious expression in this country’s history. Favorite examples on this side of the debate are the religiously inspired abolitionists of the ninteenth century and Dr. King and the religiously motivated Civil Rights leaders of the mid-twentieth century. (As with the examples of the exclusionists, not all abolitionists or civil rights leaders, to be sure, were religiously motivated either.) This side of the debate is comprised of what I term the inclusivists. They want to include religion in the legal and political debates of U.S. democracy because of the positive contributions it can bring to democracy. The debate between exclusivists and inclusivists is a debate I characterize as trying to solve the dilemma posed by the fact that there may be good reasons to exclude the religiously inspired KKK ideas from securing legal and political power and influence in a democracy; at the same time, there may be good reasons to include the religiously inspired vision of Dr. King or the abolitionists in the debates over how to shape the legal and political framework of the country. The debate about religion in democratic legal and political life often oscillates between these two poles, between the inclusivists and the exclusivists, between, so to speak, Dr. King and the KKK. But how to choose? After all, we no longer live in a world where we can understand religion as a purely private matter, limited to one’s conscience—an erroneous view

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inherited from, among other places, John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration, so influential for so long, but built on a limited view of religion, where a certain type of Christianity was taken as representative of “true religion.” Instead, we now recognize that many religions have moral, political and legal tenets that are central to their religious (and not just moral) doctrines. Religions are not purely private affairs, but have robust public faces as well. Even this fact, however, does not answer whether religion should or should not be considered in democratic deliberation. Just because the religious stand pounding at the gate of democratic political and legal deliberation does not mean they should be let in. It does not get us past the inclusivist-exclusivist stalemate on its own. What, then, is the principled stance that can adequately distinguish between religiously inspired public arguments in a democracy? As I will explain in the rest of this article, the answer lies on our understanding of democracy—or, more precisely, in the type of democracy to which we choose to adhere. This understanding will help lay the groundwork we need to rethink the relationship between religion and democracy in such a way that will get us beyond the inclusivist-exclusivist impasse, and, I think, put us on a path to better understanding both religion and democracy in the U.S. (and beyond). Democracy: Three Models, Three Choices Democracy is not a uniform type of governance. Among the more than a dozen types of democracies noted by political scientists, there are three archetypes to which I turn my attention here. Among these three, there is often a good deal of overlap in a given historical context, as I will highlight using the U.S. system. One of the simplest forms of democracy is majoritarian democracy. In a pure majoritarian democracy, there are no checks put on the majority, which always wins the day. This is the type of democracy against which the father of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison, fought so vehemently, and brings with it the so-called “tyranny of the majority.” This is the type of democracy that would have allowed southern voters to vote on whether to end segregation or not in their localities, and allowed the majority (or plurality) of that outcome to be law. Today, a modified form of this is seen in the call for referenda on issues such as same-sex marriage in many states. With regard to religion in democratic legal and political matters, it is neutral. If the majority (or plurality) of voters want the KKK’s or Dr. King’s religiously inspired ideals to frame the laws, they can have it, largely (or wholly) without restriction. It is neutral with regard to religion, yes, but also to tyrannical majorities and their laws. Another type of democracy is what the German political philosopher Jürgen Habermas calls republican democracy. (Note that this is not necessarily “republican” in the sense of relating to the U.S. political party by the same name.) In a republican (small ‘r’) democracy, the emphasis is placed on sending a representative who most closely resembles one’s own values, whatever they may be, into the legislature, for purposes of representing your position on a variety of issues. We are most familiar with this in the U.S. as a way that many (though not all) people think about how to select a representative for whom they will vote in a given election. Here, again, the democracy is crafted by the values of the people, and would allow a strong KKK presence access to representative law-making offices, just as it would allow a strong abolitionist or Civil Rights advocate, depending on the outcome of the election. It is again neutral with respect to King and the KKK, and also to tyrannical majorities and outcomes.

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Neither majoritarian nor republican democratic approaches offer a principled stance to distinguish between various religious (or non-religious, for that matter) points of view, and neither offer strong checks against suppression of minority rights or the ability to enshrine into law widespread inequality (segregation, inequality before the law, etc.). The third democratic archetype discussed here seeks to address this shortcoming. This democratic model is the one that most resembles the U.S. constitutional system, and therefore is of particular interest to us. In political philosophy, it is called liberal democracy. (Again, note that the term “liberal” here should not be thought of as corresponding to the use of the term in U.S. domestic politics.) In a liberal democracy, which often takes the form of a constitutional democracy (or constitutional republic), such as the U.S., certain principles are agreed upon and enshrined in a constitution, made extremely difficulty to change, and these form the core principles against which all other subsequent laws and policies should be judged, or at least not conflict. Courts are the most important institution to protect these core principles. The most well-known principles which form liberal democracies tend to be an affirmation of the importance of certain fundamental freedoms and a claim to (some type of) equality among its citizens. The U.S. Constitution, as many other constitutions, spell out many more constitutional principles than these, and offers some insight to exactly what freedoms and what manner of equality is intended by the specific constitutional framers in question. For the current argument, I will limit my discussion to these two most basic principles—freedom and equality—which are indeed each given pride of place in the U.S. Constitution, as a liberal democratic constitution. It is well understood within political science, however, that freedom and equality very often conflict with each other. This conflict comes from the fact that unbounded freedom tends to minimize or destroy the principles of equality (as with a majoritarian or republican democracies where minorities are not protected from the majorities) and equality taken too far will hinder freedoms (famously seen in the repressive Communist political systems of the twentieth century). And so, liberal democracies are constantly trying to strike a balance between these two core principles. This tension of liberal democracy is something that political philosopher Chantal Mouffe, when speaking about modern democracy, has called “the democratic paradox.” This is the line that liberal democracies such as the U.S. must constantly walk—what choices in law and politics will expand freedoms within the limits of equality? Thus, the legal and political debates in a liberal democracy are carried out on the field of interpretation of the core principles of freedom and equality. And this is why, despite any voter majority that segregationists may have been able to garner at the time, the courts could (and, indeed, should have, on the liberal democratic understanding) end Jim Crow in the United States. Despite whatever else the majoritarian or republican democratic strands in the U.S. may have allowed for, it was the liberal democratic institutions—in this case, the courts, in particular—which protected the core principles of freedom and equality. Rethinking the Boundary Between Religion and Democracy So, how does this get us any closer to answering the question of how to better think about religion and democracy in the U.S.? In short, the manner in which religious arguments made in the public sphere can—and ought to be—judged is the extent

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to which they illuminate or push the most basic principles of freedom and equality. Thus, on my proposal, the KKK and the Taliban are permitted (under free speech) to make their arguments, religiously based or otherwise, in the public realm, to make a case for changes in law and politics. So, too, are King and the abolitionists. And, as democratic citizens, we are asked to hear each other out. However, at the end of the day, the question before the citizenry (or the lawmaker or the court) is fundamentally which set of arguments, be they religious or otherwise, best represents the values of freedom and equality in a given case. Thus, all arguments, religious or otherwise, can be heard in the public debates over legal and political matters. Nevertheless, the principled grounds upon which the debate should finally be settled are those of the basic democratic principles, here rendered as freedom and equality. King and the abolitionists used their religious imaginations to help us better understand the possibilities of freedom and equality, in ways which were not yet widely grasped at the time. They used their religiously inspired language to expand the liberal democratic imagination. This is the preferred way to adjudicate between the religious arguments of King and the KKK. This is how to get past the inclusivist-exclusivist stalemate in a modern (liberal) democracy such as the U.S. (In other modern democracies, such as Great Britain and Germany, the relationship between religion and state is very different, and so the debates there take on a different hue than here in the U.S.) Others, such as political philosopher John Rawls, have advocated a variation of this appeal to core principles of liberal democracy, as central to the function of courts, legislators, and public officials. I present this way of thinking about the relationship between religion and democracy as a model for all citizens to ponder as they engage in public debates about legal and political matters. On the one hand, we may make our strongest arguments, rooted in whatever reasons we think are most valid, religious or otherwise, but, on the other hand, we are challenged to make our legal and political decisions based on the core political principles of freedom and equality. When we don’t, we are choosing one of the other types of democracy, and we should not be surprised if a court later overturns our decisions. This is, after all, the proper functioning of the courts—to protect freedom and equality from their erosion by intolerant majorities and inequitable policies, and also to expand them when challenged to do so. Recognizing that religious arguments can fall on either side of debates concerning freedom and equality, advocating their expansion or their contraction, I propose first that we leave behind the inaccurate view of religion as a private affair of the conscience, and instead stand clear on the reasons why some arguments, be they religious or not, win the day on the legal and political playing field of liberal democratic deliberation. In this way, I hope we can do greater justice to both religion and democracy in the U.S.

John Robichaux is a doctoral candidate in Politics, Ethics and Religion at Harvard University. His dissertation is on the relationship between religion and liberal democracy. He can be reached at jrobichaux@mail.harvard.edu.

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Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives

Because democracy demands thoughtful and informed citizens,

the north dakota humanities council is proud to sponsor the Little Rock Nine Rocking Chair Symposium

Members of the “Little Rock Nine” share memories of the events surrounding the 1957 school integration. Saturday, August 20, 2011 at noon Free and open to the public Imagine Amphitheater Bluestem Center for the Arts 801 50th Ave SW, Moorhead, MN Honored Speakers: Members of the Little Rock Nine— Carlotta Walls LaNier Dr. Terrence Roberts Moderator: Carl Oberholtzer Each year the North Dakota Humanities Council funds hundreds of free public humanities programs across the state. To learn more about our grant program and how your organization can apply for funding visit ndhumanities.org.


We have ways of making you A partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the mission of the North Dakota Humanities Council is to invest in the people of North Dakota by creating and sustaining humanities programs that provide us with a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better vision for the future.

Improve teaching and learning in schools North Star Dakotan provides teachers with a low-cost, educational and wellwritten text as they teach North Dakota history in their classrooms. This full color series of newspapers brings history alive in an accessible and engaging format. Picturing America brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries across the state. Through this innovative National Endowment for the Humanities program, students and citizens will gain a deeper appreciation of our country’s history and character through the study and understanding of its art. Strengthen the capacity of key social institutions to provide education and services to their communities Museum on Main Street shares Smithsonian collections, research, and exhibitions with rural Americans, broadens public interest in American history and develops a heightened awareness of local heritage, and motivates small, rural museums to make lasting institutional advancements. Dakota Discussions improves literacy and revitalizes libraries by offering film and book discussions as mediums for renewing civic connections.

Grants offered by the NDHC enhance the ability of institutions and organizations to deliver public humanities programs and opportunities. Promote lifelong learning and critical inquiry by making education and culture accessible community experiences Chautauqua uses theater as a vehicle for teaching American history in the town square. Institute for Philosophy in Public Life cultivates discussions between philosophy professionals and the general public. It is committed to the premise that anyone can do philosophy; that philosophy relates to day-to-day life; and that philosophical communities are fun, fulfilling, and essential for democracy. Read North Dakota Encourages readers, writers, and educators to enjoy good literature rooted in North Dakota though community and classroom events. Public Symposiums Bring the citizens of the state together to explore the people, places and ideas that have played pivotal roles in shaping our nation and world.


[plain thinking]

Addressing National Security and Other Global Challenges through Cultural Understanding By David Skorton, president of Cornell University

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An addressed delivered during the Capitol Hill briefing on The Humanities in the 21st Century at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on May 19, 2011. There has never been a time when the humanities have been more important to our national life and to the security of our nation. Not since the mid-1990s have they faced such drastic reductions in federal funding. There has never been a more critical need for their support. And so we hope this briefing will help us all better understand what is at stake — and why support for the humanities is a wise investment in the future of the U.S. The fiscal realities facing our nation have put a vast array of federal programs in jeopardy, but the humanities more dramatically than most. Most of us in this room, I assume, agree that federal expenditures must go down. And that a sustainable budget cannot be achieved without pain — and the setting of priorities. Nonetheless, the humanities are a very small part of the federal budget — and their funding has already been cut by a third in inflationadjusted dollars since 1994, proportionately much more than most other major research programs. And last month’s FY11 budget compromise cut National Endowment for the Humanities funding even more — by approximately $12.5 million, or 7.5%, to $154.69 million. For FY12, the President’s budget would cut the Endowment again, to $146.3 million. We recognize as well that the humanities have been a tempting target for those seeking to demonstrate their — seriousness about reducing the federal budget or those seeking to advance specific social or political agendas. Let me be clear: yet more funding cuts for the National Endowment for the Humanities — and of course its elimination — would throw the baby out with the bathwater, with real and far-reaching consequences not only to our understanding of our

history, culture, and civic values, but also for our economic competitiveness and national security. As we all know, NEH is the federal agency that funds research on our national history, our cultural heritage, and our ethical values. It is not truly an endowment, but depends on annual appropriations — just like other federal agencies. The endowment’s competitive peer-review process ensures that the highest quality projects are funded, with demand far outpacing available funds. NEH grants go to every state and territory, reaching rural and underserved areas — especially hard-hit by the recession — through digital educational resources, films, television and radio programming and traveling exhibits. NEH also funds our local museums and libraries and state humanities organizations that support local, community-based programming. More than 2.5 million Americans are engaged in a broad range of humanities professions — K-12 teachers, college and university professors, museum curators, librarians, translators, news analysts and more. And many of the analysts at our national intelligence and security agencies were educated as humanists and social scientists. Let’s talk about national competitiveness. Two ingredients critical to innovation and competitiveness in the 21st century, I would submit, are investments in education — to fill the talent pipeline — as well as research and development to develop new products, processes, and industries. Of course, these investments are almost entirely in the realm of science and technology, from biomedical

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research to the physical sciences and engineering. As a physician and scientist, I applaud such investments. But make no mistake: our most pressing and complex problems — worldwide — will not be solved by science alone. As just one example, local cultures and values hugely impact the willingness of people to embrace scientific discoveries, from genetically modified foods to vaccines — and the understanding of these cultures and values is the domain of the humanities and the social sciences. Course work in the humanistic disciplines is often promoted, legitimately, as a way to teach basic skills of critical — and contextual — thinking, communication, and ethics to scientists, engineers, business people, and those in other applied professions. As they provide a foundation for success in a wide range of careers, humanities serve as well as a prerequisite for responsible citizenship. It is in the nation’s interest and essential to our global competitiveness to have the up-and-coming generation, from all backgrounds, educated broadly, humanistically, and well. We want our children to have a sound ethical foundation that complements the moral foundation that most parents endeavor to instill. The most wretched non-monetary consequence of our nation’s economic distress over the past two years, in my view, is an acceleration of our country’s loss of values. Witness, for example, the nastiness of the recent midterm elections, which demonstrated our collective loss of the ability — or even the desire — to understand and respect each other. As James Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former U.S. Representative, has said: The temper and integrity of the political dialogue are more important for the cohesiveness of society than the outcome of any election. But lately we seem to have lost our way. To be sure, jobs, regional economic development, and careful control of expenditures in the public and private sectors are keys to a robust recovery. But we got where we are in part through a loss of values, a lack of understanding of the lessons of history and, increasingly, a loss of civility and of the

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sense of fair play. This is the domain of the humanities, which are at once timeless and timely. Whether we’re discussing the headlines relevant to regulation of financial institutions, cloning, or the appropriate use of new social media, a thoroughgoing understanding of ethics, as provided through humanistic study, is critical. How about national security — which has many of us in a state of perpetual unease as we watch events unfold on the world stage? What separates people around the globe — often violently, it seems to me — is poor understanding of the cultures, languages, histories, religions, and values of others. From the person on the street in our cities and towns, to the soldiers in Afghanistan, to expats working in Egypt, Libya and Bahrain

our best hope for a secure future is understanding and engagement, not just military strategy and strength. When our generals and diplomats speak of winning the hearts and minds of the people, they are talking about understanding the language, culture, religion, and values of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and elsewhere, endeavors supported by the NEH. In fact, recognizing that there was a shortage of men and women with the expertise the nation needs, the Bush administration established a National Security Language Initiative (with programs in the Departments of Education, State, and Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) to increase the number of Americans learning such critical needs languages as Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Russian, Chinese, and others. At Cornell, one NEH grant funded an online preservation tutorial in Arabic; another funded a Southeast Asian literature microfilming project. The Minerva Project is another example of the link between


[plain thinking]

the humanities and social sciences and national security. This initiative was launched by the Department of Defense to improve its understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral and political forces that shape regions of the world that have strategic importance to the U.S. The current upheavals in the Middle East have brought the need for such understanding of critical languages and culture to the fore once again. And lest we forget, NEH is a research agency — which awards competitive grants for research projects and critical analysis in the humanities that are valuable in their own right and on their own terms. Indeed research-related expenditures account for about onethird of the NEH budget and are vital to scholarship in our colleges and universities. The impact of the humanities as a critical endeavor is evident in the study of literature, the arts, history, philosophy, law, linguistics, religion, and other humanistic disciplines, which can help us grasp where we come from, and why, in order to lead us into the future. Today immigration is a major national issue. An NEH grant to the San Jose State University Foundation funded a project called “Before Silicon Valley: A Migrant Path to Mexican American Civil Rights,” which might help inform our debate. The funding we allocate to the humanities through our government has never come close to the value the humanities add to individual lives and to the life of our nation. It should be — it must be — unacceptable, to Democrats and Republicans alike, to further reduce that support. Even in times of austerity, especially in times of austerity, sound investments must be made. I am encouraged that in response to a bipartisan

request from U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI) and David Price (D-NC) the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has formed a special Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. Conceived by American Academy President Leslie Berlowitz, this commission is a promising and far reaching development. The commission is chaired by Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, and John Rowe, chair and chief executive officer of Exelon Corporation. Most immediately, amidst uncertainty about how the FY12 budget debates will play out, where do we stand? We are a long way from achieving national consensus on what the appropriate funding level might be in FY 2012. The Administration’s proposed FY2012 federal budget reduces funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities to $146.3 million, down $8.4 million from the current $154.7, with comparable reductions for the National Endowment for the Arts. Let’s aim for funding of NEH at the FY10 level of $167.5 million. • A push for funding at the FY10 level is a realistic approach, based on the level of cuts in the President’s FY2012 budget request and the overall fiscal situation, although it falls far short of the appropriate level of federal support for the humanities through NEH. • Despite — and perhaps because of — stark budget realities, we must have the political will and discipline to support the humanities. It’s good for our children, it’s good for our security, it’s good for America.

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North Dakota Humanities Council 418 E. Broadway, Suite 8 Bismarck, ND 58501 800-338-6543 council@ndhumanities.org

ndhumanities.org

We have ways of making you think. Board of Directors CHAIR Jay Basquiat, Mandan VICE CHAIR Kate Haugen, Fargo Najla Amundson, Fargo Barbara Andrist, Crosby Paige Baker, Mandaree Aaron Barth, Fargo Tami Carmichael, Grand Forks Virginia Dambach, Fargo Tim Flakoll, Fargo Kara Geiger, Mandan Kristin Hedger, Killdeer Janelle Masters, Mandan Christopher Rausch, Bismarck Jaclynn Davis Wallette, West Fargo Susan Wefald, Bismarck STAFF Brenna Daugherty Gerhardt, Executive Director Kenneth Glass, Associate Director Dakota Goodhouse, Program Officer Liz Pilgrim, Administrative Assistant The North Dakota Humanities Council is a partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The humanities inspire our vision of a thoughtful, respectful, actively engaged society that will be able to meet the challenge of sustaining our democracy across the many divisions of modern society and deal responsibly with the shared challenges we currently face as members of an interdependent world.

“Justice must always question itself.” — Michel Foucault

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On Second Thought, Judge Davies