TOM PUTNAM: Good evening. I am Tom Putnam, Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and on behalf of David McKean, CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and all of my Library and Foundation colleagues, I thank you for coming and welcome those watching this program on C-SPAN. Let me begin by acknowledging the generous underwriters of the Kennedy Library Forums including lead sponsor Bank of America, Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Boston Foundation, and our media partners the Boston Globe, WBUR, and NECN.
Those of you who frequent our forums know that often the most unpredictable portion of these sessions is the question and answer period, which can also be, at times, the most effecting. The last time John Doar was on this stage was just such a moment. The topic that night was “The Integration of Old Miss.” But the questioner explained that as a young man in college in Mississippi, he had been required by one of his professors to attend the voting rights trials at the Federal Courthouse in Hattiesburg, being prosecuted by Mr. Doar.
“I experienced an epiphany by going there,” the man explained. “I had never ever in my life understood what all the hoorah was about. Yet I experienced one of the most fundamental changes in my life watching how you presented that case, bringing in those educated black people who qualified in every possible way to vote and counterposing them with whites who had no education and no ability to understand the Constitution of Mississippi the way the blacks were required to.” Pointing to Mr. Doar, he concluded, “You had a lot of dark—You had a lot darker hair then. And I had a lot more hair at the time but I came here tonight at my wife’s urging to say thank you, sir. I appreciate what you did very much.”
In his new book, Count Them One By One, Gordon Martin, one of Mr. Doar’s colleagues at the time, offers a comprehensive account of the groundbreaking voting rights case United States v. Lynd, the first trial that resulted in a conviction of a southern registrar for contempt of court. In the early 1960s, Mr. Martin, a native of Boston, was a newly minted lawyer who traveled to Hattiesburg from Washington, where he worked as one of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Divisions trial attorneys,to help shape the federal case.
In Mississippi, he joined John Doar, who had been recently hired by the Department of Justice, to work as first assistant in the Civil Rights Division, and given the responsibilities of managing a small number of lawyers who were charged with enforcing the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts and deterring racial discrimination in voting.
I will allow them to tell the full story of this unique case but let me briefly mention their other achievements. While in Mississippi, Mr. Martin also investigated hunger in the Mississippi Delta and discrimination on military bases in the deep south. Upon returning to Massachusetts, he had a distinguished law career, including serving as the first Assistant United States Attorney, a commissioner in the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and as a District Trial Court judge for 21 years.
John Doar has also had a long and distinguished law career but is best known for his service in the Justice Department in the early 1960s. In 1962, he accompanied James Meredith and confronted Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett over Barnett’s attempts to prevent Meredith from entering the then-segregated University of Mississippi. In 1963, he confronted and calmed an angry mob after the murder of Medgar Evers. He prosecuted the federal case for Civil Rights violations against the people who were accused of lynching Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner. And he contributed to the drafting of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law.
One of the most fascinating parts of this new book, which is on sale in our museum store and Judge Martin has agreed to sign copies at the end of the program, is the description of Judge Martin’s return to Mississippi, where he interviewed the witnesses in the case who were still living, their family and friends. One of those he spoke with was Helen Bourne McCullough, who is here with us today. Ms. McCullough is the daughter of B.F. Bourne, one of the leaders of the Forrest County NAACP Chapter and a key witness in the Lynd case.
If you're like me, you still miss tuning in on weekend evenings to hear our moderator, Carole Simpson, deliver the nightly ABC Newscast, though that disappointment is slightly assuaged by knowing that she is now a resident of our fair city as a teacher and mentor to aspiring journalism students and activists at Emerson College. A three-time Emmy Award winner whose career highlights include having moderated the first-ever Presidential debate with a town hall format, the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, and the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, she began her career as a journalism instructor at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the 1960s, and so brings to tonight’s conversation her own experience of life in the deep south during this period in our nation’s history.
In 1853, Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister and abolitionist from Boston, stated that “The moral arc of the universe is long but bends towards justice.” Over a century later, speaking out against Apartheid and racial segregation in South Africa, Robert F. Kennedy stated, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
We have lived through extraordinary times and witnessed the end of legalized segregation in the United States, the release of Nelson Mandela and the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, and the elections of Mandela and Barack Obama as Presidents of their respective countries. Yet, bending the arc toward justice in these ways required the courage of men like B.F. Bourne, Medgar Evers, and Vernon Dahmer, the leader of the Forrest County NAACP and a key witness in the voting rights trial, who was later murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1966.
And creating the ripples of hope that helped sweep down walls of oppression required the intelligence, service and perseverance of men like John Doar and Gordon Martin. We are honored to have you both here with us today to chronicle and pay tribute to this important chapter in our history. And on behalf of an indebted nation, to pause and say thank you. We appreciate what you did very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Carole Simpson, Helen Bourne McCullough, Gordon Martin, and John Doar to the stage of the Kennedy Library. [applause]
CAROLE SIMPSON: Thank you very much. It’s wonderful to see such a nice crowd like this out tonight. Welcome. We hope we have an entertaining and informative meeting for you. I knew of these guys. I didn’t know them, but I knew of them and I am honored to be in their presence on this stage. I graduated from the University of Michigan, unable to get a job in journalism, because I was told by all employers that I was black, and I was female—and, well, it was “Negro” back then. I was a Negro, I was a woman, and I was inexperienced.
The University of Michigan felt terrible about my situation and ended up setting up an internship for me at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. I was born in Chicago. And the only job that I had available to me was to go to the rural south in 1962. Not my idea of a good time. So I go to Alabama and I am living next door to Mississippi, where these gentlemen were doing their remarkable work. John Doar was The Man. In Alabama, I mean, I watched him on TV news. I watched him in the newspapers. And he was just like the Messiah that had come down to Mississippi to help free the black people. I stand on their shoulders tonight. Without their work, without the legal remedies that were sought and won, I don’t know where I would be today, were it not for their work. So, I'm honored. I want you both to know how honored I am to be here with you.
I’d like to begin with John Doar, The Man. And not The Man in a bad way, you know. You were at the Justice Department. And they created a Civil Rights Division. How did that come about? And how did you get involved?
JOHN DOAR: Well, in 1957, the Congress of the United States passed the first Civil Rights Act in almost 100 years. And this was an act that gave to the Justice Department authority to take actions, legal actions, civil actions, against registrars in southern counties who discriminated against blacks who attempted to register to vote, or against any individual who threatened or intimidated a black who attempted to register to vote.
And with the passage of the 1957 Act, the Justice Department created the Civil Rights Division of the Department. There had been a unit in the Criminal Division on Civil Rights activities before then. But the first time the Division was created was in 1957. Nobody thought that the 1957 Civil Rights Act was going to amount to much. There was no enthusiasm among the academic community. There was no enthusiasm among the newspapers. There was no enthusiasm about the Civil Rights Act among the black leadership.
And you can understand why, when you think of what the situation was in the latter part of the ‘50s and in 1960. The country was really on the edge of a revolution. I see it more clearly now than I did then. But in the black communities, in the black leadership, there were all kinds of movement indicating that they were prepared to take action in their own hands to bring about a change that would be fair and just to them. And it happened that because nobody else wanted the job of being First Assistant in the Civil Rights Division [laughter] that I was offered the job in the spring of 1960, and I joined the Civil Rights Division in the summer of 1960.
Let me just mention, for a moment, what I found when I first got there. At that time, the lawyers in the Civil Rights Division, or in any Division in the Department of Justice, never left their offices in Washington. They were desk-bound lawyers. There was a case involving two groups of black men who had organized locally in Haywood and Fayette Counties, Tennessee, to encourage black residents of those two counties to register to vote. Their aim was to make it possible for blacks to sit on criminal juries in those counties. But once they started to register, the white community took their names and then circulated the names through the white community, and economic pressure was brought to bear to just really clean the black citizens of those two counties out of the area.
To give you an illustration, I went down to those two counties in August or September, 1960. And I said to a young school teacher there, a man named Boyd, a black fellow named Boyd, that
I would like to talk to some of the black sharecroppers who had been evicted, had received notice of eviction to get off the land that many of them lived for two or three or four generations before that time as sharecroppers. And he arranged a meeting. I remember going out to a rural church, a small black church that was supported by cement blocks on the four corners. And I walked into the church, went to the front of it, and I told the people that were there—I think there were husbands and wives of probably 50 couples.
After I got to the front of the room, I told them I was from the Justice Department. I asked them, “How many of you have received notice to get off the land at the end of the crop year, 1960?” Every single person in that room raised their hand. Think of it. These people were good people, poor people, honest. They had children, two children, five children, seven children. They had worked loyally on the toughest kind of circumstances. And yet, here they were, just because they were asserting their right to vote and doing it as a local organization, not stimulated by anybody from up north. They were all going to be just shipped right out of the county where they lived all of their lives.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Mr. Doar, I hate to interrupt you. But it means that the Civil Rights Division, because we’re talking about the Kennedy years, it started before John F. Kennedy became President?
JOHN DOAR: It started before John F. Kennedy. The activity of the Civil Rights Division, as it was carried on under Robert Kennedy, started in the spring of 1960.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Okay. And when Kennedy became President, what did he say? Did he have any marching orders for the Civil Rights Division? How concerned was he about the plight of black people in the south?
JOHN DOAR: The first days of Robert Kennedy, well the 21st of January, Robert Kennedy came to my office. I was in charge because the Assistant Attorney General, being a Republican, left when the administration changed. And he asked me to tell him what was going on in the
Division. And then he said to send up some material that we would reflect what work we were doing.
One of the two cases I sent up to him was a case involving a black cotton farmer, independent cotton farmer from East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. He had gone down to New Orleans to testify before the Civil Rights Commission with respect to his experience in not being able to vote in East Carroll Parish. That testimony received publicity in the New Orleans paper. And, when he got back to his home, he wasn’t there 20 minutes before the sheriff had come to the front door and said to him he had 50 acres of cotton to gin. And he said, “Your cotton won't gin.” “And why?” said Mr. Atlas(?). “Because of Civil Rights,” said the sheriff.
That case was on Robert Kennedy’s desk the day after President Kennedy was inaugurated. He didn’t have all his staff around him. He didn’t have all of the Assistant Attorney Generals that would be joining the administration in the next month. But he took charge of getting Francis Joseph Atlas’ cotton ginned. And I remember we talked back and forth about it. I’d tell what I thought had to be done. We had to have an injunction. We had to go to court. He said to me, “Isn’t there anybody smarter than you down in the Civil Rights Division?” [laughter] And I said, “There’s a lot of people smarter than me in the Civil Rights Division, but you can't do it the way you want to do it.” And he made up his mind he was going to get that cotton ginned. After three or four days of talking with political leaders in Louisiana, he arranged a commitment from them that they would gin Atlas’s cotton. As soon as he got that commitment, he sent me down to Monroe, Louisiana to see that the commitment was transcribed before a federal judge, so there would be no slip-up in the action.
Within a month thereafter, by that time Burt Marshall had come in to be Assistant Attorney General. He came into my office, and he said, “Bring your map. The Attorney General wants a report on what you're doing on voting.” And so for the second time I had contact with Robert Kennedy. And we got up to his office -- I had this large map of the south; we had a few pins in the south where we had brought actions -- and Burt said, “Tell the Attorney General what your strategy is.” I related that we were going to keep the federal judges through the whole south, particularly in the black belt, we were going to keep them busy with actions with respect to discrimination and voting. And that meant I was going to have pins on that map in each of the judicial districts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. It was actually eight districts. And he said to me, “That’s too slow. It’s not enough.” He wanted pins in every county and every parish in those three states. Not today, but yesterday. And Marshall said to him, “Well, General, if you want that, we’ve got to have more lawyers.”
CAROLE SIMPSON: And that’s what is known, that there were these lots of young lawyers.
JOHN DOAR: There were only four of us or five of us there working on—the lawyers working on voting at that time. And Marshall said, “We need four.” Think of it. Four. There’s now 550 lawyers in the Civil Rights Division. But that’s the way it began.
I’d just like to say one more thing. The people that we recruited, there were these four young lawyers in the division already, you know, a year or two out of law school. By the time Gordon came, there were probably 12 or 15. We never got over 25 lawyers working on voting. But those lawyers, those young lawyers worked hard. I can remember on a Friday afternoon along the hall in the first floor of the Justice Department, legal suitcases would be outside many doors. And 12, 16 lawyers would leave on Friday afternoon to go south in pairs. They’d all fly to Atlanta and then they’d take a DC-3 in the short hops across the south, finally to Shreveport. And two would drop off at Albany, Georgia, and two would drop off at Montgomery, Alabama, and two would drop off in Meridian, Mississippi, two at Jackson, two at Monroe, and two at Shreveport. The rules were that they stayed in the south for 16 days before they came back. And they were out in the field, talking to black citizens about, “Tell us what your experience was with voting.” And they brought that information back, and we packaged that and began suits as fast as we could.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Good. And one of those young lawyers that went to the south was Gordon Martin. And how old were you?
GORDON MARTIN: I was 27.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And you were sent where?
GORDON MARTIN: Yeah. It was the first big case that we were to bring in Mississippi. But I’d like to mention that one of those lawyers, the original four or five that John was speaking of, was a great lawyer who became a great judge in Massachusetts, Nick Flannery. And his widow Barbara is here. And I’d like Barbara to stand and be recognized. [applause]
So I had never been in Mississippi. I had certainly heard about it, heard about the problems.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Were you a Boston native?
GORDON MARTIN: Native of Boston, yes. And it was, as Tom mentioned, just about a year and a half after my graduation from law school. I had been hired, originally—it took a while to get the usual clearances—but John and Burt Marshall had hired me in July of 1961, and this was the first big trip that we were to make. I made it with my section chief, the late Bob Owen, to prepare the case for John ultimately to try.
We had our black African American witnesses, one of whom was Helen’s father B.F. Bourne. They were very varied, leaders of the community like B.F. and Vernon Dahmer, who in four years after the trial was murdered by the White Knights of the Klan. We had teachers at the segregated high school, Rowan High School, teachers with Masters Degrees from New York University, Columbia, Cornell, West Virginia, the University of Wisconsin, Oregon State. Now, these were not necessarily teachers who sought out the prestigious schools of the north. They couldn’t go to graduate school in Mississippi. So that’s what they did. In addition to the teachers, we had workers at the Hercules Powder Company, which was the major employer in Hattiesburg at the time.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Okay, let’s go back and tell them what the case was. Who was the case against?
GORDON MARTIN: Okay. It was against the Registrar of Voters, Theron Lynd. And you’ve got to put in mind the fact that Georgia has 128 counties. Mississippi has 82. Each of those counties had a czar, if you will. The circuit clerk and register of voters, ad I wonder, Carole, if this wouldn’t be a good time to show a video that will acquaint the audience with Theron Lynd.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Great. Can we see the video now? [video]
CAROLE SIMPSON: Well, it was rare, actually, for one of the ladies in the office to take care of an African American applicant. In general, they were required to see Mr. Lynd. And that was not just the case in Forrest County, it was the case in Panola County up to the north. And in general, in general, there was a belief that it would be the registrar who would deal with any black applicant. So, Mr. Theron Lynd, a very large man.
GORDON MARTIN: Yes.
CAROLE SIMPSON: The case that you went to file was against him.
GORDON MARTIN: It was. I think you can think of it, really, as Maddie Bivens and David against Goliath. I mean, you just put it in those terms. And the powerful registrar being Theron Lynd in the case of Hattiesburg.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And what was the basis on which you were filing the charges? The 15th Amendment to the Constitution?
GORDON MARTIN: The 15th Amendment, as pointed out in the video, gave the power to Congress to pass legislation to implement it. The 15th Amendment, you remember those three great Amendments in Reconstruction, the 13th abolishing slavery, the 14th with equal protection, and then the 15th, the right to vote. Now regretfully, it was only for men. As you know, the Suffragettes had to keep on until 1920. But Section 2, as David Shoenberg(?) pointed out, gave Congress the specific authority to pass legislation that would do that. And John referred to the 1957 Act. It took three-quarters of a century for there to be implementing legislation. And that was it.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And you called witnesses. The trial had many, many witnesses.
GORDON MARTIN: Yes.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And your father was one of them, Mr. B.F. Bourne. Can we talk to Helen?
GORDON MARTIN: Sure. And B.F. Bourne had to fill out a form the same way. And all of you received copies of the voting forms, not of Mr. Bourne, but of Reverend Sam Hall and of Addie Burger(?). And we’ll talk about them a little later.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Tell us about your dad.
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Okay. For as long as I can remember, my father was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Hattiesburg. And even in the early ‘50s, I believe my father filed a suit regarding not being able to vote. And that was 12 years prior to the ’62 case. He was sort of an impatient person. He was always behind the scenes pushing and wanting things to really happen. He wanted things to be better for not only for his generation, but for his children’s generation, and generations to come.
He demonstrated a lot of commitment to this and a lot of courage. He wasn’t afraid. But because he wanted to vote, he wanted that privilege of voting like other people, certain people in the community had. And he complained about the school systems not being equal, you know. A cross-burning, they burned a cross in front of our home. And the land they burned the cross on directly in front of our house belonged to the Governor of the state. And that was Paul V. Johnson, one of the Governors. And later on, his son was the Governor of the state.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Did you see the cross?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Yes I did. I was just a young girl.
CAROLE SIMPSON: How old were you? And what was your reaction?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: I guess I was around maybe 10 or 12 years old at the time. I was frightened. And, on that particular night, my father was away at a meeting that night in town with some of the NAACP groups. And my mother was at home, and she got us all in the back of the house, and she sort of protected all of us at that time. But she called my father, and he was there. But it was a very frightening experience for a young child to go through.
And not only were there cross-burnings, but also threatening telephone calls went on all the time. As I grew up and I was older, I had the opportunity to work in one of my father’s businesses. It was a grocery store. And usually on the weekend on our way home, the police would stop us. It would happen all the time. And they were shining a light in the back of the car, and they would say, “B.F. do you want anything to happen to your daughter?” And he would say, “No I don’t.” And he would reach into his pocket and just give them some money and they would leave us alone and let us go.
So this is nothing new for us to be paid off, you know, for policemen to be paid off in some instances. But that did not deter him. He was committed, really committed. He always called it “The Cause,” “The Cause for Freedom,” ability for all mankind to vote, to have access to public accommodations, for his children to be able to go to college wherever they needed to go, if they wanted there, or wherever, you know.
And he just couldn’t understand why we always had hand-me-down books at the school. We never had new books, new literature. We never studied black history in our schools, mainly because the superintendent, perhaps, didn’t want it taught in the schools. But, my father would get around that. He would have us read The Pittsburgh Courier. He would have us watch Meet The Press. He would go to New York to visit his sisters. He would bring us books back. And we had to read those books. We read about Mel Goode, Ralph Bunche, Jackie Robinson, Marion Anderson. He wanted us to see African Americans in other lights, other than, as I would tell my friends—In our eighth grade civics book, we saw a black man picking cotton. And he wanted us to see that we could achieve more.
And I had six brothers and one other sister. But he wanted us to know that the possibilities were great, you know. But he was willing to do what he needed to do to make that happen, to make life better than he had. Because, as a child, he grew up with his parents being sharecroppers. And I always said that sharecropping doesn’t mean that the people share—working on the farm are going to share in the money made from the crops. So to me, it was like a type of bondage, really.
And one night, while my father was a young man—he always told us a story. He wanted us to know what happened to him when he was a young man, so perhaps to lay it on the line, we wouldn’t have to go through that. But he left a plantation, a plantation that his parents worked on. The landowner felt that he was old enough, now, to stop school and work on that plantation. And he resented that. My father really resented that, because he liked to—he wanted to learn.
But anyway, he slipped away in the middle of the night to leave that plantation. And they looked for him with guns. They wanted to kill him because he slipped away. But he was smart enough to leave the plantation, go away, and get help, and come back and get his parents and his five siblings. And that’s how he left that plantation. And I call that his plantation experience. And I think that had a major influence on the work and all the activities and all the things that happened later in life, working with the NAACP, filing a lawsuit, just doing everything he could to help, you know, mixing with people, no matter how learned they were.
He was a very close friend with Medgar Evers. And, in his grocery store on Mobile Street, that was like the hub of the NAACP. When people would come to town—tell me when to shut up, now—
CAROLE SIMPSON: I will. I’m about to cut you.
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: When people would come to town, they would always stop by that grocery store on Mobile Street. Mobile Street was like the Bill(?) Street like in Memphis, Tennessee. Mobile Street was that black street where African Americans had grocery stores, taxicab stands, cleaners. There was a doctor, there was a pharmacist, funeral homes, and all kinds of businesses like that. But, in that grocery store, my father used that not only as a source of income, but that was the place where he could network with people and tell them,
“This is happening. This is what’s going on now.”
CAROLE SIMPSON: And this is what I want to ask you. When he heard that the Justice Department was down there, and was going to file a lawsuit against Theron Lynd, the registrar, how did your father feel? Was he excited about that and happy to participate?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Yes.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And add his voice?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Yes. He was very, very happy. Because he felt like the federal help was coming now. He wasn’t dependent on the State of Mississippi, because that would be to no avail, depending on the State of Mississippi. Because they had the sovereignty, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission in place by now. And they wanted things to stay the same. They didn’t want anything to change there. They wanted the people in power to stay in power, so to speak.
But he was very excited about the possibility of this suit coming to fruition, and that they would have the opportunity to vote. Because he knew there was power in that one vote. And, until he had that one vote, he knew he really didn’t have a voice. So, he was just very, very excited about that.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Now, you talk about his testimony in your book. What was he able to add to the case, that Mr. Doar was trying?
GORDON MARTIN: Sure. Well, we had the great variety of witnesses. And he was somebody who had been the person within black community who had posted bond for Clyde Kennard, a courageous man, who was the first person to try to register as a student at the University of Southern Mississippi called Mississippi Sovereign, at that point. And he was the co-leader of the Forrest County branch of the NAACP. I think one thing in particular that Helen mentioned, though, should not be forgotten. And that’s the fact that the leaders, like B.F. and Vernon Dahmer, didn’t wait for the Justice Department initially. They didn’t wait for the student nonviolent coordinating committee to be created. Because they had brought suit in the early 1950s. Now, this was at a time when, regretfully, we still had an appellate court that was not sensitive to the needs of African Americans. And that changed. That changed largely due to President Dwight Eisenhower nominating three great judges. And John mentioned John Brown and John Minor Wisdom, and the third great Eisenhower appointee was Albert Tuttle.
And life changed in the south at that point, slowly. Slowly.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Where was that circuit?
GORDON MARTIN: Okay, now that—there’s been a change since then. Because the 11th Circuit, which is now the extreme southeast corner of the state, has been created. But, at this point, the 5th Circuit—and John argued the case on appeal after we had the initial denial of our injunction by Judge Cox—But the 5th Circuit covered the entire south central and south east at this point.
CAROLE SIMPSON: So that was the appeals court that you went to?
GORDON MARTIN: It was.
CAROLE SIMPSON: When you lost the case.
JOHN DOAR: He did.
GORDON MARTIN: When he refused to rule.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Tell me about the judge.
JOHN DOAR: Well Judge Cox was a segregationist. And he was a very opinionated man. And to think he did all sorts of bad things to the blacks that ever came into his courtroom, one way or another. But we had figured out that sometimes we made more progress with a bad judge than with a good judge. Because a bad judge tends to overstate the situation and to exaggerate the situation that is before him in a way that is unfavorable to the blacks.
And we could show the country that that just was not an accurate presentation. And so, at the first hearing that Gordon has talked about, after two or three days, he said—Judge Cox said, “Well, I’m not going to rule now. I’m going to give the defendants 30 days to answer all these matters and all these charges.” And I said to him, “Well, Judge Cox, if you're not going to rule, why don’t you deny the injunction so we can appeal?” “Oh no, I’m not going to do that,” he said. “I’m not going to release you from this court.” But, on the basis of the fact, we took it up as a denial. And this came before Judge Wisdom and Judge Tuttle and Judge Hutchinson from Texas. And they were just outraged at the behavior of Theron Lynd. And they issued an injunction pending appeal against Theron Lynd and directed him to register and laid down the circumstances under which he should act. And Theron Lynd had three lawyers there that day.
And each of the lawyers was pretty well admonished that he was going to have a responsibility to see that Theron Lynd did what the court was going to tell him to do.
And the injunction issued. And, within 20 days, Theron Lynd had violated the injunction. And so, we were back up again to the 5th Circuit. And the 5th Circuit, within two or three days, cited Theron Lynd for contempt. And, because the contempt citation was issued by the three judge Appellate Court, somebody had to, from the Appellate Court, had to go to Hattiesburg to hear the contempt trial. And Judge Tuttle, the chief judge, selected Judge Brown and Judge Wisdom and Judge Bell to go to Mississippi in the fall of 1962. And, by that time, through the efforts of Gordon and other lawyers in the Civil Rights Division, they had developed a real cadre of very, very effective witnesses speaking.
Now, there were two types of witnesses that Gordon concentrated on. These were just the average blacks, but people that had gone away to college and gotten good educations, were clearly literate, clearly could understand and explain sections of the Constitution better than most any white person in Mississippi. Gordon also figured out that it’d be good to get some white people that would testify that all they did when they went in to register was to just sign their names. The problem was, how was he going to find these people?
And, through going to the Catholic priests and going to the school yearbooks, he got names of young people that had graduated from Hattiesburg High School and were, he expected, around 21 years of age. And he got 30 or 40 of these names, and sent them—we sent them to the FBI and asked the FBI to interview them and get their experiences. And, out of that investigative mechanism, we found that we had eight or 10 or 12 or 15 young white citizens of Forrest County who were prepared to come into court and say, “Well, when we went up to register, we didn’t have any problem. Nobody asked us to interpret the Constitution. Nobody asked us to explain and write out a full explanation of an interpretation.” And so, that was the second group of witnesses.
And then, by that time, we had figured out that, through the other cases that we had tried in the three states, that if you were white and you breathed, you registered to vote. And other lawyers that worked on the Hattiesburg case would go out into the rural areas of Forrest County and pick out the worst looking farms and take the names of the proprietor and the owner of that farm. And we’d subpoena them.
And so, when the three judges came to Hattiesburg in the witness room were 35 to 50 white men, farmers. And then, another lawyer named Bob Owen had the responsibility of interviewing those white potential witnesses. And Bob was from Texas, and he was a very, very appealing, personable fellow. And he could talk to those farmers. And it didn’t take him long to figure out which of them had the least education, which of them he could find out which ones could read and which couldn’t, which could write.
And he would send in to the courtroom the name of the worst qualified white citizen. And so, for a week before those three judges, we played intelligent, experienced, educated black man or woman, a young white that had no difficulty in registering, and then a white farmer who couldn’t either read nor write. Or, if he could read or write, it was very, very simple reading. And we just hammered the three judges with that kind of testimony for a week.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Mr. Doar—
JOHN DOAR: Now, that’s what this man talked about, is that when I was up here with James Meredith in another program, he heard all that. And he—it was in his own words, he told the audience up there that it really made an impact on him. Well, it made a big impact on Judge Brown and Judge Wisdom, because they then went back to their—one to Louisiana, one to Texas—and subsequently, two big cases came before each of them. One called U.S. v.
Mississippi, the other called U.S. v. Louisiana. And they wrote great opinions, Judge Wisdom for the majority and Judge Brown as a dissent.
And they just said—They had all the data to say to say, “What’s going on in Mississippi is just a sham. Every bit of the law in Mississippi was designed for only one purpose: to keep blacks from voting.” And they just wiped all of the foolishness and all the shenanigans and all the corruption right on the pages. And that was the ultimate, ultimate information that was provided to the Congress of the United States, with respect to what was the condition in the black belt in the south. And that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Can I interrupt you now?
JOHN DOAR: Yes.
CAROLE SIMPSON: I guess we’re going to take some questions from the audience shortly. I just wanted to ask one question of you. But you're showing me something else. What do you want--?
GORDON MARTIN: Well, it’s just because everybody did receive copies of the voting forms of Reverend Hall and Addie Burger. And I think it’s worth—and you can keep those, please— But these are two quite different African American witnesses, two of the very brave, courageous witnesses that we had in the first case in March of 1962. As you look, obviously there is a difference in the education level. Sam Hall, like most of the African Americans in Mississippi, had an eighth grade education.
But you can tell, as you look at his interpretation, this was what African Americans had to fill out, and occasionally white people as well. The form on judicial recusal, that section of the Mississippi Constitution—And he gives a good example. When the parties know about the case, or are kin, well those are situations where a judge should properly recuse himself or herself. And then, what’s the duties and obligations of citizenship? A good citizen, (1) who obey the law and does all he can for the state and country. Not a bad definition of what all of us should be doing for our state and country. But, going back to the front page, you’ll see that big NR, Not Registered.
Turn one more page to Addie Burger. And the wife of the principal of Rowan High School, herself a teacher at Rowan, a Masters Degree from New York University. And look at this beautiful penmanship. I wish mine were as good. Look at her section that she was given. And white people would never be given something to interpret like 16 Section Lands and Deed. And look how thorough she was, sufficiently thorough, so she asked for an extra piece of paper to put down her interpretation. And, right at the top of Mrs. Burger’s form is NQ, Not Qualified. So it didn’t make any difference whether you had an eighth grade education or a Masters Degree. If you were black, you didn’t get to vote in Forrest County.
CAROLE SIMPSON: I want to ask both of you before we go to the audience. What was the atmosphere? Was it frightening, the white citizens councils who were operating the Ku Klux Klan, was burning crosses. I mean, how fearful were you, representing the federal government, trying these people?
JOHN DOAR: I don’t think it was frightening for any of us, actually. But I want to say that I had very strict rules with respect to the lawyers who worked for me, the young lawyers. Number one, we were law enforcement officers. And we were going to go right down the middle. We were not representing the blacks. We were representing the United States. And there was no fraternizing with the students. There was no going to mass meetings. If a lawyer went to a mass meeting, he came home. And then the second thing is, the lawyers were instructed to be careful. Don’t be driving around in Mississippi in the dark. You don’t know what you're doing.
And, as a result of that discipline, and the fact that the young lawyers were willing to abide by that, Barbara Flannery’s husband Nick, who was the first lawyer that went with me to Haywood and Fayette County, Tennessee, to him, he was back in the Russian Revolution. It was the most exciting thing in his life to be there. [laughter] And he really wanted to go out and go to the mass meetings. He wanted to hear them sing. He wanted to hear the songs. He wanted to see the people. I wouldn’t let him do it, because it would be counterproductive.
And so, we had to convince the white people in Mississippi that we were being fair and that we weren’t partisan in the sense that we were representing or looking after the blacks of the county. We were enforcing the law. Bob Moses was a student on ...(inaudible) committee said that the Civil Rights Division gave the students crawling space. And that’s about as good a description as you could have that we were able to do. That was the only way it would work.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Thank you. And now, I’d like to turn it over to—
GORDON MARTIN: I should say, Carole, that I did have my tires slashed in East Carroll Parish, which John had mentioned earlier. And I’ll tell you a quick anecdote. As we were looking for white witnesses—and John has mentioned the FBI doing their initial reviews, if you will, and investigation in detailed language that we had worked out. But I had the somewhat misfortune of visiting a family where the FBI had had two different groups of agents visit the same 25 year old son in the family. They were not happy about that, particularly when the third person showed up, me.
And we had to have a long, long discussion that they were really good Americans. We understood that they were good Americans. We just wanted fair treatment for everybody in the county. And, ultimately, they invited me to stay for dinner and to come back and shoot a bird sometime. [laughter]
CAROLE SIMPSON: Well, on that pleasant note, there are microphones in both aisles. And you're welcome to ask your questions.
Q: I filled out one of these forms in July of 1956. And I was, at the time, returning. I was a college student at Brandeis. And I was scared. And they did give me a little line to copy and interpret. And I hadn’t the foggiest notion what it was about. And first, the clerk there sort of
talked me through it and said—you know, smiled and patted me on the back. And it was a matter—in his mind, no big deal. In my mind, it was a very big deal. My question is, from your perspectives as insiders for the government, what was your feeling about the efficacy of the movement of the integration movement, which was I got involved in, in the ‘60s. I want to hear it from the insiders. Was it helpful to your practice? I have ideas about it, but I’d like to hear it from you please.
JOHN DOAR: Well, just the movement was tremendous. If you think of them in three groups. First, there was CORE. James Foreman organized the Freedom Rides in the beginning of 1960. And my gosh, when you see the documentary that’s out now, or will be out in two months about the Freedom Rides, you’re going to really appreciate what those people did on that ride and what they did. That was really the first revolutionary action that was out in the open by the blacks.
And they were nonviolent, although they got all sorts of beatings-up as a result of the Freedom Rides.
Then you take the students. And the students went down and picked out the hardest places in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. There were students in Dallas County, Alabama from May of 1961 to 1965. And we were there during that time. Bob Moses started in Southwestern Mississippi. And those kids were really courageous. And they were really in danger all of the time.
And then, you take Dr. King’s organization. And you just go and reread his letter from the jail in Birmingham, which begins, “You wonder why we can't wait.” And then he went on to explain why he couldn’t wait any longer for the rights of the black people. And his ability to appeal to all people because of his marvelous ability to express himself.
And I wouldn’t want anybody here to think that the story of the Justice Department, in any way, is intended, in any way, shape or form to suggest that the Justice Department wasn’t the body that brought all of this about. But the Justice Department did help. And the Justice Department perhaps helped to keep it on the tracks. And so, we didn’t have a really awful revolutionary movement sometime between 1963 and 1965.
CAROLE SIMPSON: We have another question.
Q: I was just wondering, what was the repercussions against your father after the Appellate Court ruled in his favor, or ruled against the voter registrar? And then also, how did this whole experience impact you and your brothers and sister?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: I missed part of the question.
Q: What were the repercussions, if there were any, for your father once the Appellate Court ruled against the voter registrar, since his name was on the suit?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: When the court ruled in favor, I don’t think there were any repercussions, really, ruled in favor.
Q: There was no retaliation against your father from the white citizens council?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge.
GORDON MARTIN: I think one of the important things to remember—and I agree with what John said about all of the groups. But the local people were going to stay there in the community. And lawyers John spoke about are 16 days preparing the trial. And that was common for all of us in the division. But we would go home to Washington after those 16, 18, three weeks, whatever it may be. But the local people were still there. And that’s why their courage was really of a different denomination. And I think that was true, too, comparing volunteers.
Now, some might not come back, like Goodman and Schwerner. But most of the kids who were involved in 1964 happily did return to their homes. But B.F. Bourne did not. He stayed there courageously. And I think the other thing that, in terms of the Hercules Powder Company workers, that’s very important, is just the fact that it was their shop’s steward. The labor movement deserves a lot of credit for the Hercules workers, six of them, who testified. Because their shop steward said, “I will see that you are not fired.”
CAROLE SIMPSON: Hercules Power Company?
GORDON MARTIN: Powder, gunpowder. Gunpowder, raising chemicals. It was a spinoff from DuPont.
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: It was a chemical company.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Oh.
GORDON MARTIN: In the early part of the 20th century.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And that was a big employer? HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: That was the major— [simultaneous conversation]
CAROLE SIMPSON: Major employee in Hattiesburg. The other thing she was asking was, your brothers and sisters. What impact did your father’s involvement in the movement have on the rest of you?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Well, I think it made us want to be involved and make a difference in society and do whatever—what small part or large part that we possibly could. I know one brother was in college in Ohio. He was participating in sit-ins in Zinnia(?) Ohio. My father was very proud of him, L.C. Bourne. My father was very, very excited about that. And, regarding—I learned to stand up for what was right. And, as part of my career, working in North Carolina, in Charlotte, I was working for Quasar Federal Agency. And I had to file a lawsuit against that agency for discrimination. But I could have not done anything. But, because of what was instilled in me in my home growing up, I was willing to do that.
CAROLE SIMPSON: We have another question.
Q: What ever happened to that registrar? Was he sentenced? Did he serve any time? Was he fined? [laughter]
GORDON MARTIN: Not as much happened, I think, as we would have liked. He was found guilty of civil contempt and fined. The court determined that it would not rule on the criminal contempt charge.
CAROLE SIMPSON: He must have died young with that weight.
GORDON MARTIN: Well, he did. He died in office.
CAROLE SIMPSON: He did?
GORDON MARTIN: He died in office. And happily, John has pointed out, our case leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. And ultimately, ultimately, blacks registered, had the opportunity, and did register in Forrest County. And he still lasted as registrar and registered them.
CAROLE SIMPSON: But he changed his behavior. GORDON MARTIN: Well, yes. [laughter] CAROLE SIMPSON: Another question.
Q: You mentioned the terrible incident of the Klan burning a cross next to your home. What was the violence or just the physical threat or the fear, kind of, factor like in your community among the African American people there?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Well, most of the people in my community were, you know, pretty to themselves, in terms of being active in the movement. But I remember Reverend
W. Ridgeway was one of the ones in our community that was very active along with my father. The cross was symbolic. That meant that “we’re going to come after you. You better stop.”
That’s what that cross meant. So, it was a message for my father, like, “We know what you're doing. And your life is in danger.”
Q: Has that kind of thing ever happened to anyone else?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: I don’t know. I just know about the burning with the bombing of Mr. Dahmer’s home, and his being murdered and killed. Also, Clyde Kennard, as a result of his applying to go to University of Southern Mississippi, he was framed. He lived with his mother. And he came back to help his mother, and they had a chicken farm. And someone planted a bag of chicken feed on his farm, one bag. And they just happened to have the serial number for that one bag. And he was convicted and sent to jail for that. Matter of fact, to prison for that.
CAROLE SIMPSON: But there were cross burnings all across the south, weren’t there?
JOHN DOAR: Well, in ’64, when the students came to Mississippi, there were cross burnings, there were church burnings, there were beatings, there were murders.
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: Not only cross burnings, but there were lynchings too. I believe in 1955, you know about ...(inaudible). That didn’t happen in Hattiesburg, but you know about that case. And then, also, in Poplarville, I think Poplarville, Mississippi, in ’59, there was the Matt Charles Parker lynching and killing there, too.
GORDON MARTIN: And crosses were actually burned in front of the home of the white labor leader that I mentioned, Huck Dunigan, as well as his son, a great journalist in Macomb, Mississippi, at the Enterprise Journal there. Huck told me, when I went back and started talking to people about this period, that he sat with a gun, a loaded shotgun, and let the word be around the community that, if anything like that happened again, he would kill them. And he was very serious about that, and would have.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Question here.
Q: You said that the Justice Department may have derailed a more violent—[side remarks] You said that the Justice Department may have derailed a more violent reaction in that community.
And I wondered if you could expand on that a little.
JOHN DOAR: I’m sorry. I just don’t hear you.
CAROLE SIMPSON: He said that you were saying that the Justice Department may have derailed more violence in the community.
JOHN DOAR: I believe that’s true. But, at the same time, there were terrible, terrible things happened to people. People were killed.
CAROLE SIMPSON: But he’s saying, how did the Justice Department help keep down the violence? How do you think?
JOHN DOAR: Well, the way we did it was that the lawyers were taught that, if there was some indication of anything building up by way of violence, to alert the FBI. And then to have the FBI tell the local authorities the information they had. And, if there was a demonstration coming, the Civil Rights Division would instruct the FBI to be there with cameras and photograph, and be obvious. So that the local rednecks would know that there were law enforcement officers around. That was the end.
But it really was, as I think back at the time, that it was really a race to get all the blacks be free to vote before something really blew off, and there would be violence that would be uncontrollable. And it finally came together at Selma in 1965. And then, the passage of the Voting Rights Act. And then, great numbers of blacks registered almost immediately. And there was, then, the first—
CAROLE SIMPSON: There was something concrete.
JOHN DOAR: There was something. And then, the politicians all had to switch because they then recognized that, if they were going to stay in office, they had to get the black vote as well as the white vote. And then, the violence really, except for the Schwerner, Goodman, Chaney murders, which occurred in ’64, weren’t really—the trial didn’t come on until ’67. And then there was the Vernon Dahmer trial. And now, they're still—The FBI has under investigation about 130 unsolved murders in the three states, still trying to investigate and bring criminal actions against the persons that committed those crimes.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Okay, thank you. We have another question over here.
Q: Yes. You know, it’s one thing to be black and part of that community and to be brave. But, what sort of impresses me is those white people who stood up and said, “This isn’t right.” And I was wondering, whether in that community and in other communities, there were white citizens, councils, or white groups that took a stand against, you know, their neighbors who were in positions of power, who didn’t want things to happen, to change.
GORDON MARTIN: You remember the phrase, “white citizens council.” That was what they called the white collar clan, people who didn’t want to do the violence themselves, but clearly inspired it. And one reason why Judge Cox was able to get approval to become a United States District Judge was he had never joined the white citizens council.
In terms of white heroes—and John may have someone else to think of—but I think Huck Dunigan, that labor leader that I mentioned, who said to his workers, “You guys go and register to vote. And you will not be fired.” And he delivered. And, while I was doing the book, I went to visit the corporate boss, if you will, at the Hercules headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, who said, “Oh, I remember Huck Dunigan. If Huck Dunigan had asked me about that, I would have done exactly what he wanted.” So he was a real hero.
JOHN DOAR: Just one more thing I should tell you. In Haywood County, Tennessee, when all the sharecroppers were evicted, there was a white woman who ran a farm in there. And she refused to evict her workers and her farm manager, who was black. And she testified for the government in December, 1960, that she had refused to go along with the other whites in the community. And there are other examples like that throughout Mississippi and Louisiana and Alabama.
Q: And what happened to them?
JOHN DOAR: She didn’t have any—She didn’t suffer any intimidation or retaliation.
GORDON MARTIN: There were some newspaper editors too. Harding Carter, Jr. in the Greenville Delta Democrat Times, Hazel Brannon Smith in Lexington, who showed a lot of courage.
JOHN DOAR: Thank you.
CAROLE SIMPSON: And we’re supposed to finish up at seven. And I think we have time for one more question.
Q: I am wondering if there is any example of any—[side remarks] I was wondering if there was any—Do any of you have examples of anybody apologizing for their injustices? For instance, to your father or any? Being a Mississippian, have you ever had any—has anyone there ever personally apologized to you? And, if so, would it have made a difference? Or would it make a difference to you?
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: No, no one apologized to me. But I do know the City of Hattiesburg, I believe, made an apology in regards to Clyde Kennard and the University of Southern Mississippi, in all what he went through, and the fact that he eventually died, you know, he was dying in prison. But he was released shortly thereafter and went to Chicago, and died. But they opened a museum there at the University of Southern Mississippi, and named a building after Clyde Kennard. But that’s sort of after the fact. And I guess that’s their way of trying to make an amends.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Didn’t George Wallace, on his death bed, kind of—Didn’t George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, in later years and near his death, didn’t he kind of soften a bit?
JOHN DOAR: He did soften a bit. [laughter]
CAROLE SIMPSON: A little tiny bit.
GORDON MARTIN: I don’t think we’d be truly fair to the City of Hattiesburg if we did not mention and possibly conclude, Carole, by pointing out that Hattiesburg has a black mayor, has, for a long period of time, had a state representative who is black, council members who are black. Mississippi is not perfect today, but it is coming along very, very well.
HELEN BOURNE McCULLOUGH: I’m glad you mentioned that, because that is true.
JOHN DOAR: I just want to pay my respects to Gordon for writing this book. Because, you know, as days go by and years go by, we Americans are going to forget—history is going to forget just the human stories of the people, the black people, that lived in one section of Mississippi during that period. And Gordon has gotten to know these 15 or 20 or 30 people that he writes about. And he knows them well. And he tells it accurately and fairly and truthfully.
But, if you read the book, what you come out of it is that those people are just like folks just like we are. They're black, but they're just like white people that we know in our communities up north. And it’s a wonderful document because I don’t know anybody that has really put the effort that Gordon has into telling the story about the human side of the black individuals that struggled against this caste system like he has and he deserves our appreciation. [applause]
CAROLE SIMPSON: I just have to ask all of you, because I represent the media, how big a role did the media play in the successful resolution of the problems of black people in the south? What did coverage, media coverage do to help?
GORDON MARTIN: Well, as things changed, that happened in Mississippi, Carole, and that was when Gannett moved into Mississippi, buying the Jackson Clarion Ledger, the Hattiesburg American. There had been a family that had controlled those papers for decades. A favorite—one of my stories that I've seen from a Clarion Ledger story, was “Macomb Negro Hits Train.” Think about that. Obviously, it was his fault. [laughter] And, if there was a black person involved, you can bet that the Hediman(?) brothers would have made it very clear, in their coverage, that was it was a black man who did it. And that changed with Gannett. Gannett rewarded people who brought diversity to their individual papers. And it was very important.
CAROLE SIMPSON: I don’t want to delay this ending at seven. What do you want to say?
JOHN DOAR: I want to say that the beat reporters from the northern papers, specifically ...(inaudible) for the New York Times, Jackson Nelson from the Los Angeles Times, Renata Adler for The New Yorker Magazine, and there’s one or two other reporters that covered the south from ’60 to ’65, they made a darn good contribution to what’s been brought about because they were there every day and they were reporting it.
And Bill Miner from the New Orleans paper was in the courtroom, in the chambers of Judge Cox, when I appeared before him on a Saturday morning to get some kind of injunction against the police department in Canton, Mississippi, who had tear gassed the Meredith Marchers. And I remember, we were sitting there, and I said to Judge Cox, “You know, Judge Cox, there's nothing un-American about wanting to register to vote.” And he said, “Yes. But they don’t have to line up like chimpanzees outside the registrar’s office.” Bill Miner wrote that down. And the next morning, that was in the New York Times and it was a headline above the folder in the New York Times. And that sort of reporting made a difference.
GORDON MARTIN: And Bill Miner was a white hero in journalism, the Mississippi writer for The New Orleans Times Picayune, and he was a person of courage. We all owe a great debt to him. But I’ll just, on a final note, I’ll just say that Barbara’s husband and I used to argue periodically as to who was the greater hero: John Doar or Claude ...(inaudible). And you could make a good case either way. [applause]
CAROLE SIMPSON: Thank you very much. And I want to thank Mr. Doar and Judge Martin and Helen McCullough for being here and remind you that Judge Martin will be signing his books down in the gift shop, right outside this door he’ll be signing the books. Thank you so much for your attention. I hope you enjoyed it. [applause]