Days after criticizing the president as “wishy-washy” on the Little Rock situation at a speaking engagement in Macon, Georgia, King applauds Eisenhower’s decision, announced in a 24 September radio and television address, to use federal troops to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.1 King sent a similar telegram to Vice President Nixon on the same day. Eisenhower thanked King for his comments on 7 October.2
the white house
i wish to express my sincere support for the stand you have taken to restore law and order in little rock, arkansas. in the long run, justice finally must spring from a new moral climate. yet spiritual forces cannot emerge in a situation of mob violence.
you should know that the overwhelming majority of southerners, negro and white stand firmly behind your resolute action. the pen of history will record that even the small and confused minority that oppose integration with violence will live to see that your action has been of great benefit to our nation and to the christian traditions of fair play and brotherhood
martin luther king jr president
southern christian leadership conference.
1. John Raymond, “King Says Ballot is Big Race Gain,” Macon Telegraph, 20 September 1957. King had also wired Eisenhower on 9 September urging federal action in Little Rock: “If the federal government fail[s] to take a strong positive stand at this time it will set the process of integration back fifty years.”
On 4 September Arkansas national guardsmen, on orders from Governor Orval Faubus, prevented nine black students from enrolling in Little Rock’s Central High School. After a federal injunction against Faubus’s use of the troops was issued on 20 September, the National Guard was withdrawn and the Little Rock police department assumed authority. On 23 September the nine students were escorted by police into the high school; however, a furious white mob threatened to charge the school, and the students retreated out a side door. Little Rock mayor Woodrow Mann then wired the president pleading for federal assistance. After Eisenhower announced the use of federal troops to uphold the Brown decision, the “Little Rock Nine” successfully entered Central High on 25 September as twelve hundred national guardsmen patrolled the area. Orval Eugene Faubus (1910-1994) was born in Greasy Creek, Arkansas. After holding several offices in state government, Faubus was elected governor of Arkansas in 1954. Though initially considered a southern liberal, Faubus became a strong advocate of segregation. He served six terms as governor, leaving office in 1967.
2. See p. 284 in this volume.
WCFG, KAbE, White House Central Files (General File), Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kan., Box 733