Interview with Thomas Atkins

You were talking about the meeting with Clarence Mitchell and Ford--


The meeting, the meeting was a very, very tense one. I wasn't at the meeting because at that time I was trying the Columbus School Desegregation Case that I would ultimately argue three years later at the Supreme Court. But I got a rather copious report on the meeting. Ah, the NAACP's position was that whatever Gerald Ford's position was on busing, which he continued to say he was opposed to, that he could only have one position on the question of enforcing constitutional rights and that position had to be the same as Eisenhower had had when he sent troops into Little Rock. And Clarence Mitchell lectured Gerald Ford on the importance then of Eisenhower having done that and of how history had put him in a position to do the same thing. He said, "Mr. President, you can't support this challenge because if you do, you send a message that the constitution can be thwarted by violent opposition. And it was an argument that, ah, both the President and the Attorney General, Ed Levey at that time agreed overrode everything else. As a result of which the position that was taken by the United states on that issue was that the Supreme Court should not grant cert and it was not, certiorari was not granted. The appeal was rejected. I think it's important to note that there probably has not been another school desegregation case either before or after Boston in which as many individual orders have been issued. The count now is well in excess of 400. And the Supreme Court of the United States has never accepted an appeal from any one of those orders. Never. And it never will for the reason that it too believes that lawlessness cannot be rewarded by making it respectable.