Interview with Herbert Brownell, Jr.
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT EISENHOWER'S REACTION TO BEING ASKED TO DEVELOP AN ARGUMENT FOR THE COURT?

Herbert Brownell, Jr.:

The uh, Supreme Court after the first argument of the Brown case asked the uh, Eisenhower administration to intervene in the case formally. Up to that time it had been uh, the parties, were private parties. There were parents and school boards that were involved but the federal government was not a party to the case. So when Eisenhower first uh, learned that the case was going to be reargued and that the Supreme Court had asked us to intervene he uh, asked quite properly why should the federal government get involved in this, it was a private case. And uh, we pointed out the fact uh, that the request from the court of the opinion of the Department of Justice the Attorney General on this was almost a command. And that the command was quite specific that we were asked five different questions on which the court wanted us to argue and to develop a brief and to develop a history of the uh, fourteenth amendment and its effect on the segregation in the public schools. We therefore recommended to him that uh, we should respond affirmatively to this request from the Supreme Court, and he accepted our uh, recommendation on that. He said that we should uh, answer all the factual questions which the court had asked. Then the question came up as to whether we should express an opinion on the constitutionality of segregation in the public schools and there he said he was not prepared to have the federal government as such uh, make such a statement. But I was authorized as Attorney General, if asked by the court to state my position as a lawyer uh, on the question. So when the court at the argument, asked the question we responded with the opinion of the attorney general that uh, segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional.