Interview with Herbert Brownell, Jr.


Herbert Brownell, Jr.:

Well after the second Brown decision, the question came up as what the proper roll of the federal government was going to be in the enforcement, although the primary enforcement was left to the federal courts, therefore the justice department undertook and made a study of uh the, to find out what the precedence in this regard had been as to when and how the federal government could intervene when there was a dispute with local authorities over the, enforcement of a court decision. We found out there was there were two things that were necessary for the federal government to intervene and to have its action upheld by the Supreme Court. One was that the local authorities must ask for, for help and the other was that there should be um, widespread rioting or imminence of widespread rioting. Those two things had to uh, coincide. Uh, there had been, then there were sporadic uh, eruptions around the country before Little Rock, a number of cases where both of these conditions were not met. Little Rock in our opinion was the first place where the conditions were fully met, and uh, it made a good test case to prove that the federal government was supreme in this area. And of course the Little Rock case went up to the Supreme Court uh, and the uh Supreme Court upheld the opinion of the uh, Justice Department The, uh, after the Brown decision uh, we asked the FBI to run a continuing study as to what uh, the local conditions were in various trouble spots. And uh to find out whether there was any organized resistance uh, which uh, would lead to real trouble. And the FBI made such a study and uh, they found that in several spots there were local groups which were, actually organizing opposition to compliance with the uh, Brown decision. This was completed by the time of Little Rock. As a matter of fact there was another case in Arkansas, Hoxie, Arkansas, which was in the courts just before the Little Rock case and we presented that evidence to the Judge in the Case when he asked us to appear as a friend of the court in deciding the constitutional uh, question of uh whether the uh Brown decision flatly prohibited segregation in the public schools. At Little Rock we, had the benefit of the special FBI surveillance team there uh, throughout the days leading up to the crisis. And uh, the substance of our information was given to Governor Faubus, uh, although not publicized at the time so that he was aware of uh, the fact that the federal government had the power to intervene if the local authorities requested it and if there was uh actual violence.