Interview with Herbert Brownell, Jr.
QUESTION 32
INTERVIEWER:

I THINK YOU SAID TO ME—AND I WONDER IF YOU WOULD, IF YOU WOULD, WOULD TALK ABOUT THIS—THAT WHAT THE, WHAT THIS ACT DID WAS IT MADE ALL THREE BRANCHES OF THE GOVERNMENT FINALLY WORK TOWARDS CIVIL RIGHTS, THAT, THAT IT, IT IT WAS EFFECTIVE IN ALL THREE BRANCHES. COULD YOU TALK TO THAT?

Herbert Brownell, Jr.:

The uh, federal government was impotent really when you come right down to it, um at the time Eisenhower came into office, of having a direct roll in the enforcement of Civil Rights by the Federal Government. The court, the Supreme Court that let the judicial branch of the government change that when the it came down with the Brown decision, and for all practical purposes nullified the old uh, Plessy uh, rule. Uh, the Congress uh, changed by reason of the fight over the Civil Rights Act of 1957, up to that time it had been routine that civil rights laws would pass the House of Representatives and go to the Senate and be referred to the Judiciary Committee and then filibustered to death. Well, there had been no legislation since the reconstruction days. We in our time there, uh were able to forge a coalition in the Senate between the Republican leadership and the moderate Democrats. So that instead of having the bill go to the Judiciary Committee when it came over from the House, it went directly to the floor of the Senate and uh eliminated that bottleneck and the rules were effectively changed from that time on, so that there was a method of abolishing the filibuster and getting a direct vote on civil rights legislation. So that meant that the, for all practical purpose, the legislative branch of the government was on board and had a, a method by which it could bring changes about in the civil rights laws. And the executive change when under Eisenhower from the passive role to the direct role as exemplified by Little Rock and by its advocacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 During the Eisenhower administrations and leading up to President Kennedy's election the role of the federal government in civil rights changed completely. The Supreme Court of course had handed down the Brown decision and eliminated the old Plessy doctrine. The Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and uh done away with the southern filibuster and the executive had uh changed to one of direct action by reason of the President's action at uh Little Rock