Interview with Harold Engstrom
QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

WITHIN A DAY OR TWO. IN THAT SPEECH, WHICH IS THE SEPTEMBER 4th SPEECH, I BELIEVE, HE SAYS HE CAN'T OPEN THE SCHOOLS. THE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS THE CITY IS A TINDERBOX, THAT IT'S ABOUT TO GO UP. THERE'S GOING TO BE RIOTS. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE REASONING IN THAT SPEECH?

Harold Engstrom:

Well, it's – it's always been a question as to whether Governor Faubus' claim that the city was in a state of danger, as far as violence, and that there were all of these serious catastrophes that would happen if we proceeded. There's never been a question in my mind, or questions in the School Board's mind, that we could have proceeded, if we'd have had this help. And the majority of the people had been told that the authorities would support the law of the land. Governor Faubus later was able to quote some statements that Virgil Blossom made to him, in our negotiations the last few weeks before school, in which Virgil told about the possibility of violence. And Virgil was using those possibilities to explain how we needed the support of the authorities. But—and Faubus was able to use some of those statements that Virgil made, in a very strong way to try to argue and convince the Governor. He was able to use those statements to say that we felt like that the violence was about to happen, and that when we integrated the school, we expected violence. That's not true. We – would not have had any of those children out there in that school if we expected serious violence. And I think the FBI's investigations and other, more thorough, factual studies have proven us correct.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

WE HAVE 225 FEET REMAINING IN CAMERA ROLL 114 AT THIS POINT.

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

INTERVIEWER – JUST A BRIEF DESCRIPTION, PARTICULARLY IN TERMS OF YOUR DEALINGS WITH HIM, OF GOVERNOR FAUBUS AT THIS TIME.

Harold Engstrom:

OK. My impression of Governor Faubus was favorable. He was a talented man. He was a gifted person. He could simplify complex issues into the key points, and he could articulate them in such a way that he could make us all understand, and he was very persuasive. He could – he could make us want to agree with him. I remember after he was elected, the second—well, when he was elected the second time, I was sitting with the owner of the company that I worked for and list—-watching Governor Faubus deliver his second inaugural speech on television. It seems that he had come forward with some progressive moves, of increasing taxes to improve on education and industrial development, and really was going to make Arkansas a better place, but he was sacrificing the, the political. He was taking a risk, political risk in raising taxes. And he did a masterful job. And I turned around to Mr. Ground, who I worked for, and I said, you know, he came within about that much of being a Lincoln. Now that's how high an opinion I had of Governor Faubus at the time. And I was like Virgil Blossom, and other members of the Board. I felt like that that big side of Faubus would prevail, and that we would get his support, and that he would support the law of the land. Of course the other side of Faubus is the one that he plays to the audience, and as the audience turned out, he selected the majority audience to be segregationists, and he played to them in a way was—it was very talented, very masterful. And then after the confrontation with the Guard, Faubus and the school board, and he and I, and his attorney and our attorney, were just cross-ways like that. But we never lost, and to this day haven't lost, the – the personal relationship. I spoke to him at the Texas game ten days ago, and he spoke to me. And after the confrontation, after the crisis, he did reappoint me to the Arkansas State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, something that I did not expect. Probably because of the good relationship I had with his attorney and confidant, and mentor, Mr.—Judge Bill Smith, who was also the attorney for the Registration Board. But Governor Rockefeller, who I admired to be non-political, failed to do something like that. Not for me, but for another engineer, and made an appointment that was not in the best interests of the state, but purely for political purposes. So Governor Faubus was a— and still is—a very talented, gifted person, that could do almost anything that he wanted to do.