Interview with Harold Engstrom
QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

AND A DESCRIPTION OF VIRGIL BLOSSOM, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS.

Harold Engstrom:

Virgil Blossom is a—oh, I'm so loyal to Virgil. I want to be sure that in my description of him I—he comes across as a big plus, because he was. Virgil was a product of the athletic program. He was an athlete. He was a coach, and as a coach he became an administrator, a principal of a school and later a superintendent. And he became the Superintendent of Schools of the Fayetteville Schools, one of our better school systems, outside of Little Rock. And we were so pleased to have him in Little Rock as our Superintendent. But—and Virgil was a hard working, big man. He came in one summer after being off, and walked around the room, and said, what do you see different? We said, new haircut? No. New suit? No. He said, Hell, I've lost 25 pounds! And we said, Where? [laughter] But he was a hard-working man. He slept about five hours and bragged about it—that he only slept five hours. He was a very, very ambitious man. He wanted to advance. He wanted to succeed. And go on to bigger and better things. And he wanted to succeed in everything he did. He had a good sense of humor. He was a good person to be around. He was a big plus, but very strong person.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

FIFTY FEET LEFT ON CAMERA ROLL

Harold Engstrom:

I didn't get to know Daisy Bates as well, personally, as I did some of the other characters. We were in constant contact with her, but most of the time, we contacted her through Virgil Blossom. But we knew exactly where Daisy was all the time, and she was always well-dressed, well-mannered, articulate, capable, and doing a good job at her role. But her role and our role were so different. We were trying to go down the middle of the road, and she was trying to take us to a higher road, at a faster pace. And she didn't agree with us at all as what due deliberate speed was. She didn't agree with us on how—our position became that of a moderate. And I didn't understand what a moderate was, until I began to be condemned for being a moderate. And in those days being a moderate was a terrible thing. And in being an engineer, I thought going down the middle of the road –

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

CAMERA ROLL OUT ON ROLL 114. THIS IS STILL SOUND ROLL 1107.

Harold Engstrom:

What – I'm been asked sometimes about what did the white, responsible citizens fear about integration. Well, we just had an inborn fear of integration. It was just a natural thing that we were born with, and lived with. And I guess the ultimate fear was the pure mixing of the races, to whether it would be no color line at all, no, no ethnic difference, no difference in habits, no difference in methods of living, no, no difference in color, and so on, and it was just beyond our capability to construe just how that would be, and fit in with our ideas of improving the world and making the world better. We did not – we were not unfair. We were not haters of the other race. I've been complimented several times about my views of relationships with the Jewish people, with relationships with other minorities, and I find that it's just the way I was raised. My parents were fair, and responsible, and most of the people in Little Rock where I went to church, I was taught that that was the proper way, and so on. So we really wanted to be fair, and we wanted to progress. We wanted to improve things, and especially improve education for the black race. The black children were not getting a chance and they needed it more than anyone, and we were very strongly in favor of that, and could see that integration would it. But we did, at that stage, have fears, and they were, I guess, just naturally more emotional fears,** more than rational ones.