Interview with Harold Engstrom
QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

NOW, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT SUMMER OF '57, WHERE YOU'RE HAVING A SERIES OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE GOVERNOR, AND MAYBE YOU COULD END WITH THE ENDING OF THAT SUMMER, WHICH WAS THE CALLING OUR OF THE NATIONAL GUARD, AND HOW YOU ACTUALLY LEARNED OF THAT.

Harold Engstrom:

OK. As we approached the first day of school, we had several problems. One was getting the high schools completed. And we had to work the contractor on a weekend in order to get the sewer connected at Hall High School. I remember little things like that. So there were certain anxieties, about having everything in order for the plan to start smoothly. But the key point, became to be - what would the mayor do, what would the police do, what would the governor do. The dissidents, the ones that did not agree with us, and we had people on both sides, who didn't agree with us. The NAACP was not at all satisfied with our construction of what deliberate speed was, and the – the people who were against integration, and especially integration on a voluntary basis, were saying it wasn't necessary. It wasn't really the law. So we needed some help from the officials – the state officials, the county, the city officials, and primarily from Governor Faubus, as to what he told the people, whether it was the law or not.** And it was just simply that. Could we get him to say, that regardless of what his opinion was, it was the law of the land. And the governor of North Carolina had done that. So we delegated Mr. Blossom to make the direct communication with Governor Faubus. And they were done on an informal basis, at the mansion, in the afternoon, just visiting one-on-one. And whenever Mr. Blossom could get the appointment, why, they'd continue the discussions. And I guess we must have been – it felt like there'd been a dozen such meetings. And each time Mr. Blossom would have to come back and report to us and we'd want to know well, how – what's going to happen, what's Governor Faubus going to do? And he kept being optimistic, that he was sure that he hadn't gotten the agreement yet, he didn't – he couldn't report definitely, but he was confident that he, in the end, that Governor Faubus would come down with a statement, more or less to the effect – the same one that we needed. And that was, that the integration was the law of the land. And that the deliberate speed that we had construed was reasonable, and that integrating under a controlled situation, instead of a forced situation, would be satisfactory for our particular community. He wouldn't have to say it for the whole state, just for our particular community. But as the world all knows, it went the other way. At the last, couple of weeks, the last thirty days at least, Governor Faubus began to get much stronger pressures from other people, a lot of them outside the community. And he finally came down with the fact that his decision, that he would not publicly take the position, to support us. And – but we did not get any information that he would forcefully prevent it, either. And we were in a meeting, we met morning, noon and night, and we were in a night meeting, and saw on television, just like other members of the community did, the statement that – from – Faubus made, calling out the Guard, and the pictures of the Guard being put around the–Central High. And, so we failed in our objective of getting support from the Governor.