Interview with Erle Johnston
QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

OK, SO WHEN YOU AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU, THAT IS, NATIVES, PEOPLE EDUCATED, THINKING PEOPLE WERE, FIRST HEARD OF STUDENTS COMING FROM OUTSIDE TO CHANGE THINGS SOCIALLY. HOW DID YOU FEEL?

Erle Johnston:

Well, I tell you Governor Barnett made it clear prior to the [unintelligible] that he didn't want anybody up at Old Miss except law enforcement personnel. He didn't want everybody from the street coming up there and getting involved and of course in the summer of 1964 when it became apparent we were going to be invaded, I was at that time director of the Sovereignty Commission. And I remember making a speech at a city club at Canton, Mississippi in March of that year in which I made the remark—and of course, Governor Johnson was, in office then—that regardless of what happens, leave everything to law enforcement personnel and don't join these secret undercover groups in the hopes that it's going to do anything different, but let law enforcement personnel handle whatever happens. And that was the policy I think of Governor Johnson and it certainly was our policy too, and at that time some of the undercover groups that I said don't join were pretty powerful.