Interview with Nicholas Katzenbach
QUESTION 39
INTERVIEWER:

OK, WHAT UH, WHAT, WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK THAT UH, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT WAS REALLY ASSURED OF PASSAGE, WAS IT UH, BLOODY SUNDAY, WAS IT REVEREND REEB'S DEATH, WAS IT UH, WHAT, WHAT, WAS IT THE MARCH? WHAT, WHAT WAS THE FINAL PUSH?

Nicholas Katzenbach:

I think the Voting Rights Act was assured of passage uh, after the uh, the incidents in Selma. Uh, I don't think the march necessarily helped very much. But the, I think the Congress felt that they had to do something to cool this situation. You couldn't live with people being beat up and they couldn't live with people demonstrating all the time. They wanted to, to satisfy enough of those desires uh so that they get on with other things uh, and uh, so they were, they were prepared to enact a very tough Voting Rights Act and indeed it was, uh, even including the use of the federal registrars to register people. Um, I remember after that act was enacted that uh, Senator Eastland who was chairman of the Judiciary Committee called me up on the phone and he said, "I don't want anybody on my plantation coming on my plantation to register people." And I said well, "I can't control that." Uh, he says, "You tell those Civil Rights groups not to come on my plantation." And I said "Well, I can tell them but that won't do any good." I said, "Haven't you, now wouldn't all those people vote for you Senator?" He said yes. He said, "Why don't you take them all down and get them registered," he said, "and I'll tell the Civil Rights groups that everybody on that plantation's registered." So he said, "That's a good idea." And he did it.