Interview with Burke Marshall


Burke Marshall:

Well, I guess we were outraged. I, uh, let me say this about the uh, uh, Department at that time – you know, uh, May uh, of 1961, I had just been confirmed by the Senate in my job. Uh, many of the lawyers in the civil rights division were young and had recently been recruited. They were recruited because they had a commitment to the cause of racial justice, but they didn't know anything, in a way, they had no experience uh, with, with the reaction that was going to take place to, against the movement for rac- racial justice. The Attorney General was new in his job, he hadn't had any experience in, uh, none of the other Assistant Attorney [ Generals ] had. I was out of a big law firm in Washington with a corporate practice, so that in a way uh, wh- when the uh, violence happened to the freedom rides, we were uh, outraged, but also sort of astounded uh, that people would have this kind of reaction, you know, pro- presumably, otherwise sane, sensible, rational uh, may, may be even sensitive people, have this kind of reaction simply, simply to where people were sitting in a bus. So it was sort of incomprehensible to us, but it brought home a reality of a problem that, that was dealt with from that time as long as I was in the Department.