Interview with Burke Marshall
QUESTION 35
INTERVIEWER:

…DOING THIS FAVOR, PERSONAL WORK FOR THE PRESIDENT. COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THAT MEETING WITH GOVERNOR WALLACE AND PRESIDENT JOHNSON?

Burke Marshall:

The president asked Governor Wallace to come up, because the president wanted Governor Wallace to enforce law and order in the state of Alabama, which governors are supposed to do. And the meeting, which was in the- the president's office, was intended to do that. Governor Wallace brought one person with him. I guess there were two people there besides the president, sort of on the federal side. What happened in the meeting was that the, the president totally snowed him. Governor Wallace didn't quite grovel, but he, he was so pliant, by the end of the two hours, with President Johnson putting his arm around him, and squeezing him, and telling him it's a moment of history, and how do we want to be remembered, in history? Do you want to be remembered as petty little men, or do we want to be men remembered as great figures that faced up to our moments of crisis, and that kind of thing, and then he led president- Governor Wallace out, in the hopes that Governor Wallace, who was, by that time, like a rubber band, would give a press statement that confirmed his determination to protect the marchers at Selma, comply with the court order from Judge Johnson, and act like a responsible governor.** Well, some time between the time that the president stopped squeezing him in the Oval Office, and the time that the governor got right before the television cameras with the reporters there, he– he took a small, mental cold shower, and so that when his statement, that actually came out, was very ambiguous, and by the time he got back to Alabama, he'd recovered, from the presidential treatment, and was back to- to being George Wallace again, and he said he didn't have any money, and he couldn't preserve it, and this was all a federal plot, and he wasn't going to have anything to do with it.