Interview with Constance Baker Motley
QUESTION 46
INTERVIEWER:

CAN YOU DESCRIBE FOR US THE ROLE OF THE KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION IN THIS BATTLE. HOW SYMPATHETIC THEY WERE, HOW ACTIVE…

Judge Constance Baker Motley:

Well, as I recall during the Meredith case, particularly after the Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit had ruled, and as I pointed out earlier, Judge Cameron's bizarre order had been set aside, the Kennedy administration moved to intervene in the case as an amicus curiae. I don't recall now technically whether they became parties, but naturally their responsibility was going to be to enforce that decision. And so they intervened at that point to make sure that whatever was required of them was done hopefully through the courts and that they would not ultimately have to resort to the use of force but as time went on it became clear that that might be the result, they thought they had worked out an understanding with the Governor of Mississippi at that time, Ross Barnett, that Meredith would go in with the protection of the state forces and a federal force would be unnecessary, but as you know what happened was the state forces did not appear, several people were killed including a French newspaperman and other people on the first try with respect to James Meredith's admission. And so it was then necessary for President Kennedy to send in federal troops because a court as you might realize does not have any power or force attached to the court to enforce its own decisions. The constitution places that responsibility upon the president. And the president if necessary when a state resists, a lawful order of a federal court must enforce that decision even if it requires the use of federal troops to do so. And in the Meredith case of course, federal troops were required just as in the Little Rock, Arkansas case.