Interview with John Seigenthaler
QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

OK. I'LL GO BACK TO SOMETHING THAT YEAR. YOU'VE BEEN BEATEN UNCONSCIOUS AND ARE BADLY HURT UM YOU SAID AT ONE POINT YOU FELT AS IF YOU'D FAILED IN YOUR MISSION THAT YOU'D BEEN SENT TO DO SOMETHING AND VIOLENCE HAD ERUPTED AS IT HAD ERUPTED THE WEEK BEFORE. WHY DID YOU FEEL THAT IT WAS A FAILURE?

John Seigenthaler:

I felt I had failed in the mission because of… it seemed to me that what happened didn't have to happen. That, um, that I had somehow not convinced Governor Patterson that the Federal Government was absolutely serious in its determination to get these people, uh, on their way and to provide them security and when the Attorney General called me in the hospital and told me that he had sent the marshals in, I, I, I really uh, my first statement to him was I was - that I was sorry. Sorry that I had not succeeded in my mission, I was sorry that he had to send those marshals in. Uh, in a sense, I guess it was uh… part of being Southern. Uh, I didn't, I didn't like to think that uh, citizens couldn't travel through my part of the country, uh, simply because - uh - of race - uh - as an official in Government, I'd been given a job to do and -uh - that job was to get them through and that had failed, and then on top of all that, here was an inevitable invasion of Federal officers, the first time in the Kennedy Administration, uh, and I just felt I just, I just felt uh distraught and distressed that - uh - I'd let him down - uh - them down, and myself down, and, and - uh - he knew I felt terrible about it. The end of the conversation he said - uh - "How's my popularity down there?" And I said - uh - "If you're planning on running for a public office, don't do it in Alabama." And, -uh- we ended sort of on that light note. By that time, the marshals were on the way. By nightfall, they replaced Floyd Mann's State Police, in surrounding that hospital. I stayed in that hospital until Martin Luther King came in a few days later. I took the plane out that he came in on to make that speech that night in the church - uh - uh - made under great duress and tension, because that church was surrounded by a mob.