Interview with Judge John Minor Wisdom
QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

WE WERE LOOKING FOR YOU TO COMMENT, AS I ASKED BEFORE, ABOUT THE SOUTHERN MANIFESTO.

Judge John Minor Wisdom:

The interesting thing about the Southern Manifesto, to me is, that it brings out the same point that the — that I brought out with regard to the citizens' council. To a great extent, the politicians acted according to what they considered would help – benefit them in the next election. The Southern Manifesto was signed by 101 southern members of Congress, Senate and House. Lester Hill, and Sparkman for example, signed it from Alabama. Boggs signed it from Louisiana. And there were many so-called liberals who signed it. Now this is why they felt, this was the politic things – thing to do. Now this is why the really important legislation that was adopted was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Because once the blacks were given the right to vote, you did not, that put an end to the — this false front that many of the politicians had put up. The Voting Rights Act required them to appeal to the black vote. Why else, for example, do we have, why do we have black mayors in say, New Orleans, Montgomery, and many other places? We have it because the white politicians, all of them would have signed the Southern Manifesto, ten years before, or fifteen years before, all go out and work hard to get the black vote. And that's why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was so important. They — take George Wallace for example. George Wallace was — you know the picture of him standing in the schoolhouse door, never, never, never. Course that could apply to Barnett too, from Mississippi, but George Wallace, never, never. But in his last election, he was elected, thanks to getting 40% of the black vote. From 1965 on, there was a distinct change, and I attribute it entirely to the fact that the — that the — it was necessary to recognize the voting power of blacks. I do not want to denigrate the effect of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. That was a very important act. That is the act that created — gave — put most of the teeth in voting — in general civil rights legislation.

Judge John Minor Wisdom:

Well, I would say, the — the Southern Manifesto was a very interesting phenomenon. Because it was signed by 101 members — southern members of Congress, many of whom considered themselves, posed as liberals. I don't mean that Sparkman and Lester Hill posed as liberals, but they were considered liberal, so far as southerners are concerned. And the same thing is true of others whom I could name. And the reason for that is, they did not have to worry about the black vote in 1956, which was the year when the Southern Manifesto was signed. Now, an interesting thing, too, and one that — that parallels enforcement of, of, of the decree, judicial decrees generally is, that many of the school boards, and many of the district judges pulled, dragged their feet, because they wanted to appear to be in sympathy with the — with the local people, with their friends with whom they fished, or played golf with. And therefore they did not mind our coming down with stiff decrees, that compelled them to act. So that the school boards probably would have liked — would have — that did not really object as strenuously as they appeared to object. And I think the same thing is true about some of our recalcitrant judges who dragged their feet and, but were really did so because they're more exposed to the fire than we are, in the — on the Court of Appeals. The district judges and the trial judges, they — they play cards with friends, and they — they — they didn't want to appear to be a traitor to their friends.