We are getting sick and tired of the civil rights runaround practiced by the present leadership of both political parties.
— Walter Reuther, 1959
He could make excellent speeches on brotherhood, and what we need to do, and what democracy requires and so forth. But all in the context of what was best for him politically.
— George Crockett, 1970
On August 28, 1963, Walter Reuther was by far the most prominent white person to speak at the March on Washington. He deserved to be there because for nearly a generation the UAW had put more money and muscle behind the civil rights revolution than had any other trade union. It was a wonderful day: afterwards he beamed with pleasure when Irving Bluestone told him that he had overheard a pair of African-American marchers call Reuther the "white Martin Luther King." 1
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s Walter Reuther had proven a highly visible and articulate spokesman for American liberalism's civil rights agenda. "The United States cannot lead the world unless we are ready to fight the master race theory in Mississippi as we fought the master race theory in Germany," Reuther told a UAW civil rights conference just after the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. UAW contributions to the NAACP proved controversial among southern autoworkers, but when their grumbles reached Detroit, Reuther was defiant: "I would rather have 100,000 less members in our union than have a million more