Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman

By Joann P. Krieg | Go to book overview

5
Whose Brief? Dwight D. Eisenhower, His Southern Friends, and the School Segregation Cases

James C. Duram

It is sometimes said that good historians ask the right kinds of questions of their sources. Historians involved in the current reassessment of the Eisenhower presidency have formulated a whole series of questions, some of which it is hoped will prove to be the "right" ones. One of the most critical of these asks whether or not President Eisenhower's moderate approach to the school desegregation crisis was rooted in a more realistic perception of the complex implications of that issue than the hindsight of many of those who have since criticized or condemned his response. In pursuit of an answer to that question, it is necessary to examine some of the critical factors shaping Eisenhower's early response to the most controversial domestic issue of his presidency.

The U.S. Supreme Court's June 8, 1953, invitation to U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell to file a brief, and/or submit arguments in the pending school segregation cases, guaranteed that President Dwight D. Eisenhower would continue to devote great amounts of time and attention to the issue of desegregation. Attempts to influence the President's thinking on that topic came from many sources. One of the most persistent was the body of conservative Southern Democratic politicians who had supported him in his 1952 presidential campaign. On July 16, 1953, Texas Governor Allan Shivers wrote to the President regarding the Court's invitation to Brownell and warned: "The United States is not a party to this lawsuit except insofar as Truman and former Attorney General McGranery intervened." 1 Shivers then proceeded to warn the President about the dangers of administration involvement.

I see in this unusual Supreme Court invitation an attempt to embarrass you and your Attorney General.

I assume that the invitation to your Attorney General by the Supreme Court will be

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