This WSB newsfilm clip from Atlanta, Georgia in January 1961 contains selections of comments regarding integration of education in Georgia made by Board of Regents member Roy V. Harris to the House Education Committee, and selections of comments made to the committee and later to the full House of Representatives by Representatives Frank Twitty of Mitchell County and A'Delbert Bowen of Randolph County.
The clip begins with representative Frank Twitty speaking to the House Education Committee. His comments are interspersed with those made by Roy V. Harris. Twitty explains that Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver is proposing a package plan of legislation to oppose the most recent court decision for integration. Bill co-sponsor Twitty refers to the plan as "about the only thing left that we can fight with." Part of the plan Twitty outlines decentralizes the school board system, giving more authority back to local boards and allowing them to better counteract attacks on segregation. HB174 is "A Bill to be entitled an Act to provide for suspension and reopening of public schools; to provide for the call of an election on said issue; to prescribe the procedure relating thereto; to provide that teachers' and other contracts shall not be effected by such suspension but that the compensation thereunder shall continue under specified terms; and for other purposes." Twitty reminds the committee that governor Vandiver is pledging to support public education. He expresses his gratitude for the strength of character of members of the general assembly during the most recent integration crisis, as well as for their support. Twitty asks the committee to give the proposals a unanimous vote and to not be against public education.
Board of Regents member Roy V. Harris also speaks to the House Education Committee. He wishes that a Southern governor would defy a federal court order to integrate, a move he believes would "create a revolt in the minds of the people all over this nation." Harris refers to the defiance of the Louisiana legislature in only making appropriations once a month and reminds his audience that no federal judge has yet put them in jail and that their actions have stood up in courts. Harris compares the South's resistance to reconstruction and integration to the Indian Self Determination movement, led by Gandhi. The Civil Rights movement, influenced by Gandhi's teachings on nonviolence and passive resistance, also frequently compared itself to Gandhi's struggle in India. Harris praises the "passive resistance" of southerners during the Reconstruction period in which acts of congress and federal judges ruled the South. He asserts that he has never advocated violence or closing Georgia schools. Harris refers to his role as the president of the States' Rights Council of Georgia and a visit he and governor Vandiver made to Little Rock after the integration crisis there in 1957. He declares that only local residents should be able to decide if they want their schools closed rather than integrating, criticizing the "election" portion of House Bill 174.
Next, Twitty speaks from prepared remarks, portions of which are inaudible, to the whole House of Representatives. Twitty calls the proposed school legislation the most important of his seventeen-year career. The laws, Twitty says, are carefully reasoned ones that reasonable men can support and live with in the future. He asks the House members to give their unanimous endorsement to the bills and to governor Vandiver and the leadership that helped create them. Twitty decries those opposing the bills for not offering a workable plan. He proclaims that he wants what is best for Georgia children and to prevent another Little Rock or New Orleans crisis. He states that the members of the legislature will be judged in the future by their votes.
Finally, representative A'Delbert Bowen from Randolph County speaks to the House. He refers to the plans offered by Twitty as "the easy way out," remarking that the white flag of surrender will be the symbol of the legislature. Bowen affirms that he is just as interested in the welfare of Georgia children, but he does not believe everything has been done to prevent integration. He asks the audience to stop insulting the intelligence of Georgians by calling the plan proposed by the governor anything but integration.
Civil rights workers in Georgia attacked segregated education at colleges and universities as well as in public school districts around the state. Federal judge William A. Bootle on January 6, 1961 ordered the University of Georgia's integration, leading state officials to choose between accepting integration and closing the school. On January 13, Bootle ruled unconstitutional a 1956 appropriations act preventing funding integrated schools. Also on May 9, 1960 federal judge Frank A. Hooper set a deadline for the desegregation of Atlanta schools as May 1, 1961. In response to pressure to integrate on Atlanta schools as well as on the University of Georgia, governor Vandiver proposed legislation to the Georgia legislature allowing greater control to local school boards and providing grants to students choosing to attend private schools rather than integrated public schools, moving the state from a position of massive resistance to one of "restructured resistance."
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
Local identification number: Clip number: wsbn43162