Orval E. Faubus

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Orval Eugene Faubus (1910-1994) was a Democrat who served as the governor of the U.S. state of Arkansas from 1955 to 1971, best known for his unsuccessful attempt in 1957 to halt the federally-authorized desegregation of Central High School in the capital city of Little Rock. Faubus thrust himself into direct conflict with Republican U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who federalized the National Guard to counter local resistance to the admission of nine African American children into the school.

Faubus was born in rural Combs near Huntsville in Madison County. His father, Sam, an admirer of the Socialist Party standard bearer Eugene Debs, gave Orval the middle name of "Eugene" in honor of Debs, the president of a railroad union and Socialist presidential nominee on five occasions. Faubus served in the United States Army during World War II and thereafter was a activist for veterans' causes.

Faubus unseated fellow Democrat Sidney Sanders McMath in the 1954 Democratic gubernatorial primary and then defeated a stronger-than-usual Republican candidate, Pratt Remmel, the mayor of Little Rock from 1951 to 1955. In 1956, he defeated James D. Johnson, a fellow segregationist and later a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court known as "Justice Jim." In 1964, Faubus defeated Republican Winthrop Rockefeller, 57-43 percent, but Rockefeller polled a majority of the African American vote. Rockefeller lost some conservative support to Faubus as a result of a feud from 1962 to 1964 between Rockefeller partisans and the former state party chairman, William L. Spicer of Fort Smith. Faubus stepped down in 1967, having declined to run for a seventh then two-year term. At that time, Rockefeller defeated Democrat Jim Johnson to win the first of his two two-year terms. The office became four years effective with the 1986 election.

Faubus sought comeback attempts in 1970, 1974, and 1986, but each time he lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary elections to Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, and Bill Clinton, respectively.

In 1981-1982, Faubus served as the state's veterans affairs director under Republican Governor Frank D. White, who served between the first two terms of Bill Clinton. Democrats and some liberal Republicans strongly criticized White for naming Faubus to the position.

Faubus and his first wife, the former Alta Haskins, from whom he was divorced after leaving the governorship, had one son, Farrell Faubus (1939-1976), who died in Seattle, Washington of a drug overdose.[1] His second wife, the former Elizabeth Westmoreland, was murdered in 1983 in Houston, Texas. His third wife, the former Jan Wittenburg, survived him.

In the late 1970s, Faubus penned his "scrapbook" memoirs under the title Down from the Hills, a reference to the highland area of northwestern Arkansas where he was born and reared. Faubus is interred at the Combs Cemetery.

Faubus was a target of criticism from the civil rights movement. The jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus wrote "Fables of Faubus" in response to Faubus's support of segregation:

Why is he so sick and ridiculous? He won't permit integrated schools. Then he's a fool!

External link

  • What was the Southern Manifesto?, a document written in 1956 and signed by ninety-six members of the United States Congress opposing racial integration in public places. All signers were Democrats except for two Republican U.S. representatives from Virginia. At the time all twenty-two U.S. senators from the former Confederacy were Democrats. There were no Republican senators from the South until John Tower won a special election in Texas in 1961.

References

  1. Orval Faubus, Segregation's Champion, Dies at 84 Peter Applebome, December 15, 1994, New York Times, retrieved September 26, 2012
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