Ervin on racial lawlessness: Silent Sam

“Sen. Sam Ervin found much to criticize in Gov. George Wallace’s [1963 ‘schoolhouse door’] face-off with the Justice Department, arguing that ‘such conduct seriously handicaps Southern senators in the fight against civil rights bills.’

“Nonetheless, Ervin, who had staked out a hardline position on integration early in his career, chose to keep these sentiments private. Like the more moderate J. William Fulbright before him, he would not… publicly condemn white lawlessness and through his silence helped to ensure it would continue.

“Ervin theorized that voluntary community initiatives to create an interracial dialogue offered the best means of diminishing tensions…. What he never admitted was that these very same communities had been granted decades of opportunities to right the most pronounced racial injustices in the region.”

— From “Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965” by Keith M. Finley (2008)