|[Congressman Clark MacGregor.]|
On August 9 , the twelfth day of debate in the full House on the civil rights bill, a North Carolina congressman by the apt name of Basil Whitener introduced an amendment to moot Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outright. (Whitener had earlier whined of an amendment offering relief for Negroes injured or intimidated while voting. “Why cannot a person who is injured or intimidated be a white person for once?”). Georgia Republican Howard “Bo” Callaway played good cop, offering a more realistic substitute: “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize action by an department or agency to require the assignment of students to public schools in order to overcome racial imbalance.”
Debate on the motion was called. There followed a shocking development. Back in the spring during House subcommittee hearings on the civil rights bill, northern Republicans with liberal records on race took turns offering their own states as models of the sort of biracial harmony that was possible in places where politicians didn’t demagogue on civil rights. Once of them was Clark MacGregor of Minneapolis, proudly noting that racial backlash over school integration was “not a factor in my part of the country.” But that had been in May. This was August. Minneapolis had just suffered a riot. Word subsequently got out that in the riot’s wake the mayor had implored the city’s business establishment to create at least 145 new jobs for impoverished black teenagers. Evans and Novak reported what happened next: “The mayor had never experienced such a city-wide outbreak of hostility – phone calls, telegrams, and letters by the scores – as hit him after he decided to respond to the riot with a promise of jobs and only limited police actions.”
And on the floor of the House, Clark MacGregor now went on a Dixie-style tear in support of his Georgia colleague: “If this amendment is defeated, we will be putting our stamp of approval on administrative action to destroy the neighborhood schools… Mr. Chairman, it is not only the Southern states which have been affected.”
The Speaker called the vote. The Callaway amendment passed. A new national panic had burst to the surface: that the federal government would deliver the chaos of rioting urban slums to your own quiet, bucolic neighborhood via yellow bus, in the guise of combating “de facto” school segregation.