from Presidential Courage 1 Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989
by Michael Beschloss
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Editor's notes: 1) Presidents elected on even decades like 1990, 2000, off year elections of 1992, 2014...2) Pictures are from Wikipedia and the Internet can often be enlarged with a click.3) Editorial comments are in red font. Return to Part 1 Go to Part 2 for TR, FDR, HST, JFK, and RR
JOHN F. KENNEDY                                      print landscape
29) THEY NEVER SHOW PASSION  Aide and friend Ted Sorensen conceded that as a Congressman Senator and presidential candidate Jack Kennedy had not given civil rights much thought. He steered away from integration by saying as a Senator he had nothing to do with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court integration ruling. Negro baseball star J. Robinson was unhappy and wanted nothing to do with a Solid South win needed for election. JFK won the close 1960 election by getting 90% of the Negro vote because he promised to help them have full equality. Fearing a strong backlash from Southerners and conservatives caused JFK to acted slowly. A May of 1963 Birmingham, Alabama riot resulted in smashed cars and burned buildings. It was America's most segregated city. This got Whitehouse attention. Some Negroes were getting interested in the more aggressive Black Panther movement and Alabama Governor George Wallace was about to try and stop two Negroes from integrating his state university.                          

The Politics By 1959 Kennedy was changing his mind. "Midterm Congressional victories had shifted the Democratic party's center of gravity toward Northern big cities. And with his recovery from a massive heart attack, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson was planning to base his own Presidential candidacy on the very white Southerners Kennedy had been wooing."   Dropping his Southern strategy, his attempt to set up a meeting with Marti Luther King, Jr. received no response. He campaigned for Negroes rights anyway and his brother feared that liberal Democrats might go for sentimental favorite Adlai Stevenson. 

Bobby Kennedy told aids to do what it takes to get Negroes support. The Kennedy's got singer Harry Bellefonte to arrange a meeting with King The meeting went only well. Democrats stopped more of liberal a rebellion by countering a platform that promised the moon on Civil Rights by nominating the party's most famous white Southerner conservative Senator Lyndon Johnson as Kennedy's running mate. Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Charlton Heston in 8/1963

The first break in the "Solid South": Missouri goes Republican T. R. in the 1904 election. (Cartoon by J. McCutcheon.) Click

MUTUAL CONTEMPT
Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Defined a Decade.
By Jeff Shesol.
W. W. Norton & Co.
By DAVID M. OSHINSKY  "In 1961, at a late-night supper in the White House living quarters, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson accosted Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy  in front of embarrassed friends and officials. ''Bobby, you do not like me,'' Johnson declared. ''Your brother likes me. Your sister-in-law likes me. Your daddy likes me. But you don't like me. Now, why?" President Kennedy's great grand father Patrick Kennedy immigrated on a coffin ship from Ireland because of the Great "Potato" Famine and because as a third son he got no inheritance. He succumbed at thirty-five to the highly infectious cholera that infested East Boston. His newborn son P. J. Kennedy would be the only surviving male in the family because of two cholera outbreaks  He started work as a stevedore at fourteen. A successful business person and local politician his son Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. would be a successful business persons/public servants. For a Harvard gradate Joe, like his president to be son Jack, was not academic. Jack loved history but refused to studying what he didn't like. Winston Churchill was the same. Give them History or give them a gentleman's C or D.  All three possessed enough of the kinds of intelligence and abilities it takes to reach the very top of their chosen profession. From Leaders on Education

30) GO GET HIM JOHNNY BOY "Dishearten by Kennedy's foot-dragging, civil rights leaders declared ' "Project Freedom Ride 1961 " ' to test bus terminal integration and hopefully ' "create a crisis" '  to get Kennedy moving. Soon a white mob beat Freedom Riders and burned their Greyhound bus in Anniston, Alabama. In  Birmingham, they were again beaten as "the notorious public safety chief E. "Bull" ' Connor held back his police force so that  Ku Klux Klansmen could brutalize the outsiders without interference". Protesters were arrested. Civil rights leaders had their crisis.   

During the early days of the Freedom Riders Attorney General Bobby Kennedy's deputy learn that the President thought the Freedom Riders were ' "a pain in the ass." '  The President had a mild response to the Freedom Rider problems and the New York Times remarked the response ' " did not sound like a profile in political courage." ' This bothered the President .Click to enlarge most pictures.

Bobby's attempt to get protection assistance for the Freedom Riders from Alabama Governor Patterson failed. Bob feared the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. while on a speaking engagement. Bobby provided fifty U.S. Marshals for protection. In the Summer of 1962 the Supreme Court order the integration of the University of Mississippi. Veteran James Meredith would be the first black student as the result of a legal battle he launched after realizing Kennedy, in spite of his inaugural address, had hardly mentioned civil rights.

News of  that the University of Mississippi had been integrated caused a  1962 Old Miss riot as resistance became an armed insurrection. Kennedy called up the Army that he later felt was very slow to react. Soon the city of about 7,500 was guarded by 30,000 U.S. Army personal and Mississippi National Guardsmen. Eventually, the situation quieted down and a few week later President Kennedy, learning of the Soviet missile in Cuban, asked if they could hit Oxford, Mississippi.

Eisenhower had integrated Arkansas's Rock Central H.S  in 1957. As then state Governor Barnett not only failed to help, he also but reneged on a deal designed to make him look good to his voters. President Kennedy federalized the Mississippi National Guard, made the Governor realize that as President he had taped their entire deal which if revealed, would make the Governor look bad. Meredith was registered the Governor removing state troopers protecting Meredith. President Kennedy was so distraught from the entire ordeal that he summoned his "well-concealed amphetamine doctor known as '  "Doctor Feelgood." 'Pictured are US Army trucks loaded with steel-helmeted US Marshals roll across the University of Mississippi campus on October 3, 1962. Click to enlarge.

31) IT'S GOING TO BE A CIVIL WAR. After the Birmingham 1963 riot Bobby Kennedy' said Burke Marshal tried to work out an agreement with Birmingham's white businessmen and Martin Luther King who wanted "...integrated lunchrooms, bathrooms and drinking fountains plus more black jobs, a biracial committee on desegregation and the dropping of all charges against the protesters." Marshall got King to agree to a deal but maverick minister Fred" Shuttlesworth wouldn't agree and threatened a march without King. Then Birmingham retroactively increased the release bond for each of the jailed protesters to $2,500 and more demonstrations were threatened by King's brother A. D. King. Then A.D.'s house was bombed and a bomb was thrown outside the motel room housing Dr. King. A friend of Bobby's said even the attitude of black servants had become confrontational. "Before  Birmingham only 4%  of Americans had considered civil rights to be the country's number-one problem. After Bull Connor's Bull Connor's dogs attacked protesters, the figure skyrocketed to 52%."

Early activist Rosa Parks with King's 1955 King's efforts to end Montgomery bus segregation. He was victorious as a United States District Court rules in Browder v. Gayle that racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses was illegal. King's role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.

The president told the nation he was sending riot control troops to military bases near Birmingham but unlike Bobby he was not ready to make Civil Rights a crusade. The President tried to convince Alabama Governor Wallace that King's nonviolent approach was better than that of Malcolm X and the Black Muslims but Wallace responded that King and  Shuttlesworth were competing over ' " who could go to bed with the most nigger women-- and white and red women too!" ' The white house was trying to move the civil rights problem into the courts before someone got killed. They tried to get V.P. Johnson involved with a civil rights bill but he was upset about being ignored. The courts ordered the University of Alabama integrated and Governor Wallace was made to look foolish in an attempt to stop the student entering school. The next day Kennedy made a televised speech to the nation framing the civil rights movement ' "in moral terms." ' Black American then realized the President had changed. We have other book  summaries and reviews at History/Politics, Economics, The WarEducation and  Finance

32) A MAN TAKES A STAND  "The week after Kennedy's civil rights speech three dozen American cities violently erupted. Kennedy fearing problems tried to stop  a planned civil right demonstration on the capital grounds and when that failed managed to get it moved to the more easily controlled Lincoln Memorial.  The peaceful  "I have a dream" speech, with Abe in the background  inspired many and help the civil rights cause.  see Presidential Elections Five 1932-72

The first penalty for backing civil rights came one day after Kennedy's civil rights speech as Democrats killed a routine Administration  public works bill. A Harris poll showed Northern Irish, Polish, and Italian Americans might turn Republican. Texas was a key political state for the coming 1964 election and tickets for a Kennedy Friday, November 22  speech in Austin were going so slowly that "Lyndon Johnson had to call in some chits so that JFK would not be embarrassed in his [Johnon's] home state."  JFK knew that Dallas was the stop before Austin. It was hostile terrain and to make light of this the soon the be President Johnson planned to male a joke as part of his introduction to  JFK in Austin.  ' " Mr. President, we're glad you made it out of Dallas alive." ' Kennedy was assassinated, New President  Lyndon Johnson was a master legislator and push much of Kennedys' vision through congress but unlike the Kennedys he listened to Generals and expanded Vietnam War. and its Failure would result in his not running for a third term. Click to enlarge.