Alabama Governor George Wallace makes his infamous stand at the schoolhouse door to protest a federal order that allowed desegregation at the University of Alabama.
A Confrontation for Integration at the University of Alabama
CHET HUNTLEY, reporting: It was hot in Tuscaloosa this morning, very hot, nearly 100 degrees, and it was humid. And weather merely could serve to add to the tense atmosphere on the campus of the University of Alabama. This is what happened as Nicholas Katzenbach, accompanied by two federal marshals, left their car and approached Governor Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. The two Negro students, Vivian Malone and Jimmy A. Hood, stayed in the car. The time was about 12:47 p.m. eastern daylight time.
Governor GEORGE C. WALLACE: Just a minute, just a minute.
NICHOLAS KATZENBACH: Governor Wallace, I am Deputy Attorney General of the United States, I am here to, accompanied by the United States attorney for the northern district of Alabama, and by the marshal of the northern district of Alabama, and I have with me here, proclamation signed by the president of the United States, which calls upon you to cease obstruction to justice in this state. The proclamation, governor, was signed by the president within the last hour.
Governor WALLACE: As governor and chief magistrate of the State of Alabama, I deem it to be my solemn obligation and duty to stand before you, representing the rights and sovereignty of this state and it’s peoples. The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama, the day of the might of the central government, offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this state, by offices of the federal government. Now therefore, I, George C. Wallace, as governor of the state of Alabama, have by my action raised issues between the central government and the sovereign state of Alabama, which said issues should be adjudicated in the manner prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and now being mindful of my duties and responsibilities under the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Alabama, and seeking to preserve and maintain the peace and dignity of this state and the individual freedoms of the citizens there are, do hereby denounce and forbid this illegal and unwarranted action by the central government.
KATZENBACH: Governor Wallace, I take it from that statement that you are going to stand in that door, and that you are not going to carry out the orders of this court, and that you are going to resist us from doing so. Is that correct?
Governor WALLACE: I stand upon the statement.
KATZENBACH: You stand upon that statement. Governor, I’m not interested in a show, I don’t know what the purpose of the show is. I am interested in the orders of these courts being enforced, that is my only responsibility here. I ask you once more, the choice is your’s. There is no choice that the United States government has in this, but to see that the lawful orders of its court are enforced. The consequences of your stand must rest with you, the choice is your’s. I would ask you once again to responsibly step aside, and if you do not, I’m going to assure you that the orders of those courts will be enforced. Two students, who simply seek an education on this campus, are presently on the campus. They have a right to be here, protected by that court order. They have a right to register here. It is a simple problem, scarcely worth this kind of attention, in my judgment, and those students will remain on this campus, they will register today, they will go to school tomorrow, and they will go to school at this university at this summer session. The university indicated its willingness to accept them. From the outset, governor, all of us have known that the final chapter of this would be the admission of these students. I ask you once again to reconsider the consequences of your statement, and I’ll ask you once again, will you give me the assurance that you will step aside and peacefully do your duty.
Very well, the students will remain on the campus, governor.
Chyron: The national guard was called in to enforce the president’s order and Governor Wallace steps aside.
Governor GEORGE C. WALLACE: We are winning in this fight because we are awakening the American people to the dangers that we have spoken about so many times, which is so evident today, the trend toward military dictatorship in this country. We shall now return to Montgomery for the purpose of continuing this fight, this Constitutional fight, because we are winning. We shall continue to work for a better Alabama, all the people of this state, both white and Negro, and it is my prayer that God above shall bless all the people of this state, both white and black.
HUNTLEY: This then, is the moment when Governor George Wallace of Alabama walked away from the schoolhouse doors.
VIVIAN MALONE: Well, I would just like to say that I’m glad that registration is over and everything is over now. I think we can get down to studying. This is our main purpose here, and I’m glad that it has all been over now, and all we have to do now is get down, go get our books and start studying. That’s all.
JIMMY A. HOOD: Well, I’d like to say that at this time, this is our first and final press conference, and we’d like to say that we are very happy to know that our registration has taken place without incident, and we hope that we will be able to get on to our main purpose for being here, and that is to get an education. And this is our final statement.
Editor's Note: In his civil rights address of June 11, 1963, delivered to the nation over radio and television, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) announced that he soon would ask Congress to enact landmark civil rights legislation. In his speech, JFK responds to the threats of violence and obstruction on the University of Alabama campus following desegregation attempts.