What happened after Central High crisis?

Forty years ago today, the tumult surrounding the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School seemed to have calmed.

Nine black students were attending classes under the protection of federal troops. And the headlines in Arkansas' two statewide newspapers indicated that a degree of normalcy had returned.

"Ike lists situations that may lead him to remove troops," was the main Page 1 headline in the morning Arkansas Gazette on Oct. 4, 1957.

"Leaders of all religious faiths unite in effort to solve integration crisis; quiet returns to Central High front," was the top headline in that afternoon's Arkansas Democrat.

Those front pages of the Oct. 4 Gazette and Democrat (reproduced on today's Pages 2B and 3B) marked the 32nd consecutive day that Central High was the lead story in both papers. Today's reprints complete the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's 37-day project to revisit the defining episode in Little Rock's 20th century history as it unfolded 40 years ago.

On Oct. 5, 1957, the Space Age began, and Sputnik bumped Central High from the lead position in both the Gazette and the Democrat. The Soviet Union announced the launching of the first orbital satellite, and the Cold War race for outer space was under way.

The integration of Little Rock's public schools was also under way, but in fact the turmoil here had only begun. It took two more years of intense civic anguish and struggle, fueled by heated emotions over what proponents of segregated schools then called "race mixing," before integration on even a token basis took hold here.

The city suffered during the 1958-59 school year through a trauma that unquestionably had a wider and deeper impact on residents' lives than the state-federal confrontation of September 1957.

Under a state law passed at the instigation of Gov. Orval E. Faubus, Little Rock voters in September 1958 were given the stark choice of shutting down the city's four high schools as public institutions for the academic year ahead, or accepting racial integration of all the system's schools.

The vote -- 19,470 to 7,561 in favor of closing public high schools to avoid integration -- left several thousand local students and their families scrambling to find alternative schooling in what became known as the "Lost Year." Not until Aug. 12, 1959, did Little Rock high schools reopen.

The following time line takes the story of the city's school desegregation crisis from October 1957 to September 1959.


Oct. 7: Faubus says that 101st Airborne Division troops patrolling Central High School have invaded the privacy of girls' dressing rooms. Presidential press secretary James C. Hagerty calls the charge "completely untrue and also completely vulgar."

Oct. 17: U.S. District Judge Ronald N. Davies dismisses a petition filed by an officer of the Mothers League of Central High School, which asked that a three-judge court be convened to order federal troops removed from the school.

Oct. 24: The nine black students enter Central High's front door for the first time without escort by federal troops.

Nov. 18: The last 101st Airborne Division troops depart Little Rock, leaving federalized National Guardsmen on duty at Central High, still under the overall command of the 101st's Gen. Edwin A. Walker.

Dec. 17: Black student Minnijean Brown dumps a bowl of chili on two of her white antagonists in the Central High cafeteria. She receives a six-day suspension.


Feb. 6: Brown is suspended again after another racial altercation. Also suspended is a white student, Lester Judkins Jr., who is said to have poured soup on her in the cafeteria. Brown then reportedly called another antagonist, Frankie Ann Gregg, "petty white trash" -- after which Gregg hit the black student with her purse.

Feb. 17: The Little Rock School Board expels Brown for the year. The Board also suspends three white Central students: Billy Ferguson, accused of having pushed black student Gloria Ray down a flight of stairs; and Howard Cooper and Sammie Dean Parker, for having worn "One Down, Eight to Go" badges referring to Brown's suspension.

Feb. 20: The School Board asks the U.S. District Court to allow delay of integration here until the U.S. Supreme Court's requirement that desegregation be accomplished "with all deliberate speed" is more fully defined.

March 4: Sammie Dean Parker appears on a 30-minute paid television program to be interviewed by attorney Amis Guthridge, a leader of the segregationist Capital Citizens Council. Parker says she was unjustly suspended as an example to other white students.

March 12: Parker's suspension is lifted after she promises in writing to abide by Central High's rules of conduct.

May 6: The Pulitzer Prize board announces that two of journalism's most prestigious awards are going to the Arkansas Gazette -- one for Meritorious Public Service in covering the desegregation crisis, the other to Executive Editor Harry S. Ashmore for his Editorial Writing on the subject.

A third Pulitzer Prize for stories about Central High goes to Relman Morin of the Associated Press, in the National Reporting category. And it will be disclosed in 1997 that the Pulitzer photography jury unanimously recommended Will Counts of the Arkansas Democrat as the Spot News Photography winner for his September 1957 photos at Central -- a recommendation overruled by the Pulitzer board.

May 25: After a baccalaureate service honoring Central High's graduating seniors, a member of the senior class, Curtis E. Stover, jumps from a ledge and spits in the face of a black girl. Stover is charged with disturbing the peace.

May 27: Ernest Green becomes the first black to graduate from Central High, joining 601 white senior classmates in commencement ceremonies at Quigley Stadium.

June 3: A dinner to honor the Gazette and Ashmore for their Pulitzer Prizes draws 925 people to the Marion Hotel. Civic doyenne Adolphine Fletcher Terry, principal organizer of the event, insists that the dinner be segregated, according to Sara Alderman Murphy's 1997 book, Breaking the Silence, "because she knew she would make no new friends for the cause by integrating this dinner, even though it was honoring a stand for obeying the law and indirectly a stand for integration."

June 21: U.S. District Judge Harry Lemley, who has replaced Judge Ronald N. Davies in the case, grants a delay in Little Rock school integration until January 1961. Blacks have a constitutional right to attend white schools, but the School Board has shown convincingly that the time to exercise that right has not come, Lemley rules. "The personal and immediate interests of the Negro students must yield temporarily to the larger interests of both races," he writes, based on conditions in the community and the schools.

July 7: A bomb explodes on the lawn of black activists L.C. and Daisy Bates, leaving a deep crater and damaging their house.

July 29: Faubus wins the Democratic gubernatorial primary with 69 percent of the vote against two opponents.

Aug. 18: Acting on an appeal from the NAACP, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis reverses Judge Lemley's integration delay order in a 6-1 decision.

Aug. 25: The U.S. Supreme Court announces it will convene in extraordinary session Aug. 28 to take up the Little Rock school desegregation case. It will be only the fifth off-season term in four decades for the high court.

Aug. 26: Faubus addresses a special session of the state Legislature that he has called to recommend passage of six segregation bills.

Aug. 28: The Legislature passes the six anti-integration measures proposed by the governor. The favorable votes are unanimous in the Senate, with one to three opposing votes in the House. State Rep. Ray S. Smith Jr. of Garland County casts the only vote against the key bill authorizing the closing of schools.

Sept. 1: Awaiting the expected decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Little Rock School Board postpones opening of the city's four high schools until Sept. 15. Elementary and junior high schools are to open Sept. 4.

Sept. 12: In Cooper vs. Aaron, the U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously in a six-paragraph decision that integration must proceed immediately at Central High.

After the ruling, the Little Rock School Board announces that high schools will admit students of both races when they open Sept. 15. Faubus then signs into law the acts recently passed by the state Legislature empowering him to close the schools temporarily pending a special election within 30 days at which Little Rock will vote "for or against the proposition of racial integration of all schools within the school district."

The governor next signs a proclamation closing Little Rock's four public high schools, "in order to avoid the impending violence and disorder which would occur and to preserve the peace of the community." He sets the special school election for Oct. 7.

Sept. 15: Superintendent Virgil T. Blossom says the Little Rock School Board has canceled football and all other extracurricular activities at the city's four high schools.

Sept. 16: Faubus advances the date of the special school election on integration to Sept. 27, saying he wants to get the issue resolved so classes can resume.

Fifty-eight white women, organized as the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, meet under the aegis of Adolphine Fletcher Terry. Their initial statement, released the next day, urges Little Rock residents to vote for racial integration Sept. 27. There is "no other way to open our schools," declares the group.

Sept. 17: The Little Rock Private School Corp. is set up with the aim of leasing the four public high schools if taxpayers vote Sept. 27 to keep the schools segregated. Its president is Dr. T.J. Raney, a surgeon who is Faubus' personal physician and a member of a prominent local family.

The Little Rock School Board reverses itself and orders resumption of high-school extracurricular activities.

Sept. 19: About 65 white Hall High students meet and issue a statement calling for immediate opening of their school even if it means admitting blacks. Asked for his reaction, Faubus says 65 "doesn't seem like very many to me."

Sept. 22: Sixty-three Little Rock lawyers sign an advertisement in the Gazette and the Democrat stating their opinion that "existing public school facilities of this district cannot be legally operated with any public funds as segregated private schools."

Some 200 students from Central High demonstrate on the lawn of the Governor's Mansion against any integration of their school.

The first day of two-hour television classes for Little Rock high schoolers is deemed a success by most participants.

Sept. 27: Seventy-two percent of those casting ballots in the special Little Rock School District election vote "against racial integration in all schools" in the district. The vote of 19,470 to 7,561 means that the city's four high schools cannot open as public institutions with any blacks in attendance.

Four hours after the polls close, School Board President Wayne Upton announces that negotiations are under way to lease the high school properties to the Little Rock Private School Corp.

Sept. 29: The School Board leases the city's four high schools to the Little Rock Private School Corp. A few hours later, two judges of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Omaha, Neb., restrain the School Board from turning over the schools to the private body.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 17-page clarifying opinion on Cooper vs. Aaron, declares the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling "the supreme law of the land" and forbids "evasive schemes for segregation."

Oct. 16: The Little Rock Private School Corp. announces that registration for seniors will begin Oct. 20 at its Raney High School in the former University of Arkansas Graduate Center at 16th and Lewis streets. Operating without public funds or public buildings, Raney High will attract about 750 white students. Another new privately operated facility, Baptist High School, enrolls about 300 students for classes at 2nd Baptist Church, 8th and Scott streets.

The rest of the city's 3,698 high schoolers and their parents have to make other arrangements for the 1958-59 academic year. Many students attend school elsewhere in Arkansas or out of state while living with relatives or friends.

Nov. 4: Faubus is elected to his third two-year term as governor, garnering 83 percent of the vote against Republican George W. Johnson.

Segregationist write-in candidate Dale Alford, an ophthalmologist and Little Rock School Board member, defeats eight-term incumbent Rep. Brooks Hays by 30,739 to 29,483 for the 5th District seat in Congress. Hays has come to be seen as a racial moderate since September 1957. Alford resigns from the School Board after his election victory.

Ardent segregationist Jim Johnson, whom Faubus had defeated in the 1956 gubernatorial primary, is elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Nov. 12: The five remaining Little Rock School Board members resign in frustration at the integration impasse. They quit after buying up the remainder of Blossom's contract (through June 30, 1960) and agreeing to pay him the $19,741 due at his superintendent's salary of $1,100 a month.

Nov. 21: A song titled "We Like Faubus" goes on sale in Arkansas. Written by Kansas City composer Nick Morris, it is sung by the Warners, a Little Rock quartet, and issued on the President Label, Southern Series.

Dec. 6: Voters choose a new School Board. It proves to be evenly divided on desegregation. Elected are three candidates of the so-called businessmen's slate -- Everett Tucker, Russell Matson and Ted Lamb -- who favor compliance with the federal courts. Two of the other winners -- Ben Rowland and R.W. (Bob) Laster -- espouse continued resistance to federal integration orders. The sixth member, Ed I. McKinley, is elected unopposed with the support of both sides but turns out to be a Faubus supporter.

Dec. 28: The Gallup Poll's annual list of "The Ten Men in the World Most Admired by Americans" ranks Faubus in the No. 10 spot. President Dwight D. Eisenhower is No. 1. In his 1980 book, Down From the Hills, Faubus asserts, "No other governor had ever made the list."


March 2: The Little Rock Chamber of Commerce announces its members have voted 819-245 for reopening the city's high schools "on a controlled plan of minimum desegregation acceptable to the federal courts."

May 5: The three pro-segregation members of the School Board fire 44 teachers and administrators they consider supporters of integration. They also appoint as school superintendent T.H. Alford, father of Dale Alford. The other three members of the board have walked out of the meeting beforehand.

May 8: STOP (Stop This Outrageous Purge) is formed to seek an election recall of the School Board's three segregationist members. Some 179 Little Rock residents, including civic leaders, attend STOP's organizational meeting at the Union Bank Building. The Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools begins working closely with STOP.

May 16: In response, segregationists organize CROSS (Committee to Retain Our Segregated Schools) to recall the other three board members, who favor acceptance of integration. The initial CROSS rally draws 350 people to the Marion Hotel.

May 25: STOP forces prevail in the recall vote by a narrow margin. With about 25,000 votes cast, the three STOP-backed School Board members are retained by margins ranging from 50.8 percent to 52.4 percent. The three pro-segregation members are removed by percentages ranging from 52.9 to 55.5.

June 11: The Pulaski County Board of Education appoints three new Little Rock School Board members to replace those recalled by voters. The new members are state Rep. J.H. Cottrell Jr., contractor Henry Lee Hubbard and insurance company official B. Frank Mackey. The reconstituted Board rehires 39 of the 44 employees fired on May 5

June 18: A three-judge U.S. District Court declares the state's 1958 school-closing law unconstitutional. The Little Rock School Board announces that it will not appeal the decision and will reopen the city's high schools in the fall.

July 21: Baptist High's Board closes the school after one year, citing a lack of students.

July 31: Three black students are assigned to Central High and three to Hall High for the 1958-59 school year. No blacks are assigned to Technical High, and no whites are assigned to Horace Mann, the city's black high school.

Aug. 4: The Little Rock School Board unexpectedly announces that classes will begin Aug. 12, nearly a month earlier than scheduled.

Officials of privately operated Raney High announce that the school will close because it is out of money.

Aug. 11: Faubus goes on television to discourage overt resistance when high schools reopen. "I see nothing to be gained tomorrow by disorder and violence," says the governor. Instead, he urges viewers to "go to work and elect some officials who will represent you and not betray you." He emphasizes that he is "not throwing in the sponge."

Aug. 12: Little Rock's four high schools open. Three blacks -- Effie Jones, Estella Thompson and Elsie Marie Robinson -- enroll at Hall. Two of the original "Little Rock Nine" -- Jefferson Thomas and Elizabeth Eckford -- enroll at Central. Eckford finds out that she has enough correspondence-school credits for her degree and doesn't need to continue classes. Another "Little Rock Nine" student, Carlotta Walls, enrolls at Central later in the month.

After a morning segregationist rally at the state Capitol, where three arrests are made, some 250 demonstrators attempt to march on Central High. On the orders of Police Chief Eugene G. Smith, fire hoses are turned on the protesters after they try to break through police lines at 14th and Schiller streets, one block from the school. Twenty-one arrests are made. The crowd disperses.

Aug. 28: Two unidentified women throw two tear-gas bombs inside the front door of the school administration building while the Board is meeting on the second floor. There are no injuries

Sept. 7: Three dynamite blasts shake the city on Labor Day, though nobody is hurt. One blast demolishes a city-owned station wagon parked in the driveway of Fire Chief Gann Nalley's home. Another damages the front of a two-story building housing a construction firm of which Mayor Werner Knoop is vice president. The third detonates at the school administration building, wrecking an empty office.

Sept. 9: Two Little Rock men -- lumber and roofing company owner E.A. Lauderdale and truck driver J.D. Sims -- are arrested in the bombings and charged with dynamiting a public building.

Sept. 10: Three more local men are arrested on the same charges. All five defendants are later convicted, fined $500 and sentenced to prison terms of three to five years. Testimony indicates that the mastermind of the attacks was Lauderdale, an active member of the Capital Citizens Council. Lauderdale's prison term is commuted by Faubus after a little more than five months.

Sept. 13: Faubus is in attendance as evangelist Billy Graham preaches for 45 minutes to an audience of 30,000 in the second of two revival meetings in War Memorial Stadium.

Graham refers to the desegregation crisis, declaring that "only Christ can heal these scars and wounds." About 600 people come forward in response to Graham's regular call for public witness. He challenges the news media "to carry this story of hundreds of people of both races standing at the foot of the cross to receive Christ."