Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Faubus describes successful programs and hopes for future success

Faubus reflects on the successes of his twelve years as governor and on what he still hopes to accomplish. He sees progress in prison reform but room for further improvement; he is proud of a new hospital and an education program, programs and services for the young and old, and plenty of construction. He hopes that Arkansas will make more progress in road building and support for education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER DE VRIES:
At the end of your sixth term, having been governor for twelve years, were there any major things that you thought you hadn't accomplished that you still wanted to get done?
ORVAL FAUBUS:
Oh one in particular. We'd made considerable progress but we hadn't got enough done. That's prison reform. Still relied mainly on the trustee system which may or may not work about as well as the other if you have the right prison head and it's administered properly. You know, unknown system, I don't care how well you draw it up on paper, is any better than the people who administer it. The administrators. Under Lee Hensley we had a very good system. He was firm as a rock but fair. Every convict respected him. Bad ones feared him and the good ones sought refuge and sanctuary for their difficulties. But many of them come back and visit him, write letters to him afterward. But we didn't have any means except his iron rule for fairness and certain punishment if they were caught violating the rules. To protect the prisonmates from each other. And that's what your biggest prison problems. They still don't have because, some time after I left office—in fact I think it's during Gov Bumpers administration—four inmates beat another to death. And they heard his cries for help, but the paid prison guards, I don't think was armed at the time and he was afraid to interfer, afraid to go in. But they just beat him to death. Now if that had happened during my administration you'd have had a big hue and cry, you know, and big headlines in papers. It goes back to that old adage, you know, it all depends on whose ox is gored, what happens. I'd like to see more construction there. Now we built a new hospital, we built new barracks, we built a theatre. We set up an athletic program. We set up an educational program where they were, you know, earning an 8th grade diploma. High school credits. All approved by the department of education. Furnished free text books. We began a program of furnishing free dentures and dental care for those who needed it as well as improved medical care. And then we started building up a prison welfare fund for the inmates out of the commissary where they did their trading. And it amounted to, I've forgotten how many thousand dollars, when I left office. That was done under Dan Stevens. Most of these reforms were done when Dan Stevens became the superintendent. One defect of Hensley was, he didn't believe in coddling them, therefore he didn't do enough for the inmates. He protected them from each other and made them work, but, you know, there's something to life besides that even if you're in prison. And through the welfare fund you could send funds to a prisoner's family if they were in difficulty or you could buy him suitable clothing when he left prison and put money in his pocket to leave with. Otherwise just used to turn them out and some of them that didn't get any money were out on the road hitchhiking. But to protect them from each other, which is needed more now, I guess, than before, you need a system of . . . I'd prefer to call them rooms. More than a cell. Where a man can have his own hobbies. If he wanted a library or material to paint, draw, woodcarving, whatever he'd like to do. And that would be his own private place. And there he would be safe, when he wasn't working or when he was out, any activity that required he would be outside. That hasn't been accomplished yet. It should be as soon as possible. Of course it's a big project. Cost a lot of money for that much construction. But we did more new construction while I was governor than I guess all the other administrations combined. They've had some new construction since then. Prison reform has continued since I left office. Under Gov Rockefeller and under Gov Bumpers. I think mostly due to the personnel there rather than their active interest, although any progress has had their approval. They must be given credit for that.
JACK BASS:
Any other major goals that you wanted to get done that you didn't finish? Other than prison reform.
ORVAL FAUBUS:
Well, of course, we hadn't gone far enough in many fields, like highway construction, financial support of education. There was something else, I can't think of it now. But we came from so little, so little, when I was first inaugurated to the point we were when I left office, that it's been comparatively easy to build on that since I left. Man, if we'd had the funds they have now. . . .