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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orval Faubus, June 14, 1974. Interview A-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Faubus defeats economic royalists to defend needy citizens

Under his tenure, Faubus asserts, Arkansas has evolved from backwardness to progressivism. Faubus broke so-called economic royalists' hold on the state legislature, making it possible to put in place economic reforms and social programs aimed at helping needy Arkansans.

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:
If you think back over that 25 year period from 1948 to 1974, what are the major changes that occured in Arkansas politics and government in that 25 years? You're one of the few people that was active throughout that entire period.
ORVAL FAUBUS:
First we changed from one of the most backward states in the union to one of the most progressive. You'd had a progressive attitude in Arkansas for some time among some of the political leaders. But the state was virtually held in bondage by the economic interests. The Arkansas Power and Light Company dominated the state from one end to the other. They played a dominant role in the field of education. It was culturally, economically, and politically. Scarcely anyone who ever [won/wanted?] political office survived without the support of that group. Wasn't just the company itself, but those allied with it. McMath didn't have their favor. I was in his administration. But he was unable to overcome their opposition. They could beat him in the legislature. Keep him from getting projects approved. They couldn't do that to me. I was strong enough that I got my program. Two of the hardest fights they've had in the legislature were between the rural electric cooperatives and the Arkansas power and Light Company and their allies. We won both battles, but they were the hardest that were fought. And the general assembly split right down the middle and we just won by a small margin both times. Well, that broke the back of what I guess Franklin D. Roosevelt would have called economic royalists in Arkansas. And from then on the people had a say, the progressive people and the people that wanted to do things. They then, that leadership took a subdued role, tried to get along and take care of their company and their stockholders and ceased to attempt to dominate completely or control the political life of the state as well as the cultural life of the state. They still played a leading role economically. Now there were many things that were done in my administration that they joined in wholeheartedly, such as the industrial program. Naturally, it meant more business for them. Each new plant that came was a big paying customer. And all the employees were new customers, individual customers in their homes and small businesses and so on. And they gave fine cooperation in this field, as did most of the economic interests of the state. But that's the biggest change. Was the freeing of the state from complete domination by those who were rich in the economic field. Economic royalists, I guess, would be a good term for them. Now you've seen changes come about, of course, through the growing power of the federal government. Which I guess would be the next biggest. . . . The Federal government's excessive influence or domination in a number of fields. That's just reaching it's apex now, I guess, so what the final results will be we don't know, whether it will be good or bad. I think it was good for the state when we broke the chain of domination by the economic interests. And an ordinary person could run for office and win without having their blessing or their financial support or political support. That way you had many independent thinking legislators and independent thinking public officials. Not only on the state level, but regional and on the county level also. So we were able to build a steam generating plant at Ozark to supply power for the rural electric coops. So they're not completely dependent on the private power companies for their source of power. Like this county here is 100% rural electric coop. No power company has a line in Madison county. Newton county may be another. They did go into Jasper, the power company did, but I don't know if they do now or not. So people could organize and demand roads and get them. They could build hospitals. We set up means by which they could finance various facilities for service to the people. Hospitals, nursing homes. And then as the state grew richer in finances, during my administration, we began to build many things, like vocational technical schools. To set up a police officers training academy which they needed. Badly needed now. We set up educational television. Built a children's colony. No support anywhere from any powerful interest. Just people who were interested worked with my administration, and we were able to bring those things about. Rebuilt state hospital and one of the finest in the nation. The blind and deaf schools, the same thing. Arkansas was, I think, the second state in the union to authorize the construction of condominiums. We were the sixth state in the union to set up our own control for safety factors and for licensing of atomic power plants. Use of nuclear power. Were the sixth state to sign a contract with the federal government.