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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, October 24, 1976. Interview A-0321-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Southern Manifesto

In 1956, southern congressmen composed the Southern Manifesto, and Gore became one of only two senators from the South who refused sign it. He describes that experience and what it meant to him.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, October 24, 1976. Interview A-0321-2. 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

Mrs. Gore: I can tell you what catapulted it into a political issue was the Southern Manifesto.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Mrs. Gore, let me welcome you to our circle and invite you to comment when you will. But I was thinking about the Southern Manifesto and the fact that the Senator was one, I believe, of three Southern senators who failed to sign that Manifesto. Could you tell us a little bit about your reasons for not signing it?
ALBERT GORE:
Well, first let me deal with the background. And it isn't that we failed to sign it; three of us refused to sign it. Now Lyndon Johnson didn't sign it; he was majority leader at the time and, as you will recall, closely aligned with the South and with the Southern senators. In fact, it was a block of Southern senators that brought about his selection as majority leader. Whether it was by his request or because of their regard for his position as majority leader I never knew--I was suspicious that it was by design and his own initiative--it was never presented to him to sign or not, so he was never in the position of having to refuse signing it. I had read it as it was published, and I thought it was the most spurious, inane, insulting document of a political nature claiming to be legally founded that I had ever read. And there was a good deal of speculation in the press and in the Senate vocally about whether or not all Southern senators had signed that or would sign it. Strom Thurmond first initiated it, but he was not a man of a great deal of stature in the Senate (then or ever), so they inveigled Walter F. George to become involved, and that gave it a great deal more prestige. Then Richard B. Russell was inveigled into involvement. It became a powerful political pressure throughout the South to denounce the Supreme Court decisions and to assert state rights as superior to Supreme Court decisions. This was the thrust of it, that the Supreme Court action was null and void if in fact a state of the United States chose to ignore it. It was either unionism or secession all over again as far as principle was concerned. Well, quickly most of the Southern senators signed it, after Walter George and Dick Russell became signatories and advocates of it. I was one of the fellows who had not been approached. So one day I was on the Senate floor and Strom Thurmond came over to my desk. I was standing for some reason; whether I was seeking recognition I don't recall. I was standing; my desk was beside the aisle. And he came over and brought this Southern Manifesto. And he bared the sheet with nearly all of my Southern colleagues' signatures and says, "Albert, we'd like you to sign the Southern Manifesto with the rest of us." I said, "Hell no." And I happened to look up, and the whole Southern press was in the press gallery. Evidently they had been alerted that this was going to be presented to me in broad daylight on the floor of the Senate. [laughter] So with words with such vehemency that I'm sure they could hear it in the Senate gallery I said, "Hell no." I don't remember the circumstances of it being presented to Senator Kefauver, but he too refused to sign it, and so did Ralph Yarborough of Texas. 1