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.
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