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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race remains a minor issue in a 1962 senatorial contest

LeMaistre examines the role of race in Senator Lister Hill's 1962 reelection campaign. Despite the fact that Alabama had been troubled by a number of violent, racially motivated incidents, such as the murder of Emmett Till, LeMaistre does not remember race playing a significant role in the race.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. 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

ALLEN J. GOING:
But in the November election prior to that, race was not really the issue between Martin and Hill; Martin, I guess, appealed to basic business-conservative interest.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Except that he wasn't really running, as I recall it, on the issues of what is good for business or what is not. He was running against Lister Hill as not representing the people of Alabama. He [Hill] had gone to Washington and become inoculated with the left-wing ideas, and that this was foreign to what the people in this section wanted. That was the theme of Martin's campaign.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Of course, Clement was gone by this time.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yes, he had been dead since September of '61. So it was about a year and a half. The campaign really didn't stir the racial problems. As i recall it, we didn't have any racial problems at the polls; we didn't have any racial disturbances during the campaign. It may be that's because everybody looked the other way, or it may be that the people who stirred those disturbance up didn't think that was a good time to do it.
ALLEN J. GOING:
But in November of sixty-two concern began to grow about integrating the University because of the Mississippi—that was in September of 1962.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Well, there was always the feeling of apprehension in Alabama that the same thing might happen over here. I remember hearing Judge Reuben Wright on a number of occasions talking about the activities of the agitators—always called "outside agitators"—that were going to get a number of those blacks killed over in Mississippi. There were a number of incidents over there other than the integration of the University. You remember the black boy who was evidently thrown into the river.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Till was his name]
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yes, Emmet Till, and he was weighted down with chains. The big joke that was being spread around by the Ku Klux Klan was that was just like a dumb nigger; he would steal so many chains that he couldn't swim across the river with them. And they made a lot of that sort of thing. And I think there were several instances in Birmingham. A black man was seized on the side of the road and castrated by a group of Klansmen. I've forgotten his name, but that made a big front-page story. So the general attitude was that we really can't let this sort of thing happen around here if we can prevent it. And I think a lot of people who would have spoken in answer to some of the things that were said just held their tongues rather than get into a controversy about it. If I'm not mistaken, in the campaign, while there was an undercurrent of race agitation, you might say, there wasn't anything on top of the table. There weren't any platform planks or anything of that sort that would say, "Look here, here's how I think about this racial situation." They more or less avoided it.