Ineffective political leadership in propelling civil rights reform
Calvin Kytle discusses the possibility for liberal reform in the South, Georgia in particular, in the three years following World War II. Stressing the importance of political leadership, specifically in reference to Governors Ellis Arnall, Eugene Talmadge, and Melvin Thompson, Kytle recalls his disappointment that any hope for true reform in race relations was fleeting at best.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. 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
- JOHN EGERTON:
Then, as far as Arnall is concerned to the point of this premise that I
suggested to you at the beginning, however much that period of time may
appear now as a kind of a window of opportunity for liberals in the
South to make reforms happen, it must not have seemed very much like
that then. Reading your piece, that's a fairly pessimistic piece, it
reads that way now. I don't think you intended it that way then. I
thought, perhaps, it was more like a straw of hope that maybe a second
party might come together, a coalition of labor, and blacks and urban
middle-class whites. You really didn't hold out any false hope that that
was something about to happen.
- CALVIN KYTLE:
No, I didn't. I don't recall what my mood at the time was, but I think
all of us were just terribly disappointed with the events that occurred
after Gene Talmadge's death.
One of the things I have always thought, one of the things that impressed
me during that period, was the real value of leadership and how much
Georgia could change under the guise of, with
different leadership. There was, I think, a feeling of hope under Arnall
and feeling that things were being reformed and there was going to be
this kind revolution perhaps that you were talking about.
Then when Talmadge comes in and starts appealing to the lowest values,
the cheapest values in the state, the whole mood of the state changed.
The whole conform movement stopped, I mean, these were the same people
who had supported Arnall but now under Talmadge they were entirely
I think leadership is terribly important. I also think that if there had
been anybody other than M.
Thompson in the picture in 1948 in opposition to Talmadge it
might have been a somewhat different picture. Thompson really provided a
very weak form of leadership, don't you think?
- ELIZABETH KYTLE:
Well, you know they call him, "me too."
- JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, "me too, Thompson." He certainly didn't come
across as a very strong person.