Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

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

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.
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 different. I think leadership is terribly important. I also think that if there had been anybody other than M. [unclear] 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?
Well, you know they call him, "me too."
Yes, "me too, Thompson." He certainly didn't come across as a very strong person.