Title: Oral History Interview with Sidney S. McMath, September 8, 1990. Interview A-0352.
Interviewer: Egerton, John
Interviewee: McMath, Sidney S.
Subjects: Arkansas--Politics and government Arkansas--Race relations School integration--Arkansas Rural electrification--Arkansas
Abstract: Sid McMath was the governor of Arkansas from 1949 to 1953. After returning from service in World War II, McMath became involved in Arkansas politics as a liberal Democrat, leading the "G.I. revolt," a movement made up of returning veterans who sought to challenge political corruption by the McLaughlin machine in Garland County, Arkansas. In 1948, McMath was elected governor of Arkansas. He describes how his primary goals were to allow African Americans into the Democratic Party, make higher education more accessible for African Americans, challenge the paternalistic control of the power companies over the state, and improve standards by building roads and supporting rural electrification. McMath was reelected in 1950, but lost his bid in 1952 to Francis Cherry. During these years, McMath was seen as one of the most liberal southern governors because of his strong advocacy of Truman's liberalism and civil rights measures in the face of the Dixiecrat revolt of 1948. McMath describes his thoughts on the Dixiecrats, including Strom Thurmond. Additionally, McMath discusses the importance of strong political leadership in effecting change. Arguing that the period between 1945 and 1948 was a missed opportunity for real change in the South, McMath believes that without eventual federal intervention, Jim Crow segregation would have persevered in the South for years to come.