Randy Sanders


In early April 1970, at a time when intransigence concerning desegregation measures below the Mason-Dixon line seemed to have played itself out, the entire nation watched as a southern governor challenged federal authority more directly than Orval Faubus or Ross Barnett or Gorge Wallace ever had. The 1970 confrontation sprang from political considerations: a governor seeking to bolster his chances for reelection defied a president who employed subterfuge to minimize the political liabilities of his desegregation enforcement duties. Historians and political observers of the 1960 and 1970s often refer to these Republican political appeals to the former Confederate states as the "southern strategy." In short, the Grand Old Party sought the vote of white southerners who had resisted racial mixing. During Richard Nixon's stay in the White House, the issue of school desegregation defined those appeals. President Nixon developed a public policy of ambivalence and equivocation while designing an agenda to shift political culpability away from his administration and toward the judiciary. The difficulties of employing Nixon's scheme emerged from an unlikely quarter. A southern governor of his own party forced the President to employ executive enforcement power to effect the very measures his administration had criticized and sought to vitiate.