JANUARY 4, 1956
NEW YORK—I was very much interested the other day to read in one of our newspapers that there had been a secret meeting in Memphis, Tenn., of delegates from 12 Southern states, who gathered together to complete the formation of a national organization to fight racial integration and what were termed "other efforts to destroy the Constitution."
Among those meeting were U.S. Senators, governors, ex-governors, and state representatives—all people who have sworn to "preserve" the Constitution. It is surprising to have one among them quoted as having made a speech in which he called upon this group to "fight the (Supreme) Court, fight the CIO, fight the NAACP, and to fight all conscienceless groups who are attempting our destruction."
This seems a very strange attitude, since the Supreme Court is the highest legal authority in our land and we are supposedly a people who have elected to be governed by law and not by force. You cannot flout the decisions of the highest court of the land and obey the Constitution of the U.S. Nor can you be living up to the standards of being a nation that lives by the rule of law and not by the rule of force, which is supreme in the jungle.
This secret organization certainly seems to be contrary to the basic beliefs of the majority of the American people. We always have been able to organize to fight to change laws by peaceful means and to argue about our points of view. We are, of course, free to meet in any place, at any time, but we are obligated to observe a law until it is changed.
While a law is in force it should be lived up to. You have a right to try to change it, and if you can persuade the majority that it should be changed then it will be changed. But you must abide by a law until it is changed or you will be flouting the fundamental things that make us a democracy and a law-abiding nation.
This organization affects not just the South but the whole country. It affects the principles and the whole form of government by which we live in this country.
I have just finished a book called, "An Episode of Sparrows" by Rumer Godden. It is a charming book, told with simplicity and deep feeling, and drawn, I am sure, from experience.
The scene is laid in London. It might be laid in any one of hundreds of big cities, however. You will find it easy to read, you will not want to put it down, and when it is finished you will find yourself thinking of the characters in the book who are so like many you know in real life.
This book will help you stretch your imagination, and if the life described is not one that you have lived, it will help you to understand those who have to live it.