Orval Eugene Faubus

(b. 1910)

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(b. Greasy Creek, Arkansas, 7 Jan. 1910; d, Conway, Arkansas, 14 Dec. 1994)

US; Governor of Arkansas 1957–67 The son of a poor farmer, who was a socialist, Faubus had little education but became a schoolteacher before becoming involved in politics during the Depression. War service in the army (where he rose to the rank of major) was followed after demobilization by a period in state government as State Highway Commissioner. By this stage Faubus had acquired a reputation as a progressive and in 1954 he ran for governor on a moderate populist ticket, promising to use government constructively to improve the infrastructure of Arkansas.

Faubus's gubernatorial period will be remembered primarily for the dramatic resistance to school integration and the confrontation with the federal government over the admission of blacks to Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Yet it was not inevitable that Faubus's career should have been so distorted by the civil rights issue. Although racial questions were explosive throughout the South, Arkansas was relatively tolerant by comparison with other southern states and had in fact desegregated its transport system at the start of Faubus's gubernatorial term. Faubus seemed relatively liberal on race issues and included blacks in his political inner circle.

Faubus apparently took up the segregation issue as much to ward off political challenge from the right as from principle. The courts had ordered the integration of Little Rock schools at a time when Faubus was politically vulnerable because of a tax increase he had imposed. The cause of states rights offered a way of diverting attention from that increase and building support with the local electorate. In September 1957 Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to stop nine black children entering Little Rock Central High School, resistance which met with federal intervention from the courts and President Eisenhower, who took control of the Arkansas National Guard from Faubus.

Faubus's actions fended off more extreme opponents and he kept the governorship until 1967 despite a tradition of limiting governors to two terms. However, he paid a heavy price as the incident yoked him with last ditch segregationists such as George Wallace and Ross Barnett, overshadowed his other policies as governor and ensured that he was never seriously considered for national office. Faubus left the governorship in 1967 and worked in routine banking jobs. Despite several attempts at re-election, he never held political office again.

Subjects: Politics.

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