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Orval Faubus

Orval Eugene Faubus (7 January 1910 - 14 December 1994) was a six-term Democratic governor of Arkansas famous for his stand against integration of Little Rock, Arkansas schools in 1957 in defiance of U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Table of contents
1 Early Life
2 Early Political Career
3 Little Rock Integration Crisis
4 End of Political Career
5 Final Chapter

Early Life

Orval Faubus was born near Combs, Arkansas in Madison County.

Faubus's father Sam Faubus provided him with an early political education. During the early part of the century socialist causes were popular in the rural mountains of Arkansas. Sam Faubus was a poor hill farmer who became active locally in socialist causes and publicly advocated for women's suffrage, abolition of the poll tax, formed a Socialist Party local amongst his neighbors, and wrote lengthy essays in favor of socialism for the local Madison County newspaper.

Sam Faubus was considered a leader of the movement in Madison, County but the US entry into World War I brought suspicion down on opposition political sentiments. Sam Faubus and a friend were arrested in 1918 by government agents for "distributing seditious material" and "uttering numerous disloyal remarks".

Early Political Career

Faubus's first political run was in 1936 when he ran for a seat in the state General Assembly. Faubus came in second in that contest. He was urged to challenge the result but wisely declined. This earned him the gratitude of the Democratic Party and led to him winning two terms as circuit clerk and recorder.

When the United States entered World War II Faubus joined the United States Army and served as an intelligence officer with George S. Patton's Third Army. During this service Faubus was involved in combat several times.

When Faubus returned from the war he cultivated ties with leaders of Arkansas' Democratic Party and by 1954 was ready to challenge for the Governorship.

The 1954 election cycle was a bitter one and Faubus was forced to defend his attendance at a defunct northwest Arkansas school known as Commonwealth College as well as his early political upbrining. Commonwealth College was formed as a left-leaning school and Faubus was accused of attending a "communist" school by his political opponents. These attempts were not successful and Faubus was elected to his first term as Governor.

The political attacks of the 1954 election, though unsuccessful, do seem to have made Faubus very sensitive to attacks from the right. It has been suggested that this sensitivity contributed to his later stance against integration when attacked by segregationist elements of his party.

Little Rock Integration Crisis

Faubus came to international attention during the Little Rock Crisis of 1957 when he used the National Guard to stop African-American children from attending Little Rock Central High School as part of federally ordered racial desegregation.

Faubus's decision led to a showdown with President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower, in October 1957, federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to return to their barracks which effectively removed them from Faubus's control. Eisenhower then sent elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Arkansas to protect the black students and enforce the Federal court order.

Ironically, in 1954 Faubus had run for governor as a liberal promising to increase spending on schools and roads. In the first few months of his administration, Faubus desegregated state buses and public transportation and began to investigate the possibility of introducing multi-racial schools.

This, however, led to a political attack by Jim Johnson, leader of the right-wing of the Democratic Party in Arkansas. This attack caused Faubus to reconsider his political position for the upcoming election and led him to fight the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that separate schools were unequal and therefore unconstitutional.

End of Political Career

Faubus was elected governor six times and served for 12 years. After the 1965 Voting Act made it easier for African Americans to vote the political climate in Arkansas changed.

Faubus was defeated in the 1966 Democratic primary by the segregationist Jim Johnson who was defeated in the general election by Republican reformer Winthrop Rockefeller.

Faubus ran for re-election in 1970, 1974, and 1986 but the Democratic Party in Arkansas had undergone its own reforms in response to Rockefeller's election. A new generation of appealing Democratic reformers had come onto the scene and Faubus's attempts proved unsuccessful.

Final Chapter

In the 1970s Faubus's financial position had deteriorated to the point where he was forced to accept a position as a bank teller at a local Huntsville, Arkansas bank and sell his home.

Faubus died of cancer on 14 December 1994.