In my research on General Walker, I came across this fascinating interview of Nicholas Katzenbach and his recollections of the Ole Miss Riots. For those not familiar, James Meredith, a black student and US Veteran, was to enroll at Ole Miss much to the disdain of the White Citizen’s Council, the KKK, the John Birch Society, The Minutemen, segregation and General Edwin Walker.
General Walker colored his disgust of Meredith’s entry into Ole Miss not because of “racism” but because of State’s Rights. The state of Mississippi was a segregated state and Walker was protesting the interference of Federal Government in a state where the Governor, Ross Barnett, had stood by segregation. Note the governor’s heated phone call with JFK in the above video. From his home in Dallas, Walker issued a call to arms for patriots to join him in Oxford to assist Barnett in facing down Kennedy and his U.S. Marshals. Patriots? This, in my opinion, was a key rhetorical word used to ignite passion in people.
The video above, at about the 5:21 mark, Katzenbach talks about how he was in contact with JFK the whole time of the conflict and how the Army lied. Katzenbach, ever the diplomat, doesn’t blame the Army per se, but the limitations of communications. JFK was aware even then of how the Military was a problem for his administration.
After this debacle, Attorney General Robert Kennedy had General Walker committed for psychiatric evaluation. Walker paid a $50,000 bond claiming he was a political prisoner and was released. When he returned to Dallas, he was greeted with a hero’s welcome. My new book, JFK: The Untold Stories hint: See the picture below? The woman in front of Walker is Robert Surrey’s wife and the children with “Welcome Walker” signs are Robert Surrey’s children. Nice PR for Walker isn’t it?