Orval Faubus

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Orval Eugene Faubus (1910-1994) was an American politician who served as the 34th Governor of Arkansas from 1955 to 1967. He was notorious for attempting to block the desegregation of Arkansan public schools, which resulted in Dwight Eisenhower sending federal troops to intervene and enforce federal law.

Early life and career

His father, Sam Faubus, was a socialist. Orval Faubus's middle name "Eugene" was after Eugene V. Debs, his father's hero. However, despite this, Faubus increasingly leaned to the right wing later in his political career. He was a member of the Democratic Party and supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. In 1938 he was elected to the office of circuit clerk and recorder of Madison County. He joined the army in the World War II. After the war he resumed in politics and became the State Highway Commissioner.

Governor of Arkansas

In 1954, he challenged then-incumbent governor Francis A. Cherry in the Democratic primary, defeating Cherry and subsequently won in the general election. In his campaign he promised to increase spending for roads and schools. During his tenure, he improved the infrastructure of Arkansas, including transportation and education. At that time he was not known as a segregationist, and his policy was fairly liberal.

Little Rock incident

However, after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education that declared racial segregation in public school unconstitutional, Faubus became an ardent opponent of that decision and began to resist integration. In 1957, the famous showdown between Faubus and Eisenhower occurred. He dispatched state police and the Arkansas National Guard to prevent African-American students from entering Little Rock Central High School. He said if these students entered the Little Rock school, "blood would run in the streets".

President Eisenhower responded by federalizing the Guard and removing it from Faubus' control, sending U.S. Marshals to escort the students into Central High School, and dispatching elements of the 101st Airborne Division in support of the Marshals. Constrained by the Posse Comitatus Act, neither National Guard or Regular Army forces directly enforced the court order, although they certainly intimidated the remaining state officials.

Later life

His governorship ended in 1967, after serving six consecutive terms. He ran the gubernatorial election several times later but none of them were successful. He married three times. His first wife, Celia Alta Haskins, divorced him in 1969. His second wife Elizabeth Westmoreland was murdered in a bathtub in 1983. He married Jan Hines Wittenberg in 1986.


Charles Mingus composed "Fables of Faubus" with the Governor's stand against desegregation in mind. The official Mingus website supplies lyrics which Mingus was prohibited (by Columbia Records) from including on the final cut of his album Mingus Ah Um, but which were included on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, under the title "Original Faubus Fables."


Further reading

  • Elizabeth Jacoway, Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation ISBN 0743297199
  • Roy Reed, Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal ISBN 1557284679