Nicholas Katzenbach, whose government service (mostly in the Justice Department) encompassed much of the major issues of the 1960s, from civil rights to Viet Nam to the Kennedy assassination. He famously encountered George Wallace at “the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama, and was in Oxford with the Marshalls to assure James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi.
Folks who have read Robert Caro’s latest installment on Lyndon Johnson would have encountered him.
He was first headed the Office of Legal Counsel (at the request of his friend Byron White), and was later Robert Kennedy’s number two until replacing Kennedy in 1964 when Kennedy ran for Senate.
From his New York Times obituary:
Perhaps his most tense moment in government came on June 11, 1963, when he confronted George C. Wallace in stifling heat on the steps of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Mr. Wallace was the Alabama governor who had trumpeted “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” and vowed to block the admission of two black students “at the schoolhouse door.”
Mr. Katzenbach, flanked by a federal marshal and a United States attorney, approached Foster Auditorium, the main building on campus, around 11 a.m. Mr. Wallace was waiting behind a lectern at the top of the stairs, surrounded by a crowd of whites, some armed.
“Stop!” he called out, raising his hand like a traffic cop.
Mr. Katzenbach read a presidential proclamation ordering that the students be admitted and asked the governor to step aside peacefully. Mr. Wallace read a five-minute statement castigating “the central government” for “suppression of rights.”
Towering over Mr. Wallace, Mr. Katzenbach, a 6-foot-2-inch former hockey goalie, was dismissive. “I’m not interested in this show,” he said.
The students were registered about four hours later. …
Continue reading Katzenbach was dismissive to George Wallace, saying “I’m not interested in this show.”