I was seduced to the Ozarks by a promise to meet Arkansas Governor Faubus.
My Grandfather picked me up in Tulsa Oklahoma. After being the Marine's champion Boxer - after walking over the bodies of dead soldiers in Korea - after raising a family of five in Southern California - after retiring - he decided to become a minister and finally passing the family history to me before he died a few years later.
I remember meeting the South - this strange land I met horror, admiration and curiosity.
"Governor Faubus spent his life as an educator before becoming the longest running governor the State of Arkansas. Clinton eventually beat his place as the longest running governor the state had ever experienced.
It was an hour before he led me to the word Nigger. Said it only once with the statement "I ain't racist, I use to let them niggers play with my brother when we were growing up"
The description was revealing to me. Where I grew up, the racial makeup looks like this:
* White Non-Hispanic (31.0%)
* Hispanic (18.5%)
* Chinese (17.9%)
* Korean (9.9%)
* Other race (6.8%)
* Filipino (5.3%)
* Black (4.8%)
* Two or more races (4.2%)
* Asian Indian (4.0%)
* Other Asian (2.8%)
* Japanese (1.7%)
* Vietnamese (1.1%)
* American Indian (0.9%)
Seemingly racist as hell - Faubus won a large percent of the black vote after breaking from the White Citizens Counil who preferred a Republican candidate. In 1964, when he easily defeated the Republican Winthrop Rockefeller, Faubus secured 81 percent of the black vote.
Later in life he would manage an amusement park just and hour from Branson, Missouri - which is where -
Faubus told me Eisenhower wanted to make an example out of the deep south - Little Rock and forced an integration plan busing children to different school.
On the day I interviewed Faubus, the schools were ending busing - moving to the model I grew up with - School Districts.
It wasn't desegregation they wanted, it was race mixing,"said Faubus.
I knew their would be violence, but they wanted to do it then - they wanted to set an example - Little Rock's Central High was the place, said Faubus.
Arkansas was the first place I ever saw segregation. Kansas City was the first city I've ever lived where it was practiced. Ever take a ride down Troost Street?
From Faubus's perspective, his actions saved the lives of the children as there was ample protection.
It was 50 years ago yesterday....
I passed through dozens of small Ozark towns with my Grandfather, some of which were continuing to have problems - with the vestiges of the South....
My father, like me a native Los Angelian, made an extra $2 an hour doing janitorial work during the Watts riots. Later he would become an international legal powerhouse.
The confederacy's original capital was Little Rock, Arkansas.
To be continued.