Box 19, Folder 18, Document 31

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Box 19, Folder 18, Document 31

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Mayor Allen Explains ·why He
Spoke On ·Civil Rights Bill
"We cannot dodge this issue ... We must take action
now to assure ·a greater futmre for our citizens and our
country."-Mayor Ivan Allen,
before the U.S. Senate Com mittee on Commerce.
NOT EVEN consic/ering its considerable political implications, Mayor Ivan Allen's endorsement of
the Kennedy
public accommodations legi s I a tion was
one of those
sort of surP rise news
stories of the
highest significance.
I was intrigued with the question of
why he did it.
In the past, he has not sounded
off to any great public extent
on the essentials of civil r ights,
sticking instead to specifics of
local situations. He was not one
of those on either side with
stock reactions easily predictable. His credentials in the bluechip community of business
<whose freedoms are supposed
to be so threatened by the legislation) are well known.
And his stand flew in the face
of a unanimity of virtually all
the rest of the state's political
leadership against the legislation.
!The importance of all these
factors on the influence of his
stand in the climate of public
opinion shouldn't be overlooked.
As a leadership and prestige
influence, they say to people
puzzled and troubled over the
measure that it is possible to
be for the historical imperatives and morality involved without being hounded as a hopeless idealist or Communist or
He didn't have to speak out.
His stand was bound not to sit
well with some. I finally went
over and asked him why he
did it.
In effect; he said e did because he was qua lified to. No
o t h e r political officials in
America, he pointed out, have
nad to face full-blast the practical job of the civil rights
revolution as have city officials
like himself. ( And not all city
officials either, he said-which
is true over most of Georgia.)
He is convinced from such experience, he said, that it is high
time, nine years after the
school ruling, that the federal
government help out with the
problems created by the mandates of the federal courts. This,
he said, is the "biggest social
problem in my lifetime," and
Congress needs to act as it fi.
nally had to in comparable social
upheavals of the past. He listed
as comparable child labor,
women's suffrage and the labor
struggle. ,
"The cduntry's in the biggest
mess it's ever been in, and Congress has not taken a single
step to help clarify things . . .
Congress can't expect local gov-
ernments to handle as difficult
a problem. as this . . . with no
help, no definitions, no support.
M's been damn unfair."
He cited ten recent desegregation steps Atlanta has made as
an example. (These were listed
in his statement to the committee, along with, incidentally, an
assessment of our achievements
and still-serious shortcomings
better than any I've ever seen,
, a portrayal of Atlanta to the
nation and world more honorable and in the real sense more
favorable than any in some
In most of those ten steps,
Mayor Allen pointed out, he was
caught in the middle-aworking
for " logical agreements." His
point was that so much of it
shouldn't be on a mayor and
city officials, and that often to
the hurt of a city and the nation, officials duck out of such
responsibility. "You never please
many with anyi decision" in the
situation, he said.
His decision to speak, then,
and what he said came out of
the pragmatic knowledge of fir thand experience such as few
in America have of a situation
about which many ha\'e opinions. As such, what he said was
significant. His decision to say
it may be even more important
at this crucial midpoint in his
first political office-for what it
says of his character and his
concept of his responsibility.
Out of uch decisions come
important leader .

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