L. C. and Daisy Bates with a cross from the KKK in their yard. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

In the heat of the crisis

In August of 1957, the Bateses began to receive an infinite number of threats and experienced incidents of violence at their home. 

At the time of the events, Daisy Bates was the president of the state NAACP, had been involved in the selection of the Little Rock Nine, and actively worked toward the integration of Central High School. Whites who were adamantly opposed to having their children attend schools with blacks were angered by her doings, and made sure the couple was well aware of it.

On August 22, a rock was thrown through the window of the Bates home with a note attached to it that read, “Stone this time. Dynamite next.”

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

“Thank God their aim was poor,” was the response L. C. gave after finding the rock. Several more rocks were thrown into the window of the Bates home until they decided to install an iron screen to prevent further damage.

After the rock throwing came the cross burning, courtesy of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).  The first was in the open yard, the second, near a lamp post, and the third, leaned against the house. With all the turmoil the Bates home was experiencing, their household insurance was canceled.

Following the third cross burning, Bates addressed the KKK in a State Press article under the byline of A. M. Judge. The front page article called out the organization’s members as “hoodlums” and expressed that the group felt they had good motives in their efforts, but their judgment was “damned poor,” and their luck may run out before his did.

After the rocks and crosses came the bombings and attempted bombings at the Bates home. One bomb blew a sizable hole in their front yard and shattered their windows, as well as the windows of their neighbors.

The most frightening threat occurred during the height of the school crisis when a segregationist group “sent word” that they were going to bomb the homes of the Bateses, the mayor, and school board members. The city police sent a patrol car to sit in the alley across the street from the couple’s home. When a suspicious-looking car drove by, the police chased it. While they were gone, L. C. heard a group marching toward the area, and as the group got closer, they got a little nervous.

Taking precaution, Daisy Bates and a few other newsmen were taken down to the basement. Not long after, police sirens sounded and the mob was halted. Fourteen people were arrested. L. C. Bates explained that there was a car with enough dynamite in it to “blow the house to dust.”

Fighting back

L. C., other newsmen, and his friends often stood guard at the house during the integration crisis. Bates was not a violent person, but during one instance, he couldn’t help but fire back. He was standing in the car port of his home and a car drove by and someone threw a rock, which bounced up and hit Bates. He was not hurt, but he was angered.

“Before I knew it, I shot right in his car,” Bates said. “If I hit anybody, they never complained.”

Throughout the duration of the crisis, the Bateses received too many threats to count. The violence didn’t subside until the early 1960s when L. C. installed floodlights in the front yard. He later said he felt he could have prevented a lot of the damage to his home had he realized sooner that “people are afraid of lights.”

The State Press office was never harmed and Bates believed it was because the “cowards” were “afraid to come to Ninth Street because of the great numbers of Negroes who congregated there” and “the white segregationists knew they were going to get killed.”

“Awful Faubus”

Bates made it through the crisis physically unharmed, even when he went to Central High and walked through the angry mob. One of his photographers and reporters from out of state got beat on, but no one touched a hair on Bates’ head. He kept his hand on his gun at all times.

The political uprising caused by the crisis centered on Governor Faubus who called the National Guard in to prevent the black students from entering Central. During Faubus’ campaign in 1956, Bates wrote an editorial asking blacks to refrain from voting in the race because there was no candidate to support their people, and if they voted in all other races, their decision could have an impact on the governor’s race. To Bates, the ability to get rid of Faubus was vital, which is why he hammered the black community to pay their poll taxes, a requirement for the privilege of voting at the time.

Displeased with Faubus’ political stance, Bates wrote an editorial referring to him as “Awful Faubus,” and accused him of using his power to “thwart the right of the Negro through the ballot.”

Not only did he criticize Faubus, Bates expressed his disappointment in the black community for giving him their vote in 1954. He was hopeful that they would “be more careful in selling their vote in the future.” Although Faubus won the next election, Bates continued to denounce the governor and criticized his supporters and those who voted for him because they feared change.

In his later years, Bates credited Faubus for “unwittingly bringing about the civil rights movement in the United States by providing the confrontation that eventually forced the issue to a conclusion, thus improving the status of blacks in society.”

In the 1960s, Bates became associated with Faubus in a more hospitable atmosphere, and eventually saw him in a more positive light.

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