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Little Rock Eyewitness

November 22, 1987

Regarding Little Rock Central High School, 1957-58 ("Please, Don't Bring Back the '50s," by Jack Miles, Nov. 1 and Calendar Letters, Nov. 8 and 15).

I didn't write before because I figured someone would finally get it straight--after all, we're not talking about ancient history here.

My bona fides: I was there. An 18-year-old Private First Class, serial number NG 25 441 705, Company D, 153rd Infantry Regiment, Arkansas National Guard.

The high school in October, 1957, was under federal court order to integrate. The then governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, did indeed use National Guardsmen to bar blacks, ostensibly to prevent disorders by whites. (Yes, that was a very real threat in 1957.)

President Eisenhower then issued an executive order Oct. 24 "federalizing" the Arkansas Guard, thus taking us directly into the U.S. Army and out of the hands of the governor. He also sent down from Fort Campbell, Ky., the 326th Airborne Battle Group of the 101st Airborne Division. They did the initial work of breaking up hostile white crowds and escorting the black students through.

What is missing from most accounts of the affair is that the troopers were all sent home by Thanksgiving, 1957, and the peacekeeping duties at the school continued by those same maligned guardsmen, now under federal orders.

We stayed until the end of the school year the following spring, patrolling the halls inside and the sidewalks outside, in good weather and bad, doing our duty as National Guardsmen have always done.

W.D. GRISSOM

Coronado

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