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Press Conference with US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1963)

KPRC-TV

Sound | 1963

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TAMI Tags
  •  When broadcast on television, silent footage would have voiceover by a news anchor 
  •  U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy is referring to ex-Major General Edwin Walker. Kennedy committed Walker to a state mental facility for 90 days following his participation in the 1962 race riots in Oxford, Mississippi. Challenges from noted psychiatrist Thomas Szasz and the American Civil Liberties Union forced the Attorney General to back down. Walker spent only five days in the asylum.  
  •  Harvey Gantt was an African-American student who was denied admittance to Clemson College (now Clemson University) on the basis of race. He filed a lawsuit against the school and ultimately gained admittance in January 1963.  
  •  Kennedy authorized seven anti-crime laws in 1961 and 1962, which cracked down on illegal activities such as prostitution and gambling. 
  •  KPRC-TV studio 
 
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Upon taking office in 1961, United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy made the fight against organized crime a high priority for the Justice Department. Two years later, Kennedy visited United States Attorneys’ offices around the country to promote his crusade. This KPRC-TV news report captures the Attorney General’s stop in Houston on February 15, 1963, during which he conducted a press conference at William P. Hobby Airport. Kennedy talks about the state of organized crime in Texas and the vital role of local authorities in the fight against it. He also comments on his controversial decision to commit former Major General Edwin Walker following his actions during the Ole Miss riot of 1962. Special thanks to Jacob Carter and Kaitlin Cabiniss for their help cataloging this film.
Major General Edwin “Ted” Walker was born in Center Point, Texas, on November 10, 1910. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1931, beginning his Army career as a lieutenant of artillery. Walker served as a commanding officer during both World War II and the Korean War, eventually becoming the senior advisor to the First Korean Corps. 
 
Following the Korean War, Walker was assigned as commander of the Arkansas Military District in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed him to quell civil disturbances stemming from the racial integration of local public schools. While Walker implemented the order, he remained a staunch segregationist and adopted increasingly anti-Communist and ultraconservative beliefs. 
 
Walker’s extremist views eventually began to interfere with his military career. In April 1961, an article in the privately owned newspaper Overseas Weekly accused the general of brainwashing his troops, and quoted him as calling President Harry Truman, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Secretary of State Dean Acheson “definitely pink.” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara subsequently relieved Walker of his command to conduct an inquiry. While the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing, Walker was formally admonished by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his name was withdrawn for promotion. In protest, Walker resigned from the U.S. Army that November, making him the only U.S. general to do so in the 20th century. 
 
As a civilian, Walker soon began pursuing a career in politics. He ran for governor of Texas in 1962, finishing last in the Democratic primary. Walker also supported segregationist resistance efforts, actively protesting against the enrollment of James Meredith, an African-American veteran, at the University of Mississippi. After the ensuing riots between federal troops and white segregationists turned violent, Walker was arrested on federal charges and temporarily held in a mental facility. The charges were dropped in January 1963 after a federal grand jury failed to indict him. 
 
Walker’s political activism eventually caught the attention of Lee Harvey Oswald. On April 10, 1963, a sniper fired at Walker as he sat in his Dallas home. The bullet struck the wooden frame of Walker’s dining room window, missing his head by about an inch. While authorities initially had no suspects in the shooting, they questioned Oswald’s involvement within hours of his arrest for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Oswald’s wife, Marina, later testified before the Warren Commission that her husband carried out the shooting because he considered Walker to be the leader of a fascist organization. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations ultimately concluded that the evidence “strongly suggested” Oswald as the shooter. 
 
Not even an assassination attempt could deter Walker, however. In October 1963, he orchestrated a verbal attack on Adlai Stevenson, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. The night before Stevenson was set to deliver a speech at Dallas Memorial Auditorium for U.N. Day, Walker held a “U.S. Day” counter rally, instructing his audience to disrupt the ambassador’s speech in whatever way possible. The protesters succeeded, forcing Stevenson to quit speaking before the end of his presentation. Upon exiting the auditorium, one woman hit Stevenson on the head with a sign while another man spat on him. Both were arrested. 
 
In the following years, Walker began filing libel lawsuits against various media outlets in response to their negative publicity about him. One case, Associated Press v. Walker, went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Walker died on October 31, 1993, at his home in Dallas. He was 83.