Race: Franklin, Earl and Ike

There’s a meme making the rounds this week marking the anniversary of the decision to imprison American-Japanese and others, after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.

The error and hastiness of the decision is decried, perhaps as a pointed reference to Trump’s views towards immigrants.

The back story is interesting and noteworthy.

Many will know that it was Dwight Eisenhower who appointed Earl Warren to be Chief Justice of the United States, a move that Ike later called, “the biggest damn fool thing I ever did.”


Another source quotes Ike on his judge, “that dumb son of a bitch Earl Warren.” 

Ike was surely referencing, at least in part, Warren’s skillful work in the Court’s landmark 1954 decision, Brown v Board of Education, which ordered the desegregation of American schools.

Ike was on the side of the segregationists, once saying to Warren, in an epic breach of protocol, “These are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big black bucks.”


Perhaps Ike thought he was on safe ground because it was Warren who gave Franklin Roosevelt all the cover he needed to round up American Japanese for no reason other than hype and fear mongering.

Warren, then Attorney General of California, said at the time,  “the Japanese situation as it exists in this state today may well be the Achilles’ heel of the entire civilian defense effort.” 

Roosevelt didn’t take the ball and run with it, Warren was the quarterback executing a perfect downfield pass to the president.

Franklin Roosevelt gets the odious credit for American Japanese Internment but without Warren he would have been punting.


Eisenhower comes off as a crass racist, brazenly lobbying Warren to stand pat on school segregation and then doing little to support the decision once it was in place.


Orville Faubus was the cracker governor of Arkansas in 1957 when he led Eisenhower on regarding his willingness to allow blacks to attend schools.

After several exchanges, Eisenhower said, “The only assurance I can give you is that the Federal Constitution will be upheld by me by every legal means at my command.” 

Faubus got more than he bargained for when Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division to ensure compliance with the decision.

Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Warren were wrong in their initial decisionmaking regarding justice, fairness and equity.

To their credit, they adjusted their positions, often expressing regret at their haste.

Late in life, Earl Warren was being interviewed as part of an oral history project.

It had been going on for awhile when the interviewer brought up Warren’s role in American Japanese internment.

Warren paused and as he struggled to find words, he began to sob; the interview ended.





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