James Eastland

James Eastland

James Eastland was born in Doddsville, Mississippi on 28th November, 1904. He attended the University of Mississippi, Vanderbilt University and the University of Alabama before being admitted to the bar in 1927.

A member of the Democratic Party, Eastland was a member of State house of representatives (1928-32) before being elected to the United States Senate in 1941. He was not a candidate in 1942 but was reelected in 1948, 1954, 1960, 1966 and 1972.

Eastland was strong opponent of African American civil rights and a leading supporter of Jim Crow laws. In May, 1954, Eastland told the Senate that: "Segregation is desired and supported by the vast majority of the members of both of the races in the South, who dwell side by side under harmonious conditions."

James Eastland died in Doddsville, Mississippi, on 19th February, 1986.

Primary Sources

(1) James Eastland, speech in the United States Senate (27th May, 1954)

The southern institution of racial segregation or racial separation was the correct, self-evident truth which arose from the chaos and confusion of the reconstruction period. Separation promotes racial harmony. It permits each race to follow its own pursuits, and its own civilization. Segregation is not discrimination. Segregation is not a badge of racial inferiority, and that it is not is recognized by both races in the Southern States. In fact, segregation is desired and supported by the vast majority of the members of both races in the South, who dwell side by side under harmonious conditions.

The negro has made a great contribution to the South. We take pride in the constant advance he has made. It is where social questions are involved that Southern people draw the line. It is these social institutions with which Southern people, in my judgment, will not permit the Supreme Court to tamper.

Let me make this clear, Mr. President: There is no racial hatred in the South. The Negro race is not an oppressed race. A great Senator from the State of Idaho, Senator William E. Borah, a few years ago said on the floor of the Senate: "Let us admit that the South is dealing with this question as best it can, admit that the men and women of the South are just as patriotic as we are, just as devoted to the principles of the Constitution as we are, just as willing to sacrifice for the success of their communities as we are. Let us give them credit as American citizens, and cooperate with them, sympathize with them, and help them in the solution of their problem, instead of condemning them. We are one people, one nation, and they are entitled to be treated upon this basis."

Mr. President, it is the law of nature, it is the law of God, that every race has both the right and the duty to perpetuate itself. All free men have the right to associate exclusively with members of their own race, free from governmental interference, if they so desire. Free men have the right to send their children to schools of their own choosing, free from governmental interference and to build up their own culture, free from governmental interference. These rights are inherent in the Constitution of the United States and in the American system of government, both state and national, to promote and protect this right.

(2) Telephone conversation between Lyndon B. Johnson and James Eastland (3.21 pm, 28th November, 1963)

Lyndon B. Johnson: Jim, on this investigation - this Dallas situation - what does your committee plan to do on it? ...

James Eastland: We plan to hold hearings and just make a record of what the proof is. That's all. Show that this man was the assassin... We've had a great number of Senators that have come to us to request it, beginning with Morse... Now if you want it dropped, we'll drop it.

Lyndon B. Johnson: I had this feeling - this is very confidential and I haven't proposed it to anybody and I don't know that I would - but we've got a pretty strong states' rights question here and I've had some hesitancy to start having a bunch of Congressional inquiries into violation of a state statute, and it might...

James Eastland: You see, we've got a bill in to make it a federal...

Lyndon B. Johnson: I know it, but you haven't got any law and it might set a precedent that you wouldn't want to have. I talked to some of the fellows about it day before yesterday. Russell was down here for luncheon.

James Eastland: Now, there's one of them that's urged it.

Lyndon B. Johnson: Now my thought would be this, if we could do it - we might get two members from each body. You see, we're going to have three inquiries running as it is.

James Eastland: Well, I wouldn't want that. That wouldn't do.

Lyndon B. Johnson: And if we could have two Congressmen and two Senators and maybe a Justice of the Supreme Court take the FBI report and review it... I think it would - this is a very explosive thing and it could be a very dangerous thing for the country. And a little publicity could just fan the flames. What would you think about if we could work it out of getting somebody from the Court and somebody from the House and somebody from the Senate and have a real high-level judicial study of all the facts?

James Eastland: Well, it would suit me all right. Now you'd have - there's going to be some opposition on the committee...

Lyndon B. Johnson: If it is all right with you, I'm not worried about your committee. I know what you can handle.