Ike had used his appointive powers to name Supreme Court justices who would correct the injustice of Plessy. Barely a year into Eisenhower’s first term, the high court unanimously ruled against segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). And Republican Eisenhower sent federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas when the Democratic Gov. Orval Faubus defied federal court orders to de-segregate that city’s schools.
Eisenhower was criticized endlessly by liberal elites for his emphasis on massive federal highway construction and for encouraging American prosperity. “A vast wasteland,” they dubbed TV in what all now see as its golden age. Still, it was over Ike’s new Interstate highways that the Freedom Riders of the early sixties blazed a trail to end segregation. And those TV news cameras let all Americans see, for the first time, the police dogs and fire hoses necessary to maintain segregation. Political reform followed quickly on the heels of Ike’s achievements.
When Democratic Sen. Hubert Humphrey led the fight for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he had no stronger ally than Republican Leadcr Everett Dirksen. Minority Republicans in the Senate gave even stronger support, proportionately, than Democrats did to push through that historic legislation.
Dr. King was willing to lay down his life. His assassination by a white racist on April 4, 1968 was the culmination of King’s lifelong advocacy of full equality under law.
“I have been to the mountain top,” Dr. King told his worried supporters in the days before his murder. He had indeed. He saw the promised land of equal justice under law. He had that vision because he kept his eyes on the prize. All Americans can be grateful for his legacy.