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JFK Meets with Wallace

May 18, 1963 - President Kennedy flew back to Washington tonight after having been well received on a one-day tour of the South during which he spoke forthrightly about civil rights. He shook hands and talked about the Birmingham race crisis with defiant Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama and was nearly mobbed in Huntsville by Alabamians seeking to shake his hand. Earlier in the day, he spoke out on civil rights at a Vanderbilt University convocation at Nashville, Tennessee. The efforts of Negroes to secure their rights, he told the Vanderbilt audience, are “in the highest traditions of American freedom.” He also said that the nation’s “continuing debate about the rights of a portion of its citizens” would continue. Mr. Kennedy’s meeting with Gov. Wallace at Muscle Shoals, Ala., and later on his helicopter was amicable but not noticeably warm. It produced no agreement on their differing attitudes toward racial unrest in Alabama. On the helicopter flight, Mr. Kennedy and Gov. Wallace sat side by side and held what Pierre Salinger, White House press secretary, called a “not unfriendly discussion” of Birmingham and other racial matters. There was little meeting of the minds between them, it was reported.


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