Elizabeth Eckford on the morning of September 4, 1957, being harassed by a mob of whites on what was supposed to be her first day of integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her mentor, NAACP Coordinator Daisy Bates, had called what became known as “the Little Rock Nine” to tell them to come to her house before going to the school. But since Elizabeth’s family did not have a telephone, she did not get the message and was forced to suffer the wrath of the segregationist mob when she showed up at the high school and was denied admittance by the Arkansas National Guard. (Photo © Bettmann/Corbis)

©2023 By Legs McNeil

(Originally published on Graydon Carter’s AirMail)

On the 66th Anniversary of the Integration of Public schools, I present “The Untold Story of the Little Rock Nine”— about nine Black high school students who were the first to integrate the whites-only Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, after the Supreme Court ruled in “Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka” in 1954 that segregating Black and white students was unconstitutional.

Central High School in Little Rock would be the major test case for integration. And the nine sacrificial lambs and exceptional nine Black students who had been selected to be thrown to the huge wolf pack of 2,100 mostly racist, white high school students, and became known as “The Little Rock Nine.”

Daisy Bates, the Nine’s mentor, was a fascinating, gorgeous woman, whose mother had been raped and murdered by three white men– who were never prosecuted.

Daisy was only three years old when her mother was killed and when she discovered what had happened to her, the hatred she felt inside instilled a deep, passionate fire in her to fight for the cause of African-Americans, after her adopted father told her to use her hatred for something good.

Daisy met her future husband, L.C. (Lucius Christopher) Bates when she was 15-years old, and began dating the older and married newspaperman when she was 17. They traveled around the south until they settled in Little Rock and started the Arkansas State Press, one of the few black newspapers that was dedicated to covering the civil rights movement. They married on March 4th, 1942, after L.C secured a divorce from his first wife, Kassandra Crawford, in 1941.

Both Daisy and L.C. Bates were staunch supporters of the N.A.A.C.P., so it came as no surprise when Daisy spearheaded the fight for integration of Central High School and became the adult cheerleader for the Little Rock Nine.

But what very few people knew was that Daisy Bates had a secret weapon in a white southerner and ex-Marine, Norman Grevillius, who she sent to spy on the White Citizen’s Councils and the Ku Klux Klan. And besides spying, Norman also became Daisy’s white lover.


Elizabeth Eckford [Member of the Little Rock Nine]: When I was a kid, we were “Negroes,” but to older, rural Black people, they were still using the term “colored.”

There’s always been a struggle to define ourselves, and there’s always been generational differences. White people used to say “Nigra,” and that was insulting. A white lady told me that her father taught her to say that, and it was always insulting; we said “Negro.”

Y’all got people who say “African-Americans,” but I say don’t say “African-American,” because I’ve known lots of Africans personally, and I know that they come from very diverse cultures that I have nothing in common with, except maybe coloring.

Tribalism is akin to racism. I remember a reporter who worked in Mogadishu who said she had seen orphan babies that were being cared for by this woman. But, because the woman found out that the babies were from another tribe, she let the babies starve to death.

So I don’t use the term “African-American,” and I know most of the Black people who use the term “African-American” wouldn’t have anything to do with North Africans.

And “Black” was an epithet that was thrown against me when I was a kid. We were ashamed of being called “Black.” At Central High School, the white kids would say, “Well you Black so and so,” but it was a term we took for empowerment in the 1960s.

It means a lot to me now when I say “Black.” Probably for young people, they think that I’m behind the times when I still use that term, but it has political meaning to it.

So, as I said, the term for being Black represented quite a few generational differences.

Daisy Bates [Mentor to the Little Rock Nine]: Everything needed change then. The Negroes were segregated all over, and even the kids. Some of the downtown stores had a Black fountain and a white fountain. I had no children, but I worked with the children, because I had the [news]paper. And the mothers that would be going to town, and they were walking to town, they would stop at [our Black newspaper] the State Press to use the bathroom, because there was no place downtown that they could use the bathroom. What do you do when a child wants to go to the bathroom?

Elizabeth Eckford: As a child, I knew that there were places that I could not go—I couldn’t go to most drive-ins to get a sandwich or hamburger, but there were one or two drive-ins where you could go, and they would serve you, but you would have to leave. And I knew that at the theater, I could sit in the balcony, that was the only place I could sit. And that at the park, I couldn’t go to the swimming pool. I could ride the merry-go-round, but I couldn’t go in the swimming pool. And I could go around and see the animals in the little zoo, but not go in the swimming pool…

And when the buses were desegregated, I knew that when I’d sit next to a white person—I remember sitting, on a rainy day, sitting in about the middle of the bus, I sat down in a seat with a white man, and he gradually scooted me over until I fell on the floor, ha, ha, ha!

I’d seen him on the bus many times, and I’d seen him many times after that, but when buses were first desegregated, young Black kids would literally sit in the front seats!

Daisy Bates: [When I moved to Little Rock, Arkansas], I got married to Mr. Bates and started the [Arkansas] State Press. And I almost immediately joined the local branch of the NAACP and got involved… I was very active in the local branch. And then I was elected to the State Conference. I never was president of the local branch, but I belonged to the local branch.

Elizabeth Eckford: Daisy Bates was a very, very personable woman, and a very strong woman. She’s been the best voice of the NAACP that I can recall in my lifetime.

Daisy Bates: When the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision came down, Mr. Blossom, the school superintendent, said, “I’m sure that we would obey the law. We’ve always done so. We’ll open the schools on an integrated basis.” So we took it for granted….

And then Mr. Blossom proceeded to make speeches all over town, with the plans. He made a speech at the YWCA; I was there. He made a speech in Pleasant Valley; I was there. And this burned him up… And it tickled me to death, ha, ha, ha!

He knew I was there, see, because he had been saying one thing to whites… and one to Negroes.…

I was keeping him honest. So if he’d walk in, I’d be sitting there. He’d look. “Oh,” he’d turn to me, “D-d-d-d…” All the speech would go out of him…

And I would sit there laughing. And I’d ask him, “But Mr. Blossom, last time you spoke, didn’t you say this?”

…And then [during] the question-and-answer period, and I’d say, “When you spoke for the group at the YWCA,” or wherever it was—he spoke all over town—I said, “Did you say that this was this way?”[or] whatever, and he said, “I didn’t say that.”

Elizabeth Eckford: Daisy Bates was kinda pushy.

Nils Grevilius [Son of Norman Grevillius, Private Instigator and author]: In 1954 or 1955, my father, Norman Grevillius, was living in Arkansas with his first family, and that’s when Maurice Waller, the son of the famous jazz pianist, Fats Waller, introduced my father to Daisy Bates at some NAACP function in Arkansas. And my father and Daisy Bates became very friendly.

See, my father was an ex-Marine who had served in both WWII and the Korean War, and [he] played in the Marine band with Maurice Waller, so that’s how they became friends.

Enid Ballatyne [Second wife of Norman Grevillius, Mother of Nils Grevillius]: Norman was active in the Little Rock NAACP, because he had had some experiences in the Marine Corps where he was a trumpet player, and a very good one. They’d cooked up a little band, and among the group was Fats Waller’s son, Maurice Waller, so they’d get together.

Nils Grevilius: As Norman Grevillius and Daisy Bates’ relationship grew, Daisy asked him to infiltrate the White Citizen’s Councils in Arkansas and see what they were up to.

It’s my understanding that the White Citizen’s Councils originated in Mississippi and they were ad-hoc groups of people outraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and had formed to battle segregation in a more genteel way than the Ku Klux Klan had. The White Citizen’s Councils viewed themselves as concerned and nonviolent at the same time, but many of them were also in the Klan and were violent, and the White Citizen’s Councils quickly spread across the South.

Enid Ballatyne: Somebody suggested that it would be helpful if Norman could become a member of the White Citizen’s Council and act as a spy.

Nils Grevilius: My father was an adrenaline type, he was a veteran of WWII and Korea, and when Daisy Bates asked him to infiltrate the White Citizen’s Councils and the Klan, he viewed this as a bit of a lark and a holy mission at the same time. He didn’t see any reason why Black men and women shouldn’t have the same rights and privileges as white citizens.

So Norman was infiltrating these racist organizations for Daisy Bates under her direction, and it was enough to create plenty of fodder for Daisy’s newspaper, The Arkansas State Press, and there was a great effort on the part of the White Citizen’s Council to try to identify who was infiltrating them, because my father was using a big reel-to-reel tape recorder to record them.

What my father did was go to this luggage maker, a Black luggage maker, or luggage repair guy, who worked at the train station in Little Rock, and had him build the tape recorder into a brief case. It looked like an ordinary briefcase.

And being a white Southerner of a known quantity, a veteran of the United States Marines, that sort of thing, he fit right into the Citizen’s Council and the Klan, so he could successfully infiltrate and record.

Daisy Bates: The day before [the Little Rock Nine] were starting to school… Mr. Blossom, the superintendent at that time, told them that they were to go in the front door…

But [in the] meantime… Governor Fabus had the National Guard around.

And [when] we went to the school the first time… the National Guard had to tell us—say to us that they couldn’t admit them because of the governor’s orders.

Nils Grevilius: Arkansas Governor Faubus sent the Arkansas National Guard to initially keep the Black students out of Central High School, and said on television, “Blood will run in the streets if Negro pupils should attempt to enter Central High School.”

So my father agreed with President Eisenhower’s move to send the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to protect the Little Rock Nine, even though my father was no great fan of Eisenhower, because my father was a Democrat through and through.

Eisenhower was taking risks to his political fortunes by deploying paratroopers to ensure the peaceful integration of Central High School in Little Rock, and he was willing to risks to his political popularity, and he did so unflinchingly.

Ernest Green [Member of the Little Rock Nine]: What happened was that Governor Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard initially to keep us out, and when Eisenhower finally sent in the 101st Airborne troops, he concurrently federalized the Arkansas National Guard—that took command of it away from Governor Faubus so that the Guard couldn’t be used to keep us out.

Elizabeth Eckford: One thing the 101st Airborne did—on the first day we saw soldiers of all races. But after that first day, we didn’t see anybody but white folks, so that there wouldn’t be any Black soldiers, or any Philipino soldiers, or any Hispanic soldiers telling white people what to do. They kept all various colored and soldiers at Camp Robinson after that.

So in a sense the military accommodated local prejudices.

Ernest Green: I remember at Ms. Bates’ house is that you had all of this drama going on, but we were still teenagers. We were worried about how we were going to look getting into the jeep. Why couldn’t we have two jeeps, instead of one?

And Daisy said: “Look, this is a very important moment. The fact that the president of the United States has sent the United States Army here to escort you into school means that this government is finally serious about school desegregation.”

Daisy Bates [The Long Shadow of Little rock]: …On October 2, 1957, Minnijean Brown and Melba Pattillo were roughed up by several unidentified boys and girls in the corridors as they left their second class of the day. One girl deliberately ran into Minnijean, and a group of boys formed a line to block her entrance to her classroom. Then followed an incredible catalogue of violence….

Elizabeth Eckford: When the 101st Airborne was with us, we felt safe, at first. They enabled us to get into school, but I never looked behind me. So I can’t identify who was my guard or who was attacking me. The 101st Airborne soldiers were several paces behind us, so they didn’t prevent us from being attacked.

Ernest Green: Elizabeth Eckford is a lot tougher than I am.

Elizabeth Eckford: Once, when some of the Little Rock Nine boys were knocked down and were being kicked, the soldiers pulled the attackers off of them.

And once, when somebody was about to throw acid in Gloria Ray’s face, the soldiers took her to the water fountain, because we had been told that somebody was about to throw acid.

We could’ve been blinded. Melba Petillo makes that her claim in her book, Warriors Don’t Cry!

Melba Pattillo [warriors don’t cry]: …I spotted a boy coming directly toward me on a collision course. I tried to move aside, but he moved with me. I didn’t even have time to call for help.

The boy flashed a shiny black object in my face. The sudden pain in my eyes was so intense, so sharp, I thought I’d die. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I couldn’t hear or see or feel anything except that throbbing, searing fire centered in my eyes. I heard myself cry out as I let go of everything to clutch at my face.

Someone grabbed me by my ponytail and pulled me along very fast, so fast I didn’t have time to resist. The pain of being dragged along by my hair was almost as intense as that in my eyes. Hands grabbed at my wrists and pried my hands from my face, compelling me to bend over. Then cold, cold liquid was splashed in my eyes. The water felt so good. My God, thank you! The pain was subsiding.

“Easy, girl, easy. You’re gonna be fine.” It was Danny’s voice [one of the 101st Airborne soldiers], his hands holding my head and dousing my eyes with water.

“I can’t see,” I whispered. “I can’t see.”

“Hold on. You will.”

Over and over again, the cold water flooded my face. Some of it went into my nose and down the front of my blouse. Bit by bit I could see the sleeve of Danny’s uniform, see the water, see the floor beneath. The awful pain in my eyes had turned into a bearable sting. My eyes felt dry, as though there were a film drawn tight over them.

Elizabeth Eckford: I never anticipated that students would be allowed to assault us, without any consequences.

Ernest Green: We were just trying to survive it. There was something violent happening every day. Maybe, three or four times a day.

Sgt. William K. Collins [101st Airborne]: At approximately 1:20 p.m. in the Cafeteria, this white boy was walking with his girlfriend down the aisle in the cafeteria. This colored boy, Terrance Roberts, got up from the table to leave the cafeteria. As he did, the white boy took a deliberate step out of the way to shove his elbow and shoulder into the colored boy.

[So] I arrested him.

Elizabeth Eckford: Mrs. Bates did go to the school and talk to the principal and vice principal, but it didn’t help.

Ernest Green: I was there in the cafeteria when Minnijean Brown dumped the bowl of chili on the kids’ heads, because we shared the same lunch hour. This was right before Christmas, and the 101st troops had withdrawn the individual guards from inside the school.

Daisy Bates: I said, “Well, Minni, what happened?” She said she got up, and she went between the tables as she went to the counter to get the chili, and she was going up between the tables when the boy pushed his chair back to block her. And when she came back, he pushed his chair back. So [Minni] was standing there. She said, “Will you please move your chair in so I can pass?”

So he went, “Oh!” you know, pretending he didn’t know she was there.

So [she] got on down to about the fifth boy that did this, and Minnie was mad. So she had this chili, and when he pushed his chair back, the chili came down on his head.

Ernest Green: Minni didn’t get expelled over the chili; she called one of the girls “white trash,” and that supposedly was the reason, but we kind of figured out that they were trying to figure out how they could get us out. I always thought that there was some collusion between the most avid of the segregationists and some of the school administrators to continue the harassment, which would force us to want to leave and give up. And if they ran us all out then, you know, Central would be back to the way it was.

Elizabeth Eckford: Was I proud of Minni? No, because they had WON! They made little cards that read, “One down and eight to go.”

Daisy Bates: I never had time, actually—things were happening so fast—that I didn’t have time to sit down and go over—what was happening.

Elizabeth Eckford: For a time, we went to Daisy Bates’ house after school and told her about what was happening during the day. But I never told my parents, my mother would not have allowed me to go back to school, so I could not tell my mother.

Daisy Bates: I have a rumpus room. And we would close that door, and we would talk. And Carlotta Walls was tall and lanky, and she’d say: “That bitch; I’m going to hit her; or I’m going to hit him; I don’t care what you say!” After that we’d start laughing.

And finally, she’d calm down and [I’d] make her go back the next day. Because they drew strength; my strength from me and each other.

And next day it would probably be Jefferson Thomas. He was always very quiet. He’d come in; “I’m going to hit him.”

I told him, “Don’t hit anybody….” We were practicing nonviolence.

Elizabeth Eckford: The 101st Airborne were protectional soldiers. The military is very attractive to Southerners, but there’s a disproportionate amount of racism in the military. There was as much prejudice within the military among various military members, whether it was the National Guard or the 101st Airborne—the difference is that the 101st Airborne was a very proud, very well-trained, very professional, and very disciplined outfit. They were very different from the Arkansas National Guard. Very different…

Sgt. James D. Holt [Member of the 101st Airborne]: We left Camp Robinson at 12:45, went to the armory to pick up some more guys and then to the fairgrounds. I am not sure just what time it was…. We just walked around. We were looking at the things on exhibition there…

There was four of us, sir. They said to keep together and we stayed together, until we was going down to the other end, and we got separated somehow, the two of them got separated, and we found then when we went back to the side show.

They were in there… The Green Door. [A girlie show.]

Sgt. James D. Holt Sgt Lawrence E. Kunst [Member of the 101st Airborne]: We met Cpl. Burros and decided we would go down to the Green Door show and we did. Then we watched the show. The MC told us before he started that he would get the show underway because he knew [we] had to go back to the truck at 5:30.

Policeman Nick Hunter Heard [Member of the Little Rock Police Department]: When we went into the sideshow known as the “Green Door,” we walked in the tent and stood at the back for a few moments. A Mr. Hart, connected with the show, informed me that he had some rowdy soldiers sitting on the front bench. At that time, I observed several of the soldiers drinking beer from bottles. I have taken for granted that it was beer; I did not examine the contents. One of the soldiers was observed getting up and going from front to rear in a staggering condition, returning, and sitting down with the soldiers.

Sgt. James D. Holt: [There was] a lot of hollering but no disturbance…

We walked out and was going back down to the trucks. We came out the front door. I called Cpl. Burros and said I would go with him. There was a cop and [he] said, “Wait a minute, you’re under arrest.”

I said, “What for?”

He said for being drunk.

I said I wasn’t drunk.

Sgt. Lawrence E. Kunst: I wouldn’t say he was actually drunk. He had been drinking pretty heavily. He wasn’t saying anything to anybody and was walking under his own control. He had his hat on and his uniform straight and not saying anything.

Policeman Nick Hunter Heard: The group of soldiers came out with the obviously drunk soldier near the rear of the group. As he came by me, I stopped him….

Sgt. James D. Holt: Sgt Kunst said we were going in the trucks and asked if he could take me to the trucks. [The cop] said “No, you’re not taking him anywhere.”

I asked him, “We’re just going to the trucks, going back to camp.”

Policeman Nick Hunter Heard: [I] said, “Partner, you have had too much to drink. I want you to come with me for I am going to turn you over to your buddies.”

Sgt. Lawrence E. Kunst: [I said] we was under the control of Capt. Watkins, but the police officer said we wasn’t running his police force and wouldn’t take us there.

Policeman Nick Hunter Heard: [Holt] pushed me away from him and told me that he wasn’t going anywhere with me. A second soldier stepped up who was not as drunk as the first one and told me he wasn’t going anywhere with me. I told him to stay out of it as he was not involved. He pushed me away. I told the first soldier that he was under arrest and placed my hand on his arm. He pushed me away again, then told me to keep my blank hands off him, and the two men walked toward the exit and proceeded out onto the midway.

Sgt. Louis P. Chagnot [Member of the 101st Airborne]: PFC Sheppard and I were just browsing around the carnival. I notice this sergeant, later identified to me as Sergeant James D. Holt, being led toward the gate by two policemen. There was a policeman on either side of him holding him by his arms. They had gone about 15 yards toward the gate, and I don’t know if the sergeant was groggy or drunk or anything like that, but the sergeant tried to free his arms by shaking the policemen off.

Sgt. James D. Holt: [The cop] grabbed hold of me and started roughing me up and that’s when I hit back…

Sgt. Lawrence E. Kunst: The police officer started to holler. About three police officers were standing a little way off. They came running up. They got out their blackjacks and started beating Sgt. Holt’s head.

Policeman Nick Hunter Heard: I grabbed him by the shirt front and he struck at me, knocking my cap off. I struck at him with my fist and we both went off balance and fell to the ground. When I recovered, Sergeant Holt and Officer Collar were fighting. I proceeded to Sergeant Kunst and got between him and the two men fighting on the ground. At this time, Sergeant Holt was on top of Officer Collar. I grabbed hold of Sergeant Kuntz with my right hand and half shoved, half struck Sergeant Holt. This enabled Officer Collar to get from under Sergeant Holt. Sergeant Kuntz stepped back at this point and offered no further resistance to me.

Sgt. Lawrence E. Kunst: I don’t know where this other police officer came from.

One of the [cops] was still ahold of my arm. The other police officer came up to me and had his glasses pulled up on one side, almost pushed off his face. He stuck a .38 in my ribs and told me if I made a move, he would blow my goddamned guts out. So I didn’t move after that.

Sgt. Louis P. Chagnot: One of the policemen grabbed the sergeant’s left arm and tried to put it up behind his neck in a hammer lock. Then one of the policemen pushed him forward and the sergeant fell.

Sgt Lawrence E. Kunst: They didn’t only beat on him, they kicked him too…

Sgt. Louis P. Chagnot: While the sergeant was on his knees and trying to get up, one of the policemen, I don’t know which one, kicked him at least twice in the stomach. The sergeant then fell face down in the dirt and was out cold. The policemen then handcuffed the sergeant’s hands behind his back while he was laying face down on the ground.

Sgt Lawrence E. Kunst: [The police officer] said we thought we was pretty big and trying to run their city police force.

Nils Grevilius: Many of the police officers in Mississippi and Arkansas were the Ku Klux Klan, but if my father tried to infiltrate the Little Rock Police or any other police department, that would been the end of his infiltration; they probably would have killed him.

Sgt. James D. Holt: …The policeman said I was lucky he didn’t shoot me.

Policeman Nick Hunter Heard: I advised Officer Holmes to go get an ambulance, and I instructed Sergeant Kunst to accompany me to the front gate of the midway, which he did without further resistance and I turned him over to city officers and he was carried to city jail.

Sgt. Lawrence E. Kunst: At the police station they took all my money and everything and put me downstairs in a cell. They put this drunk in there with me. I don’t know whether the man was actually drunk or not, but he pretended to be. He had on an old dirty shirt. But he asked me a lot of questions about what I was doing there, etc., and I ignored him.

Nils Grevilius: The Klan and the White Citizen’s Councils had their own network of informants, and my father knew who they were, so he had to use great caution, because many of them were policemen, firefighters, government officials, that sort of thing.

Sgt. Lawrence E. Kunst: I guess I was there about 30 to40 minutes and the MPs came and got me. They took me over to the armory and I talked to Major Smith and Capt. Thomas. They took me out to Camp Robinson and held me until this morning. That’s about all.

Only thing is that [the cop] kept harping about us running his police force, and we hadn’t said anything about running his police force.

Ernest Green: Did I fear for my life during that year school year? Well, probably, there was a time after the 101st Airborne troops left; I think, right at the beginning of the second semester—in February or so—it just seemed like the physical harassment, intimidation, and the phone calls, and all that—were just unrelenting. So, I had some fear, but, again, my attitude was that I was too far into it, and the more that I decided I was gonna stay, the more it seemed to really drive my opposition crazy—and I was trying to drive them crazy!

Nils Grevilius: My father was finally uncovered as an infiltrator; I’m pretty sure it was at a Klan group in Mississippi, and he was driving a borrowed Cadillac, and he said he had to drive it on a levee at 100 miles an hour to get away from the Klan, and when he returned the car, he didn’t know it was full of bullet holes, but it was. He was never able to tell me how he was discovered by the Klan, but he said he was discovered and had to escape with his life.

Enid Ballatyne: Somebody blew the whistle on Norman, and he was warned that he would be murdered, lynched, if he didn’t get out of town. So, he told me this, he said he threw everything in his car and left immediately.

Nils Grevilius: My father was separated from his first wife at the time, and living with Daisy Bates, and Daisy’s husband, L.C. Bates, was in New York City at the time. And Daisy said, “We’re gonna have to go to New York, otherwise we’re gonna get killed…”

So Daisy and Norman went to New York.

Enid Ballatyne: I thought Daisy was pretty. I admired her bravery. Daisy Bates was charming, good-looking, but also a bully.

Nils Grevilius: Upon arriving in New York, Daisy’s husband, L. C. Bates, promptly confronted her about her relationship with my father. And Daisy had to end the relationship, and my father loved and respected her, and he knew there was no way she going to divorce her husband and marry him.

Enid Ballatyne: Norman became a member of the Printer’s Union, so he took that to The New York Times, as a type-setter. Meanwhile, his wife in Camden, Arkansas, divorced him, which was a huge blow. He felt he couldn’t see his children. He was ashamed, he felt he’d abandoned them. He had three children with his first wife. Her first name was Vesta, and she had no idea; she didn’t know anything about what he was doing with Daisy Bates.

And when she found out, that was the end of Norman’s first marriage.

I met Norman Grevillius in 1960, but I had had no worldly experience, I had grown up in Albany, New York, pretty sheltered. I went to a small Episcopal girls’ school called St. Agnes School for Girls; it is out of business now. So, you know, at the age of 20, and you’re on your own, you think you know it all, and I thought I did, but I didn’t.

I was trying to act as sophisticated as they were. And I couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the tools. I’m just a kid from upstate New York. And to Daisy Bates, I was a joke, and she made it very clear to me, and I was infuriated.

Nils Grevilius: My father was a charming, dynamic, and charismatic guy.

Enid Ballatyne: I mean looking back I realize how unsophisticated I was, but I was not so unsophisticated that I couldn’t pick up what was going on between Norman and Daisy.

I mean, they were clearly attached to one another, even though Norman and I had gotten married. I mean, Daisy laughed at me, and laughed at the whole idea of Norman marrying me. She kept referring to me as a child, and that Norman was so much older, and much more sophisticated, what was he doing hanging around with a child?

Norman was much older, by 10 years. He was 31, I was 21, but I didn’t feel like a child.

And Norman had known Daisy for years, they had a whole history together, and he’d say to her, you know, just kind of congratulatory, “You pulled it off, you did a great job, I’m so proud of you!” But, you know, they didn’t go over the details in front of me.

Daisy Bates: I think the very fact that the kids went in Central; they got in, that [Governor] Faubus had thought they’d never do. And they remained there for the full year. And that opened a lot of doors that had been closed to Negroes, because this was the first time that this kind of revolution had succeeded without a doubt.

Elizabeth Eckford: It felt like our whole race was depending on us after a while. It started out with individual motives and went on to much more.

Enid Ballatyne: Norman and Daisy were physically affectionate in front of me, and I think Norman did that to show off. Norman had a huge ego, and he thought, “Well, she’s my wife, she has to put up with what I hand out.” He was bragging, saying, “You know, this is what I’ve done, this is how important I am.” Norman was very grandiose.

Nils Grevilius: I know my father loved Daisy. But he’d also broken up his own marriage over her, and he was pretty irresponsible doing that, and he had a lot of regrets about that, later.

Enid Ballatyne: Norman only saw Daisy when she was in New York—when she came for fundraisers, or she going to dinners; not being fetteded so much as she would meet with New York Society—upper-class people who would give her checks. And she would attend NAACP fundraisers, things like that.

And every time Daisy came to town, Norman would go to NAACP in New York, and he’d go and see her and stay out all night. I can’t remember how often she came. I mean, to me it was all the time. But I’m sure it wasn’t that much, and I believe she came to New York for fundraising purposes, you know, to raise money.

Daisy Bates: [Did Blacks lose their jobs in Little Rock because of the Little Rock Nine?] Yes, a lot of them did. Mr. Thomas lost his job; that was Jefferson Thomas’ father…

And Carlotta’s father, they moved away. He just couldn’t get a job.

[But they said] “And we’re glad it was done….”

[Now] we call ourselves a service organization. Scholarships, and everything we do, we raise money for a particular purpose, something that’s real important.

Enid Ballatyne: Once, when Daisy Bates was in New York, she came to our apartment and ate. I got from the dinner conversation that L.C. Bates was older than she was, and she spoke of him with very little respect. Daisy in a sense was like, “I wear the pants in the family,” and you know, “I tell everybody what to do.” That kind of thing.

Afterward I said to Norman, something along the lines of, “I want you to stop seeing Daisy. I think that you are involved with her, and the next time you go to an NAACP meeting, I want you to take me!”

And Norman absolutely refused, so he didn’t come out and say it, but she did, because I confronted her on the phone and said to her, “Leave my husband alone!”

And Daisy said, “You’re just a little girl. I don’t know why he married you. Norman and I are gonna do what we’re gonna do.”

Was I shocked, outraged, or hurt? I was more angry.

At both of them.

Elizabeth Eckford: Daisy Bates was just pushy.


Mrs. Daisy Bates died in Little Rock, Arkansas, on November 4, 1999, a week before her 85th birthday.

On October 21, 1998, the Little Rock Nine were awarded the highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, which was presented to them on November 9, 1999 by President Bill Clinton who thanked them for suffering a “volcano of hatred” integrating Central High School.

Attributions: Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Nils Grevillius, Enid Ballatyne copyright 2022 by Legs McNeil. Elizabeth Eckford and Ernest Green interviews were conducted by Sabrina Hawkins and Legs McNeil.

Ernest Green entry #18 by Juan Williams, September 21, 2007, copyright 2007 by NPR [National Public Radio]

Daisy Bates copyright 1976 by the Southern Oral History Program Collection. Interview conducted by Elizabeth Jacoway, October 11, 1976.

Daisy Bates entry #19 from her memoir, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, copyright 1986 by Daisy Bates. Click here to purchase her book: https://www.amazon.com/Long-Shadow-Little-Rock-Memoir/dp/1557288631

Melba Pattillo Beals from her memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry, copyright 1994 by Melba Pattillo. Click here to purchase her book: https://www.amazon.com/Warriors-Dont-Cry-Searing-Integrate/dp/1416948821

101st Airborne members Sgt. William K. Collins, Sgt. James D. Holt, Sgt Lawrence E. Kunst, Sgt. Louis P. Chagnot and Little Rock Police Officer Nick Hunter Heard interrogations copyright 1957 by the 101st Airborne/the National Archives, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD  20740.

Legs McNeil is the guy who named a movement, and then told the true story of how that movement came to be in PLEASE KILL ME; THE UNCENSORED ORAL HISTORY OF PUNK, among several other books.


©2021-2022 by Legs McNeil (Based on the techniques developed by Legs McNeil)

Too long has the Oral History format been thought of as the bastard child of literature; assumed to be a “cut and paste” job for hack writers looking to make an easy buck. In other words, the bottom of the prose barrel. But when the art of the narrative oral history is mastered, it can transform the written spoken word by primary subjects—people who were in the room when the event occurred—into actually experiencing the event being described, with all the human emotion, even more so than the traditional omnipotent narrator.