Four Marshallites' Roles in the Passage of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964
GAIL K BEIL*
JOURNALIST BILL MOYERS FILMED A NINETY-MINUTE DOCUMENTARY IN
1982 that he called "Marshall Texas/Marshall Texas," which in 1984
became an Emmy Award-winning story of his hometown. Moyers chose
the double title to make a point. As were most southern towns in his
youth, Marshall existed as two separate communities, one black and one
white. A major milestone in the transformation of Marshall's two com-
munities into one was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although Moyers did not disclose it in his documentary, he was one of
four Marshallites who had a great deal to do with this and other civil
rights legislation generally recognized as President Lyndon B. Johnson's
greatest legacy. A second person with Marshall roots, civil rights leader
James Farmer, was one of the subjects of "Marshall Texas/Marshall
Texas." The other two Marshallites were First Lady Lady Bird Johnson
and the Johnsons' cook, Zephyr Wright. This article does not attempt to
document the formulation and passage of the civil rights bill first pro-
posed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, but rather to focus on the
contributions four Marshallites made to it, and on the town that nur-
tured and molded them, and played a much greater role than its citi-
zens, black or white, would ever have believed.
Farmer and Moyers each had a major part in the passage of the Civil
Rights Act. Farmer dramatically demonstrated the need for change with
non-violent civil disobedience of the South's rigid segregation laws.
* Gail K Bell, a journalist and historian who has lived in Marshall since 1971, was a
researcher for "Marshall Texas/Marshall Texas" and became friends with both Moyers and
James Farmer Jr. at the time of its filming. In the years since, she talked with Farmer on a
monthly basis until his death on July 9, 1999. She also wrote the preface for the Texas Christian
University Press's 1999 reprint of Farmer's Lay Bare the Heart. Conversations with Moyers are
less frequent, but the two visit often. For that reason, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the
conversation with either man about a subject often discussed. Moyers was in the audience when
an oral version of this paper was presented in September 2ooo at the East Texas Historical
Association and verified its contents.
SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. CVI, No. 1i
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed October 2, 2014.