The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

The Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

between the two men at the time. "I felt an obligation to let you know,"
Farmer said to the president. "I don't think they plan to do anything
destructive ... some kooks ... I have no control over them." "I know
that," Johnson replied. "I appreciate so much your calling me and I appre-
ciate your friendship, your help and your responsibility."59
As the 1964 civil rights bill moved inexorably through the House and
Senate, Farmer had particular reason to be concerned about
Mississippi's well-documented racism. On Sunday, June 21, he received
word that three CORE personnel had disappeared in Philadelphia in
Neshoba County, Mississippi, during "Freedom Summer," a CORE-
SNCC project registering voters in the South. Twenty-four-year-old
Michael Schwerner was a member of the CORE staff and twenty-year-old
Andrew Goodman was a CORE volunteer, as was twenty-two-year-old
native Mississippian James Chaney. Goodman and Schwerner, both from
New York, were white; Chaney was black. Their Sunday night disappear-
ance caused Farmer to telephone Johnson to report the news. For the
first time since Johnson took office, Farmer said he was not able to reach
the president immediately. White House telephone logs of June 21 indi-
cate he tried several times to get through to the president but could
not.60 Farmer did speak by telephone with Lee White, also African
American, who was co-counsel to the president. White relayed the mes-
sage. The president's reluctance to talk to a man on whom he depended
for passage of the bill is an illustration of Johnson's willingness to put
foremost the politics of getting the bill passed. Johnson told White, "You
ought to quit dealing with these murder cases because you make me call
him [Farmer] back. I asked Hoover two weeks ago, after talking to the
attorney general, to fill up Mississippi with FBI men and infiltrate every-
thing he could.... I'm shoving as much as I know how.... I didn't ask
'em [the CORE workers] to go in, and I can't control the actions of
Mississippi people ... .Tell him we're doing everything we know to do
with the FBI," Johnson continued. "If he needs me to talk to him after
you've talked to him, you'll get me to call him [Farmer]. I want to be
awfully careful what I say to this fellow."61
While the FBI and CORE searched for the three civil rights workers,
Farmer continued to support Johnson's efforts to pass the civil rights
bill. "It is possible for the president, from his position of moral authority
as the leader of the American people, to effect some changes-to set the
"SJohnson to Farmer, Apr. 21, 1964, telephone conversation, 3091, 4/21/64, 6:10 P.M.,
Johnson to Farmer WH64o4.11 , PNO 3 (LBJ Library).
" Telephone logs for June 21, 1964 (LBJ Library), as well as author's interviews with Farmer.
61 Michael Beschloss, Takng Command: The Johnson Whzte House, I963-z964 (New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1997), 425.

2002

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 September 2, 2014.