James Jackson Kilpatrick; the evolution of a Southern conservative, 1955-1965

Corley, Robert G, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Younger, Edward, University of Virginia
Dew, Charles B., University of Virginia

James J. Kilpatrick was not really born in the South; he was born in Oklahoma City. Yet in some way which cannot be easily defined, he matured a Southerner in manner and mind. He came to Richmond in 1941 at the age of twenty, and within the space of a decade he had become the editor of the News Leader, an intimate of Harry Byrd and other leading Virginia politicians, and a staunch supporter of the revolt against post-World War II liberalism which was gaining ground in the South after 1945. Kilpatrick's attitudes--both editorially and personally--were so attuned to, and compatible with, the prevailing political and cultural values in Virginia that one who did not know his personal history could easily have believed him to have descendants stretching back to the settling of Jamestown.

Kilpatrick gained prominence throughout the South and the nation following the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation ruling when he recovered John C. Calhoun's interposition doctrine from historical obscurity and launched a vigorous campaign for its adoption as a means by which the Southern states might stay, if not nullify, the Court's decision. As a consequence, he became a recognized intellectual leader and political strategist for "massive resistance" both in Virginia and in the South at large. After massive resistance faltered and then failed, Kilpatrick gradually came to accept the end of legal segregation but continued to believe in the inferiority of the Negro race and in the separation of the races on an informal basis. His opposition to integration, however, was no longer absolute. Integration could come, he felt, only after the Negro had proved himself worthy of being accepted as a social equal to the white man. By 1965 he came to view integration at least as a viable possibility, however far in the future, and not as a cultural disaster which might presage the collapse of American civilization.

In the South between the years 1955 and 1965, it was a difficult intellectual step from massive resister to passive apologist; nevertheless Kilpatrick took it. It is the purpose of this study to describe and account for the response of this representative Southern conservative to the end of segregation after 1954.

MA (Master of Arts)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:34:32.

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