In Passing: Daisy Bates

Civil Rights Leader Daisy Bates Dies at 84

Daisy Bates, a civil rights activist who led the fight in 1957 to admit nine black students to Little Rock's Central High School, died Nov. 4. She was 84.

As the president of the Arkansas NAACP, Bates played an instrumental role in the litigation that prompted Washington to use federal troops in the desegregation of Central High. In the 1954 case Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional.

Beginning with the 1954 decision, Mrs. Bates fought for desegregation by nurturing and caring for black students seeking admission in white schools. Her novel The Long Shadow of Little Rock depicted the turmoil she went through during the '57 Central crisis, including having her house bombed and crosses burned in her yard. In The Arkansas State Press, a local newspaper published by her and her husband L.C. Bates, she frequently wrote about her attempts at registering black students in white schools. The newspaper was financially ruined after the confrontation in 1957.

Mrs. Bates was a key figure in looking after the nine children who where eventually accepted to enroll at Central. She and her husband escorted the children to Central on the first day school, where they were turned away by bayonet-wielding National Guardsmen. Gov. Orvall Faubus ordered the troops to use force if necessary to stop the childern from attending, saying, "Blood would run in the streets" if they were allowed to enter Central High.

The confrontation sparked then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower to call in federal troops to enforce the 1954 Supreme Court descision.

Mrs. Bates is survived by four brothers: Emmitt Gatson of Detroit, Kucas and Lowell Gatson of Spearville, La., and Leo Gatson of Strong, Ark. On Nov. 8, her body lie in state on the second-floor rotunda of the Arkansas Capitol, only steps away from where in 1957 Gov. Faubus organized the famous confrontation.
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