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Conversation between Robert F. Kennedy, Governor Ross Barnett and Lt. Governor Paul Johnson
Wednesday, Sept. 27, 1962 at 2:50 P.M.

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy: Hello.

Governor Barnett: Hello General, how are you?

RFK: Fine, Governor, how are you?

RB: I need a little sleep.

RFK: I just talked to Mr. Watkins and we were going to make this effort at 5 o'clock this afternoon your time.

RB: They will be here about 5 o'clock our time?

RFK: Is that satisfactory?

RB: Yes, sir. That's all right.

RFK: I will send the Marshals that I have available up there in Memphis and there will be about 25 or 30 of them and they will come with Mr. Meredith and they will arrive at wherever the gate is and I will have the head Marshal pull a gun and I will have the rest of them have their hands on their guns and their holsters. And then as I understand it, they will go through and get in and you will make sure that law and order is preserved and that no harm will be done to Mr. McShane and Mr. Meredith.

RB: Oh, yes.

RFK: And then I think you will see that's accomplished?

RB: Yes. Hold just a minute, will you? Hello, General, I was under the impression that they were all going to pull their guns. This could be very embarrassing. We got a big crowd here and if one pulls his gun and we all turn it would be very embarrassing. Isn't it possible to have them all pull their guns?

RFK: I hate to have them all draw their guns, as I think it could create harsh feelings. Isn't it sufficient if I have one man draw his gun and the others keep their hands on their holsters?

RB: They must all draw their guns. Then they should point their guns at us and then we could step aside. This could be very embarrassing down here for us. It is necessary.

RFK: If they all pull their guns--is that all?

RB: I will have them put their sticks down before that happens. There will be no shooting.

RFK: There will be no problem?

RB: Everyone pull your guns and point them and we will stand aside and you will go right through.

RFK: You will make sure not the Marshals but the State Police will preserve law and order?

RB: There won't be any violence.

RFK: Then we can get the other people out as soon as possible.

RB: One second. General, we expect them all to draw their guns. Lt. Governor Johnson is sitting here with me. Will you talk to him?

Lt. Governor Paul Johnson: General -

RFK: How are you?

PJ: It is absolutely necessary that they all draw their guns. There won't be any shooting.

RFK: Can. you speak a little louder?

PJ: We are telling them to lay their clubs aside and to leave their guns in their automobiles. But it is necessary to have all your people draw their guns, not just one. And anyone who shoots at all will leave. We appreciate what they have done so far and go back home and that there would be no shooting under any circumstances.

RFK: The one problem -- when we come down there representing the Federal Government and draw guns, it's going to disturb your people, understandably -

PJ: As much as it would bother them if they just drew one gun and 350 highway patrolmen - -

RFK: If they all draw their guns and they go into the university, thereafter, law and order will be preserved by your people?

PJ: We are going to attempt to preserve it.

RFK: They won't leave, will they? What I want to be sure is that it wouldn't be left up to our people.

PJ: We can possibly leave many people up here today. We will do that.

RFK: As I understand from Mr. Watkins and from the Governor, law and order will be preserved by the local people. I don't anticipate a great problem but I don't want an angry crowd descending on Oxford this evening. You'll be sure?

PJ: Yes.

RFK: I don't care how you do it just as long as you take that responsibility. So I've got assurances from the Governor that no harm will come to Mr. Meredith and the Marshals?

PJ: Not as far as we're concerned.

RFK: We will do anything to preserve law and order.

PJ: We will do everything to preserve law and order at all times.

RFK: As long as I have the Governor's assurance and yours.

PJ: To the best of our ability. I believe that we have sufficient men to take care of it.

RFK: Let me talk to the Governor again.

RB: General?

RFK: Governor, that's all I wanted. That's the best thing in the long run.

RB: There wont' be any violence. We will control them if there are a few there. The other day- there were several thousand at the state office building and we didn't have a bit of trouble.

RFK: Just as long as it is left at the local level. They will be there at 5 o'clock and draw their guns.

RB: We are going to step aside if they do that.

RFK: If there is any problem, you will call me?

RB: I will General.