After school ended in the spring of 1972, I returned to Washington to work again for Marian Wright Edelman. Bill took a full-time job with the McGovern campaign.
My primary assignment in the summer of 1972 was to gather information about the Nixon Administration's failure to enforce the legal ban on granting tax-exempt status to the private segregated academies that had sprung up in the South to avoid integrated public schools. The academies claimed they were created simply in response to parents deciding to form private schools; it had nothing to do with court-ordered integration of the public schools. I went to Atlanta to meet with the lawyers and civil rights workers who were compiling evidence that, on the contrary, proved the academies were created solely for the purpose of avoiding the constitutional mandate of the Supreme Court's decisions, starting with Brown v. Board of Education.
As part of my investigation, I drove to Dothan, Alabama, for the purpose of posing as a young mother moving to the area, interested in enrolling my child in the local all-white academy. I stopped first in the "black" section of Dothan to have lunch with our local contacts. Over burgers and sweetened iced tea, they told me that many of the school districts in the area were draining local public schools of books and equipment to send to the so-called academies, which they viewed as the alternatives for white students. At a local private school, I had an appointment to meet an administrator to discuss enrolling my imaginary child. I went through my role-playing, asking questions about the curriculum and makeup of the student body. I was assured that no black students would be enrolled.
While I was challenging discrimination practices, Bill was in Miami working to ensure McGovern's nomination at the Democratic Convention on July 13, 1972. After the convention, Gary Hart asked Bill to go to Texas, along with Taylor Branch, then a young writer, to join a local Houston lawyer, Julius Glickman, in a triumvirate to run the McGovern campaign in that state. Bill asked me if I wanted to go, too. I did, but only if I had a specific job. Anne Wexler, a veteran campaigner I knew from Connecticut, then working on behalf of McGovern, offered me a job heading up the voter registration drive in Texas. I jumped at the chance. Although Bill was the only person I knew when I got to Austin, Texas, in August, I quickly made some of the best friends I've ever had.
In 1972, Austin was still a sleepy town compared to Dallas or Houston. It was, to be sure, the state capital and the home of the University of Texas, but it seemed more typical of the past than of the future of Texas. It would have been hard to predict the explosive growth of high-technology companies that transformed the little city in the Texas hill country into a Sunbelt boom town.
The McGovern campaign set up shop in an empty storefront on West Sixth Street. I had a small cubicle that I rarely occupied because I spent most of my time in the field, trying to register the newly enfranchised eighteen- to twenty-one-year-olds and driving around South Texas working to register black and Hispanic voters. Roy Spence, Garry Mauro and Judy Trabulsi, all of whom stayed active in Texas politics and played a part in the 1992 presidential campaign, became the backbone of our young voter outreach efforts. They thought they could register every eighteen-year-old in Texas, which would, in their minds, turn the electoral tide McGovern's way. They also liked to have fun and introduced me to Scholz's Beer Garden, where we would sit outside at the end of eighteen- or twenty-hour days trying to figure out what else we could do in the face of ever-worsening poll numbers.
Hispanics in South Texas were, understandably, wary of a blond girl from Chicago who didn't speak a word of Spanish. I found allies at the universities, among organized labor, and lawyers with the South Texas Rural Legal Aid Association. One of my guides along the border was Franklin Garcia, a battle-hardened union organizer, who took me places I could never have gone alone and vouched for me to Mexican Americans who worried I might be from the immigration service or some other government agency. One night when Bill was in Brownsville meeting with Democratic Party leaders, Franklin and I picked him up and drove over the border to Matamoros, where Franklin promised a meal we'd never forget. We found ourselves in a local dive that had a decent mariachi band and served the best -- the only -- barbecued cabrito, or goat head, I had ever eaten. Bill fell asleep at the table while I ate as fast as digestion and politeness permitted.
Copyright © 2003 by Hillary Rodham Clinton. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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