Biographer and journalist John Farrell spoke to a room of faculty and students today in the Gamache-Koger Theater in preparation for his appearance at the Flagler College Forum on Government and Public Policy lecture series.
Jan. 21, 2014
Pop culture has always drawn former President Richard Nixon as a caricature of pure evil be it from mentions on “Star Trek” to his animated head in glass jar on “The Simpsons.” But according to biographer and journalist John A. Farrell, this depiction is just not the case.
Farrell spoke to a room of faculty and students today in the Gamache-Koger Theater in preparation for his appearance tonight as part of the Flagler College Forum on Government and Public Policy lecture series.
“Nixon took office when many of our more important civil rights laws were taking place,” said Farrell, who is currently working on his latest book, “Richard Nixon: An American Tragedy.” “Many others get credit but it was Nixon who gave life to the Civil Rights Act and presided over how these laws were enforced.”
Of course, Farrell explains, he didn’t do it on his own. The Supreme Court, who had had enough of integration being put off, as well as many civil rights groups and a liberal antagonistic press leaned him on to take action.
But Farrell pointed out that the President was no stranger to civil rights.
“His namesakes were both active in civil rights so he was very sympathetic to those issues. The Milhous side had been part of the Underground Railroad,” said Farrell. “On the Nixon side, his great-grandfather had fought and dies at the Battle of Gettysburg.”
The title of Farrell’s lecture, “Watch What We Do, Not What We Say,” is a quote from former Attorney General John Mitchell who used the remarks to explain the president’s stance on civil rights issues.
“In the public arena, Nixon offered winks and nods to southern whites, convincing them that he was on their side and winning their votes in his divisive ‘southern strategy,’” said Farrell. “But inside the federal bureaucracies, the work of the great civil rights laws went on, and the integration of southern schools was quietly, but relentlessly, accomplished on his watch.”
Farrell also serves as a contributing editor and correspondent to National Journal magazine and The Atlantic after a prize-winning career in newspapers, most notably at The Denver Post and The Boston Globe.
His other books include “Clarence Darrow: Attorney For The Damned ” and “Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century.”
Farrell graduated from the University of Virginia in 1975 and has covered Congress, the Supreme Court and every American presidential campaign since 1980. He wrote a national political column for The Denver Post and commentary for the Thomas Jefferson Street blog for US News, and was a founding correspondent at GlobalPost. He has also served as Washington bureau chief for The Denver Post, and the MediaNews chain.
In 1996, Farrell received the Gerald R. Ford prize and the Aldo Beckman Award from the White House Correspondents Association for coverage of the presidency, the first time anyone had captured both awards in a single year.
Farrell’s lecture will take place at Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, 14 Granada St., at 7 p.m. Forums are free and open to the public, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign language interpreters are provided.
Call (904) 819-6400 for more information.