Choices People Made: Public Servants

"Our function is to do everything we can to protect life and property and preserve the public peace."
--Gene Smith, Assistant Chief of Police

POLICE OFFICERS AND FIRE FIGHTERS

When Governor Faubus withdrew the Arkansas National Guard from Central High, Woodrow Mann, the mayor of Little Rock, asked the fire chief to use fire trucks and high-pressure hoses to control the mob. The chief refused. Mann then called the chief of police for help. He told the mayor he was ill and could not get involved. Next Mann turned to Eugene Smith, the assistant police chief. He said he would personally head the police force the next morning.


Gene Smith was a veteran police officer who had come up through the ranks. When asked his views on school integration, he replied, "That’s out of my province. Our function is to do everything we can to protect life and property and preserve the public peace. And that’s what we do every day."


On September 23, 1957, Smith and his policemen battled over a thousand angry white citizens, as they attacked both black and white reporters and photographers from around the world, broke windows and doors, and threatened the "Little Rock Nine."


Even though Smith was only doing his job, he and his family were subjected to harassment and abuse. So were other police officers who tried to enforce the law.

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