The Nixon Administration on Busing: Twisted Words of Support

This 1972 Wall Street Journal article calls out President Nixon for not backing the constitutional amendment that would ban busing students for school integration that he had previously supported while he claims to listen and be open to other solutions.

Authored by Brandon K. Rouzaud

In the not-so-distant past, racial segregation was not only acceptable but was required, and efforts to dismantle it finally began in 1954 with the Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Rodgers and Bullock 1972). While some cities peacefully desegregated their facilities, the southern states continued their archaic aggressions towards social progress through creating school legislation to slow the process (1972). 

Over the next 10 years, the various congresses and presidents showed little to no action towards advancing desegregation, and it wasn’t until congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forced government departments to report the status of desegregation to congress and the president, that there was some movement towards equality (Wise 1974). While a Supreme Court ruling and a congressional act should be enough to force progress, the Civil Rights Act of 1969 had to be passed a few years later to make it so people could not be discriminated against for any individual reason (Wise 1974). However, both the 1964 and 1969 acts took too long to be officially enforced laws and were still met with local government resistance (Wise 1974). 

During the presidency of Richard M. Nixon people hoped for change, but as his campaigning had shown, Nixon was no more ready to champion desegregation than the Southern states were; the Nixon administration immediately backed off desegregation efforts while sticking to his excuse of “free choice” for schools (Edelman 1973, 39). Those supporting desegregation did not believe the administration’s advocacy for equality from the very beginning of the new presidency, and while some believed that the administration had to leave anti-busing and desegregation, others saw through the facade of the “forked tongued” administration (Kraft 1970, 524). 

The opposition’s argument against busing for integration was based on assumptions and excuses, as a senator from West Virginia gave his speech stating that “Negro students” did not desire busing across neighborhoods and the taxpayers were not “voluntarily” paying for busing programs, as if the senators from the opposition had ever asked the opinions of the people they spoke for (Byrd 1971, 7-8). It became clear that these politicians would draw on the constitution in their favor while denying any interpretation that disagreed with them, even when it was clear what the intent should be. 

Shortly after the article displayed above called out Nixon for not taking a stance, the president reached out to Americans on television. Nixon’s speech clearly showed his opinion on the constitutional amendment banning bussing for school integration while twisting his words to hide his “separate but equal” mindset: “I am opposed to busing for the purpose of achieving racial balance in our schools.…The act I propose would concentrate Federal School aid funds on the areas of greatest need” (Nixon 1972, 354). Very early on, the Nixon administration revealed its twisted method of support with how they intended to push funding from busing to schools in order to keep the neighborhoods as they were and conveniently avoid integration.


Byrd, Robert. 1971. “School Busing and Forced Integration: A Dissenting Opinion.” Vital Speeches of the Day 38, no. 1: 7-11.

Edelman, Marian. 1973. “Southern School Desegregation, 1954-1973: A Judicial-Political Overview.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 407: 32–42.

Kraft, Ivor. 1970. “1970: The Year of the Big Sellout on Integration.” The Phi Delta Kappan 51, no. 10: 523–26.

Nixon, Richard M. 1972. “Education And Busing: Neighborhood School.” Vital Speeches of the Day 38, no. 12: 354-5.

Rodgers, Harrell and Charles Bullock. 1972. “School Desegregation: A Policy Analysis.” Journal of Black Studies 2, no. 4: 409–37.

Wise, Michael. 1974. “School Desegregation: The Court, the Congress, and the President.” The School Review 82, no. 2: 159–82.