Nicholas Katzenbach

One of the most recent interviews was conducted with former Attorney General of the United States Nicholas Katzenbach.  Mr, Katzenbach was interviewed to discuss his role in the Justice Department during the period when it was led by Robert Kennedy.  He also discussed issues facing President Kennedy, whose agencies were directed to lawfully enforce court orders.  The interview, in particular, focused on his encounter with then Governor George Wallace as students Vivian Malone and James Hood attempted to register to attend the University of Alabama.




Below is a link to an interview conducted with Nicholas Katzenbach in May, 2010.

David Rapaport and Nick Katzenbach










Despite Federal court orders, Alabama Governor George Wallace refused to allow two African-American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to enroll at the University of Alabama.  Choosing to make political opportunism a kind of kabuki performance, Wallace tried to replace Federal authority with State authority.  Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach was instrumental in ensuring that the Executive Branch would enforce the law.  He confronted Governor Wallace in a memorable exchange captured on film. 

FINDING SOURCES-Nicholas Katzenbach on the Civil Rights Movement

  • What conflicts existed between the Federal Government and the State of Alabama in the period discussed in this interview?
  • What does Mr. Katzenbach say about working with Robert Kennedy?
  • How did a humorous moment with RFK's daughter, Kerry, break the tension that was mounting during Katzenbach's conflict with Governor Wallace?
  • Why was this encounter between the State Department and the Governor historically important?