Former adviser to President Nixon, Leonard Garment, passed away earlier this week at the age of 89.
After assisting with Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, Garment joined the White House Staff in 1969, serving as special consultant to the President on Domestic Policy.

One of the most prominent domestic issues facing the Nixon administration was the need to safely desegregate elementary and secondary schools in the southern states, the majority of which continued a de facto practice the dual school system of separate all white and all black schools.

Garment was one of President Nixon’s closest confidants on the contentious issue, assisting in drafting presidential speeches and statements on desegregation as well as providing counsel on legislation concerning aid to assist school districts in the integration process. (See Garment’s full memo on School Aide click here: Garment Memo on Emergency School Aide)

A little over a month prior to President Nixon’s statement on March 24, 1970, regarding the desegregation of elementary and secondary schools, Garment submitted his own suggestions on what exactly the speech should entail.

Garment Memo to President Nixon on School Desegregation

Garment’s influence on the final draft of the official statement can be seen quite clearly when recommendations addressed in the memo and President Nixon’s own words spoken in the speech are examined side by side.


“An essential goal must be to avoid prematurely polarizing the executive and the judiciary…”

President Nixon’s Statement:

“As a Nation, we should create a climate in which these questions, when they finally are decided by the Court, can be decided in a framework most conducive to reasonable and realistic interpretation…We should not provoke any court to push a constitutional principle beyond its ultimate limit in order to compel compliance with the court’s essential, but more modest, mandate. The best way to avoid this is for the Nation to demonstrate that it does intend to carry out the full spirit of the constitutional mandate…It will be the purpose of this administration to carry out the law fully and fairly.”


“I am in complete agreement that it is essential to reestablish a sensible framework for the school desegregation process…our strategy should be to put forward a carefully crafted and reasonable statement of the problem, of the human dilemmas created by judicial abstractions, of the need for new approaches in formulating plans based on the lessons of 16 years trial and error experience.”

President Nixon’s Statement:

“We need to press forward with innovative new ways of overcoming the effects of racial isolation and of making up for environmental deficiencies among the poor…We shall seek to develop and test a varied set of approaches to the problems associated with de facto segregation, North as well as South.”


“I believe the speech should be the president’s. The subject is of surpassing constitutional, social and political importance…careful work is needed to articulate the principles clearly and with sympathy to the different principles and interests involved.”

President Nixon’s Statement:

“As we strive to make our schools places of equal educational opportunity, we should keep our eye fixed on this goal: to achieve a set of conditions in which neither the laws nor the institutions supported by law any longer draw an invidious distinction based on race; and going one step further, we must seek to repair the human damage wrought by past segregation. We must give the minority child that equal place at the starting line that his parents were denied–and the pride, the dignity, the self-respect, that are the birthright of a free American.

We can do no less and still be true to our conscience and our Constitution. I believe that most Americans today, whether North or South, accept this as their duty.

The issues involved in desegregating schools, reducing racial isolation, and providing equal educational opportunity are not simple. Many of the questions are profound, the factors complex, the legitimate considerations in conflict, and the answers elusive. Our continuing search, therefore, must be not for the perfect set of answers, but for the most nearly perfect and the most constructive.”