Lester Garfield Maddox, a devout segregationist, owned and operated a restaurant called the “Pickrick Cafeteria,” that was located at 891 Hemphill Avenue near the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, Georiga. Maddox and his customers supported segregation and opposed the federal government's intervention in such policies. The Pickrick was open only to white customers and refused those who were black or those who were considered integrationists. The restaurant featured a wide selection of free segregationist literature and the “Make a Wish for Segregation” wishing well. . In 1964, he refused to serve three black students and chased them out with a gun while his white customers used axe handles. He contended that both his business and property were being threatened. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required integration of public facilities, passed, he sold the restaurant rather than integrate it. Many of his fellow citizens praised him for doing this and later elected him Governor of Georgia.
Tea Party leader Rand Paul seems to think that Maddox was right. He gave the following answer during an interview in Louisville with the Courier-Journal's Editorial Board in April.
REPORTER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains and I`m all in favor of that.
PAUL: You had to ask me the "but." I don't like the idea of telling private business owners. I abhor racism. I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I think there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that's mostly what the Civil Rights Act was about, to my mind.
Paul had this to say on the Rachel Maddow show last night.
MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has a right to say that 'We don't serve black people?'
PAUL: I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race. But do discriminate. But I think what's important in this debate is not getting into any specific "gotcha" on this, but asking the question 'What about freedom of speech?' Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent. Should we limit racists from speaking. I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things that freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn't mean we approve of it..
MADDOW: Howabout desegregating lunch counters?
PAUL: Well what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says 'well no, we don't want to have guns in here' the bar says 'we don't want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other.' Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion...
MADDOW: Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen's lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership. This is not a hypothetical Dr. Paul.
So, let’s see. Paul thinks there should be no discrimination by public agencies or organizations receiving public funding but telling a business owner like Lester Maddox that he has to serve blacks is going a bit too far.
So, Tea Party folks. Is your guy Paul right about that? Did the Civil Rights Act go too far?