Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

David P. Neff Papers, 1954-1992 | Special Collections and University Archives

By Sonia Yaco

Collection Overview

Title: David P. Neff Papers, 1954-1992

ID: 00/MG 101

Primary Creator: Neff, David P.

Extent: 1.8 Linear Feet. More info below.


The collection consists of two series:

Series I: Defender Activities

Series II: Neff Research Materials

Date Acquired: 10/03/2008

Subjects: Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, Race relations--History--20th century, Racism--United States, School integration--Massive resistance movement, School integration--Virginia--History--20th Century, Segregation--Law and legislation--Virginia, Segregation in education--Virginia--History--20th century, States' rights (American politics), United States. Supreme Court, Virginia--Politics and government--1951-

Languages: English


Dr. Neff has been a professor of History at Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach Campus since 1994 as well as an adjunct professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk and Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.  The collection contains documents used by Dr. Neff during the development of his master’s thesis, “The Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, 1954-1967.”

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The collection contains documents used by Dr. Neff during the development of his master’s thesis, “The Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, 1954-1967.”  The collection is separated into two series, Series I, includes primary source documents related to Defender activities, such as copies of newspaper articles, group literature, group achievements, organizational charts, correspondence, information on the group’s activities, organizational newsletters along with bound copies of newspaper articles from The Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, Portsmouth Star, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Virginia Integration Magazine and The Defender’s News and Views.  Series II Neff Research Materials, includes personal correspondence generated by Dr. Neff during his research.

Collection Historical Note

Dr. David Pembroke Neff, Ph.D., is a native of Norfolk, Virginia and the grandson of Clarence Amos Neff, a prominent Norfolk architect who was instrumental in developing Norfolk’s urban architecture during the first half of the twentieth century.  Dr. Neff has been a professor of History at Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach Campus since 1994 as well as an adjunct professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk and Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.  Dr. Neff earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Florida in 1984 and two Master of Arts degrees; one in United States History from Old Dominion University in 1992, and another in Liberal Studies, with emphasis in Literature and History from Georgetown University in 1998.  Dr. Neff earned a doctoral degree in 2004 in Higher Education (History Education) from George Mason University.

While a graduate student in history at Old Dominion University, Dr. Neff submitted his master’s thesis titled “The Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, 1954-1967.”  The subject documents the rise and eventual fall of a Virginia segregationist organization, The Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, or the Defenders as they were commonly known.  The group formed in October 1954 in Petersburg, Virginia in reaction to the landmark Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in which the court ruled that racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional.  This ruling, which also mandated the desegregation of all public schools throughout the United States, was met with widespread disbelief, anger, and opposition throughout the southern United States; particularly in the states that had comprised the Confederacy during the United States Civil War nearly a century earlier.  The founding membership consisted primarily of prominent business and civic leaders who adamantly opposed the court’s decision on the belief the ruling infringed upon the rights of the states and threatened the continued existence of a southern culture established upon the principle of racial separation.

The Defenders formed with the full intention of resisting the court’s ruling in order to conserve Virginia’s racially segregated society.  While the Defenders pursued the same objective as other segregationist organizations active in the Deep South such as the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen’s Councils, the Defenders chose to distance themselves from these organizations by rejecting the violence and lawlessness these groups encouraged.  The Defenders believed that violence was an unacceptable solution that would only draw unfavorable attention to their efforts and was therefore counterproductive to their end goal of preserving the racially segregated status quo.  Instead, the Defenders adopted a policy that advocated what they believed was a reasoned defense of segregation by trying to influence the judicial, legislative, and electoral process.  Defender groups quickly formed across Virginia which by September 1955 had grown to twenty-eight chapters with nearly 12,000 active members statewide.  The Defenders aggressively, and in some instances quite successfully, lobbied the Virginia legislature to adopt measures sympathetic to their cause.  The Defenders played a vital role towards influencing anti-desegregation legislation passed by the Virginia legislature in 1956 known as the “Stanley Plan” or more commonly, the “Massive Resistance” laws.  This legislation required the governor to close and withhold funding from any school system in Virginia that was either forced to desegregate by federal court order or who chose to do so voluntarily.

Massive Resistance was put to the test in the fall of 1958 when federal courts ordered the desegregation of public schools in Warren and Arlington counties, as well as in the cities of Charlottesville and Norfolk.  In response, Governor J. Lindsay Almond immediately ordered schools in these localities closed; an action, which affected thousands of public school students, both black and white.  The Defenders publicly endorsed the governor’s actions and worked closely with numerous other statewide organizations to oppose school desegregation.  On January 19, 1959, both the Federal District Court in Norfolk and the Virginia State Court of Appeals each issued rulings stating the Massive Resistance laws violated the United States and Virginia Constitution, and ordered the immediate reopening of the affected schools.  In response, the Defenders continued their defiant rhetoric opposing integration, but the end of Massive Resistance signaled the beginning of the end for the Defenders.  After the January 1959 court ruling, support for the organization soon began to erode as Virginians simply grew tired of the controversy that had engulfed the state for nearly five years.  The Defenders tried one last effort to reestablish their influence during the 1959 statewide general election by trying to replace moderate Democrats in the Virginia legislature with Defender endorsed candidates; an effort, which failed to achieve its desired outcome.  By the mid-1960s, active membership in the Defenders had dwindled to just a few thousand and was rapidly sinking with each passing year, so much that by 1967 the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties was officially dissolved.

Subject/Index Terms

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka
Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties
Race relations--History--20th century
Racism--United States
School integration--Massive resistance movement
School integration--Virginia--History--20th Century
Segregation--Law and legislation--Virginia
Segregation in education--Virginia--History--20th century
States' rights (American politics)
United States. Supreme Court
Virginia--Politics and government--1951-

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 Hollinger Document Case, 1 Oversized Box

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Dr. David P. Neff

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession #A2008-23

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], David P. Neff Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Defender Activities],
[Series II: Neff Research Materials],

Series I: Defender Activities
Folder 1: Ed. Atkinson (South Carolina Rights League) to Abbitt [correspondence], 29 December 1954
Folder 2: The Congressional Record – Watkins Abbitt, 9 June 1955
Folder 3: VA Sponsors (Defenders) for List of Names, 10 August 1955
Folder 4: The Virginia Record – The Defenders, August 1955
Folder 5: No Surrender in Farmville by Haldore Hanson, The New Republic, 10 October 1955
Folder 6: A Southern View of Segregation by Garland Porter, 1955?
Folder 7: The Defenders – A Plan for Virginia, 1955
Folder 8: Wall-Abbitt Correspondence, June-July 1956
Folder 9: J. Segar Gravatt Speech, 23 July 1956
Folder 10: Florida Federation for Const Gov. Newsletter, September 1956
Folder 11: E.H. Ramsey (Fla. Fed) to Crawford, 21 January 1957
Folder 12: Letter: Carter to Abbitt, 22 Feb 1957
Folder 13: Abbitt to J. Barrye Wall – Correspondence, 20 March 1957
Folder 14: Defenders Declaration of Convictions, 22 March 1957
Folder 15: Defenders Editorial, Petersburg, 26 March 1957
Folder 16: Letter: J. Bell Williams to Crawford, 28 March 1957
Folder 17: Letter: Abbitt to Crawford, 16 April 1957
Folder 18: Correspondence: Abbitt and Maxey, April-June 1957
Folder 19: Abbitt Postcard Re: Brown, 9 May 1957
Folder 20: Correspondence: Abbitt and Rathbone (Arlington), 10-11 June 1957
Folder 21: Defenders Resolution, 12 July 1957
Folder 22: Correspondence: Abbitt and Crawford, July-December 1957
Folder 23: Correspondence: Mahone (Charlottesville) and Abbitt, 15 August 1957
Folder 24: Defenders Growth Information, 30 September 1957
Folder 25: Correspondence Abbitt and Middleton (Charlottesville), 22-28 October 1957
Folder 26: Introduction of Judge Old by J.J. Kilpatrick at the Richmond Lions Club, 30 October 1957
Folder 27: Rathbone Telegram to CH. Justice; Earl Warren, 15 Jan 1958
Folder 28: Almond to Lance Phillips (Defenders-Hanover) Letter, 18 Jan 1958
Folder 29: Letter: Jack Rathbone (Arlington-Defenders) to Lindsay Almond, 22 Jan 1958
Folder 30: Note: Charles Carter (Arlington) to Almond, 29 Jan 1958
Folder 31: Letter: Crawford to J. Bell Williams (D.C.), 6 February 1958
Folder 32: Letter: Crawford to Robeson, 7 February 1958
Folder 33: Letter: Abbott to Tuck, 11 Feb 1958
Folder 34: Letter: Abbitt to Francis Joyner (Windsor), 11 February 1958
Folder 35: Defenders Education Resolutions, 18 February 1958
Folder 36: Letter Tuck to Abbitt, 18 Feb 1958
Folder 37: Telegram Abbitt to Crawford, 18 February 1958
Folder 38: Crawford/Almond Correspondence, 24 Feb 1958
Folder 39: Correspondence: W.C. Old and Abbitt, 1958
Folder 40: Letter: Abbitt to Crawford, 13 March 1958
Folder 41: Letter: Crawford to Luter (Smithfield), 28 April 1958
Folder 42: Letter: Abbitt to Rathbone, 12 June 1958
Folder 43: Paulett to Almond: Letter – Scottville Resolution, 14 August 1958
Folder 44: Letter Dawson to Abbitt (Scottville), 20 August 1958
Folder 45: Correspondence: Dawson (Scottville) to Almond, 20 August 1958
Folder 46: Letter: Abbitt to Dawson (Scottville), 21 August 1958
Folder 47: Defenders Resolution, 31 August 1958
Folder 48: The Integration Hot Spots (News Week), 1 September 1958
Folder 49: Letter: Almond to Crawford, 9 September 1958
Folder 50: Letter: Rufus Coldwell to Crawford (Fairfax), 19 September 1958
Folder 51: The Great Drama Opens (Newsweek), 22 September 1958
Folder 52: Letter: Muriel Coley (Norfolk) to Almond, 29 September 1958
Folder 53: Integrated Schools or None (Newsweek), 29 September 1958
Folder 54: Letter: Dabney Waring (Dunnsville) to Crawford, 3 October 1958
Folder 55: Letter: Rathbone (Arlington) to Abbitt, 4 October 1958
Folder 56: Correspondence: Almond and Reynolds (Arlington), 7 November 1958
Folder 57: Integration: Bitter Reminder (Newsweek), 1 December 1958
Folder 58: Correspondence: Abbitt and Dick Morphew (Citizens Council) Re: Television Appearances, 1958
Folder 59: Defender Chapters Update-Norfolk, Farmville, Charlottesville, Arlington, 1958
Folder 60: Norfolk School Closing, 1958
Folder 61: Letter Rufus Coldwell to Charles Weeks (Fairfax), 6 January 1959
Folder 62: No Surrender in VA., V.N.W.R, 30 January 1959
Folder 63: North Carolina Defenders Information, 18 February 1959
Folder 64: Telegram Blomberg (Danville) to Almond Post, January 19, 1959
Folder 65: Where the South Goes Next on Mixed Schools, U.S. News and World Report, 13 February 1959
Folder 66: Correspondence Alex Hudgins (Richmond) and Abbitt, 7 January 1959
Folder 67: Crawford Re: Putnam Letter, 22 January 1959
Folder 68: Letters: Abbitt to Crawford, 22-23 January 1959
Folder 69: Integration: Riddled Fortress VA (Newsweek), 2 February 1959
Folder 70: Has Federal Power won in VA? V.N.W.R, 6 February 1959
Folder 71: Integration: Virginia’s Turn (Newsweek), 9 February 1959
Folder 72: Correspondence Rathbone – Almond, 10 February 1959
Folder 73: Arlington Defenders, 20 February 1959
Folder 74: Crawford Memo to Local Defenders Chapters, 24 February 1959
Folder 75: Crawford News Release, 24 February 1959
Folder 76: Warren County, VA. U.S. News and World Report, 29 February 1959
Folder 77: Letter: Frank Burgess to Abbitt (Lynchburg), 31 March 1959
Folder 78: Correspondence: Mrs. Hertzler (Denbigh) to Almond, 6 April 1959
Folder 79: Private segregated schools, U.S. News and World Report, 6 April 1959
Folder 80: Correspondence: Abbitt and Crawford, April 1959-November 1959
Folder 81: Letter: Crawford to Richards (Toano), 6 May 1959
Folder 82: Kilkave Laundry Letter Head, 13 June 1959
Folder 83: Letter to Abbitt, Boatwright, Dillon, Story from Crawford, 31 July 1959
Folder 84: Integration’s Next Fight (Newsweek), 24 August 1959
Folder 85: Letters Crawford-Willam Tuck, 30 October 1959
Folder 86: Correspondence: Almond and Hoge (Blacksburg), 4-7 December 1959
Folder 87: Telegram, C.H. Carter (Danville) to Almond, 31 March 1959
Folder 88: Denny to Almond Letters, 6 January 1959, 31 December 1958, 2 Jan 1959
Folder 89: Desegregation in Norfolk by Luther J. Carter – South Atlantic Quarterly, 1959
Folder 90: Criticism of Governor Almond, 1959
Folder 91: Defenders Executive Minutes, 18 April 1960
Folder 92: Correspondence: Abbitt and Crawford, April-June 1960
Folder 93: Letter Crawford to Raden (Arlington), 27 May 1960
Folder 94: Letter to Abbitt to Coleburn (Blackstone), 31 May 1960
Folder 95: Citizen Magazine, December 1963
Folder 96: Defender Newsletter, 1960
Folder 97: Defender’s Recommendations, 1960
Folder 98: Ben Muse and Bill Tuck (snowstorm)
Folder 99: Defender’s Board and Charter
Folder 100: Defenders: Certificate of Incorporation
Folder 101: Defenders: Churches and Communism
Folder 102: Defenders: How They Organized
Folder 103: Defenders: Photos
Folder 104: Defenders: Photos (Various)
Folder 105: Defenders Radio Broadcast: Scripts
Folder 106: Defenders VEA Exhibit
Folder 107: Early Defenders Annual Report/Organization
Folder 108: Farmville Notes by Amy Murrell
Folder 109: Herbert Ravenel Sass, Article
Folder 110: If the South won’t budge (Newsweek)
Folder 111: Huck Finn and Louis Armstrong: Remarks
Folder 112: List of Defenders Articles in Virginia Pilot, 1954-67
Folder 113: Integration Hot Spot Arlington? Article
Folder 114: John Kasper/Ace Carter, Outside Segregationists-Tennessee, A1A
Folder 115: Kiss of Death
Folder 116: Kiss of Death Poster-National Citizen’s Protection Association
Folder 117: Message: Crawford, Date Unknown
Folder 118: Negro Boycott/Economic Information
Folder 119: Presbyterians on Race Relations
Folder 120: Random Massive Resistance Bibliography
Folder 121: Resolution – Florida Federalism for Constitutional Government
Folder 122: Senator Harry F. Byrd
Folder 123: Virginia League-William Stephenson
Folder 124: Virginia’s Peaceable Honorable Stand by V. Dabney
Folder 125: White Citizens Council General Information
Folder 126: David Neff, Master’s Thesis, “The Defenders (1954-60),” The Virginian-Pilot
Folder 127: David Neff Master’s Thesis, “The Defenders (1960-1967),” The Virginian-Pilot
Folder 128: Virginia Integration Magazine and Journal Articles, 1950s
Folder 129: David Neff, Master’s Thesis “The Defenders (1954-1967),” The Ledger-Dispatch/Star
Folder 130: The Defender’s News and Views, (1955-59)
Folder 131: Richmond Times Dispatch “Defenders”, (1954-1960s)
Series II: Neff Research Materials
Folder 1: Letter, Hal Bonney, Jr., 1990
Folder 2: DPN letter to Abbitt, 1990
Folder 3: Permission to use Byrd Papers – UVA
Folder 4: Interview Notes with Dr. Marvin Scheldg
Folder 5: Address Book

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Defender Activities],
[Series II: Neff Research Materials],

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