Letter in opposition to the Civil Rights Bill, Haverhill 1966 (2)

Letter to Congressan Bates opposing the Civil Rights Bill and response from the Congressman

This document represents one of several materials taken from the papers of Representative William Henry Bates at Salem State College.  Bates was Essex County’s Representative in the United States House of Representatives from 1950-1969.  The letters reflect Essex County residents’ opinions on the Fair Housing portion of proposed Civil Rights legislation.  The Fair Housing provisions of various Civil Rights bills prohibited racial discrimination in the sale or rental of all homes.  Many Essex County residents saw this provision as a violation of their property rights.  Homeowners that lived in two- or three-family homes were particularly outraged.  The letters span from President Johnson’s first proposal of Fair Housing legislation in 1966 until 1968 when the bill was finally passed.  The tone of the letters becomes much more sympathetic after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  

Click here for a PDF of the transcription:

June 10, 1966

Representative William Bates:
House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

Dear Representative Bates:

We would like to voice our opposition to Bill H.R. 14765.

We firmly believe in equal opportunity to obtain housing for all but feel that this bill, while attempting to protect the renters freedoms is actually depriving the property owner of his freedom of choice in contracting for sale or rental of property.

The person who is renting or buying property has the freedom of choice as to whether he wants to buy or rent and we feel the owner should have the same freedom in choosing who he will sell or rent to.

This property is private property and one of our basic freedoms is the freedom of choice on how to use or dispose of our private property.

We hope you will vote against H.R. 14765 and help protect the freedom of use of private property.

Thank you very much.

Judiciary HR 14765
June 14, 1966

Haverhill, Massachusetts 01830


I appreciate very much your letter of June 10th in which you express your opposition to that petition of H.R. 14765 dealing with real estate.

I believe that any extension of the civil rights law, in this regard, should be in accord with Massachusetts laws. In the Massachusetts laws (Massachusetts Annotated Laws, Chapter 151 B, Sections 1-10 (1951) as amended) as in the laws of numerous other states, there is this same exception to the Fair Housing Acts. This exception is also in the FHA rules and regulations as Secretary Weaver testified recently before the House Judiciary Committee.

This matter is presently pending in the Committee and I understand that it will undertake consideration of such an amendment, which I would be very happy to support.

With kindest regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

William H. Bates


Letter to Congressman Bates, June 10, 1966. William Henry Bates Papers, 1941-1973. North Shore Political Archives 98-02, Folder: “Legislative Files-Judiciary-Civil Rights Act (1966) Box 3-4. Salem State College Archives.