On April 16, after a long period of negotiations with leading conservative segregationists of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, several of whom backed down from their opposition to his plans to integrate the parochial schools, Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel excommunicated three defiant racists. These three insisted the archbishop was a heretic and Communist seeking to undermine God’s wish that the races be separate and black people be subject to the oppression of the white majority.
The following is a photograph and caption from Life Magazine showing one of the excommunicated conservatives engaging in a dramatic gesture, calling on the archbishop to repent of his heresy.
“Look up to heaven,” pleaded the New Orleans woman kneeling before the aged archbishop, “and admit you know it’s God’s law to segregate.” Mrs. B. J. Gaillot Jr. had broken through a group of ladies to confront the Most Reverend Joseph Francis Rummel on the lawn of his residence. With two other arch foes of integration, Leander H. Perez Sr. and Jackson G. Ricau, she had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Archbishop Rummel for hindering his order to desegregate all New Orleans parochial schools and for inciting other Catholics to disobedience. Perez, political boss of two nearby Louisiana parishes (counties), hinted darkly of “Communistic influences” within the Catholic hierarchy, but the 85-year-old archbishop, unimpressed by this nonsense or by Mrs. Gaillot’s theology, remained firm. A day later Mrs. Gaillot’s husband asked the archbishop to excommunicate him too.
From the April 27, 1962 issue of Life Magazine