If there’s one thing that conservative stalwart Pat Boone and civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson can agree on, it’s race relations.
During his 60 years in the spotlight, Mr. Boone, 81, has remained true to his faith, his family values and his conservative ideology, as he told a gathering at The Heritage Foundation on Wednesday. He also unintentionally helped close the racial gap with his R&B covers, in the opinion of Mr. Jackson, as white audiences of the time began listening to music by black artists.
“Pat Boone did more for race relations through his music than any other performer,” Mr. Jackson said.
Mr. Boone said he was stunned by such praise from Mr. Jackson.
“[Mr. Jackson] said, here’s this white kid from Nashville in the South, and he’s not only doing the music that white folks knew nothing about and didn’t think they wanted to know anything about, but he likes the original performers — Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino — and making the white folks and their parents say, ‘Maybe this is OK after all.’”
Early in his career, Mr. Boone stood against racial segregation. When asked to tour South Africa, he turned down the gig to take a stand against apartheid policy.
“I [couldn’t] be part of that,” Mr. Boone said. “I just want people who want to come see me sing to be allowed [to do so].”
The government of South Africa suspended its policy of apartheid for Mr. Boone’s tour in 1960 to allow people to see his shows. Mr. Boone even received death threats for having mixed audiences at his concerts.
“I laugh about it now,” he told The Heritage Foundation audience, “but in Durban we did get threats — written warnings — that if I appeared onstage in this big arena with a mixed audience, which was unprecedented, that I would not leave the stage alive.
“I didn’t usually move around stage very much then, but in this case I found reasons to move,” Mr. Boone said with a laugh.
Although the concert audiences were segregated, Mr. Boone described a time while singing “A Wonderful Time Up There” when black audience members climbed the railing to move toward the stage.
“The white audience just stood up and clapped right along with everyone else, and it ended peacefully,” he said. “The next day, as we left Salisbury, the paper read, ‘First day in many months, no reported violence.’”
Mr. Boone is the original American Idol, having won two national singing contests and becoming the youngest television star in the nation’s history at 22. He graduated from Columbia University, married and had four daughters.
His initial drive was to become a schoolteacher, he said. As his music career took off, he turned down endorsements from cigarette and booze companies in light of his staunch religious beliefs, and managed to avoid temptations throughout his 60 years in the spotlight.
Mr. Boone openly discussed his conservative views, claiming that the nation needs to re-establish itself in the constitutional values for which the Founding Fathers fought. In fact, he titled his speech “Call for a New American Revolution: A Manifesto.”
“Our valiant ship of state is listing, springing dangerous leaks in vital places — threatening, after only  years, to sink into the abyss of history,” Mr. Boone said. “We want our first revolution under God.”
There is an “enemy from within,” he said, referring to “powerful forces steadily binding us all around,” including ignorance, apathy, materialism, greed, immorality and godlessness.
“Now, because of the inroads that have been made already against most of the values we hold dear, I call for a new revolution — a legitimate citizen uprising to try to re-create the kind of country that we had in the beginning,” Mr. Boone said.
“Citizens, I believe we need a new Boston Tea Party, only this time let’s not waste perfectly good tea. Let’s heave a bunch of black robes into the harbor with some of the vigilante judges in them. It won’t hurt the robes, and the judges can swim out and re-enroll in Constitution 101,” Mr. Boone said with a laugh.