The Charlotte News
Sunday, at June 2, 1940
Site Ed. Note: "Addenda" is follow-up to"Life's Price", appearing May 15, 1940.
It Opens With Promise Of Breaking All Records
At Wilmington, N.C., a woman called the cops and wanted them to come out and stop the frogs which were croaking in nearby ponds.
At Shelby, N.C., there was a rumor that Hitler had already landed at Wilmington and that Nazi bombers were busily at work on Charlotte.
At Chicago, Ill., the cops found 27 shoes in an alley, hastened to break the glad news to a shoe dealer who had reported 27 shoes stolen. But no soap--the 27 stolen were for the right foot. All those in the alley were for the left.
In Berlin, Germany, Dr. Goebbels explained that the impact of the war had knocked the "thin veneer of civilization off France" and that the French were now treating captured Nazis as though they were murderers or cannibals. An unnamed number of cannibals listening to their radios in the New Hebrides, New Guinea, and other points promptly expired in fits of chagrin.
In Charlotte, N.C., we slept under a blanket as the ominous month of June, 1940, came in through the night. And all over the eastern United States other people did the same thing.
It was not the funniest silly season of record, perhaps, but there did not seem to be much doubt that it was going to be the silliest.
Coroner Is One Avenue Of Escape for Murderers
For a vivid understanding of what happens to murderers in this most murderous of cities in the USA, we refer the little reader and all his family to the illustration on Page 11-A of this issue of The News.
An astonishing thing to note about what happens to these killers is the high proportion of them turned loose by coroner's juries: ten out of thirty-six cases that had been handled by that one-man agency between last July and April 30.
Strangely enough, it does not appear to the lay mind that the statute governing the office of coroner intends him to exercise any such final authority as he exercises here. To the contrary, the statute seems to say that his primary responsibility is to investigate any death attended by circumstances of the least suspicious nature, and to call to the attention of the courts and the police authorities any deaths other than those from natural causes or those in which no blame may be attached.
This does not mean, however, not if we understand the written word, that the coroner is to hold a hearing and himself decide that the person who is clearly to blame is blameless. The Mecklenburg coroner frequently exculpates killers on the grounds of self-defense.
Thereby he clearly exceeds the authority vested in him. All he is supposed to do is to determine that the dead person came to his death at the hands of some other person. He is not supposed to add: "but the coroner, taking counsel with his stock jury, decided that on the whole the killing was excusable."
Several Factors Which Go To Explain Our Murders
There are other factors and causes which go to explain our murder rate.
We have pointed out before that so much of the energy and time of the Charlotte police must, out of deference to the prevailing community sentiment, go to such important activities as running down smalltime gamblers and pint-peddlers that there simply isn't enough left to give adequate attention to small matters like preventing murder and apprehending those who commit it (seven of the 36 criminals referred to above were not caught).
There is still another cause which undoubtedly figures in the equation. It is common knowledge that most of the murders in the city are committed by Negroes on Negroes. Yet Winston-Salem, a city with a total population only a little smaller than our own, has a greater Negro population than Charlotte. And still has only about a third as many murders annually as Charlotte.
It is to be observed also that its murder cases are tried by the same North Carolina judges who sit in Charlotte. But it doesn't have the same solicitor, coroner, etc.
But there is still the other factor to which we have referred. It is this: Winston is the home of the great Reynolds tobacco plants and storage warehouses, and a very large proportion of the Negroes who live there are employed in these plants and warehouses. That is, they are employed the year round at wages which are considerably above the general level of wages paid Negroes in North Carolina.
Few Charlotte Negroes, outside the skilled servant class, have any such security and permanence of an income adequate to minimum living standards. And many of them exist from hand to mouth the year 'round, often going for long periods without employment or income. The result is plainly visible when you contrast the Negro populations of the city. Charlotte has plenty of sober-sided solid Negro citizens, but it also has its full share of the wild and reckless sort. In Winston-Salem the sober, solid citizen gives tone to the whole Negro community.
Lax justice, the waste of police energy on picayune matters, bad economic conditions--all these undoubtedly go far to explain just how we got to be and remain one of the world's most murderous towns.
Where That Ubiquitous Phrase Got Started
Everybody knows where "Trojan Horse" came from, and though he never looked into Homer or Vergil. Ten years the hosts of Agamemnon had besieged Troy without avail, until cunning Odysseus thought up the idea of the wooden horse and so introduced the Greeks inside the gates.
But how did "Fifth Column" arise? This way.
In the early days of the Spanish Civil War (so-called), General Emilio Mola was in charge of four columns of troops which were moving on Madrid from four directions. A reporter asked him about the disposition of his forces. He answered:
"We have four columns on the march outside the city. In the city we have a fifth column."
Hence, "Fifth Column" as meaning any subversive and undercover movement, and especially a group of active Nazi sympathizers and collaborators in any country Hitler has marked out for his victim.
Lady or Tiger?
We Have to Admit to Perplexity in Bridges Case
The case of Harry Bridges, West Coast alien (and radical) labor leader, poses a number of close questions which Congress is going to have to answer to its own satisfaction. Already the House Rules Committee has given the right-of-way to a bill directing the Secretary of Labor to take Bridges into custody and deport him to Australia, his native land.
Not, mind you, to deport all aliens who may have entered this country illegally, but to deport Harry Bridges, the radical labor leader, one man out of thousands. It is indisputably sumptuary legislation, legislation against the person rather than by rule to be applied against a class.
We do not wholly like it, and yet... Harry Bridges by his own admission has allowed the Communist Party, which takes its funds and orders from Moscow, to collaborate with him in stirring up labor strife. But he maintains that he uses the Communist Party to further his own labor ends, and that he does not permit it to use him as a tool of revolution.
He is an undesirable person, by our standards, yet he is the chosen leader of recognized trade unions. No credible evidence has been adduced to show that he is conspiring against this country--indeed, Congress has not yet indicated that it would deport him for any other reason than general mistrust.
We do not wholly like it, and we do not believe that Bridges is a whit more dangerous than such tolerated sowers of discontent as David Lasser and Herbert Benjamin of the Workers (WPA) Alliance. And yet, if he and they are dangerous at all, we have to concede that it would be folly to allow them the constitutional guarantees which were originally intended to preserve, not to threaten, our freedom.
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