The Charlotte News

Friday, December 10, 1948


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Chiang Kai-Shek implemented martial law in all of China under Nationalist control, save the western provinces and Formosa, later known as Taiwan. The order extended military control to Shanghai. Nanking and Peiping had been placed under martial law several weeks earlier.

Communist troops were reported trying to cross the Hwai River, last line of defense to Nanking north of the lightly defended Yangtze, at a sparsely defended point 90 miles northwest of the capital. Crossing of the Hwai would cut off Nanking from the new base at Pengpu.

The newspaper Sheng Pao stated that Government troops had withdrawn from Hwaiyin and Hwaian, 110 miles north of Nanking, and had fallen back to Paoying. That would permit the Communists to have a straight route southward to the Yangtze, protected by two large lakes, the Hungtze on the west and the Kaoyu on the east.

The U.S. announced that Marines would be sent to Shanghai, not for participation in the civil war, but for protection of American lives in the case of any emergent situation which might arise.

Winston Churchill urged before Commons settlement with Russia before they achieved production of an atomic bomb. He supported the Labor Government's policy supportive of the East-West split in Germany. He also called for renewal of full diplomatic relations with Franco's Spain once sanction was given by the U.N. He did not believe the people of Spain ought be deemed outcasts because of their leader. He further urged Britain to end its boycott of recognition of Israel.

HUAC this date heard the testimony of the nephew of Whittaker Chambers that the "pumpkin papers" had been first secreted for a decade by Mr. Chambers in the nephew's Brooklyn residence in a dumbwaiter shaft, accessible only via a bathroom window.

Authoritative sources had reported that the documents revealed the secrets of friendly nations. Committee members said that a third papers-passing suspect, in addition to Alger Hiss and Henry Julian Wadleigh, had been located in Appleton, Wisconsin, a former employee of the Bureau of Standards, William Ward Pigman—although his real name may have been Major.

Mrs. Alger Hiss was called to testify before the New York grand jury.

Mr. Chambers, meanwhile, resigned his post as a senior editor for Time, where he had been employed since 1939. He said that the editors had known from the beginning that he was a former Communist, but had not been aware of his espionage work.

In Winston-Salem, N.C., 24,000 pounds of salt mackerel, stored in a city warehouse, had been condemned as unfit for human consumption and buried by order of the City Health Department.

In Washington, the 87-member National Committee on Segregation in the Nation's Capital presented a report saying that segregation was more prevalent in the city than fifty years earlier. The Committee included publishers Marshall Field and Palmer Hoyt, actors Melvyn Douglas and Helen Hayes, labor leaders Walter Reuther and James Carey, Senator-elect Hubert Humphrey and Eleanor Roosevelt. It was chaired by George Shuster, president of Hunter College in New York.

The report said that at the turn of the century, a black person could eat in any restaurant, sleep in any hotel, and attend any theater desired in the city, but now the situation was almost the reverse. The Real Estate Board's code forbade sale of property in a white section to black buyers, resulting in the 200,000 black residents being crammed into the "tumble-down, crescent-shaped 'black belt' within a two-mile radius of the White House". Ghettoes of the mind, body and spirit, the report said, were being built. Black citizens were relegated generally to menial positions in the Government and given relatively lower quality educational, health, and recreational facilities. The superficial basis of judging persons by the color of their skin was the first basis being employed in Washington.

In Tecumseh, Kans., near Topeka, nine men were killed and sixteen injured in a series of explosions at a huge power and light plant the previous day. The cause of the explosions had not been determined.

In San Francisco, a proprietor of a photographic studio left a sign on his door saying that he was out to lunch at the Bellevue, invited customers to join him. After the eleventh person sat down at his table, he returned and removed the sign.

Tom Schlesinger of The News tells of the continuing trial in York, S.C., of the man accused of murdering his boss in early June. A certified public accountant from New York testified for the defense that the victim in the case had juggled his books. The testimony was provided in rebuttal to the State's witness who had testified that the defendant was short by nearly $1,500 in his accounts based on destroying original receipts and pocketing the money from his fuel oil sales on behalf of the company, trying to establish a motive for the murder.

The defense also presented testimony of a civil engineer who said that he examined the bullet holes allegedly made by the murderer at the company warehouse and that he could not get a pencil through one of the holes. The State was claiming that a 9-mm. German Luger belonging to the defendant was the murder weapon.

Many spectators had come to the courthouse expecting to hear the testimony of the defendant's girlfriend, "Boots"—to what end Mr. Schlesinger does not inform. Perhaps Boots was in cahoots with Mr. Corn and Mr. Squash in killing Mr. Beam down in the pumpkin patch, before the headless horseman crossed the bridge and turned the carriage back into a watermelon.

Only the historians will know for sure.

John Daly of The News reports on a visit by Charles Wilson, head of G.E., expressing continued confidence in the fundamentals of America's economy and its continued increase at existing wage levels, despite pessimism.

In Charlotte, the son of the hotel proprietor accused of murdering a man who allegedly showed indications of attacking him on Tuesday afternoon, said that the supposed wife of the victim, who had checked out of another hotel Monday complaining that she had to leave her drunken husband who was beating her and cursing at her, may have been named Jean, not Dot, as the woman on Monday had signed the register. He remembered the victim from September living in his father's hotel with his stated wife, named Jean. Police wanted to find the woman in an effort to assess the proprietor's claim of self-defense.

In Charlotte, a retired 72-year old architect without a family and with $12,000 in his pocket asked to be admitted to the County Home for the Poor as a paying guest and was refused. He said that he was lonely and wanted the company. He eventually accepted the refusal.

The News, celebrating its 60th birthday, tells of Charlotte street names in 1888. There had been a move to rename Trade Street because of the commonplace nature of the name and it being suggestive of a "crossroads town". The street was possessed of handsome houses with nice lawns and deserved a more fitting name. One person favored "Tryon Street" as a replacement, even if it celebrated British Governor Tryon of early North Carolina. "Broad Street" would also be acceptable.

The News began a debate on the subject with its readers, some of whom favored changing the name of the existing Tryon Street rather than Trade. But neither were ever altered as the city's board of aldermen apparently had bigger fish to fry, perhaps in Winston-Salem.

On the editorial page, "The Law on Capital Offenses" justifies the decision of the Solicitor to accept a plea of guilty to accessory before the fact of murder from a sailor who had killed his brother-in-law and wounded his father-in-law, having formed the intent to kill his estranged wife and himself, based on her alleged adultery. The sailor had a clean prior record and a jury might have been inclined to find him guilty only of second degree murder and spare his life thereby, leaving him sentenced to 20 to 30 years. Under the plea, he received a life sentence.

North Carolina was one of six states which did not allow the jury in a capital case to recommend mercy. The piece thinks justice would be better served if such were the case, recommends that the Legislature so amend the law.

"An Antiquated System" tells of the average age of prospective chairmen of committees in the 81st Congress being 74. The President was 64 and Vice-President-elect Barkley was 70. Thus the Government was going to be run by old men.

In the mid-Thirties, leading to the Roosevelt court-packing plan, it was popular to refer to the Supreme Court as "the nine old men".

The facts pointed to the reliance of the Government on seniority rather than ability as a criterion for leadership.

Former Congressman Samuel Pettingill believed that seniority worked to prevent bitter contests for leadership of committees, even if it meant that an occasional nincompoop would rise to power.

It points out that when FDR had advanced Colonel Eisenhower over numerous senior officers to be the commander-in-chief of the European theater of operations, one of the greatest leaders of World War II had emerged.

Abolition of the seniority system would probably impact more Southern Congressmen than members from other regions.

The 1946 Reorganization Act had left the seniority system intact because no one seemed to know what to put into effect in its stead. But the efficiency of Congress, it suggests, required that the new Congress give it immediate attention.

"More Power for the Piedmont" tells of the completion of the Duke Power plant at Cliffside, with a capacity of 210,000 kilowatts, being a major boost to the Piedmont region's economy. Utilization of only 39 percent of the plant's capacity could operate everything electrical in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

The nationwide demand for electricity had been skyrocketing during and since the war, reaching 52 million kilowatts in 1948, up from 31 million in 1940, estimated to reach 100 million by 1960.

The Shelby Chamber of Commerce this night was emphasizing the importance of Cliffside at a banquet at which Charles E. Wilson, chairman of GE, would speak.

You will wish to attend that.

A piece from the New York Times, titled "Those Thurmond Votes", supports the Supreme Court in not ordering the Alabama electors to shift their votes to President Truman from Strom Thurmond. The state had voted for Mr. Thurmond, as President Truman was not on the ballot. The Twelfth Amendment allows electors to cast their votes for whomever they wished. So the Court was right in not ordering a different result.

The piece thinks the electoral college needed overhauling but not by judicial fiat.

We reiterate that the simplest mode of overhaul is for each state to provide for proportional representation, which can be done, state by state, without an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Whether it can be done by legislation in each state or by State constitutional amendment would depend on how an individual state's laws governing electors are composed, by statute or by direction of its constitution.

Drew Pearson finds beneath the seriousness of the Hiss-Chambers case the humorous competition between HUAC and the Justice Department for headlines. HUAC, hoping to forestall efforts in the next Congress to end its existence, was busily now taking advantage of the Chambers revelations to obtain favor with the public. The Justice Department had been content to move more methodically until HUAC entered the race.

After Mr. Chambers revealed, in the defamation suit filed by Mr. Hiss against Mr. Chambers, the existence of the documents allegedly received from Mr. Hiss, the attorney for Mr. Chambers, the son of former President Grover Cleveland, alerted the Justice Department, as did Mr. Hiss's attorney. Justice then began a painstaking investigation.

Mr. Chambers and chief investigator for HUAC Robert Stripling were old friends, and Mr. Chambers was willing to provide to him microfilm not given to the attorneys in the civil suit. In the middle of the night the previous Friday, he had led Mr. Stripling to the pumpkin patch on his Maryland farm, using a flashlight as a guide, and revealed the "pumpkin papers".

Mr. Stripling had made an initial trip to the farm, but Mr. Chambers had then balked without a subpoena, based on advice of his lawyers. Mr. Stripling then returned with a subpoena on the second, revelatory trip. Initially, Mr. Chambers had hidden the microfilm rolls in a squash and had transferred them to the pumpkin before the second visit, forming the big patch of squashes in the shape of an arrow pointing to the pumpkin.

You thought we made that up.

He had done so, perhaps, because the squashes were too squishy for his wishy-washy approach to things generally.

After Congressman Nixon arrived by plane off a ship in Panama where he had been vacationing, HUAC could begin its hearings Tuesday, a day ahead of the New York grand jury hearings. But the Justice Department then stepped up the schedule, to begin the hearings on Monday, December 6.

Not to be preempted, Congressman Nixon, stepping off the airplane, called a press conference which stole the headlines, reading part of the Chambers deposition in the civil suit, accusing Mr. Hiss of transferring to him the documents in question. He also questioned "the apparent lack of interest" of the Justice Department in the matter. Mr. Nixon and Committee member John McDowell then took a train to New York where they were met by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District.

The rest of the story is provided below by Marquis Childs and James Marlow.

After the meeting, Mr. Nixon stated that the Committee was cooperating with the Justice Department and the grand jury.

Marquis Childs also discusses HUAC's recent hearings, tells of Congressman Richard Nixon having flown in from Panama to much publicity to conduct the hearings. While, if true, the allegations being made by Whittaker Chambers were due grave consideration, the manner in which HUAC members were conducting themselves had "cheapened and degraded" the subject matter through "headline hunting", an old habit of the Committee.

Mr. Nixon had gone so far as to read from a deposition of Mr. Chambers from the Alger Hiss defamation suit, accusing Mr. Hiss of passing him documents to be transferred to Soviet operatives in 1937-38, contrary to the rules laid down by the court in that case—albeit, in fairness to Mr. Nixon, a gag rule applicable, strictly speaking, only to the attorneys in the case.

Mr. Nixon then made a highly publicized trip to New York where, upon arrival, he announced that the Committee was going to find out who gave the documents to Mr. Chambers.

The end result was to create hysteria, doubt and uncertainty.

The previous day, the Justice Department had learned that the Committee planned to hold hearings in New York, calling witnesses as they left the grand jury room. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York made an angry demand that such not take place, given its likely infection of the grand jury process, requiring secrecy. The Committee relented.

Questions remained as to why Mr. Chambers had sat on these documents for a decade and why he had not mentioned them during the hearings before HUAC the previous August, when he labeled Mr. Hiss a Communist, but not a spy. Why did it take a $75,000 defamation action by Mr. Hiss to get him to bring these documents forth?

A greater question was why Mr. Chambers had, by his own admission, betrayed his country by stooping to espionage.

The public had a right to an earnest, concerted investigation of these questions. He points again to the exemplary Canadian spy probe, which took place behind closed doors before a royal commission, which then released a thorough report. HUAC stood as an example of how not to conduct such an investigation.

James Marlow also looks at the Chambers-Hiss case and wonders why neither the Justice Department investigation via the New York grand jury, ongoing for 18 months prior to the present episode, nor the August hearings before HUAC had managed to pry from Mr. Chambers's seemingly willing lips evidence of the documents which he now produced as "the pumpkin papers", claimed to have been secreted for a decade at his nephew's home in Brooklyn before recently retrieving them in response to a discovery request in the civil suit.

Mr. Marlow reiterates the basic proceedings which had transpired to date in the case and concludes that the public had a right to better protection against spy networks than ostensibly the facts revealed. The methods of ferreting out the spy network were equally flawed.

A letter writer, who says that he had been an alcoholic, comments on the December 6 letter from a minister regarding alcoholism, says alcoholism was a disease of the spirit and soul, not the body as the Clover minister had conceded. The cause, he says, was sin.

He thus proposes Jesus as the only remedy.

A letter writer likewise comments on the same letter. She says that alcoholic beverages were made from ingredients supplied by God, wholesome for use, not abuse. Prohibition was not the answer. It reminded her of the Irishman who said: "To get a pig into Tipperary, start driving in the opposite direction."

We don't know exactly what that means, but it may summarize well enough what we have been doing here for the past 17 years.

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