The Charlotte News

Thursday, July 15, 1948


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the President accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in a speech to the convention the previous night, laying into the Republican Congress and promising to call a special session, which he then promptly did for July 26, "Turnip Day" in Missouri. He said that he would seek anti-inflation and housing legislation, as well as the civil rights legislation from the special session. He also might seek the Federal aid to education and the broadened Social Security coverage which he had previously put forward as well. He referred in the acceptance speech to the Republican "poppycock" of promises and said that he intended to call the Republican Congress to task, to meet their own platform pledges forthwith. He again referred to "that worst 80th Congress", echoing his label attached to it during his June cross-country train tour.

The President had been nominated on the first ballot by a vote of 947.5 to 263 for Senator Richard Russell of Georgia and a half vote for Paul McNutt. Twenty-three delegates abstained. Following a 38-minute demonstration for the President's nomination, the convention unanimously confirmed Senator Alben Barkley as the vice-presidential nominee.

A group of Alabama and Mississippi delegates had already walked out of the convention for their opposition to the civil rights plank.


The Republicans responded to the call for a special session with cries of "cheap politics". Senator Vandenberg termed it a "last hysterical gasp of an expiring Administration". Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska said that even if the Republicans passed good legislation, the Democrats of the Senate would filibuster it to death on the floor. Democrats differed on whether any good would come from a special session. Senator Walter George of Georgia found it an unwise move, allowing the Republicans to erase some of their record of inaction.

Governor Fielding Wright of Mississippi called for all those who believed in states' rights and opposed the President and things for which he stood to meet in Birmingham the following Saturday to nominate their own candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency. Governor Bob Laney of Arkansas said that he would probably attend the meeting.

But what appeared somewhat impromptu had been in the works since February 2 when the President enunciated his civil rights program.

Senator Clyde Hoey of North Carolina said that he would not leave the Democratic Party though he did not like the adopted platform, and would not attend the Birmingham meet. He said that he would fight for reclamation of the party from within. He believed the platform plank on civil rights to be "a great mistake", adopted to appeal to a "radical group", "an effort to outdo Henry Wallace in rampant radicalism". He had voted for Senator Russell during the balloting because he was his kind of Democrat. Senator Russell also stated that he would not attend the Birmingham convention.

They got some ham down 'ere. Don't you want some good ham?

The United States again reaffirmed its defiance of the Russian blockade of Berlin, as consultations began with Britain and France as to what the next move would be to try to break the blockade after the Russians had rejected the joint three-nation diplomatic protest. The Russians refused to lift the blockade until after discussions were held on the future of Germany. The joint protest had set lifting the blockade as a condition precedent to initiation of any talks. Meanwhile, Russians in Berlin threatened to interfere with the airlift of food and supplies to the isolated city, an action, if undertaken, which the British said would lead to military conflict.

In Rome, striking workers were going back to work after the assassination attempt on Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti the previous day, reported improving from his three bullet wounds inflicted by a Sicilian law student. Six persons were killed and hundreds injured in rioting in response to the attempt. Some demonstrations continued, but on a lesser scale than the previous day. Demonstrators blamed the Government of Alcide de Gasperi for the attack.

General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, died this date at age 87 in Washington. He had been ill with heart disease since February, 1938, at which time he had nearly died. He had lived since that time at Walter Reed Army Hospital, in recent years staying in a wing specially built for him. Flags were lowered to half-staff throughout Washington. He would be buried at Arlington after his body would lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda the following Sunday and Monday. He was the highest ranking military officer, as General of the Armies, a position only previously held by General George Washington. He had warned as early as April, 1937 that the U.S. might become embroiled in a second war in Europe and that the country should be prepared to mobilize a half million men forthwith. He had kept up with World War II from his bedside in the hospital.

On the editorial page, "'No Where Else to Go'" finds it difficult to discern whether the Democrats were busy during the week knocking themselves out or, Q.E.D., finding their raison d'être in the party's indestructibility.

The states' rights issue could not be resolved and would likely continue until there was a Southern bolt in November. The Southern delegates failed in their effort to revive the two-thirds majority rule for the nominations, which had traditionally given the South power. They had failed to place the states' rights plank in the platform and failed again when the platform commended President Truman for his civil rights program. The plank favoring outright repeal of Taft-Hartley was also a rebuke to conservative Southerners who had voted for the law.

So, given that four-fold defeat, it was not surprising that the Dixiecrats were bolting the party. Some observers predicted that it would be so pervasive as to rend the party hopelessly into factions. But it finds it miraculous that the disparate groups within the party had managed for so long to coalesce.

If the traditional party was now dead, the two-party system would be on the way out in favor of a multiplicity of splintered parties. But with that prospect over the horizon, it predicts, unity of a sort would likely prevail by election day.

"Russia's Diversion in Berlin" notes Winston Churchill's statement that the Berlin crisis made no sense in light of the ongoing rift between Russia and Yugoslavia except in terms of either the Politburo having lost its collective mind or that the membership was working at cross-purposes with one another. The editorial rejects both possibilities, saying that it instead only suggested that either the rift between Yugoslavia and Russia was not real or that the Soviets did not intend to push the Berlin blockade to a military confrontation with the West.

Russia understood that to try to force evacuation by the West would precipitate a war, and they were not prepared for war. It believes that ultimately Russia was only therefore seeking to extend the blockade and the crisis for as long as possible to preoccupy the West while it prepared for new political disturbances on other fronts.

"If It Rains on St. Swithin's Day" tells of the English clergymen having decided about a thousand years earlier to move the remains of St. Swithin from Winchester Churchyard into Winchester Cathedral. The transfer having been scheduled for July 15, a downpour had begun that day which then lasted continuously for forty days.

Thus, according to legend, if it rained on July 15, it would endure for about six weeks.

St. Swithin was an English prelate of the ninth century, assigned by King Egbert to tutor Prince Ethelwulf and then Prince Albert. He was next appointed Bishop of Winchester. A century after his death, he was canonized.

Other water-related saints were St. Medard of France, who also triggered rain if it were raining on June 8, and Saints Gervais and Protais, also of France, who set off rain on June 9. In Flanders, St. Godelieve caused rain and Germany had three rainy day saints.

While it had rained this date, it concludes, the weatherman was not predicting any long-term trend.

A piece from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, titled "The Stronger Weaker Sex", finds that since the eligible women voters outnumbered men by 1.7 million and since they tended to be more conscientious in staying informed about public affairs, it was safe to assume that the electorate in 1948 would be well informed. Since women suffrage had begun in the election of 1920, women had voted on personal or partisan beliefs, similar to their husbands or siblings, without any discernible separate pattern.

The parties would make appeals as always to women voters, but if there were no war or significant increase in the cost of living, there would be no ground for special appeal. Most of the women in politics were reserved and down to business. It concludes, however, that the women voters would not appreciably impact the outcome of the election.

Bob Sain of The News discusses family reunions in mid-summer, always occurring for him on Sundays at a country church picnic in the Western part of the state. There was afterward preaching and singing, with two or three visiting quartets hired out of Asheville. Each quartet had a tall, thin bass singer with a protruding Adam's apple, a short, fat tenor, and two rather ordinary additional members. Then came games of tag and the like among the children, while the men went to the cars for conversation and refreshments and the women spread the tables with food. The eating continued for hours. Then everyone stretched out in the shade until the late afternoon session of the church. Afterward, the women and children cleared the tables and the men dozed. Farewells were then had at length, until the long, sleepy trip home commenced.

James Marlow, in Philadelphia, tells of the primary issue at the convention being civil rights, with the Southerners battling to water down the plank. The Democrats had sought to create an effective plank which nevertheless would not anger the Southerners any more than they already were, and yet worded in a way that would appear not to let down the President on his program while attracting simultaneously the Northern liberal and black vote.

He finds the plank not much different from that on civil rights in the 1944 platform, save the specific endorsement of the President's program, and somewhat less specific that the Republican plank. He provides the 1948 and the 1944 Democratic civil rights planks, as well as the 1948 Republican plank, for comparison. The Republican plank specifically favored abolition of the poll tax and segregation in the armed forces, both, however, being parts of the President's civil rights program which the Democratic plank expressly endorsed.

The 1944 Republican plank had specifically favored an anti-lynching law, an anti-poll tax law and creation of the FEPC, each an element of the President's February 2 program. But despite the Democrats being in control of both houses of Congress from 1945-47 and the Republicans from 1947 to the present, none of the civil rights legislation had been passed.

Drew Pearson, in Philadelphia, provides some disjointed observations on the convention, finds its intra-party rancor and disunity to signal the end of the Roosevelt era, as nearly the entire Roosevelt family at one time or another had come out against the President. Meanwhile, the Democratic leaders still extolled FDR's virtues in their speeches, though he had been gone from the scene for over three years.

Had James Byrnes been nominated for the vice-presidency in 1944, he ventures, the country would have been much better served. Mr. Byrnes, however, had not cleared things with Sydney Hillman, head of the CIO PAC, and did not attract the nomination. Now, Mr. Hillman was dead and Mr. Byrnes was preoccupied on his farm in South Carolina.

The leaders of labor were, by and large, sitting out the convention. They had not even backed Senator Claude Pepper who had been the best friend CIO ever had.

Everyone was enthusiastic about Senator Alben Barkley except the President, who did not relish having a 70-year old running mate, upsetting Mr. Barkley when he heard of this objection. Senator Joseph O'Mahoney of Wyoming, who had been a favorite for the second spot coming into the convention, was opposed by Bronx boss Ed Flynn and DNC chairman Howard McGrath, both of whom believed that if the ticket lost then it would be difficult to get a Catholic nominated on the national ticket again for years to come.

The blame for tipping off "Mr. T" that Justice Douglas wanted to run on the ticket went to Tommy Corcoran and Clark Clifford, prompting the President to call on Justice Douglas, who turned down the invitation. No one had really wanted to run with Mr. T.

Chip Robert of Atlanta, former DNC treasurer, sent a snake to his snake-charmer wife via airplane from Singapore, but the serpent arrived nearly dead. He said that air travel was the best way to tame a dangerous snake to death.

Money raising for the Democrats would be tough during the campaign. Mrs. Perle Mesta of Oklahoma, oil heiress, was being counted on for a good chunk of the money, as were Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and Ambassador Averell Harriman, the latter expected between them to kick in half a million dollars.

The young, vigorous New Dealers were now getting fat and tired, were no longer fighting for causes as in the days of FDR. No longer were people coming to Washington to work for their country for nearly nothing. Yet, the Republicans would never be able to repeal the New Deal laws, the SEC, the REA, Social Security, old-age pensions, soil conversation, farm price supports, all a product of the days of fighting for the underdog. The Democrats still championed the underdog but many of them were now old and tired.

Marquis Childs, in Philadelphia, suggests the Democratic convention to have been so out of focus that, like mirror-writing, it had to be seen in a glass which would provide correction of the distortions.

For instance, the movement for Senator Barkley was characterized by his Senate colleagues wanting him to have a capstone for his career. That he would be 71 in November was of no concern, for he would not be elected in any event. He would make a respectable campaign as chief pallbearer for the ticket.

He would also help to deliver Kentucky, a border state which had voted for the Dewey-Bricker ticket in 1944. But moreover, it might help to achieve victory for the Democratic Senate candidate Virgil Chapman against Republican incumbent Sherman Cooper, albeit a slender hope in the face of a solid record posted by Senator Cooper.

But all of that double-talk was nothing compared to that leading to the convention regarding Congressional contests where liberal-labor blocs could make their impression despite the drag of President Truman at the top. There was still a hope of grabbing back the Senate from the Republicans, needing only four seats to do it.

In Oklahoma, Governor Robert Kerr was running for the seat being vacated by Senator Ed Moore, against Republican Ross Rizley, was believed to have a good chance. In Wyoming, Lester Hunt was given an even chance over incumbent Senator Edward Robertson. In Minnesota, Mayor Hubert Humphrey had a good chance against incumbent Senator Joseph Ball, with Mayor Humphrey leading in the most recent poll 46 to 38 percent.

If the Senate were to go to the Democrats while the White House went to Governor Dewey, he would quickly learn some of the problems of divided government which had beset President Truman since the 1946 mid-term elections.

Samuel Grafton, no longer carried by The News, tells of the Democratic convention delegates starting to say nice things about the President and to look askance at further anti-Truman rhetoric, as they began to see him in a different light, that he was not so bad after all, that the election actually might turn into a competitive fight.

Whereas the liberals came to Philadelphia saying that Mr. Truman was not good for liberals, now the cry seemed to be that liberals were not so good for Mr. Truman, as the anti-Truman movement in favor of Justice Douglas had been harmful to his candidacy.

In contrast to the Republican convention, it had been one with the doors open, with conflicts which had been festering between the right and the left open to view.

Even Republicans were voicing sympathy for the President, as if the prospect of victory so complete as to result in the disintegration of the Democratic Party was too much.

The Democrats were now pushing doubt of the President out of sight and in so doing, paying tribute to the widespread belief in return to political normalcy.

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