The Charlotte News

Friday, March 4, 1955


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports from Moscow that Professor Bruno Pontecorvo had held a news conference for an hour and 40 minutes this date, disclosing little except that he had been a Soviet citizen since 1952, working on a peaceful atomic project. He had fled the West in 1950 and his whereabouts had since been a mystery, until Pravda the previous weekend revealed his presence in the Soviet Union. The reason for the timing of the disclosure was not clear. He said that he would serve the Soviet people to the best of his ability, when asked whether he would change to atomic military work in case of a direct threat to the Soviet Union. He offered greetings to physicists with whom he had worked in England prior to 1950. He said he believed they were good people blinded by the yellow press regarding the Soviets. Prior to his disappearance, he had worked at England's top secret Harwell Atomic Research Station. He stated his belief that Soviet science and physics held the first place in the world, citing as proof what he claimed to be the world's first atomic-powered electric station, adding that he was not connected with the work on that station.

The House Post Office Committee this date voted an average 7.5 percent pay increase for half a million post office employees, at an annual cost of 150 million dollars.

Before the Senate Banking Committee, the president of the American Stock Exchange, Edward McCormick, testified that a stock tip from Walter Winchell on a television show two months earlier had thrown the exchange into turmoil and that but for prompt action by officials, it would have cost those who followed the tip an eight dollar per share loss. Mr. Winchell had recommended an oil company stock as a good buy, resulting in 357,000 transactions in the stock the following morning on January 10. Mr. McCormick testified that it was the greatest number of transactions on a single stock in the history of any exchange. He had immediately notified the SEC and he and other exchange officials took a series of actions which held the opening price of the oil stock to $8.875 per share. He said that, otherwise, it would have opened at $15 per share. It had closed the previous day at seven dollars per share and so anyone who would have purchased it at $15 would have lost eight dollars per share. The exchange had also delayed trading on the stock for over two hours after the opening bell. As it was, despite the limit on the opening price, it opened at 2 1/8 higher than the previous Friday's closing.

In Detroit, the parents of a 13-month old boy thought he had the croup for ten days, until an X-ray revealed the previous day that he had a quarter lodged in his throat. The child had died the previous night as surgeons had sought unsuccessfully to remove the coin.

In Florence, Ariz., a man was executed in the gas chamber, following his February, 1954 conviction of a torture-murder of a young Pennsylvania woman in December, 1953. He thanked the prison warden for his kindness and said that he still thought that he was not guilty. He was sobbing as he addressed the warden, and began trembling as he was strapped into the chair inside the gas chamber. Twenty-six persons witnessed the execution. He held his breath for about 45 seconds before finally breathing in the deadly fumes. He was a former New Mexico carnival operator, becoming the 23rd person to be executed by gas in Arizona, the last previous execution having occurred in July, 1951, a man who had been convicted for the murder of a woman on a train.

In Raleigh, the House this date gave overwhelming voice vote approval to a bill aimed at preventing judges from "cussing out" juries because of their verdicts. It then began debate of a measure to allow the State Milk Commission to set minimum retail and wholesale milk prices. A subcommittee on House Insurance provided a favorable report of a bill which sought to resolve the problem of insurance companies canceling or failing to renew health and accident policies. There was some controversy stirred by a local Charlotte law before the Senate Roads Committee, permitting Charlotte buses to be 102 inches wide, compared to the present state limit of 96 inches, and 40 feet long, instead of the 35 feet imposed by the state. A State Senator from Mecklenburg said that the larger buses were needed to help solve Charlotte's city traffic problem by cutting down the number of buses in use.

A strike of Southern Railway trainmen which had begun several days earlier in Spartanburg, S.C., when members of the carmen's union walked off the job after four of their members were removed from their jobs for failing to sign worksheets, was now spreading to other points in South Carolina and to North Carolina, including Spencer and Charlotte, where members of other brotherhoods joined the walkout in sympathy, including engineers, firemen and other operations employees. It was expected that carmen would also walk off the job in Knoxville and Atlanta, in sympathy with the strike.

Harry Shuford of The News reports that, according to a local poll, most people did not like poll taxes and that some did not even know what they were. Nearly all states which still had a poll tax had removed it as a requirement for voting, retaining the tax, itself. In a poll taken by the News, it appeared that only 20 percent of the people had a good idea of what a poll tax was, while half of the other 80 percent had only a vague notion and the other half were completely in the dark. A typical comment was that people were aware that they did not have to pay it any longer to vote, but did not know anything about it otherwise. A poll tax in North Carolina meant only taxes per head, a tax on being extant. About 70 percent of the people in the poll had stated that they thought the poll tax was unfair or pointless, just another way to raise revenue. The other 30 percent believed it was all right as a means by which to raise money. The tax was levied only on males between ages 21 and 50 in North Carolina. The State Constitution permitted it but did not mandate it, but state statutes did mandate that county commissioners levy such a tax of two dollars per head on all qualified males, with the exception of disabled veterans or hardship cases. North Carolina cities could also levy a one dollar per head tax under the Constitution. Charlotte had such a tax, even though nearly all people in the survey said they were unaware of it. The State Constitution provided that funds raised by the poll tax would go to the benefit of the public schools and the poor of a given county. It goes on to relate how it was collected. Poll taxes for voting continued at the time in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

In Riverside, Calif., the International Association of Machinists had utilized two rented elephants and two camels as part of their picket line the previous day at an aircraft company where the union was striking over an arbitration clause dispute, with the animals having signs strapped to them which read: "We Won't Settle for Peanuts" and "It's Been a Long Dry Spell without Arbitration". Add a jackass bearing a sign which says: "No Arbitration Is Asinine; Low Cogitation Biz Last To Find Its Holism".

On the editorial page, "Court Reform: Progress & Perspective" indicates that the current General Assembly session had finally authorized judicial redistricting, a move which was long overdue, following a plea from the Judicial Council of the state for more judges to reduce the docket load of the existing judiciary. The new law increased the number of judicial districts from 21 to 30 and the number of resident Superior Court judges from 21 to 32.

Mecklenburg County would have a judicial district to itself under the bill, rather than being combined with Gaston County, and would also have an additional resident judge. Mecklenburg had the state's most serious problem of congested court calendars, and so the relief would be welcome.

It urges further relief of dockets by establishing a small claims court, indicating that under an act by the 1951 Legislature, the clerk of Forsyth County Superior Court had been directed to maintain a small claims docket regarding complaints for money judgments not exceeding $1,000. The system had worked well and, it urges, should be adopted state-wide.

It had also been suggested by a local judge that an inferior court be established in Mecklenburg, with specific jurisdiction over tort and contract actions not exceeding $2,500 in issue, accomplished by adding civil jurisdiction to the existing Recorder's Court, which presently only handled criminal cases.

It concludes that those were only some of several reforms worthy of consideration, that the Judicial Council had suggested 30 of them in 1954, but only a small number had thus far been given serious attention by legislators.

"Destructive Mischief in Raleigh" indicates that by defeating a bill to reallocate House membership to accommodate 1950 census figures, the State Senate had stubbornly ignored the system of representative government devised by the framers of the state's Constitution. Its vote on the matter the previous day made it clear that it would make short shrift of any proposal for State Senate redistricting, as there were few changes within the House membership bill and Senate redistricting would be more far-reaching.

It finds it a matter of honor, that democratic government could exist only under a system of proper representation, and that there was nothing more dangerous or discouraging than elected or appointed officials openly displaying contempt for law and honor.

"The Thumper Is Going Fishing" tells of a photo on the nation's sports pages raising doubts as to whether any longer fishing was a common man's pastime, the picture having shown a handsome man holding a freshly-caught fish against the backdrop of the Florida Keys, with the man wearing a tee-shirt and a look of contentment. The man was Ted Williams, known as "The Thumper", the highest-paid baseball player in the world. The public wondered whether Mr. Williams had retired, as he had firmly stated the previous summer, or whether he would again join the Boston Red Sox in 1955, as the baseball writers were predicting.

Against his $100,000 per year baseball salary, fishing, even if he caught 1,000 fish per year, would cost him $100 per catch. It suggests that Mr. Williams might become a folk hero in a new way, by letting the Yankees win the pennant and Fenway Park in Boston crumble to dust, as he was going fishing.

A piece from the Daily Iowan, titled "Go On, Just Try", indicates that the word "automation" sent shivers up and down the spine of the workingman and filled the industrialist with happy anticipation. It indicates that the word was familiar to all of those who read the comic strips, that it was control of flow in the manufacturing process. It had invaded the automobile, petroleum, chemical, television and railroad industries, as well as offices. It took Ford workers nine hours to complete the same operation which an automated machine controlled by another machine could do in 15 minutes in the manufacture of engine blocks. An electronic brain installed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. could do what 135 operators using 100 punch-card machines did.

CIO president Walter Reuther and the manager of the automated Ford plant at Cleveland had an exchange wherein the manager said, as he pointed to a new machine, that he wanted to see dues collected from it by Mr. Reuther, to which the latter had replied, "I'd like to see you sell it a Ford."

Drew Pearson indicates that since the Democrats had now the investigative power of both houses of Congress, some previously concealed facts were beginning to leak, one of which revealed how the Dixon-Yates contract had sailed through the Budget Bureau smoothly. The previous year, the President had announced at a press conference that he had given the directive to all Government agencies to make information available to the public, except when it involved national security. But questions asked at the Budget Bureau regarding which officials or persons had worked on the Dixon-Yates contract had been met with silence. Senator Lister Hill of Alabama had inquired of the Budget Bureau whether there had been a person who came into the Bureau from private industry and then left the Government after the contract had been approved, as had been reported, but the Bureau denied the claim. A similar query from Senator William Langer's anti-monopoly committee brought the same response. A representative of Mr. Pearson's column had gone to the Bureau and asked the question, with the reply having been that they did not have a list of the people who worked on the contract and that it would be too much trouble to make such a list. The representative of the column said that if it was given authorization to make the necessary inquiries, the column would do the work for them, to which came the reply that the Bureau was a public building and they could ask any questions they wished. The column's representative, however, informed the individual that everyone was afraid to talk, asking whether the names were a matter of national security, with the response having been that the representative did not know, that it might be embarrassing to release the names of those who had worked on the contract plan.

In the end, the column had inquired of the head of the Budget Bureau, Rowland Hughes, as to the names of the people involved in the contract, but he had no comment. He had, however, admitted to Senator Hill that the vice-president director of the First Boston Corp., one of the financing companies of the Dixon-Yates contract, had been an "unpaid consultant" to the Bureau during the period in which the contract was being rushed through the Bureau without competitive bidding and despite a better bid having come from a competing group.

Mr. Pearson concludes that it was no wonder that the spokesperson for the Bureau had been so evasive and that Mr. Hughes had no comment. He notes that it was highly unusual for the Bureau to initiate electric power projects in the first place, as it was a job for the Interior Department, the Federal Power Commission, or the TVA. He indicates that never previously in the history of the country had the Bureau initiated and negotiated an electric power project. He also notes that former President Herbert Hoover had been the primary inspiration for the project and that the former President had more to say inside the current Administration than any other person not actually within the Cabinet, with the possible exception of former Governor Thomas Dewey of New York.

Stewart Alsop tells of the dilemma facing the Democrats regarding taxes, with the Democratic leaders in Congress, some of the shrewdest politicians in the country, left baffled, irritated, and divided, facing a dilemma as to how they could win back the White House in 1956 when it appeared political poison to criticize the President, and regarding what issues Democratic candidates for Congress would run on, with the Administration snatching up all the best issues.

He posits that there were two theoretical solutions to the problems, one being to use every means to present the Administration as the friend of the rich while casting the Democratic Party in the role of defender of the "little guy". The other was to avoid direct conflict with the President, concentrating on building up the Democratic Party as unified and responsible, while casting the Republicans as irresponsible and divided. It would be problematic for any Democratic candidate, however, to defeat the President in 1956.

Mr. Alsop suggests that perhaps events might solve the problems for the Democrats, such as an ugly war in Asia, changing the political climate. A worsening economic situation might also bring about the defeat of the Republican President. But House Minority Leader Joseph Martin of Massachusetts often remarked to his friends: "Give us peace and prosperity in 1956, with Ike heading the ticket, and nothing can beat us." Many Democrats privately agreed with that assessment.

Marquis Childs indicates that until the guarded comments made by Secretary of State Dulles in Taipeh the previous day, there had been only one public discussion of Formosa policy in the previous six weeks, a speech by Secretary Dulles before the Foreign Policy Association in New York, in which he had left in doubt U.S. intentions toward defense of the offshore islands of Nationalist China, Quemoy and Matsu.

He suggests that it was apparently a deliberate part of U.S. policy to leave the question of U.S. intervention unsettled so that secret negotiations for a cease-fire could transpire, with the offshore islands a bargaining chip.

But while the Administration had remained silent on the issue, those who believed that the U.S. had to hold the two outpost islands, regardless of cost, had been taking their case to the public. Senator William Knowland of California, the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate, had spoken in more than 15 states, saying that he had found the country, itself, far ahead of Washington in its determination to prevent further retreat in the area of Formosa. His efforts, in the face of silence by the Administration, might have had the effect of fixing the American position, with Mr. Childs indicating that Senator Knowland had contributed more than any other single individual to the conviction that the U.S. had a moral obligation to stand by the Nationalists.

He concludes that whether the U.S. position had become so fixed that any negotiation with Communist China was presently impossible, was a larger question being asked by U.S. allies in Western Europe.

The Congressional Quarterly indicates that after an initial year of laying the groundwork and another regarding heavy construction, the President was beginning his third year with 175 legislative recommendations designed to consolidate the record which Republicans would place before the voters in 1956. The Quarterly had determined that the President's emphasis had shifted from domestic policy to foreign policy and military security, providing a timetable of the evolution in each of 1953, 1954 and 1955.

It indicates that key points in the 1955 program included treaties for defense of Formosa and Southeast Asia, both already ratified by the Senate, and for tapping West Germany's military resources for the defense of Europe. The reciprocal trade program, passed by the House, and proposals to reformulate foreign aid were also on the agenda. The President had also asked Congress to back up foreign policy by extending the draft, passed by the House, and by reorganizing the military reserves.

For purposes of illustration, it suggests that the Administration's farm program showed the three-phase cycle between 1953 and 1955, providing the details.

It lists highlights of the President's 175-point legislative program for the present year, including the treaties for defense of Formosa and Southeast Asia, authority to use U.S. forces to defend Formosa and the Pescadores against Chinese Communist attack, treaties to link West Germany to NATO, extension of the military draft, reorganization of the military reserves, extension of the reciprocal trade law for three years, establishment of a system to encourage broader coverage by private health insurance companies through reinsurance against extraordinary losses, Federal aid for construction of schools, primarily through Federal purchase of school bonds, expansion of Federal aid for highway construction, statehood for Hawaii, and an increase in the minimum wage from 75 to 90 cents per hour. In addition, the Administration urged aid for low-income farmers, increased postage rates, pay raises for postal and other civil service employees, as well as for members of Congress and Federal judges, implementation of a partnership power policy, restricting Federal participation in favor of local public and private initiative, to lower the Federal voting age from 21 to 18, permanent increase in the 275 billion dollar debt ceiling, and authorization of 70,000 public housing units in the ensuing two years.

H. M. Tomlinson, from A Mingled Yarn, states that society had been forced recently to develop theories explaining the age of machines, and to see omens of its impending doom, that when the machines would stop, so would civilized man, having passed through the phase of imaginative exploration and experiment, creating engines to do his work but having lost daring in the process, presently subdued and chained to the wheels as a slave to the mechanical establishment he had created.

He posits that the urgency of the mechanistic age would slow down perhaps, that the theory of the rise and fall of a civilization might be able to withstand all known tests as easily as a perfect machine accurately revolving, but that collectively people might change their mind about it and the machine might then stop. "The subservience of men to the despotism of the polished steel rods and the ordained revolutions of the wheels may weary. The boy may tire of his engine."

Viscount John Morley, in Politics and History, states that the ideas and words which seemed simplest turned out to be the most complex, citing liberty, equality and fraternity as examples, with the average person finding in each term applications which were directly self-contradictory. It indicates that there were 200 definitions of "liberty", with Abraham Lincoln having said: "The world has never had a good definition of the word 'liberty', and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. We assume the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men and the product of their labors."

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