Friday, April 14, 1944

The Charlotte News

Friday, April 14, 1944


Site Ed. Note: On this, the 79th anniversary of the assassination of President Lincoln, a curious little piece by Dick Young, plus an accompanying photograph, appeared on the front page. At first glance, without our having gandered the print, we thought the picture was of a bird. But then, we had to wonder, as we began to read the caption, how a bird could warrant description as a simian. Possessed of our initial assumption, we simply took the unusual label to be figurative and proceeded to read about Mrs. Murphy in the oak tree on the City Hall lawn, having escaped her habitat in ordinary, Furr's Seed Store at 508 E. Trade Street in Charlotte, believing her all the while to have been a bird.

We suppose that our initial assumption might have been pushed by the association with Dick Young, gathered from this earlier piece.

But, we had not yet noticed his by-line when we thought the creature a bird. And, the creatures of whom Mr. Young previously had related were not birds, but a couple of squirrels, building a nest in a magnolia tree, not outside City Hall, but outside the Police Department. Yet, we may have somehow managed to make the association more swiftly than our conscious mind could conceivably grasp.

In any event, Mrs. Murphy, in fact, it turns out, was a monkey, nicknamed "Monk", who had escaped the confines of Furr's Seed Store on Trade Street and perched herself halfway out on a limb of an oak tree.

On July 17, 1963, President Kennedy held a press conference, his 58th. During it, Mrs. Craig asked whether and to what degree Mrs. Murphy and her boarding house, in the President's opinion, would be affected by the proposed civil rights legislation pending before the Congress, designed, among other things, to require that all public accommodations be made equally accessible to persons, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

It simply comes to mind, not that Mrs. Craig was attempting with her question to make a monkey of the President, or that the President with his answer was attempting in any manner to make a monkey of Mrs. Craig.

But that someone else, as we have before suggested, who might have been reading some or all of these pages back in 1963 or earlier, might have wanted to employ, consciously or unconsciously, symbology gleaned from these prints to seek to make a monkey of the President, and especially his brave and bold stand on civil rights, more far-reaching than any previous President since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation--effective at the start of 1863, freeing all slaves within any state remaining in rebellion against the Union as of January 1 of that year, as a practical matter, therefore, acting as attempted leverage to end the Civil War during the fall of 1862, prior to the effective date of the Proclamation--not thereby meant to take from its practical effect and intent. But, in point of fact, the Proclamation did not, as many presume, "free the slaves" outright.

Thus, in practical impact, it may be reasonably argued that the Civil Rights Act proposed by President Kennedy was the greatest single unconditional action ever undertaken by a President in the history of the Republic with respect to insuring equality of treatment to all citizens.

The post-Civil War passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment, providing for equal protection of the laws and due process, plus all privileges and immunities, to be afforded all citizens of the several States, and the Fifteenth Amendment, granting the right to vote to all citizens, were bold steps undertaken by the Congress and the people.

Yet, a recalcitrant South had, in large part, even so long as a century later, still refused to recognize these amendments in practical application, even after the Supreme Court in 1954 and 1955 had struck down the concept prevailing since 1896 of "separate but equal" public facilities being sufficient to satisfy equal protection under the law, holding that, in practical occurrence, separate school facilities between the races were not in fact equal.

Whatever the case may be or not be with respect to the photograph of Mrs. Murphy sitting there out on a limb of an oak tree outside City Hall in Charlotte on the 79th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater, having escaped from its normal habitat at Furr's Seed Store on Trade Street, we find it most intriguing.

At 12:30 p.m., reports the piece, Mrs. Murphy was back in her cage.

On Good Friday, as recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church, the Fourth Ukrainian Army had moved to within 26 miles of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, as Nazi and Rumanian troops were hastily fleeing the onslaught led by Cossack cavalry, accompanied by tanks and artillery. Fully 20,000 prisoners had been captured by the Russians in just one week since the beginning of the offensive on the Crimea. The retreat was so rapid that food and weapons were being left behind intact.

One captured Nazi lieutenant stated that his men were fleeing to the sea but would have no place to go when they got there, that those who would not surrender would be killed.

The American combined raids of the Fifteenth and Eighth Air Forces had put about 3,000 planes in the air on bombing runs already reported from the previous day, losing 63 planes while destroying 138 Luftwaffe planes, 35 of which were bagged by the Fifteenth in the raids on facilities near Budapest.

Forty-four of the American planes, including 36 bombers, were lost by the Eighth, while nineteen, 16 of which were bombers, were lost by the Fifteenth. A record number of 1,100 fighters, Mustangs, Thunderbolts, and Lightnings, had accompanied the Fortresses and Liberators on the missions from England.

RAF Mosquitos the night before struck Berlin and targets in Western Germany.

In the vicinity of Imphal in India, the Japanese had made headway southwest of the targeted town, reaching to within 17 miles of it at Bishenpur and 70 miles west at Silchar.

From China came a report from eyewitnesses that 300 starving Chinese prisoners of the Japanese had been put to death by burning while still alive. The asserted reason offered by the Japanese for the action was that the victims were suffering from the plague.

As had been suggested in a report printed the previous day, Captain Don Gentile, ace pilot with 30 kills to his credit, albeit seven on the ground, was reported possibly to be at the end of his flying days after the crash landing in England of his Mustang.

A sergeant had obtained special furlough from the Army by virtue of his wife's plea to the President to allow him to come home to Rahway, N.J., to visit their eighteen-month old daughter suffering from leukemia.

Russell Landstrom, in the "Reporter's Notebook" column, wrote of two brothers from the United States, the Tyrees, meeting up in England, one having served since 1939 in various air duties, having been decorated several times, including receipt of the Distinguished Flying Cross, while the other, by his own confession, had not thus far gotten anything from his service but a bad cold.

Mr. Landstrom next turns to the rumor floating about England that the Americans were rolling in dough from their receiving quadruple the amount of pay provided the Tommy, creating some measure of resentment among Britons, who, calumniously or not, were suggesting that the Americans were drinking, carousing, and generally misbehaving, harming the morale of British women, on a regular basis. The Americans said it wasn't so, that most of them couldn't even afford to drink anymore, given the price hikes at the hotel bars and in the West End. The pubs remained reasonably priced, but liquor was so scarce in them that a fellow couldn't even usually obtain a double if he wanted one and was willing to pay handsomely for it.

On the editorial page, "Cotton Ed" recommends to South Carolina that it find a replacement for the senior Senator Smith with his atavistic ideas trapped in the nineteenth century, thus disserving the state.

Senator Smith would die in November, shortly after losing the election to Governor Olin Johnston, also a Democrat. Senator Johnston served in the office until 1965.

"The Balkans" looks to the possibility that, with pressure mounting on Hitler's armies in the Balkans from both Russia and from the air, as well as from within, against Marshal Tito’s Partisans in Yugoslavia, the Germans would pull out of the entire region to enable shoring up of threatened Western defenses.

Should it happen, suggests the piece, the first small test would arise of amity between traditionally suspicious allies, the Soviet Union and the West, in determining how the Balkans might be partitioned to satisfy Soviet desires for buffer territories.

"The Record" examines Thomas Dewey's varied foreign policy statements through the previous four years. In 1940, when he briefly entered the presidential race, he had espoused an isolationist doctrine. By 1942, when he ran for governor of New York, he had abandoned that position and moved more toward an internationalist stance, though not embracing the Roosevelt and Willkie doctrines.

The editorial sees as a plus the presence of John Foster Dulles as his chief foreign policy adviser, based on what the piece believes is an internationalist view held by Mr. Dulles.

As we pointed out yesterday, while superficially so appearing, deeper understanding of his actual positions at the time would no doubt have alarmed no end the News. Mr. Dulles was no internationalist by a long shot, even if not fully an isolationist in the strictest sense. Again, his belief system, not much, if any, changed since 1939, had, after the start of the war, allowed that Nazi Germany was a "dynamic force" in Europe, engaged in rebellion, countering the "static forces" of France and Britain. He had somehow managed to view Nazi Germany as progressive and revolutionary.

The piece, based on its false assumption in this regard, finds Mr. Dewey acceptable on foreign policy matters, even if Russia and Britain would no doubt suffer in a Dewey administration. Mr. Dewey had, it should be noted, come out in favor of preserving Palestine as a place of refuge for Jews.

Samuel Grafton continues to review Cordell Hull's foreign policy address of the previous Sunday. He focuses now on the statement of Mr. Hull that the United States desired order in Europe. Mr. Grafton asks what becomes order, finds it is "purposeful activity", not inertial stagnation. Yugoslavia, he cites as example, was possessed of order because of its rebel activity of the Partisans under Tito; Italy, by contrast, was in disorder because of lack of clarity as to who in government would have long-term authority. Italy would have order if the democrats were allowed into the governing process. The ban on meetings of Italians in Naples constituted disorder.

The Allies, continues Mr. Grafton, were afraid of civil war in France. But the way to avoid such conflict was to put the Committee of National Liberation in charge of a provisional government, to eliminate the prospect of that division. The failure to recognize anyone, and throwing open the sweepstakes for becoming the provisional government to everyone, had left the Committee itself in disorder, with General De Gaulle issuing a decree eliminating the position held by General Giraud on the fear that General Giraud might become the recognized provisional leader. With the Committee thus in disorder, the Allies held no brief any longer for the Committee, in a vicious self-fulfilling prophetic circle.

A man walking down the road briskly was order; a man standing, scratching his head, looking at the signposts, occasionally singing, while he contemplated which way to go, was disorder.

Do you understand now, Mr. Meese?

We can show you the road. There is the signpost up ahead.

Marquis Childs writes of Professor Alvin Johnson, having been appointed by Governor Dewey, to head a committee to enforce New York's anti-discrimination laws enacted with respect to war industries. The committee also had produced a proposal under which it would become illegal for an employer to discriminate in the hiring of employees based on race, creed, color, national origin, or ancestry, (noting that discrimination by sex was omitted). Refusal to comply with an order to cease and desist could result in findings of contempt.

The law was, by design, to meet returning African-American soldiers who would likely be unwilling to resume second class citizenship after fighting for their country abroad to preserve democracy at home. Given the riots of the previous June, in Detroit, in Watts, in Harlem, the forecast on race relations was for bad weather.

At Governor Dewey's request, the proposal was introduced to the New York Legislature, but was not backed by his Administration. His legal counsel believed that there was constitutional flaw in the proposal, no one yet having adopted the Commerce Clause as the constitutional basis for enforcing laws against discrimination by private employers, that based on the concept that any activity which substantially affects and impacts interstate commerce becomes subject to Federal regulation.

When the bill failed to garner support in Albany, Governor Dewey replaced it with a bill which only authorized a study of discrimination in employment practices.

The action caused eight of the 25 members of the committee to resign, even while Professor Johnson remained as its chair. Several black organizations and black newspapers, as well as other press organs, severely criticized the Governor for the retreat. But Governor Dewey, while irritated by the criticism, stood his ground, stating that his belief was that legislation could not achieve racial integration or harmony, that it could only come through education over time.

--Yeah, yeah. Dat's right, Tommy, boy. Anudda, maybe, couple hunde'd yeehs, der, and da da'kies, ye know, dey'll be ready to take t' der place der wid us at da table, what ye call, da superiors o' da white folks. Yeah. Yeah.

Professor Johnson remained steadfast in his determination to get such a law on the books, as he believed it to be the only way to avert national disaster after the war. He cautioned that the country was not immune from the same problems which had manifested themselves in the Nazi Party in Germany.

Mr. Childs believes that Mr. Dewey had improperly side-stepped the issue and should either have supported the proposal wholeheartedly or openly refused support of it, explaining his reasons. Instead, he had ridden the fence.

Drew Pearson devotes his column to three responses to the open letter he had addressed March 18 to one of his sisters on the occasion of the birth of her son. A soldier, a mother of a soldier, nineteen, and a grandfather who had fought in the Spanish-American War, each address the sister of Mr. Pearson in their varying ways.

Sample from the letter of the mother:

"While I was busy watching him grow, I failed to watch the man down the street. He was busy selling tons and tons of scrap iron to Japan, so they could kill little babies like mine.

"While I taught my son to hold a fork to eat decent, and then the Ten Commandments to live decent, Hitler taught his sons to hold guns, but the man down the street was still deaf, dumb, and blind--to my son.

"…Writing this is like sitting on a park bench--thinking--thinking. I look around. The man sitting next to me looks like Mr. Pearson. On the end sits Mr. Hull. At that age, you nod when you feel tired. Uncle Sam is there, too. He also looks tired. His shoulders are drooping from a heavy load. We sit there, tired people…"

A news item on the page relates of a strike by workers at the Chicago and Kansas City Montgomery Ward plants, strikes which would soon produce a famous photograph out of the Montgomery Ward headquarters.

The company in December had refused to renew a union contract with CIO representatives of retail and wholesale workers until such time as the majority status of that union could be ascertained. The War Labor Board intervened to order Montgomery Ward to recognize the union, but the company refused on the ground that WLB had no jurisdiction because Montgomery Ward handled no government contracts and a work stoppage was not impeding any war industry.

The company had sought in Federal Court an injunction of the order. WLB contended in response that, while there was no contract or war-essential industry immediately at issue, a ripple effect could be set in motion by such a strike in defiance of WLB authority, which, cumulatively, could produce harm to the war effort. Moreover, WLB cotended that the President was authorized to take executive action under its enabling legislation to determine what necessary steps must be taken in furtherance of the war effort and what it was economically which interfered with it, thus contending that the courts had no jurisdiction to impose their will on the Executive authority of the President as granted by Congress.

A letter writer from the Coca-Cola Company in Charlotte wants to teach the world to play musical instruments by collecting them and sending them abroad to be distributed among the soldiers.

And, returning to the first story of the day, another little news piece on the editorial page tells of the "cocoa-colored squirrel fur coat" valued at $300, stolen from the residence of Joe Hill. The door was left open to the residence and someone reached in and took the coat from the sofa on which it lay.

Candidly, we have no idea what a squirrel fur coat is, or why on earth it would be worth $300 in 1944.

Neither that, nor any more so what Mrs. Murphy the Monk was doing, either as the cat or the dog, sitting on a limb.

But, all things considered, it insistently instills intrigue.

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