The Charlotte News

Saturday, December 7, 1946


Site Ed. Note: The front page is dominated by news of a major fire, occurring at the Winecoff Hotel in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street, causing the deaths of at least 120 people and injuring another hundred, with the death toll expected to rise. (The number of dead would subsequently be revised to 119.) The deadly fire had started on the upper floors of the fifteen-story structure at around 3:15 a.m.

There were 285 guests in the 194-room hotel at the time. At least 25 to 30 people leaped to their deaths as the flames and smoke engulfed their rooms. Many of the rooms had been virtually untouched by the fire and the firemen stated that many lives could have been saved if the guests had remained rather than leaving their rooms. Firemen found 16 bodies in one room undamaged by fire, the guests apparently having remained and suffocated from the smoke. Many had been trapped above the third floor where the fire was believed to have started. The building had been constructed in 1913 and had no outside fire escapes.

A reporter recounts of having seen four women jump to their deaths from the burning hotel as he reached the scene less than 45 minutes after the fire had begun. He describes the scene, walking over bodies, which left him "sickened and weary".

One Charlotte man, a graduate of Georgia Tech, just out of the Navy after two years of service in the Pacific, was reported to have been staying at the hotel, and his parents had heard no word as to whether he was safe.

General P. W. Baade of Washington, who had spent ten months of active duty with the 35th Division during the war, had been in the hotel at the time of the fire and stated it was the worst thing he had ever seen. In combat, he said, at least one had the chance to dodge bullets, but the hotel fire left a person trapped with roaring flames all about. He and his wife had been awakened by screams from the hallway, and realized, upon looking, that they could not effect an escape that way and so opened the windows to their room and waited.

One escape of a couple was effected by means of tying sheets together to reach a neighboring room from outside the building, along a ledge on the fourteenth floor. Once inside the neighboring room, the two couples continually wetted a mattress with water and held it against the door to keep out the flames.

A list of the dead and injured is provided.

In terms of the death toll, the Winecoff fire was the worst hotel fire in the country's history.

The year was the worst in the country's history for deaths from hotel fires, with the La Salle Hotel fire in Chicago having occurred on June 5 in the wee hours, taking 61 lives. Two weeks later, in Dubuque, Iowa, the Canfield Hotel had caught fire, killing 19 persons.

The coal strike, begun officially on November 21, was called off by John L. Lewis, who ordered the UMW miners back to work at least until March 31, so that the Supreme Court could hear the appeal of his and the union's contempt convictions free from public outcry over the strike and because public necessity demanded coal production during the winter.

He had made the decision himself and in announcing it, read his own written statement to the press.

The Supreme Court was considering immediate review of the contempt convictions, resulting in a fine for the union of $250,000 per day of the strike and $10,000 for Mr. Lewis personally.

The President was continuing to prepare for his radio broadcast on Sunday night at 9:30, which had been intended as a direct appeal to the miners to return to work.

News of the fire pushes off the front page this date any further report on the progress of the Empty Stocking Fund. But at least there would be no coal in the stockings this year, though it might have been the most valuable reindeer of all, had the strike continued.

On the editorial page, "Notes on Municipal Progress" tells of the City Council adopting the original route again for the proposed cross-town boulevard after the alternate route had been rejected by the State Highway Commission as not fulfilling the requisite purposes of the highway. The reversion to the original route was necessary in order to qualify for the Federal-State funding.

The Commission had forced the Council to undertake highway improvement in the city which was greatly needed to relieve downtown congestion. Had it been left to its own devices, the Council would have only adopted a major street-widening project.

The moral was that in the long haul, the common good of the community and that of the individual were one and the same.

"They Are Also Southerners" remarks on the Winston-Salem Journal assuming a share of the blame for the white South for the bad record established by black occupation troops in Germany. In 1945, black troops, though constituting only 10 percent of the occupation troops, had committed half the major crimes. During the first eight months of 1946, they made up 12.5 percent of the troops and committed 35 percent of the major crimes.

Venereal disease among black soldiers in Germany was at the rate of 897 per thousand troops.

The Journal suggested that these results had their roots in the Southern soil, having nothing to do with inherent inferiority, but rather the poverty from which these men derived, breeding grounds, amid slums, for crime and disease. It was so for any race so pushed down into abjection.

It quotes the last two paragraphs of the article and recommends it to all Southerners, that too many well-meaning whites had forgotten that across the tracks were slums where human need was great. The destiny of the South was bound up with the destiny of its black citizens and it was not suitable to allow poverty to be the rule of the day in that part of town. It would ultimately transmit its problems thus produced into the white community.

"From Nature Study to Uranium" discusses Admiral Richard E. Byrd's latest expedition to the South Pole, just set sail from Norfolk for the 10,000-mile voyage. When a generation earlier he had embarked on his first expedition, he was in the role of the traditional romantic explorer, with semi-official connection to the U.S. Navy. He took along Boy Scouts, geographers, members of the Audubon Society, adventurers, and press agents.

The expedition had generated quaint stories about penguins, the breathtaking views of the icecap, and heroic tales of rescue by plane and dogsled. The American urge for imperialism had been vicariously satisfied when he established Little America and claimed it for the United States.

But on the present adventure, there were no Boy Scouts and he was only a figure head for the expedition, the real business to be handled by Navy officers and ordnance experts as the primary goal was to look for possible locations for military bases, to test battle equipment in sub-zero temperatures, and, above all, to try to locate uranium deposits beneath the snow.

"Ah, well, the world doth move. The Boy Scout trying to earn a new merit badge is replaced by a Ph.D. with a Geiger counter seeking the stuff of which atomic bombs are made. And we wonder, as always, if this could possibly be progress."

A piece from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, titled "The Long, Hard Road to Normalcy", tells of the Civilian Production Administration intending to restore the spare pair of pants to men's suits, as well as waistcoats and double-breasted models.

During the war, the absence of the extra pair of pants had caused men to wear their seats shiny and their cuffs frayed. It had ranked high on the list of wartime annoyances. It was glad to see the ban go. But there was still a problem in finding suits the right size.

An excerpt appears from an address by Dr. William M. Coppridge, president of the Medical Society of North Carolina, in which he tracks the progress of health care in North Carolina for the previous decades and suggests its track into the future and the necessity for continuing advancement.

Drew Pearson discusses a proposal by James Cox, former Governor of Ohio and Democratic nominee for the presidency in 1920 with FDR as his running mate, for a long-term settlement of the coal strike. He urged that the Government create a public entity similar to TVA to control the coal industry, to insure that all sides would get a square deal. Mr. Pearson thinks it a reasonable proposal.

Anthracite coal mine operators in some towns had so undermined the towns that there were regular cave-ins. After mines were abandoned, operators would remove wooden props from the mines and they would collapse. Once mines were abandoned, it was practically impossible ever to bring to the surface the coal left behind in the pits. There were also conflicting seams which required delicate operations to prevent one seam from causing a cave-in in another nearby.

Both John L. Lewis and the operators had fought against Government regulation of the mines. Mr. Lewis favored Federal mine inspection and had fathered the Guffey Coal Act during the New Deal, which permitted operators to fix prices.

He next tells of the private conversations between Mr. Lewis and Cyrus Eaton of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, regarding attempted resolution of the coal strike, now being held in Warrenton, Virginia, so that the subject of their meetings would not leak to the press as in Washington at the Carlton Hotel.

Mr. Eaton had convinced Mr. Lewis to accept a one-year contract with the operators rather than a six-month contract, and to accept nine hours of pay for an eight-hour day. Mr. Eaton was able to persuade Ed Burke, president of the Southern Coal Producers, to call for renewal of direct negotiations between the operators and UMW. But many of the operators were against the proposal and forced Mr. Burke to resign. It was a significant sign of how strongly some operators opposed any compromise with Mr. Lewis, as Mr. Eaton had warned him to induce him to reduce his demands.

Marquis Childs discusses the badly received suggestion by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, made right after the November election, that the President resign after appointing a Republican Secretary of State who would then become his successor. The GOP was as against the notion as other Democrats, for they did not want a Democrat appointing a Republican President. The President had not been willing to dignify the suggestion with a response. Many in the press also berated Senator Fulbright for the suggestion, saying that he had gotten it from his rubbing up against the parliamentary system in England when he had been a Rhodes Scholar.

Now, Senator Fulbright was going to introduce a bill in the next Congress to allow for a special election when both the President and Vice-President were out of office at the same time, either by resignation or otherwise. The election would not take place if the vacancy occurred within five months before a regularly scheduled election. The Speaker of the House or president pro tem of the Senate would be the interim President. The law tracked a statute which had been on the books from 1792 until eliminated by the Presidential Succession Act of 1886, and had been approved by President Washington.

Mr. Fulbright did not believe there would be any level of cooperation from the Republican Congress with the Administration, any more than there had been from the Democratic Congress with the Hoover Administration between 1931 and 1933. He asserted that large majorities in Congress inevitably allowed the extreme elements of the party in control to take over, and in this case, the extremists in the Republican Party were the isolationist-nationalists who would carry the country back to the days of McKinley.

The suggestion was not without some precedence. President Wilson, recounts Mr. Childs, had intended to resign after the 1916 election if he had lost to Charles Evans Hughes. There was then a four-month lag between election day and inauguration in March and President Wilson believed that sound government meant obeying the will of the people, that nothing would be served by a President remaining in office after having been rejected by the voters. Mr. Childs suggests that while the midterm election posed a different scenario, it had been tantamount to a rejection of President Truman and the fact had to be faced.

Samuel Grafton, in Mexico City, suggests that everyone in Mexico walked on "little cat feet" politically though the revolution had begun in 1910 and was now therefore old news. The Left hoped it was directing the revolution through its many circuitous twists and turns, but was not united in its direction. Mexico had about given up on saving itself by expropriation and redistributing the land for agrarian uses, the ejido program. There was not enough land to go around and so the program had given way to industrialization, making Mexico into a Latin Belgium.

He spoke with the labor leader Vicente Lombardo Toledano, sometimes called "El Rojo" by the conservatives for his Communist leanings. But he favored high tariffs to protect incipient industries, in the vein of President McKinley. The difference between that occurring in Mexico and the Industrial Revolution to the North before the turn of the century was that the Left was directing it, trying to effect it within the context of revolutionary laws, such as one which made the closed shop mandatory.

Promoters were in the country from all over the world and the Right welcomed them, hoping they would form a new conservative thrust. The Left also welcomed them, hoping that industrialization would raise the standard of living and fulfill some of the promises of the revolution.

Observers believed that the Right was able consistently to gain its desired concessions from the revolution while the Left continued to believe it was driving the engine which was motivated by the Right. It was, he says, as if the country had its Roosevelt sitting in the lap of its McKinley.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links
Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i><i><i>--</i></i></i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.