The Charlotte News

Tuesday, May 18, 1954


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Southern educators and political leaders had begun work this date on problems which would arise from the Supreme Court decision handed down the previous day in Brown v. Board of Education, holding that continued segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision had been generally received with calm throughout the South. Black leaders praised it and reaction among white educators and politicians had varied. Governors of nearly every state involved reported that they would call special committees into session immediately to study the case. The most outspoken had been Governor Herman Talmadge of Georgia, long an advocate of segregation in public schools, saying that he would call the State Commission on Education into immediate session "to map a program to ensure continued and permanent segregation of the races." The Governor had sponsored a State constitutional amendment to end Georgia's public school system, to appear on the ballot in the fall. He was the only Governor who declared that his state would not follow the Court's ruling. In a prepared statement, he said: "The court has thrown down the gauntlet before those that believe the Constitution means what it says when it reserves to the individual states the right to regulate their own internal affairs. Georgians accept the challenge and will not tolerate the mixing of the races in the public schools or any of its public tax-supported institutions. The fact that the tribunal has seen fit to proclaim its views on sociology as law will not make any difference." Officials of the NAACP hailed the decision as "vindication" of a 45-year fight by the organization and a move which gave the lie to the Communist propaganda that American democracy was decadent.

The White House indicated this date that there was little or no prospect that the President would change his executive order forbidding members of the executive branch to discuss with Congress private conversations among themselves regarding the Army-McCarthy dispute or to divulge confidential documents related to it. The order, essentially proclaiming that which would become known 20 years later during Watergate as "executive privilege", though only referenced at present as preserving the separation of powers in the three branches of government, was now being considered by the Senate Investigations subcommittee behind closed doors during the ensuing week, having suspended the hearings in the dispute until the following Monday. Democratic Senators predicted that the hearings would not be resumed unless the President altered the order, though Republicans claimed otherwise. Senator Karl Mundt, temporary chairman of the subcommittee during the investigation, would begin efforts to try to get the President to alter the order, with a conference during the afternoon with Attorney General Herbert Brownell, who had prepared a memorandum of precedents which the President had followed in making the order, having provided that memorandum and the President's order in the form of a letter released the previous day. When White House press secretary James Hagerty was asked whether the letter was intended to bring the hearings to a halt, he said that he could think of nothing which was a more silly question. Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan said that he saw no reason why the investigation could not continue despite the order. Senator McCarthy had said it would make it impossible to get at the truth and that a "cover-up" was transpiring.

In New York, the Appellate Division of the State Court reversed the conviction of Mickey Jelke, margarine heir, for having engaged in compulsory prostitution involving two women. The court ordered a new trial on the basis that he had been deprived of a fair and impartial trial because parts of the prosecution's case had been closed to the public, the judge having decided to try to protect the public from the tawdry, lurid evidence. Mr. Jelke had been sentenced to 3 to 6 years on each of the two counts.

The President visited Charlotte this date for Armed Forces Day and to help celebrate the annual May 20 commemoration of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, supposed to have been signed on that date in 1775. The President, appearing in Freedom Park, provided an address in which he said that the Administration was directing all of its effort toward the single purpose of achieving peace throughout the world, and expressed confidence in the armed services from the Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens "down to the last private in the ranks". Secretary Stevens was on the platform with the President. He also praised the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration, saying that the historical record had been disputed by some, particularly by those who claimed that they were the descendants of the true authors of all the documents of that time. He said that in his home states of Texas and Kansas, had there been three people present at the time, they would have proved that they signed the document, won the war and started the nation. He said that it did not matter how many people were gathered in the cabin to sign the document or that part of the document had to be reconstructed, but that the important thing was that it was "an immortal step in our development." He said that the country worshiped freedom and was doing its part just as they had done in their time.

He appears to have politely been telling them that his belief was that the document was a fake manufactured by some people some fifty years later, wishing to bring publicity to the state as having been the "first in freedom".

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale had spoken prior to the President, warning that freedom was a delicate institution, and called upon the people to protect their freedom and liberty.

Throngs of people had greeted the President and heartily applauded him. Various groups provided entertainment during the celebration. Representatives of CBS, NBC, Paramount, Fox Movietone, and TELE-News were present to cover the event, along with all Charlotte radio and television stations, and various print reporters.

On the editorial page, "Cool Heads, Calm Emotions Needed as South Moves Toward a New Era" discusses the Brown v. Board of Education decision handed down by the Supreme Court the previous day, holding unconstitutional the continued segregation of public schools, overruling the 1896 precedent of Plessy v. Ferguson and its "separate but equal" doctrine as applied to public education.

It indicates its disappointment in the ruling because it believes that the law had been on the side of the defendant school systems and that wiping out Plessy meant that the Court was exercising a legislative function. It also believes that the decision might impede the growth of public education in the South and might end it in several states. It also suggests that rigid and intemperate enforcement of the new principle in certain areas of the South could produce tensions which would cause lasting damage to both races.

It finds it good, however, that the decision had been unanimous so that there would not be any lingering doubt as to what the law was, heading into the future. It indicates that it did not wish any more Civil Wars.

It was also good, it ventures, that there was built-in delay, as the Court had ordered the four states and the District of Columbia where the plaintiffs had brought the cases to submit suggestions for the time and method of ending segregation, and invited other states where segregation was either permitted or required by law to do likewise. That would take approximately five months and would tend to dissuade Southerners with strong opinions and high emotions from giving voice to hasty thoughts and impulsive action. It suggests that it was a time for cool heads.

It indicates that there would be many areas in the South, particularly in the cities, where geographical arrangement of residential areas would largely maintain intact the pattern of segregated schools, as would be the case in Charlotte. It might develop in time, it ventures, that a majority of parents of both races would decide that it was in the best interests of their children not to force the difficult psychological and sociological readjustment required for integration.

It indicates that even with those factors taken into account, it was clear that the South was approaching the end of one era and the beginning of a new era, the full dimensions of which could not be estimated. It finds that the South was facing a transition which would be the more difficult because of customs and traditions deeply embedded during turbulent political times of the past, slavery and the plantation economy, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Populism and the reaction to it, the Depression, and finally the emergence of the nation as the leader of the free world and leading advocate of democracy. It reminds that the South, like it or not, was a part of the nation and the world.

It finds that it would be difficult, in a time of high emotions, to bring intelligence to bear on the problem and that it would be difficult to meet the financial burden of equalizing schools for all children, as would inevitably follow the decision. It urges the South to keep the "sweep of history in perspective" using intelligence coolly and dispassionately, finding the resources for providing equality of education to all children, and that if the state and the South could do those things, they would find that the problem was more manageable than it appeared at the moment.

It really, truly was not difficult at all. Children and adolescents are far more adaptable than adults to new circumstances. It occurred and everybody, with a few exceptions in certain backward palookavilles, got along. People are people.

As to the editorial's comment that the Court was performing a "legislative function" by overruling Plessy, that is, of course, nonsense. Overruling the precedent one likes is "legislating from the bench", as the phrase popularly became in reference to the Warren Court in the wake of Brown, while overruling that which one does not like is merely "setting the record straight". If anyone had been legislating from the bench, it was the Court in 1896, in its 8 to 1 decision in Plessy, effectively overruling the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, ratified only 28 years earlier, as the lone dissenter in that case, Justice John Harlan, had effectively charged the majority with doing. There is a long, albeit quite limited, history of the Court overruling precedent, or as in this case, sidestepping a precedent not strictly applicable to public education in the first place, when precedent through time had proved unworkable on a mass scale or was not serving its intended function, as had been the case with the separate-but-equal doctrine when applied to public education, as the Court explained.

Nothing, after all, could be more absurd than to allow the principle of stare decisis, come hell or high water, to rule us from the grave into categorical injustice and eventual societal chaos in a given area of the conduct of human affairs. The law, being designed by its nature to be dynamic and not stagnant, must, to the degree necessary to promote continued fairness and orderly conduct, recognize the process of change in a vital, mutable society. Otherwise, there would be no need for the courts as a branch of government. One would simply submit facts of a given matter in dispute to a machine or a trained research clerk, Manu the Lawgiver, and a decision would result based entirely on stare decisis, regardless of that decision's ultimate sense when posed against fairness and justice in any common understanding of those terms, without thought or contemplation as being somehow deemed extraneous to the law as written in black letters and handed down from the great Mountain. By the same token, no individual judge, of course, may part wholly from precedent in a given area of the law to construct a personal view of what ought to be the case in a given dispute, when the law clearly provides for a different result which, while not desirable by some, is nevertheless still imbued with basic fairness to all in the matter at hand.

"Rededication of 'A Noble Faith'" indicates that the President, visiting Charlotte, was stressing patriotism and old-fashioned concepts such as liberty and freedom. It indicates that in 1775, when the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence supposedly was adopted, those concepts had been cherished, and suggests that it was time to rededicate to "a noble faith", as the President had once said, as had taken root in the county at that time. It finds that the community was honored to share the observance "with the man who now, with steadfast faith, leads the forces of freedom."

A piece from the Rocky Mount Telegram, titled "Dig That Teenage Slanguage", indicates that the Chicago Daily News had compiled a teenage vocabulary designed to allow older readers to have insight to the new code language being used. It proceeds to provide a long list of such terms and their meaning, some of which will be familiar and some not—such as "coolie" for girl, "cop a breeze" for leave, "frantic" for being even worse than "3D", meaning "dense, dumb and dopey", "hub cap" for a leader or big wheel, and "yoot", meaning one who used big words, etc.

It then provides a paragraph using some of the new language in context and suggests that it ought to hold the youngster the next time he acted "3D".

Drew Pearson indicates that there had been a backstage hassle inside the Administration regarding the badly needed Federal program to promote construction of new schools. Commissioner of Education Sam Brownell, brother of the Attorney General, favored the school construction bill before Congress but had been stopped, largely by young Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Roswell Perkins, who had influenced Secretary of HEW Oveta Culp Hobby to be against the bill. The Senate, nevertheless, was still pushing the bill forward, despite Secretary Hobby telling the Senate Labor and Education Committee three weeks earlier that while she favored the principle of school construction, she wanted, before it was undertaken, conferences in each of the 48 states plus a final large conference at the White House. Senator Lister Hill of Alabama objected on the basis that seven conferences had already been held across the nation and that they had begun during the Hoover Administration, with seven million dollars having already been spent on a school survey. He took the position that it was time for action rather than talk. Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky agreed with that position, and so the Committee had gone ahead with hearings on a bill authorizing the Federal aid to school construction. Sam Brownell had been scheduled as the first witness, but he had been ordered by Ms. Hobby not to appear, after she had been convinced by Mr. Perkins to oppose the bill.

The Air Force was now prepared to bomb any place in the world, including Indo-China, having informed the White House of that fact. There was a growing sentiment inside the Air Force for use of strategic atomic weapons in Indo-China. That represented a change in Air Force point of view. Up to this time, chief of staff General Nathan Twining had opposed use of the Air Force in Indo-China, while Admiral Arthur Radford, Joint Chiefs chairman, had favored it. The Army now supported the idea of bombing operations and was willing to use land troops to protect air and naval bases. The reason for the changes was the apparent determination of the Communists to push ahead in Southeast Asia, plus the realization that in two years, Russia could meet the challenge of U.S. air power, whereas at present it could not.

Joseph & Stewart Alsop indicate that the public seemed not to have noticed but the country was getting closer to intervention in the Indo-China war. French Ambassador to the U.S., Henri Bonnet, had informed the State Department that the French Government would like to discuss "internationalizing" the war, meaning that the French now wanted the U.S. to enter the war. During the previous desperate weeks, the French had twice sought intervention by limited airstrikes to relieve Dien Bien Phu, and the U.S. would have intervened at the second invitation had Britain gone along. But since the fall of the fortress to the Vietminh, the French now wanted full-scale, permanent U.S. involvement.

The National Security Council, over a month earlier, had made a firm decision to enter the war if it was necessary to save Indo-China from Communism. The policy had not changed since that time and was dependent on two conditions, first, that the French had to make it clear that it was not a colonial war, the French having taken steps toward granting independence to the Indochinese. There was needed the ability to emphasize that fact without offending French opinion. The second condition was "united action", on which Secretary of State Dulles had been working since the NSC decision. The British had been the main stumbling block, with the British Cabinet having decided to break a promise made by Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden to Secretary Dulles to begin, during the Geneva peace conference, discussions of a plan for united action to save Indo-China. Mr. Eden informed Mr. Dulles that Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Burma and Indonesia were still discussing the Asian situation at Colombo, making immediate talks about united action inopportune.

Since that time, the Communist negotiators at Geneva had made it clear that they wanted only full communization of Indo-China, with Communist Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Chou En-lai having ordered both Britain and the U.S. to abandon all of Asia to Communism.

That stance had caused Britain to reconsider united action, and talks were to be initiated between France, Britain, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, with the Asian governments being kept informed of developments. But it was still doubtful whether the British would agree to join such action and it was no longer certain that the NSC would be content to provide the British the same veto power they had in the question regarding an airstrike at the Vietminh besieging Dien Bien Phu.

Doris Fleeson indicates that an important break had occurred in the nearly monolithic press support which the President had enjoyed since the beginning of his candidacy in June, 1952. An editorial in the Scripps-Howard newspapers had been captioned "Get going, Ike". Up to this point, Scripps-Howard had been blaming trends on Senator McCarthy and Republicans in Congress, but now believed it was time for the President to "lose his temper and raise some hell". It urged that Republican leadership had failed to lead and the President would have to "provide the leadership" or "be run over by an oxcart".

When the President came into office, it had been unclear how he would react to inevitable criticism, which had been almost nonexistent during his ten years as a military hero and international administrator. He was then executing policies of Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, which, by the time they reached him, were already generally well accepted, even if not completely popular.

The President still refused to take the lead in matters, declining to combat directly Senator McCarthy. He was delegating more authority as time went on, and experienced politicians in Congress were wondering how they could help the President "get the feel of the job".

Ms. Fleeson suggests that the harsh criticism of the Republican Congressional leadership was somewhat unjust as both houses had only spare Republican majorities and the party was split by factions as well as by Senator McCarthy. There was no clear mandate delivered from the White House on a daily basis to help them keep wayward members in line. Republican patronage problems remained largely unsolved.

While Congress talked a lot about independence from the executive branch, in actual practice, there was a great amount of dependence on the President, especially in the House, to make a strong case for his policies so that they could use him as an alibi at home to obtain votes.

She indicates that Scripps-Howard editors reported a favorable response to their "get going" warning to the President and that at least his attention ought to be attracted to the fact that a major supporter had taken him to task while informing him that former President Truman had given him good advice.

A letter writer from Pinehurst addresses the Army-McCarthy dispute and suggests that it was impossible at present to determine who was guilty of what. He recaps some of the evidence.

A letter writer from Monroe indicates that on May 13, a distressed doctor had written a letter wondering why the great masses of Christians did not silence Senator McCarthy, suggesting that if the doctor had kept abreast of current events, he would not have asked such a question. He recaps some of the evidence in the Army-McCarthy dispute and concludes that the actions by the Government and the Army to correct a "serious situation brought to light by Senator McCarthy illustrate one reason why Christians do not silence McCarthy."

A letter writer from Mount Holly responds to a letter writer who had defended Senator McCarthy, wondering how she could have done so, commenting that on second thought, she supposed it was "more convenient to let him do one's hating, if one is inclined to hate a certain political party". The previous writer had taken to task the newspaper, accusing it of slanting the news against Senator McCarthy, while suggesting that it read the David Lawrence and George Sokolsky columns to obtain "the American viewpoint for a change". She finds that thinking muddled, for to read those two columnists, one would obtain an extremely partisan Republican viewpoint. She reminds that 26 million people had voted Democratic in 1952, despite "high pressure brought to bear by the Republicans over the years". She indicates that she had not been one of those interviewed by the newspaper to render an opinion on Senator McCarthy, but says she was not afraid to stand up and be counted among those who opposed him and "his reprehensible methods of browbeating."

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