The Charlotte News

Saturday, January 11, 1941



Site Ed. Note: The obituary to Grover C. Hall might well have been for Cash himself six months hence. Cash wrote of Hall in similar terms in The Mind of the South, indicating that his courageous stands against both the anti-evolution movement in education and the Klan won the support of editorial writers eventually in other Alabama newspapers, notably the Birmingham Age-Herald and News. Hall is named along with Gerald W. Johnson of the Baltimore Sun (and personal friend of Cash), Nell Battle Lewis of the Raleigh News and Observer, Douglas Freeman of the Richmond News Leader, Virginius Dabney of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Louis Jaffé of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Julian Harris of the Columbus Enquirer-Sun, Baptist minister Edwin McNeill Poteat, and Senator Carter Glass of Virginia as having been especially outspoken in opposition to these movements. (The Mind of the South, Book III, Chapter II, Section 26, pp. 339-340)

The Supreme Court Justice to whom Cash refers as having early in his career been a Klan member was of course 1937 Roosevelt appointee Hugo Black, the former Alabama Senator who remained on the court until 1971, just eight days before his death, and became a leading proponent of civil liberties, voting of course with the unanimous Court in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. In fact, so great was his reputation for supporting civil liberties that in 1958, James O. Eastland, old-guard segregationist Democratic Mississippi Senator, attacked Black along with other justices, including former justices and Roosevelt appointees, Wiley B. Rutledge and Frank Murphy, still then current justices William O. Douglas and Felix Frankfurter, and Eisenhower appointees, William Brennan and Chief Justice Earl Warren, as being pro-Communist in a two and a half hour speech on the Senate floor, resulting from their consistently supportive voting records on cases involving Communists. Democratic Senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, denounced the speech as "one of the most serious attacks on the judicial process under the Constitution of the United States that I have ever heard". And it was, of course. The issues before the Court obviously were not framed as pro or anti Communism but rather whether all citizens enjoyed the rights granted by the Constitution. And if the citizen who was least popular was deprived of those rights, then how was anyone else to be insured of those rights?

And such debates as prompted by Eastland were fairly common in the 1950's. The underlying chord of course was not at all fears of "Communism", but rather concerns over increasing racial integration of society. The "Communist" label among such segregationist Senators and pols was simply a code word to avoid sounding overtly racist on the national stage, to attempt to curry favor in areas outside the South and among those who would not be as emotionally pre-disposed to continued segregation as to whipping Communists. (It was Eastland, incidentally, who later as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1968 deliberately held in committee Lyndon Johnson's elevation of Justice Abe Fortas to chief until after the Republican Convention in order to insure Fortas's defeat by filibuster on the Senate floor, enabling Richard Nixon to appoint Earl Warren's successor, Warren Earl Burger. Eastland, however, had actively supported Johnson for President in 1964. Politics makes often for strange bed-fellows, especially in the South. See L.B.J. Library Oral History Collection, Eastland, p. I-13) If they could deny civil liberties for Communists, however, these same arguments, the lawyers among the guardists knew, could likely be used to prevent racial integration, as well as the converse. The Warren Court, after Brown, became a lightning rod for their rhetoric. "Impeach Earl Warren" was a billboard seen all over the South for years from the mid-fifties through the mid-sixties. And indeed, many in Congress, as well as J. Edgar Hoover, sought to dig up whatever dirt they could on liberal justices, especially William O. Douglas.

And to such Neanderthalic pols, there is nothing worse than a Southerner who is perceived as having turned against his own, the proverbial "Commie/nigger lover". Such was the plight therefore of Hugo Black, who, according to F.B.I. records, was a member of the Klan for a little less than two years between 1923 and 1925, joined in order to advance his political career in Alabama and stated, upon joining the Supreme Court, that he had received an unsolicited lifetime membership card to the Klan while running for the Senate in 1926 but never used it and resigned the membership in 1928. Black had first campaigned for the seat vacated by anti-Klan Senator Oscar Underwood by reportedly saying everything which would appeal to both the KKK and the AF of L. Black had begun his legal career as a lawyer representing labor unions. His Senate tenure was marked by strong support of organized labor, investigation of corrupt lobbyists, and unwavering support of the New Deal.

Black was quickly confirmed in 1937 by his former Senate colleagues, almost by acclamation within five days of appointment. His membership in the Klan became an issue within a month, however, after Republic Steel Corporation in association with the Hearst newspapers hired a private investigator to dig up dirt because of Black's pro-labor stands as a Senator. After an "orgy of vituperation" in the press--(Hugh "Ironpants" Johnson carped: "What difference does it make if Hugo Black is a uniformed Kluxer... It is plain from his record that he is a born witch burner--narrow, prejudiced, and class conscious")--Black satisfied the nation in a radio address that he did not hold and had never held to the credo of the Klan--and indeed bore out this claim through his long and distinguished career on the Court.

He began as a lone dissenter on the Court, opining for labor rights and civil liberties.

In 1940, he wrote the majority opinion in Chambers v. State of Florida, 309 US 227, striking down the convictions and death sentences of four black men who had confessed to murdering a white man after five relentless days, including one continuous whole night, of questioning by police. Holding such coerced confessions violated Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment, Black eloquently stated the problem: "We are not impressed by the argument that law enforcement methods such as those under review are necessary to uphold our laws. The Constitution proscribes such lawless means irrespective of the end. And this argument flouts the basic principle that all people must stand on an equality before the bar of justice in every American court. Today, as in ages past, we are not without tragic proof that the exalted power of some governments to punish manufactured crime dictatorially is the handmaid of tyranny. Under our constitutional system, courts stand against any winds that blow as havens of refuge for those who might otherwise suffer because they are helpless, weak, outnumbered, or because they are non-conforming victims of prejudice and public excitement. Due process of law, preserved for all by our Constitution, commands that no such practice as that disclosed by this record shall send any accused to his death. No higher duty, no more solemn responsibility, rests upon this Court, than that of translating into living law and maintaining this constitutional shield deliberately planned and inscribed for the benefit of every human being subject to our Constitution--of whatever race, creed or persuasion."

In 1941, he also wrote the majority opinion in Smith v. State of Texas, 311 US 128, striking down the systematic exclusion of blacks from jury panels as a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and stating pointedly, "If there has been discrimination, whether accomplished ingeniously or ingenuously, the conviction cannot stand."

These two decisions earned him a place on the Honor Roll of Race Relations in the Schomberg Collection of Negro Literature at the New York Public Library in 1941.

In 1946, however, a feud erupted between Justice Robert Jackson, then head of the Nuremburg tribunal, considered a conservative member of the Court, and Black, who was briefly acting as chief justice awaiting confirmation of Truman's nominee, Fred Vinson, to succeed the deceased Harlan Fiske Stone. Among other things, Jackson indicated that Black should have recused himself from a 1945 case, Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v, United Mine Workers, 325 US 161, (holding that travel to and from the coal shaft must be included in the federally regulated work week under the Fair Labor Standards Act regardless of custom or contract to the contrary), because Black's former law partner represented the UMW during the pendency of a petition for rehearing by Jewell, a petition the Court unanimously rejected. Jackson had dissented in the original opinion, at one point quoting Senate hearings in 1937 on the Fair Labor Standards Act in which Black had stated the Act did not affect existing or future collective bargaining agreements between employer and employees, a statement which appeared contra the majority holding in which Black had participated. The feud outside the sanctums of the Court hit the newspapers and prompted calls for Congressional investigations of the Court and possible impeachment proceedings against both justices. It was reported that each had previously threatened to resign if the other were appointed chief by Truman. Eventually, the brouhaha settled down, however, and came to naught.

And all by way of saying that many white Southerners, even those with prior membership in the Klan itself, stepped to the fore of society, often risking their reputations or lives in so doing, and aided the struggle over the decades for the betterment of human relations and the striking down of the worst forms of institutionalized racism. But that is not to say the job is done, even today in 2003. The fact that few, if any, patent forms of racism persist in institutional form in our society today is not to say that we as individuals, regardless of skin color, cannot always perform in more rational ways, truer to our expressed ideals under the Constitution that all human beings are entitled to equal rights, not just under the law, but in our private thinking and actions as well. As John F. Kennedy stated in promulgating the Civil Rights Bill of 1963, "Race has no place in American life or law."

It is the Constitution which supercedes all human folly, all human weakness, invariably exhibited by every one of us at times, even the Constitution's very human authors, and grants us the legal basis for obtaining through life what is ours by dint of birth. No other lands have such a long-standing heritage or such a document on which to ever increase that heritage. We must never shove it aside as old, outworn, or irrelevant. For it is then that despotism will begin.

An Editor

Whose Death in Alabama Is Loss to U. S. Journalism

Dead in Alabama is Grover C. Hall, editor of the Montgomery Advertiser and winner of the Pulitzer editorial prize in 1928. And because of his death American journalism and life are the poorer.

A gentle fellow in his early fifties who delighted in whimsical little essays and legends, many of them of high literary quality. There was Clarabelle, the Office Cat, for instance, extracts from whose saga have often been clipped for the editorial page of The News. Whether Clarabelle was a real cat, we don't know, though in time he duly chronicled her death. We have always suspected that she was a creature of the Hall imagination and that he killed her off finally because she began to bore him with her perennial amours and her ungratefulness. At any rate, she was a classic in her time and locale.

But there was one thing which made him fiercely angry--intolerance and oppression. He won that Pulitzer Prize for the great fight he put up against the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama at a time when to fight the Klan in Alabama was exceedingly dangerous--when even a man who is now justice of the Supreme Court of the United States felt it necessary to traffic with it and when most newspaper editors were as silent as the grave about its menace to all decent American values.

He had begun life as a printer's devil, and his sympathies were always on the side of the underdog--which was why he went all out for the New Deal, often uncritically. And his dislike of oppression and intolerance made him one of the best haters of Hitler in the country.

Let the earth lie upon him lightly, for so free a spirit deserves freedom.

Their Aim

A Propaganda Gang Tries To Put One Over

"Spain" always interests us when it comes to our desk. It is the official publication of the Spanish Library of Information, Room 405-6, East 34th Street, New York City--which is to say the official Spanish propaganda agency in the United States. Which is to say, again, a stooge branch of the Nazi-Fascist propaganda agencies in the United States.

"Spain" is got up in costlier format than almost any other publication--American or foreign--which comes to our desk--is printed on the finest calendar stock and is heavily illustrated with plates.

That is one of the things which interests us. For Spain is reported to be starving and is moving heaven and earth to wangle a loan (i.e., gift) of a hundred million dollars out of the United States.

But "Spain" always interests us for its content, too. For, like the Nazi-Fascist line in general, that content is always based on the assumption that we aren't quite bright.

Take an article in the current issue on "Propaganda From South America," written by one, C. F. Carsley.

The article smiles sadly over the "exciting" reports of American newspaper correspondents that the Nazis and the Spanish Falangists in South America are very busy--whipping up hate for bad old Uncle Sam. The truth is, it says quite simply, that the Nazis are down there to save South America from the Communists. And as for the Falangists: they have,

"Provided a people (the Spanish), whose faith in government was almost destroyed, with a government based on sound Christian principles. Granting that such an accomplishment is rare in these days when God has been driven out of government (the reference is to separation of church and state--Editors, The News), nevertheless, it cannot be considered harmful to the American's peaceful pursuit of happiness and his enjoyment of liberty in the New World."

There you have it. The gentle Falangists are down there, you see, to provide South America with "a government based on sound Christian principles."

The sound Christian principles, we guess, of the Nazi Heinkel bombers which, at the command of Butcher Franco, tested out their power one day in 1937 by killing 700 helpless old men, women, and children in the unfortified old Basque village of Guernica.

Framed Edition
[Go to Links-Page by Subject] [Go to Links-Page by Date] [Go to News Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.