The Charlotte News

Tuesday, November 15, 1938


Site Ed. Note: This date marked the fiftieth anniversary of the start of publication of The News, just after the "election" of Republican Benjamin Harrison as President, "defeating" incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland. The final popular vote tally provided a margin of 90,000 votes to Cleveland, but the electoral count came out 233 to 168 for Harrison, as Cleveland's popular majority was achieved by a top-heavy count in a few states, primarily Southern. Cleveland carried the South solidly, and by substantial margins, notably in Alabama (67%), Arkansas, (55%), Florida (60%), Georgia (70%), Louisiana (73%), Mississippi (74%), South Carolina, (82%), and Texas (66%); he added Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and narrow wins in Cleveland's native New Jersey and Connecticut, the latter by only 333 votes, to achieve his popular vote victory. Cleveland won North Carolina with a majority of 52%, achieving there, as with Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and especially West Virginia, far more narrow majorities than the lower Southern states.

Harrison, by contrast, won the decisive top electoral prize of 36 votes from New York only narrowly by a percentage point, less than 15,000 votes, (which may well have been tainted given Tammany Hall's notorious reputation of the time), his own native electoral-rich Ohio, with 23 electors, by only 2.5 percentage points, 26,000 votes, and Illinois with 22 electors, by 22,000 votes or three percentage points. The only other state with more than 16 electors at the time was Pennsylvania with 30 which Harrison won handily with a 54% majority. Thus, the result, tainted by Tammany or not.

Unlike the elections of 1876 and 2000, the outcome was not contested, there being no realistic basis at the time for doing so, the only razor-thin popular vote victories going to Cleveland in Virginia, West Virginia, and Connecticut. The issue in 1876, recall, were competing slates of electors sent by Lousiana, Florida, South Carolina, and Oregon, the first three vying over the end of Reconstruction in the South. In 2000, well, we know all about that. But, if by chance you forgot, it was, though not involved per se in the subsequent contest, about funny butterfly ballots in Palm Beach, a Democratic stronghold, and, insofar as the contest, about recounts and how those recounts would proceed and against what deadline, and who would be the time keeper, the bi-partisan state courts, the state executive branch, solidly Republican, the state legislature, Republican, or the Federal courts. And ultimately it was about some 550 votes and whether that presented an accurate statewide count based on ballots which did not respond always to a punch stylus when the little box below the ballot became too full of collected flaps of paper called "chads". (We've long since pitied any fellow named "Chad". Though, on second thought, he might appeal to the ladies. But we mustn't start all of that up again.)

The election of 1888 is interesting for several reasons: Cleveland was the first Democrat to occupy the White House since James Buchanan before the Civil War. He was a clean-government politician opposed to pork-barrel politics and the corrupt methods of patronage, made a way of life by New York's Tammany Hall political machine. He had opposed the high trade protectionist tariffs maintained since the Civil War, 47.5% tariffs on imports, especially iron and steel to protect northern manufacturing interests, especially in Pennsylvania. The tariffs, beginning on the eve of the Civil War with the Morril Tariff Act, signed into law by Buchanan during his last weeks in office and which doubled the existing tariff to 36%, hurting Southern cotton and tobacco export trade, had produced a high budget surplus which had been in turn used for pork barrel programs which Cleveland regularly vetoed. In the South, these tariffs had long been an explosive issue, since the days of 1828 and 1832 when Andrew Jackson sent the military to South Carolina to put down the Nullificationists who had refused to obey the tariff laws enacted in those years. This initial so-called Force Bill, issued by a Southerner to Southerners, was a pre-cursor of course to the Civil War and the other major issue in the mix beside slavery which led to the War. The fact that the tariffs still remained two decades after the War presented a constant reminder of defeat to the South, impoverished as it was by the War and its aftermath, trade barriers further preventing economic recovery by the South, hampered by substantial community losses directly during the War coupled with loss of primary transportaion facilities, i.e. railroads, and the small business facilities necessary for effective farming, blacksmithing shops, etc., not to mention the complete sea change required by Reconstruction with regard to farming personnel, from slave-based plantations to small 40-acre-and-a-mule plat tenant farming.

Cleveland had won in 1884, despite a brewing controversy over his illicit paternity of a child, which he admitted. One of the principal factors laid to the win then was the use by Republican-owned newspapers of the term "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" to describe the Democratic Party, referring respectively to slaving, the Civil War and, in the North, an appeal to Catholic immigrants newly arrived from Ireland; the phrase so disaffected Catholics in New York from Republican Jame G. Blaine that Cleveland carried the state as a result and thus won the election.

And in 1892, Cleveland returned the favor to Harrison, this time taking New York, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and California, in addition to the states carried in 1888, for a resounding 277 to 145 electoral victory and a 3% popular vote margin, rendering the only split-term presidency in our history. The Cleveland candidacy no doubt was aided in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin by the addition of Governor Adlai Stevenson to the ticket as vice-presidential candidate.

Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, elected President in 1840, and the first President to die in office; Stevenson was the grandfather to Adlai Stevenson, Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956 while Senator from Illinois, and, after an unsuccessful bid for the 1960 nomination, Ambassador to the United Nations under President Kennedy.

All of which demonstrates only perhaps that, for the sake of continuity, and a feeling of familiarity and relationship to our government and our times, history has a certain relative and poetic continuum through time, which is as it should be, both as to politicians and statecraft and as to the organs which report on it and other issues of the day. We naturally feel more comfortable that way. But, there is a catch. We Americans are wary of anything lasting too long, anything which smacks of royalty, whether in statecraft or in the organs which regularly report on it. Thus, The Charlotte News, having been bought and subsumed under The Charlotte Observer during the latter sixties, met the same fate as most afternoon dailies by the 1980's, and ended publication in 1985, a victim of USA Today and the advent of 24-hour cable news. In the older, earlier days of tv, when nightly news was for 15 or 30 minutes locally and 15 or 30 minutes nationally in the evening, with a few five minute newsbreaks during the day, plus the early morning shows, and all three networks broadcast that news for many years simultaneously, there was great need for afternoon dailies to fill the void. By 1980, that began to change rapidly. But, having lost the afternoon daily, query whether we also lost with it a principal part of what used to be a twice daily exercise, the reading of the newspaper, with over dependence now on that lazy exercise of only listening to the news for the most part. What most daily newspapers report now, save for purely local stories, one has already seen the previous evening in excruciating depth and detail. So, the mind says to one's self: why read this? Well, why think at all? Why exist?

And speaking of relativity, there it is again, another editorial of this particular time period post-Munich, which, when read another way, especially if so read in the early 1960's might be suggestive of something.

Then one has to figure out who was Hipparchus, who Hippias, the elder brother of Hipparchus, who (or what) Harmodious, who (or what) Aristogiton, both of whom tried to assassinate both the brothers, succeeding only as to Hipparchus. And who Callistratus, who wrote a song about it which became the Athenians' war song. This notion becomes especially interesting when adding back to it the scenario regarding that which we included in our note associated with the October 21, 1938 editorials--before we ever read this day's or the subsequent intervening days' editorials, incidentally.

Well, who were they then? Hipparchus, never a ruler of Athens, except through his brother, lived from 555 to 514 B.C. He was a patron of the arts, sponsoring the poets Simonides and Anacreon. The Columbia Encyclopedia tells us that old Harmod and Aris killed Hipparchus because of his supposed "personal vices". Hippias, we are informed, the elder brother of Hipparchus, was a tyrant while ruling Athens, having first attempted to work with the opposing family Alcmaeonidae and the Spartans, but becoming more despotic with the approach of the Persians. The brothers' father, Pisistratus, (or Peisistratus), also a tyrannical ruler, had maintained power through his political identity with a solidly favorable rural population which he achieved through land laws designed to promote their interests, presumably agrarian laws designed to promote crop production yields and maintain high prices at market, low trade tariffs, that sort of thing. Pisistratus was exiled twice after coups by the Alcmaeonidae, acting together with the aristocracy and the Spartans. He enhanced cultural prestige in Athens, beautified the city, building great temples and fountains, and established great festivals in honor of the Greek gods, notably Zeus. Militarily, he added Salamis and extended Attic power into the Dardanelles.

The family Alcmaeonidae were led by Cleisthenes, who, after achieving power by the overthrow of Hippias in 510, enacted democratic reforms including diluting the power of the clan and local party systems and shifting districts from social to political divisions. By so doing, Cleisthenes, however, drew the ire of the Spartans who, having helped him achieve power, became alienated by these reforms antagonistic to their interests; Cleisthenes was exiled, though later recalled. The Alcmaeonidae, incidentally, also included, during the fifth century B.C., Pericles and Alcibiades, the latter having been the ward of Pericles and a devoted attendant to Socrates (assuming of course that Socrates actually existed, some scholars contending that he was a mere fictive alter ego of Plato, their time overlapping by a mere 28 years, after all giving precious little time for Plato to have held any mature dialogues with his supposed great elder teacher; but never mind that).

Hippias, meanwhile, during his exile from Athens, after Cleisthenes took the reigns of governance, joined the Persians and was with them at the Battle of Marathon. Marathon, the battle of 490 where the runner Pheidippedes sought the Spartans' aid for Athens against the greatly outnumbering Persians by running 150 miles in two days; the Spartans were a day late, but the Athenians had prevailed nevertheless by the shrewd military tactics of Miltiades. Then some other runner ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to give report of the victory, then collapsing in death-throed exhaustion. (No Gatorade or salt tablets in those days, see; though Nike they possessed, in spirit anyway.)

As to Harmodious and Aristogiton, the former was killed during the attempted assassination of Hippias, and the latter was caught and executed. Their recognition came in Athens upon the subsequent overthrow of Hippias.

Well, more or less, that's who they were. Who they are, or who they were more recently, or, better put, who someone decided they were and sought to act accordingly as if they were, in a decidedly unrealistic state of thought, we couldn't decisively say, but we, like you, may our ideas possess.

The point being of this little exercise, however, that here again, we have a definite coincidence from an editorial, which, when carried forward to events of the early 1960's becomes indeed remarkable. That is not to say that anyone should conclude that W. J. Cash foresaw and forecasted something in 1938 which occurred in some manner in the 1960's, other than the general atmosphere which then stirred and pervaded the South as a result of decades of dodging the reality of the situation at hand regarding the continuing untoward effects on the entire population resulting from deprivation of civil rights to some while granting superior rights to others, a state of affairs which can never persist in any society for long without chaos erupting from it, whether in ancient Greece or in latter day Mississippi or what have you, latter day Iraq?

Oh, there is the temptation to say, Hippias, Hip, Hippies, a term originating in the 1950's, but not in general usage in the United States until the Beatles hit the hip scene in 1964 and generally used as a more derogatory, drug-oriented sort of near-epithet by 1967. "They're just a bunch of hippies," meaning Animals. And there may have been some temptations probably to make links to such old myths from the fact that Mrs. Kennedy married Aristotle Socrates Onassis, Greek shipping magnate, in 1968. And Harmodious sounds vaguely harmonious. While Aristogiton sounds vaguely aristocratic.

We don't know. It's all Greek to us. But it is interesting, not for that in fact which someone thought it might mean, but for the fact that someone might have thought it did mean something or could be used to make others think that it could mean something, a sort of divine propitiatoire, discerned only by the perspicacious, divinely inspired, foreordained by the wisdom of time and the ages, the gods of Olympus, the gods of Genesis, before the Fall, before the Rib even, all leading on to that complex of what us worry, Original Sin-Forgiveness of Sin, thus okay to murder those perceived as tyrants, those imposing a Force Bill, dictatorially on the South or on other economic interests in the nation or the world. But not really.

And we saw here tonight some report on tv about an upcoming book by Joltin' Joe's niece suggesting his ex-wife, Norma Jean, was in fact murdered in August, 1962, rather than the victim of her own hand by barbiturate overdose. We don't know about all of that. She had been fired in June from a movie set for unreliable behavior. One could posit of course that such provided only a convenient excuse therefore for someone out to do her harm, to conveniently make her death appear as a readily acceptable suicide. But why would the L.A. coroner's office be so careless then to rule a potential homicide a suicide, and regarding such a visible person? Influence, some would counter. Cover-up, others might add. Someone wanted her diary, they say--and would kill to get it. Seems a bit extreme, however, when considered, over an actress's diary, especially whose author was rumored to have emotional problems of which substantial public evidence existed to bear it out. What possibly could a diary contain which would be that sensitive, to which anyone would likely pay attention regarding such an actress whose screen career was starting to welter out after a decade of prominence? "Dear Diary" does not necessarily lend credibility to matters, even in the starstruck 1950's and 1960's, especially if the person could not to thine own self be true. So, what could have been the logical motive for any such act, really?

And this latest book now indicates apparently, according to the interview, that Joltin' Joe was about to return and marry Norma Jean, something which has not been made known in 43 years, at least not to our knowledge, though we by no means suggest any regular upkeep on this sort of information. We don't question the veracity of the niece of Joltin' Joe, mind you. She said she waited to come forward with her story out of fear: She had delivered a pizza to Norma Jean the day of her death, and then her mother told her that she had been on the phone with Norma Jean as someone came in to murder her, someone whose name Norma Jean uttered but who Joltin' Joe's sister-in-law refused to utter to her daughter for fear of reprisal to anyone who knew. Yet, somehow, Joltin' Joe's sister-in-law managed to survive okay. Strange that someone would go to all that trouble to kill an actress and leave alive all of these peripheral witnesses. But, what we should really like to understand better about these new revelations is what fear which was present earlier has been withdrawn in the five years since Joltin' Joe's niece started collaborating with an author to write this new book.

But, it's all very interesting. Whenever Norma Jean comes up, then inevitably the names of the President and Attorney General of the time come up. Gratifyingly, their names didn't in relation to the interview we saw regarding this new book. Perhaps, they do not exploit that old canard, as others have attempted conveniently, for the death of all principals who might deny it, and quite salaciously--in order to sell books and magazine articles. Ourselves, we think there is a difference in talking to someone on the telephone, singing "Happy Birthday" to them in that trademark, fan-endearing, whispery voice, and having a "relationship" with them. Also, Norma Jean, was friendly with the Director, too. No one suggests, however, she had a "relationship" with him. (Frankly, his memory could use the boost. But, since he was never married, there is little mileage in that one.)

We remember once, in 1967, sitting in a HoJo restaurant in Atlanta having breakfast. In the next booth over sat two businessmen chatting. One said to the other that he knew that the former Attorney General had a "relationship" with Norma Jean. We, being inofficious and polite, didn't seek to ask him how he had come by this information and how he knew it to be true. Undoubtedly, he was a member of the Not-See-Eye A. And, thus, we would not have wished to compromise our security by blowing our cover to ask him whence the scooper derived. We relate it only by way of indicating how old these stories are and how long they have circulated. No one seemed very fearful to talk about such nonsense in 1967 in a HoJo restaurant in Atlanta for anyone within earshot to hear, and with the former Attorney General still quite alive and politically influential as a Senator from New York. But, who knows? Maybe these businessmen disappeared later that day into the 28 Flavor sign and were never heard from again, being shipped off to Jupiter in a Saturn rocket ship.

We almost forgot. Among the 25 letters of congratulations to The News on its 50th anniversary printed in the edition this date was a brief one from Hugh S. Johnson, whose syndicated column appeared about three times per week in The News.

And, as to the editorial regarding that "presence unincarnate, unseen, but always felt", we confess that in our menial role as re-chronicler, re-publisher of these editorial columns from The News, we feel precisely that same indescribable thing whenever we undertake to reproduce them. So, if occasionally we get a bit carried forth with the idea of ghosts, try to be forgiving. It's the way of it, especially when often transacted so far out a' sea. For, a ghost story, it be, as to one degree or another, all of history, when studied well, is.

Courtesy Congressmen

The twentieth amendment to the Constitution performed a highly salutary operation on the Federal Government. By advancing the term of Representatives and Senators from March 4 to Jan. 3 (President and Vice-President to Jan. 20) it got rid of lame duck Congressmen--chappies who had already been turned out of office but who continued to hold their seats and make laws for months past their rejection.

Latterly, however, another variety of Congressional stopgap has begun to make a regular biennial appearance. These we may call courtesy Congressmen, since they obtain office by courtesy of appointment and hold it only until the regular Congressman comes. They take no part in lawmaking, unless there is a special session, but they enjoy all the usual embluments and perquisites of Representatives and Senators, which, as Bibb Graves astutely perceived when he appointed Miss Dixie temporarily to the Senate, can mount up. A salary of $843 a month, plus $400-odd to Representatives for clerk hire and $625 to Senators, plus other miscellaneous allowances, is not to be sneezed at.

Perhaps it would be unbecoming to the dignity of Congress to economize by letting interim vacancies remained unfilled, but we don't think so. Indeed, if there is any lack of dignity in the matter, it is that of accepting paychecks for services never rendered.

Hero: New Style

In the fifth century B. C. there were two tyrants at Athens called a Hipparchus and Hippias--the sons of one of the earliest benevolent despots known to history, Peisistratus. Hipparchus, after the fashion of the time, took fancy to the young man named Harmodious. But Harmodious fancied another young man named Aristogiton, and so offended the tyrant.

Whereupon he took revenge by brutally and openly insulting Harmodious' sister. For that Harmodious and Aristogiton attempted the assassination of Hipparchus and Hippias, and did succeed in killing the former.

The Athenians made them out to be national heroes. A statue was raised in their honors, coins bearing their images were struck, and one Callistratus wrote a song about them which came to be the great war song of the Athenians.

It has been by our standards, probably the most curious case of honor in history. But it is not going to be the most curious hereafter. For at Moscow, in Red Square, Soviet Russia is going to build a monument to Pavel Morozoff, the boy snitch who at fourteen denounced his father to the authorities for hoarding grain and was killed by indignant relatives.

Poor Crop, Poor Price

Confirmed antagonists to the "regimentation" implicit in crop control have something to think about in the figures giving North Carolina's production of cotton this year. Despite the fact that North Carolina's crop was the smallest in 37 years, due partly to low yield per acre and weevil damage, the U.S. crop was about average--on top of last year's all-time record. As a result, North Carolina growers are getting a low price for only 425,000 bales.

The state acreage planted to cotton, was low--the lowest since 1932, which shows that the farmers took a willing part in the curtailment process. They will get their AAA thanks, to be sure, and that is something. But they are heavy losers, all the same; and while Secretary Wallace and the Department of Agriculture can't be held responsible for unfavorable growing conditions and insect harm, it is nonetheless plain that by cooperating in acreage reduction the state came out at the very littlest end of the horn. That is a contingency which is generally inescapable in any equation wherein Nature has a place.

What We Celebrate

Nobody here in this building has any misconception of whose birthday we are celebrating today. The publisher, to be sure, received an enormous birthday cake with candles on it, and the publisher probably ate his share of the cake. But it isn't the publisher's birthday and, besides, he isn't 50. Few of us here are, and even if this should happen to be our birthday, no such fuss would be made over it.

No, this is the birthday of The Charlotte News. The News is both an entity and a personality. All of us here are conscious of it. We don't go wandering around corridors talking to it, or say good morning to it or good evening. We don't introduce it to callers. All the same, it is a presence; a presence unincarnate, unseen, but always felt.

It is an exacting presence. It has mysterious ways of making known its wants, of communicating its pleasure and displeasure. It is a challenging presence. Sometimes it inspires men to do better than they know how. Always it stimulates them to do their best. It can't be shunted aside, even on those rare occasions when one may have failed it or been unworthy.

Perhaps it's a sort of collective spirit, this News presence, compounded of the faith and tenacity, the hopes and dreams and everlasting endeavors that have been put into the making of the paper by the men and women who, these fifty years, have had a part in that. Perhaps it's a distillation of the loyalties of these fine people. No matter.

No matter what it is so long as it is. And that it is, this 50th birthday celebration in its honor warrants beyond doubt. Born before most of us to endure beyond any of us--Gentlemen, we give you The News!

Two Attitudes

There was a remarkable contrast yesterday between the action of the American Government in calling home Ambassador Wilson from Berlin and the attitude of Mr. Bumble in the House of Commons. Bumble obviously was out to minimize the atrocities practiced by the Germans on the Jews, and to relegate the question to limbo as quickly as possible, lest it further upset his scheme to give Adolf Hitler his whole way. The American action on the other hand was undoubtedly a plain warning that the United States will sever all relations with Germany if she doesn't reconsider her course.

The internal policy of other countries is by ordinary no immediate concern of ours. But there is a limit to the application of that doctrine: the point at which any country throws aside all "decent respect for the opinion of mankind" and embarks upon the practice of barbarism. Such a country forfeits all claim to be treated as a member of the family of civilized nations, and ought to have that fact made painfully and fully clear to it.

Whatever criticism may be justly leveled at the Roosevelt Administration, it is at least a comfort to reflect that it still has vigor and the capacity for honest indignation--as Bumble's in England plainly hasn't.

Two Can Play

When John L. Lewis tosses that mane, increases the truculence of his scowl and snarls out his polished words, you are hearing a master speaker. Labor eats it up--friendly labor, that is. Mr. William Green, now, doesn't care for it.

Yesterday Mr. Lewis made to the first constitutional convention of CIO a speech that had 'em whooping and hollering. One thing he said, though, we didn't like very much. He was addressing himself to Hitler and his mistreatment of the Jews, and he dwelt on the possibility that Adolf might try to extend his influence into the Western Hemisphere. "And if war comes," he cried,

"... the United States will need the co-operation of the millions of workers in CIO. I say to the people in high places who have opened the sluice gates of propaganda against CIO that the day may come when they will rush to the CIO and beg protection for their special privileges."

No, we don't like that. It seems to imply that labor won't fight for its country unless it happens to be in the mood and the price is right. Not pacifism, which is understandable, but a sort of mercenary bargaining will restrain it.

Mr. Lewis probably didn't mean it that way, but we wonder, anyhow, if he has ever given any thought to the possibility that by that time the rest of the country may not care to fight to save CIO?


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