The Charlotte News

Saturday, July 15, 1939


Site Ed. Note: "No Second Shot" makes allusion to Justice Hugo Black's prior membership in the Klan. Justice Black of course became one of the staunchest defenders of civil rights ever to sit on the Supreme Court.

While on the subject of justice and the Klan, we make special note that in Philadelphia, Missisippi on June 21, 2005, some justice was finally meted out in the murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, three civil rights workers slain on a lonely dirt road off Highway 19 outside Philadelphia on June 21, 1964. "Preacher" Edgar Ray Killen was convicted by a jury of nine whites and three African-Americans of manslaughter. While one can certainly question the wisdom of a conviction only for manslaughter in such a case, (apparently on the theory that the murders were negligent consequences of a planned kidnapping for purpose of administering only beatings--even so, in most jurisdictions, subject to the felony-murder rule whereby the malice necessary for murder is implied by the fact of death, even natural death, occurring during the commission of a felony, apparently not the law in Mississippi), one cannot question the wisdom of the trial judge who handed down the maximum sentence of twenty years on each count, to run consecutively, for a sixty year sentence.

Eighty years old and in fragile health though the Preacher is, the three murder victims, Mr. Schwerner, Mr. Goodman, and Mr. Chaney, who would today be 65, 62, and 61 respectively, never had the opportunity to get to be 80 years old; none of them ever even got to vote in a presidential election. The Preacher deserves not only the sentence, but if it were within the power of divination to command it, he should be forced to live to see the end of that sentence. He used his position in the community where he grew up, ordinarily a position of decency and respect, as an ordained Baptist minister, to organize a group of thugs one Sunday night--note that lynchings often occurred on Sundays--brutally to take the lives of three young men who were seeking only to insure the rights of men and women in and around Neshoba County to register to vote.

By the judge, by the two able prosecutors, including the State Attorney General, and by the people of Neshoba County, Mississippi, a start has been made toward long overdue justice. We owe them our thanks. It is only symbolic, of course; in some ways justice always is, especially as it becomes the retributive clarion for murder. For there is no such thing as pure justice for the taking of a human life; the life taken can never be replaced. But a start has been made in this particular case, at long last. Fortunately, the groundwork was laid by the FBI and the Justice Department under the direction of Robert F. Kennedy in the days and months following the crime in 1964 by the collection of a wealth of evidence for the prosecution. Unfortunately, the State of Mississippi, at the time riddled with the effects of its praetorian State Sovereignty Commission, extending all the way to Governor Ross Barnett, declined to prosecute and it was left to the Justice Department in 1967 to allege criminal civil rights violations carrying maximum ten-year sentences. The jury hung in 1967 as to the Preacher, the organizer of the murderous expedition that night.

This time, 41 years to the day after the crime, the jury did not hang.

And, even through the four decades since, the rock which anthropology major Andy Goodman died clutching in his fist that dark midnight still persists, and shall.

"'...Allons, messieurs, over this gate, across this meadow, and here is the copse.' How boldly that superb ash-tree with its fine silver bark rises from the bank, and what a fine entrance it makes with the holly beside it, which also deserves to be called a tree! But here we are in the copse. Ah! only one half of the underwood was cut last year, and the other is at its full growth: hazel, brier, woodbine, bramble, forming one impenetrable thicket, and almost uniting with the lower branches of the elms, and oaks, and beeches, which rise at regular distances overhead. No foot can penetrate that dense and thorny entanglement; but there is a walk all round by the side of the wide sloping bank, walk and bank and copse carpeted with primroses, whose fresh and balmy odour impregnates the very air. Oh how exquisitely beautiful! and it is not the primroses only, those gems of flowers, but the natural mosaic of which they form a part; that network of ground-ivy, with its lilac blossoms and the subdued tint of its purplish leaves, those rich mosses, those enamelled wild hyacinths, those spotted arums, and above all those wreaths of ivy linking all those flowers together with chains of leaves more beautiful than blossoms, whose white veins seem swelling amidst the deep green or splendid brown;--it is the whole earth that is so beautiful! Never surely were primroses so richly set, and never did primroses better deserve such a setting."--from Our Village, by Mary Russell Mitford, 1832.

No Immunity

Racketeering By Labor Is Still Racketeering

Senator Burton K. (Bounding Bert) Wheeler has predicted "that if the Government presses the case, it will incur the resentment of labor from one end of the country to the other." The case in question is the indictment at New York of 70 union men, including the president, secretary, and treasurer of Local 807 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen and Helpers of America, for extorting a million dollars and more from truckers who haul general merchandise and perishable foodstuffs into New York from all over the nation.

Senator Wheeler, who he advisory counsel for the defendants, is quite right when he warns that it is wrong and dangerous to attempt to twist laws not originally made to apply to labor, for the purpose of depriving it of its rights. But we do not believe that sensible labor men will react in this case as he indicates. Labor certainly enjoys no special immunities from general laws. The laws under which the 70 have been indicted are (1) the Copeland anti-racketeering law, and (2) the Sherman anti-trust laws. And the offense charged against the defendants is that they stopped out-of-town trucks at the city limits and compelled their owners to pay $9.42 apiece for a Local 807 driver, whether he was needed or not. This charge remains to be proved of course. But if it is--if that doesn't constitute racketeering and combination in restraint of trade, what on earth does?

On A Hot Spot

If Wang Gets His, The World Won't Mind

The Japanese brass hats seem to have decided that Wang Ching Wei is the long-sought puppet who can win popular Chinese support for their phoney "Chinese governments" at Peiping and Nanking. Wang, along with Chiang Kai-Chek, was the favorite of the old Sun Yat-Sen, the Founder of the Chinese Republic, and at the latter's death became co-heir with Chiang to leadership in the state. He was premier of Kai-Chek's Government right on up until Jan. 1 of this year--had himself bitterly opposed the Japanese until he was expelled from the Kuomintang for coming out with the proposition that it was best for China to make peace with its invaders. Hence, when he attempts to appeal to the Chinese with a new nationalist party, he will have some basis to hope for hearing.

Nevertheless, if it is true, as we continually hear, that the war has brought a birth of genuine patriotism in China, he is probably doomed to failure. For the man plainly is a traitor to the whole dream of an independent China--and more than that, it is pretty clear that the reason for his treason is simply personal jealousy and hatred of Kai-Chek. And what is most likely to be his reward is this: that his head will at once become worth as much to the loyal Chinese forces as Kai-Chek's now is to the Japs. The latter, of course, would gladly pay a whole king's treasure to lay hands on the master of the Kuomintang and dispatch him to his fathers. But it isn't likely that their hopes there will ever be realized. For that wily old fox takes good care to keep himself well out of reach. But Wang, in the nature of the case, must expose himself among Chinese of whose friendship he is uncertain. Chances are, therefore, that Wang is not long for this world. And if he is--nobody will shed any tears. For it is the immemorial judgment of mankind that a traitor pretty well deserves anything that can happen to him.


Even Neutrality May Yet Get Its Chance

That neutrality bill sponsored by the President and Mr. Hull may get through Congress yet, if past performances are any criterion. For repeatedly in this session Congress has turned the Administration's proposals down and then shortly afterward reversed itself.

There was that question of continuing the President's power to devalue gold, which had apparently been decided in the negative after Mr. Tydings had heroically filibustered against it and after conservative Republicans and Anti-New Dealers had made a deal with the silverites from the West by agreeing to give them a still larger helping at the public trough. Yet within three days, the decision has been overturned--though not without the President himself having to agree to let the silverites have a part of their graft.

And yesterday the House, which some weeks ago indulged in gross bad manners by declining the President's offer of part of his Hyde Park estate for a library to house his papers--by combination of all the Republicans and some anti-New Deal Democrats--reversed itself again and decided, by a vote of 221 to 124 to accept it, after all.

What explains such vacillating conduct? Undoubtedly pressure from the Administration, and the threat of loss of patronage. But also, perhaps this: that the Anti-Roosevelt Democrats are more anxious to vent their spleen than to destroy the Administration measures. And that, having vented it, they take time to discover that they are keeping company with hated Republicans, and are immediately more ready to go along with the Administration than to continue to endure the association.

No Second Shot

Senate Confirmed Davies After A Full Hearing

The President is quite right in refusing to return a confirmation already made--that of Judge Davies of Tennessee--to the Senate for reconsideration. The whole business is a confession that the Senate has its mind on anything but the thing it ought to have it on--that it is much more interested in contriving schemes to slap the President in the face, no matter what the cost, than in soberly trying to find out and do what is best for the nation.

Moreover, the ground alleged for wanting to reconsider is largely silly and trivial--that some Negroes up in New Jersey have discovered that the new judge once belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and that he readily confesses that he did join the hooded hoodlums twenty years ago and attended one meeting. As to his qualifications we have no notion. And we have no doubt at all that the possession of any prejudice against giving Negroes equal justice with white men ought to automatically debar any man from sitting on the bench. But the Negroes in Tennessee, whom he is to judge, have lodged no protest nor indicate any objection of any kind. And the mere fact of having once been silly enough to join the Klan does not necessarily prove that he is a Negro-hater. It only proves that he is another Southern politician. It is no exaggeration to say that at least three-quarters of all such Southern politicians--save perhaps in North Carolina and Virginia, where the order never got so solidly established as in other parts of the South--did join the Klan or, more often, made eyes at it and solicited its support back in the early Twenties. Has anyone forgotten the Democratic Convention in New York in 1924?

It may be--it is, we think--true that such politics often constitute ground for barring a man from the robe. But it has not generally done so. Indeed, it did not disbar one from rising to the Supreme Court bench, with the full "advice and consent" of the Senate, even though he concealed the fact of Klan membership rather than cheerfully confessing to it as did Judge Davies.

Tight Squeeze

Isolationists Face A Problem In Consistency

Senator Key Pittman apparently has got the isolationists on the spot. Or rather the people actuated by all sorts of motives, including pro-Germanism, partisanship, and the will to slap That Man Roosevelt, who claim they are isolationists. Yesterday he called into session the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which he is chairman, to consider his bill to authorize the President to ban the shipment of war materials, such as oil and iron, to nations guilty of violating the Nine-Power Pact. And that, as everyone knows, means Japan.

The "isolationists" on the committee have already announced their intention of blocking this measure. But it is going to be embarrassing. Earlier this week they insisted on ignoring the President and Mr. Hull in refusing to report out the Bloom Bill passed by the House, which would have lifted the ban on the sale of everything save "arms" in the strictest sense. As the law now stands, we should probably have to refuse England and France all that we refused Spain, if war broke out in Europe. The Pittman proposal goes a little further, but not much further, and the principle is plainly the same. Moreover, there is no doubt at all that Japan is actually making war on China, and the excuse offered for this ban, that Japan has flouted a solemn treaty to which we were a party, is good excuse in international law.

The case promises at least to show up pretty clearly the fact that it is only England and France some of these "isolationists" want to feed out of their particular spoon.


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