The Charlotte News

Wednesday, May 4, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Cash would comment more on the Book Fair, focusing on the talk by Paul Green, in his following Sunday book page piece, "On Carolina's Past". The editorial below echoes the passage from The Mind of the South which may be read at the end of the "Introduction" to this site.

It was at this fair that he would strike up two acquaintances which would have primary affect on the remaining three years of his life: one, his wife-to-be Mary Ross, and the other, Jonathan Daniels, who, with the Knopfs, would, thirty months hence, sponsor him for his third, and finally successful, application for a Guggenheim Fellowship, that one which would take him to Mexico at the beginning of June, 1941 to write a novel on a cotton scion, Andrew Bates, born 1900, his father and grandfather of the Old South before him, and the progress through and across generational time passing with the Bates family coming into the New.

So it was this Book Fair which set him on a course of both hope and success, only to have fatalistic fortune turn over its ever miserably stark dark hand quickly and decisively during one confounded and confounding night and day spent by Cash and Mary in the nearly half-fascist atmosphere then in tension in Mexico's capital, June 30-July 1, 1941--days abuzz with the bold-print news that spies seemingly far away, in New York and New Jersey, spies of a foreign government, had been arrested by the FBI.

But for the time in this spring of 1938, life was good for Cash--the best of times he ever had left to enjoy.

The People's Choice*

Like it or detest it, the fact remains that the Hon. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the people's choice. Accept it or reject it, the New Deal is still a magic wand with which to conjure votes and popular support.

Florida, of course,--especially North Florida--is a part of the agricultural South, and the agricultural South is strong for this Administration. And Claude Pepper is an In, as opposed to the several Outs who tried to take his seat in the Senate away from him. Furthermore, Pepper controlled the Federal patronage, whereas of the other four only Mark Wilcox, a Representative, shared this advantage.

Even so, much as he had in his favor, Senator Pepper ran away from the field and was renominated without the necessity of a second primary. Almost a self-confessed rubber stamp for Roosevelt, Senator Pepper nearly doubled the vote of Representative Wilcox, who asserted independence. It wasn't even close. It was Roosevelt, Son & Pepper, New Dealers, from start to finish.

Friend and Critic

What Dr. George W. Taylor, industrial arbitrator and University of Pennsylvania faculty member, told the convention of the American Federation of Hosiery Workers here yesterday, read like exceedingly good sense. The disposition of guest members to say what they feel will please their audiences, rather than instruct them, is notorious, but seems to have been deliberately avoided in this instance. Thus,

"As friends, we have got to realize that the manufacturers are afraid of certain policies of labor unions. We must appreciate the problems of our industry from its economic aspects... We must learn to use the election system, in which employees can give free expression. The union doesn't get good members by forcing men to join."

This needs no amplification, but cannot be emphasized too strongly. The advantage of unionization, the virtual necessity of it in our heavily industrialized order, has come to be pretty generally appreciated in the public mind; and this is a great step forward. But steps backward are taken every time unions disclose their lack of responsibility in living up to agreements and their lack of internal discipline. And, of course, every time there is violence and coercion of non-union labor, the public mind shudders and wonders what this country is coming to.

No Judge Here

Over in South Carolina the death of Federal District Judge J. Lyles Glenn has set the hearts of many big-wig politicoes to burning with the hope of donning the ermine. A dozen names have already come forward, and some of them are pretty grotesque in the connection. But the most grotesque of all, and by far, is that of Olin D. Johnston. The Governor, it is said, is now no longer so sure he can beat old Cotton Ed Smith for the Senate, and would be greatly relieved if President Roosevelt would reward his years of constant whooping for the New Deal, lock, stock, barrel, hoof, and horns, with this nice fat job at $12,000 a year.

It would be an appointment as bad as that of Hugo Black to the Supreme Court. We are not suggesting that Governor Johnston may not have his good points, or that his opinion of the New Deal ought to disqualify him, or even that Federal District judgeships always go to men of exceptionally high order. It is only reasonable to expect that a strong New Dealer will get the post. And some of the appointments to the district bench in the past have been pretty shabby. Nevertheless, it can be fairly said that most of them have been made with some reasonable regard to the possession of at least some part of the judicial temperament and outlook. And about Olin Johnston nothing is so clear as that he hasn't the vestige of any such temperament and outlook in his makeup. Whatever the merits of his highway controversy, the martial law he resorted to in combatting Ben Sawyer is conclusive proof that, however fit for other jobs he may be, he is totally unfit to be a judge.

The Book Fair

The big event of this evening in Charlotte is the opening of the Book Fair at the Armory Auditorium, with Paul Green, celebrated Tar Heel playwright and novelist, as the speaker. Nor is it only Charlotte for which the fair is a big event, but all the Carolinas and all the South. It is the first of its kind ever held in the country below the Potomac.

When Henry Mencken launched his famous blast "The Sahara of the Bozart" back in 1921, it caused a storm in Dixie. Nevertheless, he had reason. The South had little then that could be called a literature, and never had had much that could be called a literature. There are probably perfectly good reasons why in the period before the Civil War, when New England and the East were producing Hawthorne and Emerson and Thoreau and Cooper and Melville, the South produced only a William Gilmore Simms and a Poe (who is only half a Southerner at best). And there were undoubtedly perfectly good and obvious reasons why in the years from the war down until recent times, it produced only a few nostalgic purveyors of sentimental moonshine like Thomas Nelson Page. But that was the way of it all the same.

It is no longer true. Every third collegian in Dixie has a world-shaking opus on the fire today. And since Mencken wrote, the blank of the Southern literary heavens has taken to birthing a new literary prodigy at the rate of one every twenty seconds or so. Some of them, indeed, are very slight luminaries, but others are, by current comparisons at least, vast wheeling planets and suns. Call the roll of the principal Southern writers today and you have an astoundingly big part of the literary great in America. And if you don't believe it, go down to the fair and look at the exhibits. And for virtually the whole pack it may be said that they no longer deal in anything properly called sentimentality--that they set their teeth into and honestly do their best to understand and render the country out of which they were fashioned and in which most of them still have their being.

But perhaps the fair testifies to more even than that the South has begun to write. Maybe it testifies to the beginning of the passing of the old standard crack about the Southerner who wouldn't buy a book, because, forsooth, he already had a book. [North Carolinians own one-fifth of a book apiece.] We know very well that our own Tar Heel state still roars in the van of the least literate states in the nation, and that five per cent of its Nordics and twenty per cent of its Negroes can't read and write. All the same, it does seem probable that an increasing number of Tar Heels are beginning actually to buy and even read books. Else, how explain the fact that nearly fifty hard-headed publishers, including the most celebrated in the land, have spent their good money to fetch their wares down to show them to us?

Just Petitions

When a delegation of Negroes from the Greenville section of the city last week petitioned Mayor Douglas for the paving of the streets in their neighborhood, they were told that the City had no funds because of the ruling of the Supreme Court concerning the last proposed bond issue. But if the City had funds, would the streets in the Negro sections be paved? Certainly, they haven't been in the past when the City did have funds.

In any case whatever, there is no reason why the petition of the Negroes for lighting in their district should be granted. They are as much entitled to adequate lighting as is Dilworth or Elizabeth or Myers Park. Moreover, both common sense and economy call for it. For it is precisely in the unlighted streets and alleys in the Negro districts that the major part of the City's crime bill is incurred. And we have a pretty strong hunch that that crime bill is not going to come down a great deal until the Negro districts become less jam packed with humanity, until they have streets worthy of the name, and until those streets are lighted.


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