The Charlotte News

Wednesday, November 17, 1937


Site Ed. Note: For another reference to Officer Bowlin, the subject of "This Needs Saying", who had just shot and killed a fleeing African-American suspect wanted on a misdemeanor, see "They Need Missing Practice", August 31, 1938. The local standard applicable to apprehension of fleeing suspects by means of deadly force was set forth in "Rule No. 5" on November 15.

"Freezing the Ball", forecasting filibuster on the anti-lynching bill, would hearken not the first or last time the procedure would be used or attempted in order to block civil rights legislation; instead, filibuster was and would continue to be a regular practice utilized within a mixed bag of Senators, usually but not always Southern, comprised of segregationists, strict constructionists and states rightists, and those wary of force bills generally with their potential for explosive impact within dodge-towns of the South, right through the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the latter landmark legislation providing for equal access to all public facilities engaged in interstate commerce, as originally promulgated in 1963 by the Kennedy Administration, as promised by the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

A story which has received little notice over time but, we believe, merits attention for its tenacity to principle and purpose, as telling a true profile in courage, is that of California Senator Clair Engle in June, 1964. The cloture vote for terminating the record-setting filibuster at the time, primarily maintained by Southern Senators, was expected to be close. Senator Engle had a few months earlier become incapacitated, was dying of cancer, and could no longer even speak. Nevertheless, he insisted upon being brought to the Senate chamber in his wheelchair so that he might cast his vote in the affirmative for ending that filibuster. The final vote was 71-29, four more than the then two-thirds majority needed for cloture. Four weeks after the Act was signed by President Johnson on July 2, Senator Engle passed away. Such was courage, not complacency, even in the face of death, the example having been set most vividly and recently by the man who first promulgated that legislation to the nation in June, 1963.

This Needs Saying

If a police officer was found drunk or asleep on duty--a dereliction, to be sure, but one which might result harmlessly--he would be suspended at once, automatically, until such time as the Civil Service Commission would hear the case.

But at the moment a police officer who admittedly has shot and killed a misdemeanant and who will have to appear at a coroner's inquest at which witnesses are prepared to testify that the man was shot while he ran with upraised hands--is still on active service.

We are not undertaking to say in advance of any official hearing that Officer Bowlin did or did not kill his man feloniously, but we are saying that he should be relieved of his duties until such time as he may be cleared.

Give Us the Yard

The Federal Power Commission yesterday ruled that the Yadkin is navigable in the sense that it affects the navigability of the Pee Dee and that the Aluminum Company of America will have to procure a Federal license to build its dam at Tuckertown.

What navigability ordinarily means is well-established in law. Thus 10 Wall, 557-563 has to say:

"Those rivers must be regarded as public navigable rivers in law which are navigable in fact..."

And 21 Pickering (Mass.) 344-347 adds:

"Nor is it every small creek, in which a fishing skiff or a gunning canoe can be made to float, at high water, which may be deemed navigable. But in order to have this character, it must be navigable to some purpose, useful to some trade or agriculture..."

Such being the case, we gather that the only way the Yadkin can be navigated is under the supposition that there is some magic in Federal fiat which converts what was not before fact into fact. And granting this--well, we hereby enter two petitions. First to the Navy Department: that it exercise its thaumaturgic prerogative and restore the Charlotte Navy Yard to active deep water service. And secondly to the Federal Power Commission: that it convert Port High Rock into a naval station co-equal with Hampton Roads.

Site Ed. Note: For more on the impregnable defense for the Navy which Port High Rock would have afforded to the country, see "Naval Refuge", January 5, 1940. As we said before, Mr. President, give it a try. It might still work.

And as to Port of Charlotte, there might be those who become confused and believe that the editorial is somehow referring to Lake Norman; that is not the case, as that large body of water did not come into being until 1964. No, it is the Port of Charlotte to which the piece refers. Those very familiar with Charlotte will understand, even if the waterway is hidden on the maps—another bit of nefarious riparian coûte que coûte up with which we have to put.

High Rock Lake, incidentally, is still maintained by Alcoa.

Loud Laughter in the East

Japan laughed out loud in her reply yesterday to the Nine-Power judgment that she is guilty of aggression in China. To be sure, she again went through the cynical motion of professing that she is really engaged in a war of self-defense. But her laughter said plainer than words that she actually expects nobody to swallow that tale.

She laughed, and stripped the whole futile business of modern conferences naked--"the irony that springs from the attitude of powers which vote things to which they don't adhere." Are they moral? Really concerned for the sanctity of international obligations? Well, maybe the naively idealistic United States is, more or less, and for that reason we might have been willing to talk it over with that country. But the rest of you--you don't even pay your debts or attempt to pay them! Are we supposed to pretend to believe that Russia, which has adopted lying as an official part of its philosophy, is truly a champion of integrity among nations? Or that wily old England is doing nothing but what she has always done, cooly playing her hand for every possible advantage until she gets ready to strike with force? Or that France is really worried about anything at all but the interests of France?

We are supposed to be crushed with contrition by your judgment upon us? And if we aren't--you might do things to us? We know very well that not one of you is going to do that. We know very well that all of you are four-flushing. And so we propose cheerfully to go through with what we have begun, and what, pray, are you going to do about that?

Freezing the Ball

Regardless of one's opinion of a wage and hour bill and an anti-lynching bill, the vestige of respect for democratic processes can hardly approve the methods which both houses of Congress are taking to prevent those bills from coming to a vote. In the Senate, the placing of the anti-lynching bill at the head of the calendar has caused a stir among the Southerners which is interpreted as a sure sign of a filibuster. On the other side, a petition is being circulated to discharge the Rules Committee from further consideration of the wage and hour bill, thus finally bringing it to the floor where it may be acted upon.

It's the old stunt of freezing the ball, of delaying the game until time runs out. In games there are penalties for such obstructive tactics. In Congress there is not. And perhaps, after all, the two are not actually analogous, for in this legislatorial instance the dispute is confined almost entirely to members of the same team--i.e., the Democrats. We know of no rule in any sport which forbids blocking on a side. But we still don't believe it's a creditable adult performance or the way to transact public business of the first importance.

On Second Glance*

Looking casually at that story about Dorr Mitchell, United Automobile Workers president at Pontiac, ordering 2,000 sit-down strikers out of the Fisher Body plant yesterday after they had occupied it for twelve hours, you might be tempted to suspect that the CIO is beginning to reform its ways. Twelve hours is a mere nothing compared to the long periods the workers stayed in at General Motors in Detroit last Summer, for instance. And besides, Mr. Mitchell himself ordered the men out. And besides--Mr. Mitchell said he ordered them out, specifically, because the strike was unauthorized...

But wait a minute. Look at that last again. He ordered 'em out--because the strike was unauthorized. Not because, you observe, he disapproved of the sit-down strike as a weapon in industrial disputes. Not because he thought they had no business taking over the property of the Fisher Body Company, but simply because the strike was unauthorized. That's almost a way of saying that if it had been authorized, the sit-down would have been supported to the limit.

Roll Call

Most spectacular of relief agencies, the Red Cross is probably the one which most thoroughly enjoys the confidence of the American people. Wherever war, famine, flood, fire, earthquake or pestilence rages, it moves quietly, and invariably does its job well. So well, indeed, that through the long years of its existence there has never been any suggestion of scandal in connection with its administration or its use of the funds put at its disposal.

The general confidence in and the general enthusiasm for its capabilities showed up plainly yesterday in the organization of the annual roll call here, when 400 workers volunteered for service in the campaign. This year's roll call has able leadership in Dr. Edgar Gammon and Thomas Glasgow. And the goal fixed for Mecklenburg County, $10,000, is modest enough. With this army of workers, there should be no difficulty in reaching it.

Site Ed. Note: Eventually, thanks in large part to Cam Shipp’s February, 1937 exposé on Charlotte’s slums, a Federal housing project would eventually be approved and built in 1939, as chronicled in "A Wise Father", May 5, 1939. That courageous series was noteworthy for two reasons: first, few journals up to that time had engaged in such essentially sociological reporting, though it was becoming something of a minor vogue across the Depression-era South among writers generally, such as James Agee’s and Walker Evans’s 1936 effort with respect to Alabama sharecroppers, not published until it came out in book form in 1941 as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; and second, because to set forth on the front page of any newspaper in the South of 1937 a cry for better housing for depressed slums, not only because of its inevitably predominant racial component, but also the generally continuing depressed conditions throughout society making such a cry likely to be met with "why them and not us first?" and, moreover, to do so under a by-line, was to risk being run out of town on a rail or worse. The Klan, while having become by then something of a local joke, was still in evidence within the rural and small town landscape, where it continued to thrive, not unabated or without substantial mock even there, but nevertheless in substantial evidence, into the late 1970’s. And, while not in substantial evidence among the grassroots adherents, perhaps, the leaders of the Klan were often literate and reasonably well-educated, even sometimes professional, men who did read newspapers, and sometimes assiduously, especially looking for some liberal-minded iconoclast to the traditional white set-up against whom to set the whistle blowing among the understrappers.

Again, an earlier form of courage and not complacency in the face of a forgotten injustice staring the citizens in the face within a hundred yards of City Hall, yet obliterated from consciousness until set ineradicably before them in their afternoon newspaper headlines, with all the pictures to go with it.

We Get You, Ben

The people of Charlotte, according to Mayor Ben Douglas's representations in Washington, where he has gone to attend the annual Conference of Mayors, are "deeply interested" in low-cost housing and would be in the middle of the project right this minute were it not that the "Wagner-Steagall law is rather complicated and to some extent designed for larger centers than Charlotte."

Rather complicated, Ben? Why, it's as simple as ABC. The successive steps are set forth in the act coherently and understandably, and as for being "to some extent designed for larger centers than Charlotte," the act was finally amended with smaller cities expressly in mind. In fact, the act is ideally suited to Charlotte, made to order for it, except in one particular. That is: the City or somebody must put up part of the original cost of the project and pay a part of the annual subsidy necessary to maintain it.

What that really means, we believe, is that low-cost housing for Charlotte would be a perfectly swell thing if the Federal Government would shoulder the whole first cost and upkeep. In taking that attitude, he is no different from the mayors of a thousand American cities for whom the New Deal has made progress painless.

Site Ed. Note: The other editorials of the day are here.

As to Mr. Broun's piece for the day, all we can say is that we thoroughly empathize with the sentiment.

Speaking of coincidences, here's a little thing we ran across. It indicates in a little item that Cash's sister and brother-in-law were in Lumberton, N.C. the day before to find a new place to live, that being shortly after their first anniversary of marriage. There are several coincidences about that page, most of which we shall keep unto ourselves, hush-hush and on the QT, at least for now. But the principal two are that this little item appeared precisely one year before Cash would die in Mexico City, and has to its left a curious little item about the delivery of 12 rattles off a rattlesnake killed in the Big Swamp, after first charming a rabbit, then delivered to the news offices of the Robesonian.

Well, we just thought we would note that for what it's worth. This little burg and surrounding area was at the time some of the most fertile ground for the Ku Klux Klan in the entire state of North Carolina--probably was still, at least, through the mid-1980's. The probable reason for that grim notion is that the community was and still is minority Caucasian in its make-up, a rare occurrence for a town of its size, the majority being Native Amercian and African-American, there being a good argument put forth by linguists that some at least of the Native American population are descendants of the original English settlers on Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony.

But, ever since "Blue Velvet", the film, not the song, we are certain the town has managed to find itself, straighten itself out, uncoil itself as it were.

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