Bilbo, Theodore G.

1945 TLS from Mississippi’s racist junior Senator to a wounded GI, defending his views against fair employment legislation

Price: $150.00

Description:
(1877-1947) Unabashed racist Mississippi politician, twice Governor of Mississippi (1916–20, 1928–32) and US Senator (1935–47). A master of filibuster and scathing rhetoric, he made his name a synonym for White supremacy. A proud racist, he defended segregation and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He served in the Mississippi State Senate 1908-12. In 1910, he attracted national attention in a bribery scandal. The State Senate voted to expel him from office, falling one vote short of the 3/4 majority needed. The Senate passed a resolution calling him "unfit to sit with honest, upright men in a respectable legislative body." He was Lieutenant Governor 1912-16, and elected Governor in 1915. In his first term (1916–20), he put state finances in order and supported Progressive measures such as passing a compulsory school attendance law, founding a new charity hospital, and establishing a board of bank examiners. He authorized a state highway system, as well as lime crushing plants, new dormitories of the Old Soldiers' Home, and a tuberculosis hospital. He pushed through a law eliminating public hangings and worked on eradication of the South American tick. As the state constitution prohibited governors from having successive terms, he chose to run for a seat in the House of Representatives but lost. Bilbo caused controversy by hiding in a barn to avoid a subpoena in a case involving his friend, then-governor Lee Russell and served 10 days in prison for "contempt of court." In 1927 he was elected Governor again after winning the Democratic primary in a runoff election over Governor Dennis Murphree. Bilbo criticized Murphree for calling out the National Guard to prevent a lynching in Jackson, declaring that no Black person was worthy of protection by the Guard. During the 1928 presidential election, Bilbo helped Al Smith carry the state despite overwhelming anti-Catholicism, by claiming that Herbert Hoover had met with a Black member of the Republican National Committee and danced with her. In 1930, Bilbo convened a meeting of the State Board of Universities and Colleges to approve his plans to dismiss 179 faculty members. The presidents of the University of Mississippi, Mississippi A & M (later Mississippi State University), and the Mississippi State College for Women were all fired and replaced, respectively, by a realtor, a press agent, and a recent B.A. degree-recipient. The Dean of the Medical School at Ole Miss was replaced by "a man who once had a course in dentistry." In his final year of office, Bilbo and the legislature were at a stalemate. He refused to sign tax bills, and the legislature refused to approve his bills. At the end of his term, Mississippi was broke. In 1934, Bilbo defeated Hubert Stephens to win a seat in the US Senate. There he spoke against "farmer murderers", "poor-folks haters", "shooters of widows and orphans", "international well-poisoners", "charity hospital destroyers", "spitters on our heroic veterans", "rich enemies of our public schools", "private bankers 'who ought to come out in the open and let folks see what they're doing'", "European debt cancelers", "unemployment makers", pacifists, Communists, munitions manufacturers, and "skunks who steal Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms". He feuded with Pat Harrison, the senior Senator from the state. When the Senate majority leader’s job opened up in 1937, Harrison went after it. Nose counts put him in a tie with Kentucky’s Alben Barkley. Bilbo hated the upper-class Harrison, and said he would vote for Harrison only if he were personally asked. Harrison replied, "Tell the son of a bitch I wouldn’t speak to him even if it meant the presidency of the United States.” Harrison lost by one vote, and his reputation as the Senator who wouldn’t speak to his home-state colleague remained intact. In the Senate, Bilbo supported FDR’s New Deal. His outspoken support of segregation and White supremacy were controversial in the Senate. Bilbo proposed an amendment to the federal work-relief bill on June 6, 1938, proposing to deport 12 million African Americans to Liberia at federal expense to relieve unemployment and wrote a book advocating the idea. He was a prominent participant in the lengthy southern Democratic filibuster of the Costigan-Walker anti-lynching bill before the Senate in 1938. Bilbo was re-elected to a 3rd term in 1946. Based on a request by liberal Democratic Sen. Glen H. Taylor of Idaho, the newly elected Republican majority in the Senate refused to seat Bilbo for the term because of his speeches. He was believed to have incited violence against Blacks who wanted to vote in the South. In addition, a committee found that he had taken bribes. A filibuster by his supporters delayed the seating of the Senate for days. It was resolved when a supporter proposed that Bilbo's credentials remain on the table while he returned home to Mississippi to seek medical treatment for his oral cancer. He wrote and published a summary of his racial ideas entitled “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization” (1947). After his death, a bronze statue of him was placed in the rotunda of the State Capitol, later relocated to another room, now frequently used by the Legislative Black Caucus. Some of the members use the statue's outstretched arm as a coat rack. TLS on 10 ½ x 8 “United States Senate/Committee on the District of Columbia” letterhead, as Chairman, Washington, December 8 1945, to a soldier, wounded in the Pacific and in a hospital convalescing. Having read the soldier’s letter “with astonishment”, he would like to know “where in the hell you get your information about what I am doing and saying.” Bilbo explains in a long, single sentence: “It is true I have fought the passage of the FEPC which is an un-American, unconstitutional, alien conception of Government, sponsored by certain communistic minority groups and a few good people evidently have been misled as to the intent of this fool legislation, but the white right-thinking people of America know what it is all about.” Bilbo is sending the recovering GI a copy of his speech before the Senate and “…I trust while you are waiting for transportation to come home you will read it carefully.” On June 25, 1941, President Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) by signing Executive Order 8802 prohibiting “discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." In 1943, FDR greatly strengthened the FEPC with Executive Order 9346. It required all government contracts have a non-discrimination clause. During WW II the federal government operated airfields, shipyards, supply centers, ammunition plants and other facilities that employed millions. FEPC rules applied and guaranteed equality of employment rights. These facilities shut down when the war ended. In the private sector the FEPC was generally successful in enforcing non-discrimination in the North, it did not attempt to challenge segregation in the South, and in the border region its intervention led to hate strikes by angry White workers. Congress never enacted FEPC into law. In 1948, President Truman called for a permanent FEPC, anti-lynching legislation, and the abolition of the poll tax. The conservative coalition in the Democratic-controlled Congress prevented it. In 1950, the House approved a permanent FEPC bill, but southern senators filibustered and the bill failed.

Condition: Very good, folds, slight toning
Type:Letter






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