Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Ralph McGill,

American Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist and Publisher
May 17, 1967

by Ralph McGill

I am greatly complimented to be one of those invited to participate in the lecture series that bears the name of and honors the man Alfred Landon. He has lived - and continues to live - a life of usefulness and of excellence. He has made - and still makes - a contribution to our life and times that has been critically constructive. His participation in the national dialogue has been - and is - one that properly commands respect and appreciation.

My pleasure at being here and attempting to discuss something of the political development of the Southeastern United States - that controversial region known generally as "the South" - is increased because this same Alfred Landon was responsible for inspiring me to try to do something about it.

Some months after the Presidential campaign of 1936, I was on a visit to Washington for my paper. Mr. Landon happened also to be there. He was gracious enough to see a newspaperman unknown to him. We talked about the lamentable condition of party politics in the South. I raised in particular the low estate of what was then known as the Republican Party in the states of the old Confederacy. It was, in a sense, a non-existent party. Its members were contemptuously known as the "Post Office" Republicans. They were a few men who handled the Post Office and other patronage appointments when a Republican was elected President. These men also controlled the selection of delegates to the national conventions. In between, most of them made common cause with state Democratic factions and, at the county level, functioned as Democrats.

Mark Hanna of Ohio, maker of the Republican Party, is credited with establishing this skeleton-like organization. Some months before the national convention that nominated William McKinley, Mr., Hanna appeared in the then small town of Thomasville Georgia, just north of the Florida line. A house had been rented for him. Mr. Hanna announced to the great satisfaction of local pride, that he had come to Thomasville for his health. It was noted however that a surprising number of persons became interested in Mr. Hanna's health. Callers came every day. They came by train and carriage. Most of them stayed at the local hotels except an occasional one or two who were guests at the Hanna home.

Mr. Hanna was practicing one of the arts of king-making. He had earlier determined to nominate Mr. McKinley on the lint ballot. It occurred to him that while there was no Republican Party in Dixie, there were delegates. Before he reached Thomasville and took a house letters and a few telephone calls had alerted persons in all the states of the Deep South to be ready to go to Thomasville and ask about Mr. Hanna's health. Mr. Hanna's health improved with each visiting delegation. When he returned home to Ohio he was interviewed about his health and that of the Republican Party. He said both were good. Indeed he predicted that Mr. McKinley would be nominated on the first ballot. He was. He had a significant majority and a substantial portion of it was a solid block of votes by delegations from the Southern states. It was merely coincidental that chairmen who answered the roll call of these Southern states were all men who had been to Thomasville to inquire about Mr. Hanna's health. From that time until 1952, Southern delegations traditionally were tied by influence to leadership from Ohio. They were counted in the Taft corner for President William Howard Taft and they were later supporters of the presidential ambitions of Senator Robert Taft.

Indeed it was a part of the political irony of our times that the nomination of General Dwight Eisenhower at the 1952 convention turned on a pivot of a Southern state - Georgia - and a contest of the seating of the delegation. The old line Post Office Republicans had controlled the state convention and had ruled out delegates committed to General Eisenhower's candidacy. Two delegations showed up at the Republican convention of that year. The convention's credentials committee seated the Taft delegation. A contest from the floor followed. In a rare and historic decision the delegates reversed the convention's credentials committee and seated the delegation committed to General Eisenhower. This precedent was followed by a similar decision regarding contesting delegations from Texas, and within minutes, the stampede to General Eisenhower was on. I recall sitting in the press section during that decision and having Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby say to me, "Who would ever have expected a Republican convention to turn on the state of Georgia and on a moral issue at that?"

Southern Republicans

Governor Landon and I had talked in 1937. At that time he discussed, among other things, the quality of Republican delegations from the South. His conclusion was that they were, on the whole a rather second rate lot. There were individual exceptions, but in the main, these delegations were made tip largely of men who the governor said would not be admitted to state Republican delegations from other sections of the country. In this he was entirely correct. They were a second rate lot and some of them were third and fourth rate. This was well known locally, but the Republican Party also was known locally not to be a party in tact, but merely a skeleton-type organization which Inane no effort to build a party organization at either the local or state level. Governor Landon further concluded that not until the Republican National Committee was willing to give assistance and consideration to responsible Southerners would there be a development of the two-party system in the South.

I printed this interview and it created a mild and temporary tempest. Two or three of the local Republican leaders issued indignant denials, but they soon subsided in the face of the undeniable facts of what Governor Landon had said.

There is today the beginnings of a two-party system in the South. The Republican Party as it exists is neither a united nor a happy one. Its leadership is all too often those who have deserted the Democratic Party because of opposition to civil rights legislation. Too much of the Republican effort in the South has been, and is, an attempt to win votes by adopting programs more racist than those of the Southern Democrats. It cannot be said that a single state Republican organization in the South has endorsed the republican national platform planks on civil rights. In 1964, for example Governor George Wallace of Alabama gave aid and comfort to a number of Republican candidates for Congress and for other local offices. Republican election gains were significant insofar as the labels meant anything. Republicans won victories. But in 1966 Governor Wallace turned against these same men when he determined to support a slate of state nominees who would be favorable to his wife's candidacy for the governor and to his later third party "Southern Democratic" movement. The Republicans in Alabama therefore, bit the dust.

In 1966 there was a general falling-off of Southern Republican successes as compared with those in 1964. Senator Goldwater's political managers had determined on what they called the "Southern strategy.: This was, in reality, a poorly concealed racist strategy. It was based on the belief that Senator

Goldwater could not win the Northern Negro vote. They felt that he might conceivably carry some of the Northern states, but they believed he would, by satisfying Southern racists, gather in the whole bloc of Southern electoral votes and perhaps win in the electoral college.

In Georgia, in 1964, the present Governor, Mr. Lester Maddox, then engaged in an open running fight against public accommodation laws, cynically declared that Senator Goldwater's radial position suited him (Mr. Maddox). In Alabama, George Wallace abandoned his own third party racist program so that he would not get in Senator Goldwater's way.

This racist dilemma will continue to plague the Southern Republican development, but as I see it, it is, while sad and regrettable, perhaps a necessary part of the trauma of developing a second party. Nor should the melodrama of race by the so-called Southern Republicans hide the fact that there are many reputable first rate men who are at work trying to create a Southern Republican Party of responsibility and prestige. Some of these men had managed to make considerable progress until the take-over by Goldwater forces in 1964. They were not, and are not racists. They are men committed to what they believe to be the principles of a progressive conservation. Most of them were replaced as state chairmen and national committeemen by the Goldwater organizational take-over in 1964, but they are coming back. They are by no means lost to the struggle to create a responsible competing party.

The Southern Democrats are not without trauma and dilemma. The divisive effects of racism and the determination of rural leaders to maintain segregated school systems at no matter what the cost to educational standards in general have contributed to a substantial split in what used to be called the solid Democratic South. We now know that in fact we had no Democratic Party such as existed in states outside the South. In the Southern one-party states the Democratic Party was what the governor made it. There were factions, each calling itself Democrats, that contended for the governorship.

When in 1964 and 1966 it became necessary for Southern Democrats to function as a party, they found themselves without any efficient, effective state organizations. They had never needed such organizations, because there had been an absence of opposition. They found their own ranks split by racist divisions. There is increasing disposition on the part of young voters not necessarily to follow the party of their fathers, but to split their votes and act more and more as independent voters, rather than those with party affiliation. It cannot now be said that the Democratic Party in the South is well organized or that it will be so in time for the 1968 campaign. Certainly racist influences will plague and embarrass both parties in the next Presidential campaign.

Social History

I believe it necessary that there be a greater national comprehension of the political and social history of the South, because the effects of that history are now, in truth, a national problem, political, economic and social. Let me say, further, that it is not my purpose to berate the South. It is my region. I was born in it. I have lived and worked in it. But the romanticized myth of the South has been, and is, a curse to those who live there. The myth still obscures the reality.

The creation of a system of segregation was an evil the effects of which were deep and widespread beyond the easy assumption that it merely separated the races in travel in education and in housing. It subjected the Negro to a separation that made it impossible for him to know anything of participation in citizenship, much less the responsibilities of it. Segregation gave to the white Southerner a false sense of position and values. In trying to pay for two school systems with a per capita income that was inadequate to finance one good school system, he subjected all children to an education inferior to that provided children of other regions. He slowed the industrial development of his region. He delayed the appearance of managerial skills and the accumulation of capital. There was also the profound moral dilemma of always justifying and supporting an immoral system.

Political maturity was impossible under that system. It was, for example, not really possible for a second party to develop in the South until 1958 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the white primary unconstitutional, The white primary device was one that restricted the voters to white persons. There was no opposition party. The primary was the election. The white primary and the poll tax created political apathy among white persons. Today, in 1967, the percentage of Southerners who vote is well below the national average.

The white power structure that created the device restricting the ballot wanted to attain that result - a general lack of voter participation.

In Mississippi, in 1900, it openly was argued that "the poll tax gets rid of most of the Negroes and also gets rid of a great many undesirable whites at the same time."

In 1901 Henry Fontaine Reese, of Selma and Dallas County (Alabama), stood before the state legislative convention and appealed (or a constitutional poll tax provision.

"When you pay $1.50 for a poll tax in Dallas County, I believe you disfranchise 10 Negroes," he said. "Give us this $1.50 for educational purposes and for disfranchisement of a vicious and useless class."

"There has been talk," said delegate Reese, "from the hills of north Alabama as to what the poor white boys want. I do not propose to put my people under the hand of Negro rule because it might disfranchise one or two bastards in the white counties of Alabama."

Participation in the fraud, admitted cheating, and dishonesty of the disfranchisement proceedings had an effect on what the late W. J. Cash called "The Mind of the South." A large majority of poor white persons were delivered along with almost all Negroes, into the political control of a minority of white voters.

All this chicanery had to be justified. Out of it came the doctrines of white supremacy, of Negro inferiority, and a system of segregation whose moral, political, social and economic injustices, follies and evils are just now being comprehended.

What is not fully comprehended is that the product of the South's evil of segregation with all its ramifications deprived not merely a top-heavy majority of the nation's Negroes, but also hundreds of thousands of white children of education and citizenship. This product has now been exported to all the nation. It is a part of the complexity of life and government in Kansas City, in Topeka, in Seattle, in Miami - in all the cities of the nation.

An immense migration out of the rural South and the Southwest began in the decade of the boll weevil in 1920-30. It slowed during the depression, but it became accelerated as the nation moved into the Second World War, and it has not stopped. The peak area of migration was in the decades of 1940-1950 and 1950- 1960. Not all of this has been Negro. A substantial percentage has been poor white farmers, tenants, or croppers who are no longer needed on the land. But most of them have been Negro.

San Francisco will do as an example. This beautiful and historic city has always had a cosmopolitan population. In 1940 the Negro population in San Francisco was a little over 5,000. But in 1941 Japan practically wiped out our Pacific fleet. It became necessary to re-take the Pacific. To do this we had to build some 60,000 aircraft ships landing craft and weapons of all sizes. War plants from Seattle to San Diego tilled up with workers most of them off the farms of Southern states - Oklahoma, Texas, and other agricultural states. In 1945 San Francisco's Negro population was 50,000.

Slum Violence

Americans could better understand the discontent and the spontaneity of slum violence in the larger cities if they knew the background. In the span of time between 1940-1963, almost 31/2 million Negroes left the South. The war-time shipyards, aviation, and other war plants were the magnets that accelerated this out-migration. Out-migration continued after this peak period as farm machines replaced human beings and mules. An official estimate reveals that 114,000 Negroes left 11 counties in Mississippi in the recent decade of 1950-1960. Two and a half million Negroes have left the South since 1960. The out movement has slowed for obvious reasons, but it continues. The condition of the farm population in the old cotton states will worsen in the years ahead.

Early this month a U.S. Senate sub-committee composed of respected Republicans and Democrats made public the results of personal investigation and the taking of evidence in Mississippi. It was a shocking report on the poverty of rural persons, mostly in the South, who are no longer needed on the land.

An estimated 15 million of over 38 million poor are rural Americans. Half the nation's farm-operator families have incomes less than $3,000. At least 500,000 rural families whose chief income is farm wages live well below the poverty level.

Conditions are even worse for the five million rural Negroes. More than half have incomes of less than $2,000. In fact, perhaps a third have cash returns below $500 or less per year.

Urban poverty may, after all be seen if one persists and goes out of the way to look for it. But rural misery is, on the whole, rather scattered and more hidden. It is therefore, even more neglected, demonstrating the truth of the axiom, "out of sight, out of mind."

The Senate sub-committee found shameful exploitation of the food stamp program. It recommended a careful studied reform of the welfare program. We will I think ignore this report to our peril.

There is of course a chorus of grumbling about poverty programs and loud denunciation of recipients as "not working." The comparison is not exact to be sure, but we do not become exasperated because the many years of experimenting with cancer research has not produced a cure. Generations passed before the scourge of tuberculosis was brought under control. Poverty is more costly and dangerous than cancer or any other disease. It produces, of course, its own by-product of disease and crime.

There is a long hot summer ahead. It is, indeed, almost at hand. The tensions resulting from the exporting from farms to cities of millions of poor, unskilled, illiterate and semi-literate persons across the last four decades; the huge increase in population, half of which is 25 years old or younger-plus the burdens of war-have increased and added complexity to our lives.

It is a part of the problem that our heavy increase in population corresponded roughly with the out-migration from the South and the rural areas generally. The Census Bureau tells us that this tall about 100 million of our 200 million population will be 25 years old and younger. Everything is crowded - campuses, cities, suburbs.

The New Left

We will be further tested, regionally and nationally, by riots, draft-card burners, imitators of Cassius Clay, and activities of the extremists of what is collectively called the New Left.

The New Left in America is not numerically strong. It is itself somewhat fragmented. It has, within the context of its far-out position its own extremists advocating violence and also elements not yet fully committed to programs of anarchy. There are some who are training "urban guerrillas" to fight police and other law enforcement representatives from cellars alley ways and hidden positions. There are others that plan protests, riots, and related tactics.

They can succeed only if Americans lose a sense of balance and act out of anger and emotional impulses. It is difficult to put down reactions to those who burn or degrade the nation's flag who do lead Hanoi to think it can win the war in America or who lend themselves to the more irrational forms of protest. But it is precisely this weakness in human nature that is relied upon by the extreme of the New Left. They know they, few in number, can succeed only if they arouse a massive social and political swing to the "right." Hence, we may expect to be subjected to continued irritations and provocations - all aimed at upsetting the national balance and purpose. The provocateurs want to demoralize the society they have come to hate. They will keep trying to prod us to abandon the basic strengths of our society to retaliate against them.

Congressman Hebert's outburst of a few days ago against one of the deliberately staged provocations, an insult to the flag, was to suggest that we "forget about the first amendment and jail those who seek to destroy our society but seek protection of its laws."

This of course plays into the hands of the provocateurs. The Congressman spoke spontaneously in indignation. If we are provoked into selective "forgetting' of any of the foundations on which our form of government is established then these foundations will in time disappear by becoming meaningless.

The New Left is estimated to include about 200,000 persons. Its more extreme members, willing to use repeated irrational violence to bring on chaos and, hopefully, a condition of anarchy, cannot succeed either on the campuses or in the city slums unless Americans succumb to emotional, angry retaliations as excessive as the provocations and thereby themselves contribute to a sense and a presence of anarchy.

The New Left, including, as it does, adults who join in the act: of wholly irrational protests and demonstrations, already has had a considerable success. They have helped create an impulsive, blind reaction that has enabled reactionary forces in and out of the Congress to slow, or halt the necessary and hopeful progress of recent years.

The spectacle of some of the one-time personalities in social progress turning to "peace protests" because today "peace is where the money is" is a further aid to the forces of reaction and, therefore, indirectly to the worst of the New Left.

Poverty and Education

There are 38 million Americans whose critical conditions of poverty are undenied. There are massive shocking gaps in the education provided the poor and the children of the middle and upper income groups. There are millions of Americans, exiles from agriculture, particularly Southern agriculture, who are crowded into slum areas of cities. There is, in this nation almost no housing for the very poor. The very poor include hundreds of thousands of spanish-speaking have-nots and hundreds of thousands of "poor whites" from Appalachia and the obsolete small farms.

The young Negro in the South is aware of the progress made. But he still finds himself in predominately all-Negro state schools and colleges which he knows to be second and third rate. He is aware of the injustice of the past and the slow pace of the present. This is why some of them listen to the Stokely Carmichaels. One can easily imagine the frustration, despair and emotional tensions of a young Negro in states governed by a George Wallace, a Lester Maddox, or others like them whose commitments have been to rigid segregation and an inferior citizenship for the Negro.

It should be obvious that the immediate and long-time needs of 38 million Americans should not be abandoned because of the often stupid, reckless, irrational protests and deliberately provocative acts of such governors as are symbolized by Wallace and Maddox or by those of the New Left who are hostile to the existing society. The racists benefit by neglect of the needs of the deprived American. The New Left also is aided and encouraged, and the cure of our most dangerous and damaging ills is unnecessarily delayed.

Jefferson believed that if the people could be helped to know and comprehend the facts they would in the end act with common sense. We are in a period, complex, emotional, and difficult, when common sense, understanding, and patience are required of us.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

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