Hot Springs passed for a liberal precinct in 1954. The people who ran the Hot Springs Bathers in the Cotton States League, including a Republican lawyer and politician named Hank Britt, hired two black pitchers, Jim “Schoolboy” Tugerson and his brother Leander. The other Arkansas and Mississippi cities in the league announced they wouldn’t play the Bathers if they fielded a Negro. The attorney general, J. P. Coleman, declared it illegal in Mississippi for a black man to play baseball on the same field as whites.
My beloved Oilers at El Dorado and the other teams voted to expel the Bathers until their management agreed not to play a Tugerson. When Schoolboy went to the mound anyway against the Jackson Senators, before he could deliver a pitch the umpire forfeited the game to Jackson.
The Tugersons picked up and went to Knoxville, Tenn., where the unhittable Schoolboy won 33 games that season. Before the season was out, Britt managed to put a black Langston High School lad, Uvoyd Reynolds, and another player from the Negro American League on the field for a few games at Hot Springs, and attendance jumped. But other cities—El Dorado, Helena, Pine Bluff—were not ready to see black athletes. I went to town one August night that year to see the Oilers pound the Greenville Buckshots. Jim Johnson from nearby Crossett, who was running for attorney general to fight integration, stood at the plate with his wife and sang “On Mockingbird Hill” at the seventh-inning stretch. The Cotton States League, facing integration and other issues, folded the next season, and for some of us summers were never the same.
PS — A hardcore fan sends an image from a retailer of historic baseball garb of a Hot Springs Bathers replica jersey, now sold out.
Letters included one from a 15-year-old in El Dorado.
Janelle Blackwell’s arguments in this letter rested mostly on her own health and wellness. (“I and three other girls were so upset we couldn’t go to school today.”) Blackwell asked that her letter be treated as a business letter, though she acknowledged that she wasn’t quite sure how to write one: “This letter I know is not in good form of any kind … but I feel terrible. I’m 15 and I feel like 80.”
Slate links the actual letter, which includes this closing page:
The Central High School National Historic Site notes the death of Christopher C. Mercer Jr., 88, a Little Rock lawyer and civil rights pioneer. It says KABF Radio, 88.3 FM, will have a live program on his life, with tributes from friends and family, at 9 a.m. Monday.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture has a good biography, including the note that he was the first black man named to be a deputy prosecutor in a Southern state. He'd been in private practice for more than a half century.
The University of Arkansas paid tribute to him today as one of the "Six Pioneers," the first six black students at the UA School of Law.
Funeral arrangements will be by Mitchell Funeral Home of Arkadelphia.
Ernie Dumas elaborates this week on a point I touched on a few days ago - the irony in the press-beloved heralding of Republican political victories in Arkansas as the "first since Reconstruction."
Great column for history buffs, with some pertinent present-day analysis.
The reference to Reconstruction does more than define the length of time—138 years—since Republicans last owned a legislative majority. It also defines a cause—maybe the biggest cause—of the shifting allegiance of a large share of white voters in Arkansas and the South over that period.
That is the attitude toward black political participation and power. There is no point in arguing over the precise share of the electorate that has been and still is governed in no small degree by fear of the exercise of political power by black citizens and now consummately exercised by a single black man, Barack Obama. More than 70 percent of white voters in Arkansas voted for Mitt Romney, a man with whom most of them shared few economic and social goals and little culturally, but they took him eagerly over the Democrat who was nothing but a champion of the middle class in all his tax and budget policies, his giant healthcare reform, his banking reforms, college loans, and on and on. What would account for that but race?
If only modern-day Republicans were like those Reconstruction Republicans.
Republicans today would call them flaming liberals. With whites, nearly all Confederate sympathizers, sidelined, about 1,300 immigrating Republicans and 23,000 freed slaves did the voting and elected themselves to office, installing exactly one Democrat in each house of the legislature.
The Republicans enacted full rights for African-Americans, raised taxes everywhere, began a system of publicly funded universal education for both whites and blacks and the first state college, built railroads (662 miles), turnpikes and levees, and passed the first environmental laws. They would have been called socialists but the planters hadn’t heard the word. Those Republicans were a trifle corrupt and they ran things with an iron fist. The latter was fully justified by the relentless violence and intimidation, most of it undertaken by stray vigilantes but also by the Ku Klux Klan and county militias organized by both the Republican and Democratic parties, which murdered and plundered with impunity. One estimate was that 385 Republicans were murdered in two years.
While we're talking history - and since Arkansas Republicans seem intent on erecting a facsimile poll tax by making it expensive to impossible for many poor people to vote in the future - you might do well also to review the history of the poll tax in Arkansas, from the Enyclopedia of Arkansas.
Ernie's full column follows on the jump.
Since I came to Arkansas almost 40 years ago, nearly every Republican election or appointment has been routinely described as the "first since Reconstruction," generally without much further reference. Again today, the House was said in press accounts to have gone Republican for the first time since the 1874 election.
That caused me to wonder about the Reconstruction Republican days in Arkansas. It was easy to guess that the agenda then and the modern-day GOP's platform are a bit different. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas provides its usual stellar background:
The Republican Party of Arkansas was officially formed in April 1867. Quickly, Powell Clayton—a Union officer during the Civil War who moved to Arkansas to begin life as a planter early in Reconstruction—became the key leader of the party. During Reconstruction, Republicans were elected to state offices at all levels—including governor. This Republican dominance ended with the enfranchisement of former Confederate loyalists as Reconstruction ended in the state in 1873. Even after Reconstruction, the Grand Old Party (GOP) remained visible, with newly enfranchised African Americans joining white Republican loyalists in support of the party. Still, as a political minority, the Republicans who succeeded politically after Reconstruction beyond the local level were those who joined in electoral unions with populist coalitions. Disenfranchisement of black citizens, in the form of “reforms” passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in the early 1890s, ended any Republican viability.
Could the father of Arkansas Republicanism, Powell Clayton, win a Republican primary in 2012? From the Encyclopedia:
As governor, Clayton faced strident opposition from the state’s conservative political leaders who labeled him a “Radical Republican,” along with a serious outbreak of violence, aimed at African Americans and members of the Republican Party, led by the Ku Klux Klan during the presidential election in the fall of 1868. In this period, one Republican congressman was assassinated, and Clayton himself survived an attempt on his life. The governor responded to the emergence of the Klan more decisively than did the governors of most Southern states. He organized the state militia and used it throughout the state to suppress violence. His declarations of martial law in fourteen counties in 1868, despite conservative criticism to his actions, successfully ended Klan activities within the state early in his administration.
Clayton and the Republicans in the legislature accomplished much during the governor’s three-year administration. State bonds financed the construction of several railroads. Arkansas created its first free public school system. The administration and its supporters also formed the Arkansas Industrial University, the basis for the future University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). What would become the Arkansas School for the Deaf was established, and the Arkansas School for the Blind was relocated from Arkadelphia (Clark County) to Little Rock (Pulaski County).
Things got messy, though, and factions developed:
Additional opposition emerged in 1869 when a faction led by Lieutenant Governor James M. Johnson charged the governor with corruption in the issuing of railroad bonds and a misuse of power his attempts to suppress violence. Johnson’s backers, mostly white Republicans from northwestern Arkansas, proclaimed themselves to be supporters of reform and called themselves Liberal Republicans.
Whatever kinship might span the intervening years, I don't think you'll find many Northwest Arkansas Republicans willing to call themselves liberal today, with the exception of Rockefeller Republican Bob Scott. I don't believe Loy Mauch would have associated with them, that's for sure.
One potential candidate might be Will Rockefeller, Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller's son, who talked about politics recently with Steve Brawner for Roby's Brock's Talk Business Quarterly. This particular comment has drawn a lot of attention:
Well, one of the biggest things holding Arkansas back, my grandfather noted, was the lack of a two-party system, and there’s been a lot of talk over the course of the last year [centered around the questions:] Would Winthrop Rockefeller fit into today’s Republican Party? Would he be considered a Republican today? And both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats, have really tried to hammer out that issue. I’m not going to talk about that.
I can see where that topic is best assigned to the history books by someone with a potential political future. Because, honestly, it is hard to envision young Rockefeller's grandfather joining the no-creed-but-greed crowd that seems to dominate the Republican base today (and perhaps is the major explanation for its recent political success). WR proposed major tax increases. He supported government spending on the less fortunate. He generated real warmth among black voters. It is hard, also, to imagine him in the vanguard of the anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, pro-death-penalty camps that are so important in the party today.
Rockefeller, 25, is currently working for Republican Sen. John Boozman. The future?
TBQ: Do you have thoughts, at least, of running for office someday?
Rockefeller: Perhaps. A lot of people ask me when I’m running as opposed to whether I am, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I don’t think anyone wants a 25-year-old making decisions that affect the lives of individuals around the state. I know I currently don’t have the experience, maturity, nor desire to run at this time. ... I’m not sure what the future holds.
Readers of the print edition of the Arkansas Times will find a special section this week marking the 100th birthday of former Gov. Sid McMath.
The good news for web-only readers is that the section is also online, with an extensive history of McMath's long and momentous life by Ernest Dumas, our weekly columnist and a chronicler of the Arkansas political scene for approaching five decades.
The Washington Post has retold a well-known piece of Arkansas history — the 1857 slaughter of an Arkansas wagon train by Mormon militia in what's become known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
By the Post's account, the event is well-remembered and perhaps politically significant in Arkansas this year.
There aren’t many places in America more likely to be suspicious of Mormonism — and potentially more problematic for Mitt Romney, who is seeking to become the country’s first Mormon president. Not only do many here retain a personal antipathy toward the religion and its followers, but they also tend to be Christian evangelicals, many of whom view Mormonism as a cult.
And yet, there is scant evidence that Romney’s religion is making much difference in how voters here are thinking about the presidential election and whether they are willing to back the former Massachusetts governor.
“I think the situation right now is more anti-Obama than any other situation,” said Dave Hoover, chairman of the Carroll County Republicans.
I think Dave Hoover is right. But I do think Romney's religious background could be a small contributing factor — a bigger factor being his general cluelessness about average people — in the excitement he generates or fails to generate. Of course, you can generate a lot of enthusiasm based on the fear or hatred of those who are different, too. See Mountain Meadows.
Each May, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas releases its list of the most endangered places in the state.
It doesn't mean necessarily that each faces the wrecking ball shortly. But each is a historic property that, without action, will eventually be lost.
This year's list includes many of the state's courthouses, with long-deferred maintenance; schools built by Julius Rosenwald of the Sears fortune for black children; the Palace Theater in Benton; the Medical Arts building in Hot Springs and more.
Pictured is the Victor Kays House, built for the president of Arkansas State University and slated for demolition to make room for new sorority houses. Its destruction has been stayed by the university for a year to see if a private fund drive can raise enough money to preserve it.
She takes a mild exception to a statement in the article about what could have been, seeing a story that, through several generations, is "the stuff that dreams are made of."
Commentary by the likes of former Congressman Ed Bethune have been along the lines of: "WR was good; WR was a Republican; Republicans today are better than crooked Democrats." Lacking has been much examination of the fine and progressive things Rockefeller stood for against some diametrically opposite leanings in the modern day Republican Party.
Read on for details — a tax increase proposal worth $3 billion today to dramatically increase government spending, particularly on social programs. Help for organized labor. Stern opposition to the death penalty as evidenced by his Death Row commutations, about which a pertinent note on Ed Bethune, who's been moaning about Democrats' commentary:
The harshest attack on him came from Ed Bethune, whom Rockefeller had appointed as a prosecuting attorney. Bethune asked the attorney general, Democrat Joe Purcell, to declare Rockefeller’s commutations illegal, but Purcell said the governor had that constitutional power.
If a Republican officeholder in Arkansas, or anywhere, supports even one of all those initiatives, let him or her speak up.
CBS correspondent Mike Wallace died Saturday at 93, leaving a career with more reportorial milestones than you could easily count. Thanks to elwoood for the link to one of them — his interview with Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus during the 1957 school crisis.
From his Times interview with Philip Provost:
I started school, and they taught us the Pledge of Allegiance. From my schoolhouse window, I could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower. I recited the words "with liberty and justice for all," without ever realizing how strongly ironic that was. When we came back to Los Angeles, the two most difficult things to get at that time were a job and housing. Our first home was on Skid Row in Los Angeles. That was the most terrifying part of the whole internment experience — getting back on our feet. For us kids ... living on Skid Row was terrifying. The stench of urine was everywhere, the street, the hallways. My sister would say, "Mama, let's go back home," meaning behind the barbed wire fence.
He made a swing by Rohwer and posted the photo here on his Twitter account.
Thanks for a friend for reminding me today about the New York Times article on some of the lesser-known elements of the National Park System and what recent budget cuts — $139 million this year — mean to them.
I think the Park System is a true national treasure that illuminates places, people and events that never stop informing us about the American experience. But to those who'd strangle government, it's just another needless excess. It is a pity. Nice irony is that the Boston National Historic Site (Tea Party, anyone) is among the most visited.
The Times article touched on Arkansas:
While millions might visit a memorial to veterans of World War II or the Korean War, or the stony visages of Mount Rushmore, this second rank of notables can struggle to find an audience.Who cares about Arkansas Post? I turn the floor to a good conservative Republican, federal Judge Morris Arnold, an expert on the subject.
In 2010, the Arkansas Post, honoring a 17th-century European trading post and Civil War site near the Arkansas-Mississippi border, drew a mere 34,712 visitors.
“We try everything we know,” said Donna Robertson, the memorial’s administrative officer, adding that the park staff has had trouble attracting people to the rural, financially depressed area 100 miles southeast of Little Rock. “You have to be lost, or coming here.”
Apart from Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas's National Park Service attractions are mostly small, but still significant. The Central High historic site, Bill Clinton's birthplace, the Pea Ridge battlefield and the Fort Smith national historic site all enrich us. Inevitably, they'll wither and die if the strangle-government crowd prevails. It's a pity.
Luke Farmer - The audit committee has subpoena powers and can command her appearance. She…
why is steve faris not in jail? He was the puppet master behind martha for…
Does anyone know who the federal prosecutor is over this case?
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