* Code added to make Google search more likely. Mississippi Civil Rights--One Man, One Story

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Long Term Hiatus

I started this blog with hopes that I could somehow find the hours needed to keep it going 5 days a week. It was probably wishful thinking on my part, where the need to write the blog overshadowed the obvious reality that I was already swamped with existing and pending projects. Even if I could find the time to post something here and there, it wouldn't do justice to the subject for me to post items just to be posting. It's a project that deserves better than that.

So, at the moment it looks like I'm going to take a long break from adding new posts. My Millsaps sports photo project will ease up in a week or so until mid-February, but I am desperately behind in just about everything that once was my life. I'll be lucky if I can get things somewhat back to normal over the next 8-10 weeks and then I'll have 8-10 weeks of photography taking all my spare time.

I will get back to this blog--I'm eager to explore this time period more closely and find the pieces where my father fits into the puzzle. In the meantime, for those who have been reading, thanks for taking an interest, and for those who are seeing this blog for the first time, please take a few minutes to glance through the existing posts--I think you'll find some items of interest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Must not, cannot forget early efforts in racial reconciliation

(Note: The following guest column appeared in the Nov. 19th issue of the Clarion-Ledger. It was written by T. W. Lewis, a former (or is that still current) Millsaps professor whom I like quite a bit. This is the type thing that I've encourage the Clarion-Ledger to include when they look back at the 1960's, but they are very reluctant to write about anything positive. I don't think they realize the harm they do by only telling half of the story.)

Around 11 p.m. on Nov. 19, 1967, a terrorist's bomb exploded on the front steps of a home at the corner of Poplar Boulevard and St. Mary. Bob Kochtitzky, his wife, and a house guest had moments earlier retired to the upstairs bedrooms and barely escaped the force of the blast which blew through the downstairs.

The Kochtitzkys' infant son was saved from serious injury by the headboard of his crib which shielded him from the shattered window glass that sprayed the room. The bombing was the culmination of a series of hostile actions toward the Kochtitizkys that included a cross being burned on their front lawn.

The Kochtitzkys were the first non-black family in Jackson so attacked by the Klan. How did they become a target?

A seminary-trained layperson, Bob was the creator and director of Layman's Overseas Service, an organization with a two-fold mission. It sought to place laypersons for short-term service in Third World countries where their skills and graces could be utilized in positive ways. For example, a physician took a sabbatical from his practice in Huntsville, Ala., and moved his family to Bolivia where he ran a clinic for a year in a community with limited medical services. The other aim, which for Bob was equally important, was to connect volunteers with people in cultures different from their own with the hope of enlarging the volunteers' view of the world in which they lived.

Bob's home on Poplar Boulevard served as his office, and it was there his board of directors held their meetings, attended on occasion by persons from the black community. When the Society of Friends (Quakers) sent representatives to Mississippi in response to the burning of black churches, it was Bob who got them together with black pastors and concerned white leaders to form what was to become the Committee of Concern.

The purpose of the group was to raise money to restore burned black churches. Jack Nelson in his book Terror in the Night states that the "Kochtitzkys had occasionally had blacks as house guests." He writes also that news reports cited Bob as originating the idea of the "walk of penance" following the bombing of Temple Beth Israel on Sept. 18.

Furthermore, Nelson reports that a White Citizens Council newspaper alleged a meeting between Stokley Carmichael and Robert Kennedy at the Kochtitzkys' home. That could have sealed the Klan's decision to use the bomb.

Bob's calling was to build bridges across racial and cultural lines at a time when public political and economic policy was to enforce separation.

He was committed to maintaining relationships with non-whites, and he did so in public places. For example, he joined a Lutheran pastor in eating with black friends at a local motel-restaurant. In those days, few within the white community were willing to speak and act publicly for racial reconciliation. According to Nelson, the morning after the bombing Bob's pastor at Galloway Memorial Methodist Church, acknowledging his own reluctance to speak out, quoted Abraham Lincoln: "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." The pastor was not only speaking for himself but also for others who shared Bob's beliefs, but held them only in private.

Although the local newspaper printed a picture of the damaged Kochtitzky home with the sign posted at the door: "KEEP THE FAITH, BABY," it did not editorialize against the bombings and burnings in the community and state.

Some today may ask, "Why can't we just put those days behind us, forget that dark past, and get on with life?" The question is how we put those days behind us. We must not forget because that past is a measure of what a culture had become. It is also a warning of what happens when citizens in the face of oppression and injustice "sin by silence." Memory can help us avoid "getting on" with a life that does not recognize who one's neighbors are nor honor one's neighbors as one wishes to be honored.

Years later. Bob traveled with Kenneth Dean, a former director of the Mississippi Human Relations Council, to Canton to inspect tornado damage. While there Dean introduced Bob to a trusty from Parchman. The latter had volunteered to assist with the relief work in Canton. As the two met each realized who the other was. The repentant bomber and the forgiving victim found the grace to relate to each other as fellow human beings.

In a season when events of terror and bravery 40 years ago are being commemorated, it is fitting to remember also the event of Nov. 19, 1967 - how a man and his family suffered the consequences of attempting to build relationships across racial divides in what one writer has called a "closed society." It is fitting because the challenge of reconciling those who are alienated is forever with us.

(One more note: I wrote T.W. after reading this column and he wrote back saying how my dad had told T.W. that my dad and "his boys" (Will, Fred, and I) were driving around the neighborhood around 10 o'clock each night when the police shift changed and the bombings were occuring. We lived 3 blocks from the Kochtitzkys' home and T.W. lived between the Kochtizkys' and our house. We were getting bomb threats at the time and apparently T.W. was also getting threats.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

David Brokaw 'Frankhauser' WAS NOT a Freedom Rider

David Fankhauser on the far left of this photo taken inside the Montgomery, AL Trailways bus station.

What an incredible sight that it took a turn out of the National Guard to protect the right of blacks and whites to sit where they wanted to sit on a bus and in a bus station. This was just 46 years ago.

My headline from a couple of days ago was wrong, but only by one letter. The man in the photo had an extra "r" added to his name either by the Jackson police department or the Sovereignty Commission, turning his last name from Fankhauser to Frankhauser. It's not much of a difference, but it made a world of difference when I was doing an internet search. Searching on the correct spelling brought up a wealth of information on Dr. Fankhauser including a paper with the title "Yogurt Making Illustrated".

While I'm a writer who loves to get off on tangents and yogurt making might be appealing to some, it is Dr. Fankhauser's website on the Freedom Rider's that should be of great interest to readers of this blog. It's very complete and it tells the story of the Freedom Rider's from both a historical perspective and a personal perspective. I highly recommend that you check out his website by clicking HERE.

Let me just add one personal note here. The Freedom Rider activity was in the summer of 1961 and I was 9 years old. One day I was downtown with my mother and probably one or more siblings, and we saw some Freedom Riders being arrested at the Trailways bus station. It must have been one of the later groups because there wasn't a big scene with a jeering crowd, just police officers arresting a few people and putting them in a squad car. Mother stopped and told me/us that the people being arrested were part of history and I think we understood what they were being arrested for if not why that was a reason to be arrested. I wish I had been more aware of worldly things when I was a kid because there were a lot of great learning experiences in my childhood.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Freedom Riders in 1961

A brief explanation of the Freedom Rider movement:

In 1961, an interracial group of CORE members and college students from the North traveled by bus down South to test the effectiveness of a 1960 Supreme Court decision which prohibited racial segregation in public accommodations, such as rest rooms, waiting rooms, and restaurants, that catered to interstate travelers. When they traveled into Alabama, the Freedom Riders were attacked and badly beaten, and CORE called the ride off. Other Civil Rights activists—many of them young members of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)—rushed to Alabama to continue the ride. They ran into trouble in Montgomery, Alabama, and the federal government had to send in U.S. marshals to protect the riders. The Freedom Rides continued into Mississippi, where they met with more resistance. By late August, 1961, more than 400 Freedom Riders had been arrested by the state of Mississippi. Images like this one of the burned bus, helped create sympathy for the non-violent Freedom Riders and their cause. This event drew national attention, especially from middle-class northerners who were shocked by the brutal violence they saw on television. As a result, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy provided police escorts for the riders, although this did not prevent further violence.

All of the above was "borrowed" from another spot on the internet. I'm certainly getting away from the original concept that this would be a blog about my father, but I'll eventually get back closer to home. I've found the identity of the preacher who was shot by the KKK after the FBI had been informed about a KKK hit list which included my dad, Father Law, this preacher and others. I'll write about that when I finally get some free time from all the work I'm doing at Millsaps.

One thing that is evident in everything I read about this era is that it was a dangerous time to go against the status quo. Not everyone one was shot, but the possibility existed. Not every home was bombed, but the possibility existed. Not every bus was burned, but the possibility existed. It really took courage and conviction to work for change and unfortunately, there are many black and white heroes from this era who have been totally forgotten. I think one of the problems is that most people just want to forget about this era as if it never happened, or many are reluctant to give credit to all because it would cut into the credit that they have taken for themselves.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

David Brokaw Frankhauser--Freedom Rider

Have you ever heard of David Brokaw Frankhauser? The above is his Freedom Rider mug shot taken May 28, 1961 in Jackson, MS. I did an internet search on his name, both in quotes and without the quotes, and I found nothing. By adding 46 years to the man in the photo, I guess he is now nearing 70 if he is still alive. My guess is that he doesn't have a copy of the photograph or even know of its existance in an online digital connection. So, David Brokaw Frankhauser, if you ever search on your name this blog entry will have to be one that comes up near the top and I would love to get an email from you about what you remember from your part of Civil Rights history.

There are so many untold stories from this era. Was this a watershed event for David that changed the course of his life forever, or was it a summer adventure before he went on to finish college or graduate school and got back to his normal life? It would be interesting to hear his story--maybe he'll write to the email address in my profile section someday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Millsaps Protesters from 1967

I suspect that anyone reading this blog is also reading my other blog, so you know that I'm am just swamped trying to finish up some Millsaps sports photos this week. While the logical thing might be to just not post anything for a week, I like to stay in the habit of 5 posts per week and I'm going to try and keep that up with a photo and a brief comment.

I found this photo in the Sovereignty Commission files. The Millsaps students identified in the photos are Doug Rogers, Mike Gwinn, David Atwood, and Alex Valentine. It's not 100% clear if they are listed in the 1, 2, 3 and 4 order that is written on the photo. I got to Millsaps in 1968 but I don't recognize any of these name. I wonder if any of them even realize that this photo exists and that they had a file in the state government operated Sovereignty Commission?

Monday, November 12, 2007

1966: The Times They Are A Changing

Last week we had the document with Charles Evers vowing to do all he could to stop the Jackson Head Start program. I haven't found anything that 100% confirms that part of the document but I found plenty in Polly Greenburg's book , "The Devil Has Slippery Shoes", that seemed to confirm other sections of the document. It all gives me the impression that in 1966 there was a strong push by some black leaders to force whites out of the Civil Rights movement. I wonder if and how things would be different today and this push had never been made? Here are some quotes from Ms. Greenburg's book:

From page 505, in regards to the out-of-state white students coming to work for CDGM for the summer: "Alas, as I soon learned, FDP's (Freedom Democratic Party) CDGM informants had given FDP to believe that in-state students would be hired over my dead body--that I was trying to "sneak in" exclusively out-of-staters. My purpose? To "take jobs" from poor people because in my lofty, aristocratic manner, I considered them incompetent! I soon became more the enemy than ever."

From page 546, I don't think the white out-of-state student volunteers were quite prepared for this part of the CDGM orientation program: "After lunch ATG Lavaree Jones discussed her own experiences teaching with CDGM, and the goals of CDGM's Head Start program. Don Jackson of the CDGM social service department, and Bob Fletcher, both of whom were Negroes with many years experience with the problems of whites in the civil rights movement, read and discussed the "Atlanta Position Paper on the Role of Whites in Organizing in the Black Community." The paper deals with whether whites can contribute anything but a reinforcement of dependency habits now, in the new Negro struggle for autonomy. Marilyn felt that it was only fair to expose the summer students as soon as possible to a sensitive and through explanation of the roots of Negro ambivalence and the controversy regarding whites in the Negro community resulting from it."

From page 549, the new role of whites in the Civil Right's movement: "The third vital function of whites in CDGM was becoming clear during this struggle-for-autonomy period in CDGM's quick growth. We had served our purpose, or nearly so, as originators, organizers, catalysts, connections to the outer world, etc. We had served our role as trainers. We could no longer be useful in a training capacity as staff members, because prominent CDGM Negroes could no more accept white-originated programs than they could white people--a healthy sign.

Our skills were still needed, but in the less controlling and threatening role of consultants. But our third vital function was just now being fully realized and utilized. We were unconsciously serving as spears and spurs to the motivation of "the apathetic poor." Middle and top level Negroes, who had previously been unable to move themselves to deep involvement in top decisions, were, through angry feelings of competitiveness with us, suddenly feeling hot enough to leap up and act--against, maybe, but act! They often leaped before they looked, but at last, they leaped! We were very useful, if not happy, as the mock enemy with which Negroes with potential high-level leadership capacities could practice fighting white power with appropriate white man's techniques....."

And finally, a brief section from the foreword of the book which may have been a comment directed to Charles Evers: I heard you, Charles, and I learned a great deal from what you said. You told me, "Some of us love you, and many of us know what you have done for us, and most of us agree with your ideas. But you have got to learn, we can't let love and appreciation get in the way of us doing for us, and us having ideas. It's not that we're against you. It's that we've got to do this thing for ourselves. It's the only way we'll ever feel our freedom."

I wanted to make a brief comment about all of the above. I do understand the part from the foreward about people needing to do things on their own. I believe that would be an honest reaction after the years of Jim Crow in the South, but there seems to be something inherently wrong with a plan that has to be implemented by slandering people who have taken great risks on your behalf. There also seems to be something wrong when history doesn't reflect the fact that people who were trying to make amends for the past were told to stop helping. But history is never completely about the truth, it's about which side can control the version of the story that eventually gets told.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Head Start Resignation

Before I started this project I was aware of the document from May of 1966 in which Charles Evers made his comments about my father. I had forgotten the part about how Charles Evers, as the representative from the NAACP, was vowing to do everything that he could to stop the Jackson Head Start program and he was encouraging the black ministers to stop helping with the program. To put things in perspective, prior to May, 1966 and the comments made about my dad, the following had all occurred:

--My dad had been at the forefront of getting the business community to support the new Civil Rights laws, a highly unpopular stance to take.
--At least 2 KKK-type newsletters had been put out about my dad.
--A cross had been burned on his front lawn.
--He had testified before the Senate Sub-Committe on Civil Rights when they met in Jackson.
--He had been head of the steering committee for the 1965 Jackson Head Start program.
--He had been subject to bomb threats and threats of physical violence.
--And all in all, there really should have been no doubt in the black community of the sincerity of my dad's actions and the risks he was taking to try to make a change.

I wish my dad had written down his thoughts about how he felt when he saw the document that I posted yesterday. I have a feeling that the knowledge that the NAACP was trying to block funding of the Jackson Head Start program was probably a punch in the gut that was far worse than anything the Klan ever did. I've always had a tremendous amount of admiration for my father because he was willing to stand up to the threats of the Klan. Maybe it was more admirable that he continue to work for change even after he was slander by someone on his side of the battle.

Unfortuantely, he apparently didn't stay involved in Head Start much longer. I can't say for certain that my father totally cut his connection with Head Start in September, 1967, but I did find the following letter in the papers regarding the Head Start project:

Hinds County Project Head Start (this was the letterhead)
320 North West Street
Phone 948-6505
Jackson, Mississippi

September 14, 1967

Mr. R. L. Ezelle, Jr.
P. O. Box 4975
Jackson, Mississippi

Dear Mr. Ezelle,

At the meeting on Tuesday evening Mr. Stevens brought to us the very regrettable announcement of your resignation from the Policy Advisory Committee. We wish you could have been present to hear the spontaneous expressions of regret over your resigning and of appreciation for your varied and indispensable contributions to the Head Start Program.

To paraphrase a clever song, we had become accustomed not only to your face but to your counsel, your encouragement, your dependability and your very practical assistance in so many ways. We realize that it was because of your deep concern for the children Head Start was designed to serve, that you were willing to give time, patience, thought and hard work to help initiate the Program and see that it continued. We also realize that the Project has been immeasurably helped by your wise leadership on the Committee and your fine influence in the community.

For all this we are heartily grateful and want to express to you, in this letter, our thanks for your unselfish and effective service to Head Start over a very long period of time. We are counting on your continued interest and hope you will be able to attend some of our meetings in the crucial months ahead.

With very best wishes to you from all of us,
Yours sincerely,
A. A. Barron, Chairman
Bethany C. Swearingen, Secretary


Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Attempted Derailing of Head Start

There's somewhat of a mystery involving the above document. What you see is all I know. I believe the "M. Davis" is Mendall Davis and it looks like the word "Restricted" is my father's handwriting. My guess is that this document came from the Sovereignty Commission files and how and when a copy got to my father is unknown. As for the validity, I think it is accurate because I've found confirmation of the parts concerning Polly Greenberg in her book, including a reference to a Charles that I believe to be Charles Evers. I'll get into those quotes from her book on Monday.

Here's the document concerning Charles Evers, my father, and Head Start. I have a few comments at the bottom of this post and I'll have more comments in tomorrow's post concerning this document and what I think it meant to my dad:

May 16, 1966
Jackson, Mississippi

A meeting was called this date by the Ministers of Jackson and the Community Council. It was held at the African Methodist Church, located in back of the Mary Jones School.

Charles Evers was present for this meeting. He stated that he represented the NAACP, and made a speech pertaining to the Jackson Headstart program. He apologized to everyone for letting this type of program slip in on them. He stated that it was being run by the power structure and a few hand picked Negroes. He advised the Ministers that they would not let their churches be used for free this year. (They were free last year.) He stated “the only way this program (Headstart) will continue is over my dead body”. Evers stated the reason I say this is because such fellows as Colonel Davis, who has been a segregationist all of his life, and Mr. Ezell and Mr. Huhn all of a sudden became concerned with our little colored children and all they really want is the money they can get out of the program. He stated further that they have already hired a white female to become Director of the program without letting anyone know, about the program, because he may have wanted to be the Director. (Frank’s note: this last sentence is typed exactly as is and I’m not sure if that means Charles Evers wanted to be the Director.)

For the above stated reasons Evers wired OEO in Atlanta to stop all money for this program. He stated that he had received a call back from a friend in Atlanta verifying that the money had been stopped.

Reverend Richmond, speaking for all of the Ministers, thanked Mr. Evers for his help and support with this trouble and stated that Mr. Evers could be sure their churches would not be used for this sort of program.

A meeting of Star, Inc. was held on the above date. Those present were, Ted Seivers, James Mays, Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. Evans.

It was discussed that some of the trainees going to Star school are very unhappy. The students are saying that they have been going to school for three months (to graduate on May 25, 1966) and have not learned anything; that they are going to graduate and do not know what for.

Ted Seivers, of the Hinds County Community Council, suggested that on graduation night (May 25) a demonstration be staged. This demonstration will take place on Lynch Street, outside the auditorium where the graduation is to take place.

Seivers stated the reason for this demonstration is to stop other students from going to school, due to the fact they are not learning anything and if necessary to keep other students who wanted to graduate from entering the auditorium.

All participants of this demonstrations are suppose to meet Saturday evening at 4:00 P.M., May 25, 1966, at the Medgar Evers Neighborhood Guild. The purpose of this meeting is to print signs to be used in the demonstration and to decide how many trainees will support them in the demonstration.

CDGM (Child Development Group of Mississippi) held a meeting on the above date. Approximately 59 unexpected white students from the North came in to work for CDGM during the summer. The Area Administrators got mad at the unexpected arrival of these northern students and are going to send them back home. They want Polly Greenberg to send them back.

There is going to be a meeting Thursday morning at 10:00 A.M., May 19, 1966 at Mount Beulah. All of the Area Administrators are going to be there. The Area Administrators will be in CDGM cars and will not be on official business.

This meeting was called by Sam Houze, or House, he is over the Social Service Department which works with the Area Administrators. He also works with MFDP and SNCC. (My note: the correct spelling is Sam Howze.)

Robert Miles, a colored male who is on the Executive Board of MFDP and also works with CDGM as an Area Administrator, from Batesville, is calling this meeting along with Sam Houze.

Then hope to get a recommendation out of this meeting to present to the Board to fire Polly Greenberg. The reason is not known at this time, but the reason may be due to the information related to our report of May 12, 1966.

A report to follow up on this meeting is expected later this week.

Investigation is to be continued.

I just want to tie the above back to yesterday's post:

--First off, when I read the interview Evers did in 1971 which included the quote, "You see, whites are not involved in this Headstart [program], not involved in these poverty programs.", it really angers me. Technically, that may have been true in 1971, but it is quite a twist of history to leave out the fact that Charles Evers basically said that the only way that whites would be allowed to continue working in the Head Start program was "over his dead body". Whites were not working in Head Start because they were run out of the program by people like Charles Evers, not because they weren't interested and willing to help.

--Second, once again going back to the 1971 interview, Charles Evers repeatedly says that he is a man bound by honesty and that his commitment to honesty has often gotten him in trouble. In 1966, for Charles Evers to say that my father was only interested in Head Start because he wanted to get at the money involved with the program, that was just a blatant lie. I think Charles Evers knew the opposite was true, that as long as my dad was involved with Head Start then the money would only go towards helping the kids that the program was intended to help.

--Third, I wonder if any of the ministers present at the meeting made any effort to correct Charles Evers' characterization of my father. Some of them must have known him from the previous year of Head Start and certainly they knew of the other things my father had done that got him in trouble with certain elements of the white community. This report makes is sound like no one took exception to the statement that my dad "all of a sudden became concerned with our little colored children and all they really want is the money they can get out of the program". I think it shows that most people don't want to stick their necks out and disagree with the establishment, whether it is to disagree with the White Citizens Council or the NAACP.

--And finally, this meeting apparently took place in May of 1966. Making plans to block the existing Jackson Head Start program this late in the year has to make you wonder if there were any plans for a replacement Head Start program in the summer of 1966. Maybe we are getting back to the concept James Silver could not understand, that the welfare of the children is something that was expendable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Charles Evers--A Complicated Man

Yesterday we had a newspaper article from May, 1965 relating to the beginning of the Jackson Head Start program. Tomorrow we will have a letter from May, 1966 in which Charles Evers states "the only way this program (Head Start) will continue is over my dead body". This might be an unneccesary detour, but I thought I'd seperate the two posts with a post about Charles Evers.

Let me start out by saying that I believe Charles Evers has done a lot of good for the state of Mississippi. He has definitely led a very diverse life with more than his fair share of controversies. I have the feeling that being a hustler is part of his makeup that served him well in Chicago and also on his return to Mississippi, but that might have been the trait most needed to get things done. I read the Charles Evers transcript from the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives and I must admit that it sounds to me like a politician in ultra-spin mode, but you can read it for yourself and see what you think. Listed below is one question and answer from the interview, done on December 3, 1971, that ties into the letter that I'll post tomorrow:

Dr. Smith (interviewer): Obviously, one element in your campaign strategy was the forging of a poor white-poor black, poor folks coalition. Do you think this will ever come about really?

Mr. Evers: Oh yes, I was telling about this union I'm getting. I'm going down into different kinds of issues now, and continue to work on the former [ones]. You see, whites are not involved in this Headstart [program], not involved in these poverty programs. The poverty programs are for poor folks. Hell, they ain't got to be black or white, just poor folks! I'm going to try the rest of these next few years to help them get involved, help them to get a program that they can run themselves. For instance, out in Green County, Mississippi, and down around McLain, there's some poor white folks - down there, man they need help and I'm going to go down there, not as a politician, but as a person who cares about the people and seeing them do better. I know the more people you can have eating good, sleeping good, and living good, the less friction we are going to have from somebody, the less possibility we have of somebody burning somebody [else's] house or wanting to shoot somebody cause somebody passed by and winked their eye at their wife or girl. Who cares? I don't care who winked at my wife, what [should] I care as long as she doesn't wink back? You know, I can think like that because I'm free, and we've got a freer mind than many whites; I think, and what makes you really free in this country is security.


As a bonus to end this post, here is a non-Head Start related question and answer, and I have to give Charles Evers credit for a very forward thinking idea that he brought up when he ran for governor in 1971. It's an idea where he seemed to be a couple of decades ahead of the curve:

Dr. Smith: Some of the issues that you raised in the campaign were kind of unusual for Mississippi, to say the least, things like legalized gambling. In retrospect do you think that hurt you or - [interrupted]

Mr. Evers: Maybe. But, I think, again I was trying to be honest and I would still say I would rather have legalized gambling than have unauthorized gambling, and yet it is going on. Legalized gambling would replace thousands [and] thousands of tax dollars we are now being assessed. I look at it from the economical standpoint, from just being practical. The Gulf Coast is so natural for recreation and for tourists, a natural, and all we've got to do is get people in there thinking constructive and ahead. We need legalized horse racing. In Mississippi, we need off-track betting like we have in New York. This is something the people do anyway. We need places where you can go in and play slot machines [and] play roulette. We need that cause so many of us have not only lost our lives [and] lost millions of dollars going out to Las Vegas [or] going on down to the Bahamas [and] spending money we never see anymore. Now, all I'm saying [is] I think we've got to learn in this state to provide for those who want to indulge, period. Why not? Why shouldn't we, because the same ones who holler and scream loudest go right to Las Vegas and spend thousands of dollars. So my argument [is] why shouldn't we do it on the Gulf Coast and get that tax money off and put it to better schools, better roads, a better old folks home, a home for the underprivileged boys and girls, recreation, decent welfare for those who need it, not for those who are just on there, Medicare, medical care like we've done here in Fayette? Now we have twelve cars out there, six cars and six wagons, to go pick up people to bring them to help [those] who are sick. As I said, we just got another 49 some thousand dollars; we went out the other day to carry medical care into the community where people were not able to come out, where there has been a tornado or storm or something [else] like this, and they are lying flat and not able to go to the hospital. There are a million dollars; we can take that money and do this with it. See my argument?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Beginning of Head Start in Jackson

I wish my dad had kept a journal about Head Start. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but my suspicion is that Head Start was the most frustrating project he ever worked on in his long career of civic duty and working to improve race relations in Mississippi. It seems like it was a constant battle with the Jimmy Ward's of this world (see post from October 30th), but also it was a battle with many of the factions who were also fighting for Civil Rights. He must have thought "with friends like this, who needs enemies" and apparently he resigned from working on Head Start in September of 1967, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Below is an article from the May 26, 1965 issue of the Jackson Daily News newspaper. It is a good starting point in regards to the first group that was trying to bring the Head Start program to Jackson. This article appeared 5 days after the Jimmy Ward editorial and you can see that the people quoted in the article seem to be bending over backwards to say that this is just a program to help kids who truly needed a head start, and it wasn't a program with other objectives in mind. They were walking a middle ground, truly trying to help the kids as was intended by the program, and that's what created the opposition from both sides. (One note of interest, the Father Law in the article is the same Cardinal Law of Boston who made bigger headlines in recent years when the sex scandals about Catholic priest burst on the scene. Also, he is one of the names along with my father who was on the KKK hit list discovered by the FBI.)

Jackson ‘Head Start’ Project Takes Shape

(Printed May 26, 1965 in the Jackson Daily News, Jackson, MS)

Jackson’s first campaign in the War on Poverty will see $211,000 poured into nine “poverty pockets” this summer in an effort to boost the cultural and social awareness of 1,200 pre-school age children.

The local “Project Head Start” program is being sponsored by the Bethlehem Center, a Methodist social service center at 920 Blair Street, and a 30-member committee of Negro and white business, civic and church leaders will steer the project. Robert Ezelle, president of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, is chairman of the steering committee.

Officials say the project is “completely independent” of other anti-poverty programs and in the words of one, “is not affiliated with the Delta Ministry or the National Council of Churches.”

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, officials of the Jackson Head Start program emphasized they were not concerned with social revolution, but to help children from poverty-stricken families “develop social skills and cultural experiences.”

The wife of a Jackson State College dean, H. T. Sampson, has been named director of the two-month project. She is Mrs. Esther Sampson, who has been with the State Department of Public Welfare for 21 years and will be on leave from that state agency for the summer program.

She and Father Bernard Law, editor of the Mississippi Register of the Natchez-Jackson Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, outlined the local Head Start program at the press conference. Although sponsored by Bethlehem Center, which has operated in Jackson for 28 years helping underprivileged children, the Head Start program will not assist the center’s program in any way.

The $211,098 budget—with $188,898 from the federal government and the remaining $22,200 provided locally through donated facilities and time—will finance 15 centers scattered throughout the city.

The eight-week program to run from July 5 through August 28, will utilize church buildings, social service facilities and several Catholic schools, Father Law said. There will be about 100 classrooms set up.

He said the staff would include 80 teachers, 130 instructional assistants and over 150 volunteer workers. There will be 250 salaried positions. In addition to Mrs. Sampson, who holds a master’s degree in social work, there will be two trained social workers and a full-time nurse. “Each child will be given a physical examination and immunizations,” Father Law explained, and added, “University Medical Center, the Hinds County Health Department, the State Board of Health, private physicians and dentists will be utilized. A number of doctors and dentists have volunteered their services.

Mrs. Sampson said the children, ages four and five are those who will start school this fall or in 1966, would be fed simple meals at breakfast, and lunch. The daily schedules would be from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., five days a week, she explained.

Father Law said most of the children involved in the summer program would probably be Negro, but he added: “We have pockets of poverty-stricken white people in our area, too, and one or two of the 15 locations will be in predominantly white areas.” He said children would be encouraged to attend the center nearest their homes and that automobiles of parents and cars and station wagons of volunteer workers will be utilized for transportation when necessary.

Mrs. Sampson said backers of the program feel it has “something to offer the city” and she said she believed it would “help strengthen the family life” of those children and parents who participate. She said local college students and a number of church women had volunteered to help and that a block-by-block canvas would be conducted to learn which children need help.

Father Law said he had outlined nine poverty areas in Jackson and the immediate metropolitan areas and the 15 centers would be located near these poverty areas. He did not identify any specific areas.
(End of article)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Photo: A. Z. Young of Bogalusa, LA. See more at the bottom of the post.

Thought: I've changed directions on this blog a couple of times already and I'm sure I'll change directions in the future. Originally, I thought I would just be posting items on my father with little commentary. Then it expanded into more items in general about the Civil Rights era, realizing that most of what I have on my dad really needs to be understood in the context of the time period. Now, in yet another change, I'm starting to feel that maybe I do need to make some comments instead of just posting documents from the past. Part of that thinking comes from this comment by former Mississippi governor William Winter in a recent interview printed in the Jackson Free Press:

What is the greatest obstacle to racial reconciliation?
"Not enough civil, candid communication between people; still not enough trust across racial lines; (and) not enough understanding of different points of view that people have. And that's one of the things the Institute for Racial Reconciliation at Ole Miss is doing: breaking down some of those barriers and bringing people together in frank discussions, comparing notes, looking at each other through each other's eyes, and willingness to walk in somebody else's shoes for a while. And I think when we do that, we understand that there's not really much difference. What we look like is not nearly as important as what we stand for."

The above response by Gov. Winter is along the same lines as what I've been thinking, especially since seeing that quote from James Silver that was part of my October 31st entry ("but I'm afraid the episode only added to my perplexity as to how to get along with blacks"). That statement by James Silver surprised me initially, but maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. We all interpret the events around us in the context of our past experiences and in the context of the views passed down to us from prior generations. Given the extreme differences of life in America for blacks and whites in the past, is it any surprise that blacks and whites might view the same event in totally different ways today?

With this being a blog, there really is no conversation possible, but at least I can give my impressions on the things I read and learn. It's just one viewpoint that will be read by few, but sometimes it can be a start of a conversation if one person expresses their thoughts and honest opinions. At the very least, it will help me sort my thoughts out by writing them down.

I was going to post a newspaper article from May 26, 1965 regarding the being of Head Start in Jackson. I'll get to that this week but it's a little long to tack on to the above. Instead, here's an article that was also in the May 26th newspaper. It's interesting to see just how open the Klan and the Citizen's Council were in their opposition to the Civil Rights Law.

Attempted Racial Truce Falls Apart in Torn Bogalusa
(Jackson Daily News--May 26, 1965)

Bogalusa, LA (AP) -- The "cooling off" period ended for Bogalusa--with the Ku Klux Klan urging that the mayor be tarred and feathered and Negroes voting to resume demonstrations today.

The Bogalusa Civic and Voters League, a Negro group, voted Tuesday night to resume picketing of downtown stores. A. Z. Young, league president, said the decision came because white businessmen broke an agreement to confer about equal employment opportunity demands.

The cooling off period was agreed upon after Mayor Jesse Cutrer Jr. announced that public facilities would be desegregated, as required by law. The Bogalusa Citizens Council was circulating a petition for a recall election to try to oust Cutrer for his efforts to reach compromise racial agreements.

And the Ku Klux Klan circulated leaflets bitterly criticizing a list of political figures for not working to suppress the civil rights drive here. Mayor Cutrer topped the list of those the Klan proposed should be tarred and feathered. Others included Gov. John McKeithen, Sen. Russell Long, D-La., and Rep. Jimmy Morrison, D-La.

It is interesting how an internet search on these names from the mid-60's often turn up news that the people in these stories go on to do bigger things. Here's another link on Mr. A. Z. Young:
Honoring the Legacy of A. Z. Young

Friday, November 2, 2007

Scenes from the 60's

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then today's post hits the 20,000 word mark. It's been a tough week and I just don't have the energy or time to do much this evening (Thursday). I was looking in "The Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive" and I found a link to 20 photos by Charles Moore. The images are small but powerful. Once you get to the website for "Powerful Days in Black and White", you can move through the photos by clicking the words on the top or bottom of the frame (powerful, pressure, attacked, ...) or you can use the forward and back arrows:

The Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive Page

1) Click on "Other Civil Rights Resources" at the top of the page.
2) Go down the list on this new page and click on "Powerful Days in Black and White"

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Letters of Thanks Make a Difference

In years past, I've let my life be dominated by the Millsaps sports project, especially in the fall and spring. This year I've been determined to hold on to other parts of my life, and that includes my original blog and starting this new blog. It is somewhat frustrating at the moment that I have just enough time to find things of interest and not enough time to pursue them. The books I recently checked out by Polly Greenburg and James Silver look very interesting, but I've only had time to skim through them. The Charles Evers letter criticising my dad has led me to a Charles Evers oral history that irritates me even more. And the whole saga of the Head Start program in the mid-60's sounds like it has all the twists and turns of a John Grisham novel. I eagerly look forward to a few weeks from now when I'll actually have time to devote to reading and research.

In the meantime, I will continue to cobble together posts for the blogs. Today is a combination of old and new as my plan was to reprint some letters my dad received in regards to the Chamber of Commerce stance. That's the old. The new is that I got a nice email Wednesday evening from a friend who said he is enjoying the blog. That means a lot to me and it goes along with an earlier email from my nephew. As I sit at my PC typing posts for the next day, I sometimes feel like I'm in a vacuum, not knowing if anyone is finding anything of interest on the blog. While it would still have value if I was in a vacuum because this is educational for me, it's nice to know that others also find a value in the posts.

Now, on to the letters from the mid-60's. We know the KKK wasn't happy by the stance of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, and I have a one letter from "A Sickened Christian (White)" who compares the Chamber of Commerce to the "Anti-Christ forces", but I also have four letters of support. Maybe it would be a refreshing change to hear those voices:

July 7, 1964
Dear Mr. Ezelle,

As a citizen of Jackson and Mississippi I want to express my appreciation to you for your part in issuing the Chamber of Commerce statement on Civil Rights laws. Because of such people as you one has hope for Mississippi. Without hope life is unbearable. You are to be highly commended for your courage and integrity.

Gratefully yours,
Willie Hume Bryant

July 7, 1964
Dear Mr. Ezelle,

I am very proud of the statement made by the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. You are to be congratulated for your work in this. It has been too many months since I could be proud of this kind of action.

Kathren Wiener (Mrs. Julian Wiener)

July 9, 1964
Dear Bob,

Wallie and I have both tried to call you. We just want to compliment you and the Chamber of Commerce. We have so desperately needed this kind of leadership. Thank you!

I talked with Mrs. Howard Ross this morning. She said all her calls thus far have been in support of her husband's statement. Thought you'd like to know. If there is any way I personally or the Council on Human Relations can be of assistance, please let me know.

Gratefully yours,
Jane Schutt

July 7, 1965 (after the newsletter came out in the summer of 1965)
Dear Bob:

Someone sent me a copy of the "yellow paper" headed "Chamber of Commerce Element Our Worst Enemy". In this document you are bitterly attacked.

The measure of a man's stature can be gauged in part by his enemies; the strength of his influence can be measured in part by the intensity of the attack; and the depth of his character can be measured in part by his ability to disregard the insignificant while concentrating on the significant.

According to this, you are a man of substantial stature, influence and character as are the other men who were mentioned along with you. Keep your back straight, your chin high, your head clear and your heart mellow.

Sincerely, Owen Cooper (cc to Mr. Nat S. Rogers and Mr. Robert Mayo)

I don't know if any of these people are still alive, but bless them for taking the time to write a note to my dad. I'm sure words of support during this period of time were tremendously appreciated.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It Can Be Lonely in the Middle

Pictured above are James Silver and Zoya Zeman. I know of James Silver, the author of "Mississippi: The Closed Society", and I have found an oral history transcript on Zoya Zeman that I haven't had a chance to read. I checked out the book "Running Scared, Silver in Mississippi" by James Silver yesterday at the main Jackson library. It had been on the shelf so long that it still had one of the cards the librarians once used when they hand stamped the due date. This book was last due back on July 13, 1989. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that despite sending this blog address out to about a hundred people, the typical day has less than 10 hits. I don't think many people really want to relive or remember this era in our history.

Personally, I'm finding it fascinating and I look forward to the time when I can read more. I'm discovering that I have never really understood the time period, the deep feelings, the conflicts between groups on the same side of the issue, and much more. While this blog started out about my dad and I seem to veer away from his story most of the time, I'm getting a better understanding of what he did and what he went through as I learn more about Mississippi in the mid-1960's. I have just glanced through the James Silver book and I immediately found a section that illustrates the difficult middle ground that whites like my dad and James Silver inhabited during these times.

The following comes from page 85 of the book and it must be in 1964 or 1965. James Silver is already well known as an Ole Miss professor who has put himself in a dangerous situation by his speeches, writings and actions in favor of Civil Rights. It would have been hard to find many who had gone so far out on a limb in Mississippi. He was teaching during the summer at Emory University in Atlanta and this is what he wrote:

"In August came an invitation to address a training group of SNCC partisans on the campus of Atlanta University. By then I had written exactly sixteen pages of my prospective speech to the Southern Historical Association and I figured this would be an auspicious occasion to try them out. So I drove out to the campus after supper, finding my mixed audience still playing softball in the evening glow.

Finally, shirtless men and women in shorts came in from the warm athletic field, I presumed to listen to my words of wisdom. But each time I girded myself for oratory as I thought my introduction imminent, someone in the back of the room would start up another chorus of "We Shall Overcome." When I did get up to speak, I had long since despaired of reading even the Gospel to such a wildly demonstrative audience, and so I made a few remarks regarding what I thought I had learned in Mississippi.

A question period brought pertinent inquiries, including one about whether they was any way "they" (Bill's "enemy") could get to me. Without much thought, I answered that I certainly was vulnerable through my nine-year-old daughter. Immediately, a large black shouted at me the impossible question: "Ya mean ya wouldn't sacrifice your daughter for the cause?" My reaction was somewhat emotional, to the effect that I wouldn't sacrifice Gail for all the Negroes in America, and I may have added Africa to boot.

The room temperature dropped to the point of refrigeration, and I was later told that occasionally thereafter I was referred to as "Uncle Tom Silver." When I had calmed down, I realized that Negroes had sacrificed, unwillingly, their daughters for two centuries, but I'm afraid the episode only added to my perplexity as to how to get along with blacks."


Here's a man who was literally risking his life to speak out for Civil Rights, and those he is trying to help shun him because he is not willing to also risk the life of his 9-year-old daughter. When you consider how little the men like James Silver and my dad had to gain, how much they had to lose, and how they were subject to criticism from both sides of the issue, it took an amazing amount of courage and convictions to one's principles to stand in that middle ground.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Look at 'Head Start'

I'm looking forward to having the time to delve into some of the Civil Rights stuff more deeply when I finally work through the giant batch of photos I took at the Millsaps Homecoming. In the meantime, here's the text of an editorial that appeared in the "Jackson Daily News" on May 21, 1965. It was written by editor James W. Ward. It's another example of just how wide the gap between the races actually was 42 years ago.

A Look at ‘Head Start’

There is a disquieting aura, almost terrifying in its ultimate projection, hovering wraith-like above the Head Start phase of the federal government’s poverty program.

Head Start is specifically designed to include children, of all races and both sexes, from one to six years of age, considered underprivileged and in need of guidance and direction in pre-school preparation.

On the face of this undertaking, it appears to be most wholesome and humane, appealing to the most tender senses in assisting infant youngsters who otherwise might be relegated to slum dwelling influence, undesirable home background and lack of basic necessities.

However, as all federal programs are now designed, here is one of the most subtle mediums for instilling the acceptance of racial integration and ultimate mongrelization ever perpetrated in this country.

The most formative years of a child’s life are in this particular area, from 1 to 6, and the mixing of children of both races, and both sexes, will be of paramount importance in this program, with the children subconsciously registering such associations as natural and an indelible way of life in future years.

Naturally, the do-gooders and racists will immediately raise the loudest screams and sanctimonious objections to any such advanced objections, because such a program fits into the scheme of total integration and overlapping of the races which is being preached and taught throughout the United States today.

The most frightening parallel to these so-called Head Start programs, and they certainly are a head start toward a thorough conditioning of the young to the new race-thinking endorsed and encouraged by the federal government, are some similar programs which have been a part of some anti-American countries for years.

Soviet Russia has operated a children’s commune for years, this as a part of the education of both the pre-school child and the family, conditioning them to total Communism and dedication to the state.

Red China takes the young child, separating parent and children, for their peculiar brand of schooling, utilizing the early and impressionable years to instill the doctrine of blind obedience to designated leaders.

Hitler’s Germany built its most infamous Youth Corps and Nazi bullies from the children’s camps and goose-stepping schools of rigid political doctrine, and a constantly-taught regimentation.

Somewhere in this Head Start program, affecting the precious lives and minds of the most impressionable youth of this country, there is an ugliness which keeps making itself felt, well over the sound of crisp dollars being rustled as a conscience-appeaser.

The character of those officials designated to administer these projects, from the highest-placed post to the local day-to-day teacher, and their background should be of the highest, unquestioned dedication to the best interest of the children.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Photo of Change

Photo: What a stir the above photo would have caused in the late 50's or early 60's. Think about all the things that would be "wrong" with this photo back in that era: Start with the handshake between a white woman and a black man in the middle of a very public celebration. The fact that the women is the President of Millsaps College would have been very unusual if not totally unthinkable. The fact that the black man is the father of a student at Millsaps College would have created an uproar that might threaten the existence of the school. The idea that a young black woman, even if she was allowed at Millsaps as a student, would be named Homecoming Queen over a group of white students was just an impossibility.

Thought: While the 1960's brought about the dramatic opposition between those who favored equality for all and those who wanted the status quo to continue, there was also opposition within the side that was pushing for Civil Rights. Without a doubt, some thought my father and those like him were not pushing hard enough and fast enough, and I know my father believed that some were pushing for too much change too soon, and the resulting wall of resentment would hinder the movement in the long run. I'm not sure if there was a right or wrong approach in this discussion, and probably both sides were needed to balance the other.

Things get really complicated when I get into the area of Headstart. At the moment I'm reading bits and pieces of "The Devil Has Slippery Shoes" by Polly Greenberg. It tells a fascinating account of just how these factions in the Civil Rights movement were competing for control. I only know about the book because I search on "Polly Greenberg" after seeing her name in a mysterious document that seems to be the minutes from a meeting. In it, Charles Evers warns the group about people like my father who are only involved in a program like Headstart because "all they really want is the money they can get out of the program". In that statement Charles Evers specifically mentions Colonel Davis, Mr. Ezell, and Mr. Huhn. The minutes further indicate that Charles Evers had wired OEO in Atlanta requesting that they stop all funding for the Jackson Headstart program, the program my father help to start at the Bethlehem Center.

While Polly Greenberg sounds like she was far, far to the left of my father, this letter also recommends that she be fired, and in the foreword of her book, Polly writes a direct note to "Charles". It's interesting stuff, but I'm afraid that I have to just leave you with that tease of posts to come in the near future. The above photo is one of about 3,000 I took in a 48 hour period at Millsaps this weekend and I am somewhat exhausted and facing a mountain of work to process the photos. Therefore, the blog may suffer in quality some this week as I stretch myself thinner than Twiggy on a diet, but I will get a post of some sort here every day and hopefully get back to more substantial stuff next week.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Chamber of Commerce Statement

Photo: The above is a photo of my father in the December 8, 1964 Clarion-Ledger, announcing the start of his term as President of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. By the way, the announcement mentions that he is the first second-generation president of the Chamber, following his father who was president in 1937. You might be able to read the headline in the center that says, "Minister Says Klan Rules Area". That's an article quoting the Rev. Clay Lee whom most of you know. He was a 34 year old minister in Phildelphia, MS at the time.

Post: It may seem backwards to have posted the KKK newsletter first, followed by the Jackson Chamber of Commerce statement. I think you'll understand my reason when you read the statement. In today's context, the statement put out by the Chamber is a racist statement and I think it helps put it into the context of 1964 by having shown how this statement was view by some in 1964 as "just to appease the demands of Martin Luther King and his communist rabble". Here's the statement which is dated one day after the signing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964:

Policy Statement as Approved by the Board of Directors
Jackson Chamber of Commerce
Friday, July 3, 1964

In view of the passage by the Congress and the signing by the President of the Civil Rights Act, the Board of Directors of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce makes the following statement:

1) The Board of Directors of the Chamber, acting as the policy making body for this organization of business and professional people, officially opposed the Civil Rights Bill, and encouraged opposition to it during the period that it was under consideration in the Congress.

2) Now that the bill has been passed, the Chamber Board recommends that businesses affected comply with the law, pending tests of its constitutionality in court. The citizens of Jackson have earned a reputation as a law abiding community, and the business and professional leadership of the city, and our elected city officials, have always encouraged all of our people of both races to abide by the law of the land. We may not be in sympathy with all of the laws of the land, but we must maintain our standing as a community which abides by the law.


Wow! What a stunning cry for equality for all--the Chamber was against the Civil Rights Act, the Chamber doesn't like the Civil Rights Act and we think it may be unconstitutional, but our hands are tied because we are law abiding citizens. It's interesting that this was a statement that was widely condemmed in 1964 as the talk of an liberal, communist group, and in 2007 this statement would be condemned as being racist and hateful. A lot has changed in 43 years.

Earlier this week, I thought that my version of family history must have been wrong. I thought my dad was the president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1964, and as such, he had guided this call for compliance through the Chamber. Then I discovered he was just the president-elect in 1964, so maybe I was giving him more credit than he was due. The answer to this mystery comes once again from the oral history interview done by my dad in 1965:

INTERVIEWER: So then you were president-elect as of December, 1963.
EZELLE: That's right.
INTERVIEWER: You were, then, among the leadership of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce at the time they issued a statement urging compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were you not?
EZELLE: That's correct.
INTERVIEWER: Could you tell us something about the origin of that statement?
EZELLE: Yes. Actually, I presided at both the executive and the board meeting at which the statement was adopted because Mr. Clarence Lott, who was then president, was out of town....

There's a good bit more after the above, discussing the sqeeze that was being put on Jackson businesses from both sides, meetings with the mayor and a couple of the bank presidents, etc. This oral history interview is 25 pages long (double spaced) and I'll get it on the blog at some point in the future.

Let me just finish up the post and this week with a personal observation. There are places in this world today where seemingly small things are very dangerous things to do. In some places, a woman going out in public without being completely covered is risking being stoned to death. In some American neighborhoods, a youth wearing the wrong colors can be a very dangerous thing to do. In countries around the world, speaking out against the government results in time spent in jail. Small things at the wrong time and in the wrong place can be dangerous. That's what it was like in Mississippi in the 1960's. Blacks and whites meeting together, someone trying to register people to vote, an intergrated group sitting at a lunch counter, advocating that people should follow the law--normal day-to-day things that we've all done for years were acts of bravery 40+ years ago. It was a totally different world back then, a fact that has to be kept in mind when reading any of the information from that era.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chamber of Commerce Element Our Worst Enemy

I was less familiar with this KKK newsletter even though I must have read it in the past when I was sorting through the box of items that Mother gave me. I'm sure the other newsletter was more firmly in my mind because of the experience of finding them in our neighborhood. What follows is the newsletter and then some notes I have added at the end:


The Holy Bible says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than it is for a rich man to go to heaven.” Of course, the real meaning here is that the rich live only for their money and in most cases turn back on God, Race and Country. The best example of this can be found here in the South.
In recent weeks our local newspapers have been carrying ads written and paid for by local businessmen and their Chamber of Commerce. They plead with the White people to obey the Civil Rights Laws, and to keep the peace and help quietly integrate all communities. They cannot stand the thought of losing a single dollar from any Negro boycott. In fact, they are so frightened by the thought of any Negro CORE picket line, they want to surrender in advance. They are in a big rush to hire Negro clerks, cashiers, even white collar workers, place Negroes in supervisory positions over White workers, just to appease the demands of Martin Luther King and his communist rabble.
The rich businessmen know that they can afford to live in wealthy areas of a city where the Negro cannot move, they have their rich private country clubs and golf links and swimming pools and private schools. THEY ARE SELFISH AND VICIOUS IN DEMANDING THAT THE WHITE WORKING CLASS MIX WITH BLACK UN-CIVILIZED ANIMALS JUST SO THAT THEY MAY MAKE MONEY OFF THEIR NEGRO CUSTOMERS!
It is time that we single out the main leaders of these “surrender all White Rights at any cost just so I can make money” business leaders and boycott them to the hilt. Let’s cut off their White trade and put them in the bread lines with negroes where they would like to place OUR people. SPEAK UP, WHITE MAN, TELL THESE SELL-OUT TRAITORS TO EITHER STAND AND FIGHT WITH THE WHITE RACE, OR PACK UP THEIR CARPETBAGS AND MOVE IN WITH THE NEGROES BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING TO LOSE ALL THEIR WHITE TRADE. SINCE THEIR PRINCIPLES ARE BANKRUPT, LET THEIR BANK ACCOUNTS ALSO BE BANKRUPT.

The above is an exact copy of a recent article in the conservative publication “Thunderbolt”. We wish to point out the following: There are some different tactics being used on our local scene.
Robert L. Ezell, Jr., president of our Chamber of Commerce and Mississippi Bedding (Mattress) Co., has had a lot of people sound asleep, but not with the use of his mattresses. This motley master was a Millsaps Major in the mid 30’s, followed in a couple of years by Robert Mayo and Nat S. Rogers, and all of them follow the socialist lines. Also, there has been a “finger” in the pie in more recent years.
The Chamber, with “Big Robert” at the head, has remained primarily in the background for almost one year, or ever since they came out with their outright compliance in absolute defiance of the principles and people they are supposed to represent. The Miss. Manufactures Association and the Miss. Economic Council have been used as the somewhat open supporters of the communist-backed movement to bring about complete abolition of our Christian beliefs and way of life.
If you can recall or assemble the recent comments and announcements from our liberal press, you will readily see how many phases of activity the Miss. Economic Council has delved into (business, social, civic, churches, schools, even roads, etc.), nothing short of dictating policies to all of these organizations.
We invite and humbly request that you take notice and ask questions about “Big Robert” and this situation. There will be more, and THEN, think about these comments and announcements, and you will readily realize the seriousness of the sell-out that has taken and is taking place, and what can and will be done about it.


Various notes from Frank:

--I assume the line about a “finger” in the pie is a reference to Ellis Finger who was the President at Millsaps College from 1952-1964.
--I’ve seen several copies of this newsletter, but none have any information regarding the date of the newsletter, where it was distributed, etc. The first half of the newsletter quotes a story from the “Thunderbolt” that must have been written in 1964 since it refers to ads placed in local newspapers. This would have been soon after the passage of the Civil Rights Law in 1964. The second half of the newsletter refers to Robert Ezelle as the president of the Chamber of Commerce and says the Chamber has been in the background for almost one year so the newsletter had to have come out in 1965.
--At first the above newsletter didn’t make much sense to me since it said "Big Robert" and the Chamber had been fairly quiet. Instead they focus on the work of the Miss. Manufacturers Association and the Miss. Economic Council. I didn’t see the connection to my father until I reread an Oral History interview that he did in the summer of 1965. Here’s part of that interview:

INTERVIEWER: Are you also a member of the Mississippi Economic Council?
EZELLE: Yes, we have membership here in this firm.
INTERVIEWER: Did you participate in any way or are you familiar with the origin of their statement, which, as I recall, was issued somewhat after the Chamber’s statement?
EZELLE: I’m familiar with it. I was in on the development of it. I knew about it. I was informed about it and the Jackson Chamber was informed so that, if it was issued, they hoped that we would back them up on it. And so, after it was issued, we were among the first organizations to back them up with another statement that we endorsed their statement.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taking a Stand Behind Senator John Stennis

Photo: The standing position in this photo was probably the only time my father was "behind Senator Stennis" when it came to anything regarding Civil Rights. This photo was provided by the Office of John Stennis and it came with the following cutlines:

From The Office of Senator John Stennis
April 30, 1964
For Immediate Release

JACKSON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE DELEGATION MEETS SENATOR JOHN STENNIS during their visit to Washington, D.C. for the annual meeting of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Conferring with Senator Stennis in the Senate Visitors' Reception Room, just outside the Senate Chamber where the civil rights debate was in full swing, are (left to right) Chamber General Manager Mendell Davis, Chamber President Clarence Lott, Mrs. Robert Hearin, Mrs. Tom Scott, President-elect Robert Ezelle, Senator Stennis, Tom Scott, Mrs. Clarence Lott, and Mrs. Mendell Davis. Many other Jackson delegates were not present for this picture. Senator Stennis, one of the Southern team captains, had charge of the floor debate on this particular day, and delivered a major speech against the bill.