Tuesday, May 12, 2009

If At First You Don't Secede . . . (Part III, the "Lily Whites")

This Sunday, the Clarion-Ledger interviewed Wirt Yerger in its "Sunday Morning With" series. You can find it here.

One part of the interview with the senior Mr. Yerger caught the attention of one of my readers:

Question: For our younger readers, explain the conflicts between the "Lily Whites" and "Black-and-tan" factions of the GOP back in the 1960s.

Answer: In the first place, we weren't the "Lily Whites." I came into it after a lot of those battles had been fought. In 1956, it was all over and the "Black-and-Tans" had in large part faded away. Essentially, Mississippi had a puppet party controlled by interests in Washington, D.C., with no discernable purpose in helping advance policies in Mississippi. I understand a lot of people wanted to make race a defining issue for their own political purposes, but to me, principles have always been more important than race. I have always advocated a colorblind society. We need that badly still.

The problem, as my reader points out, is that a contemporaneous article in the Clarion-Ledger documents that the battle between the "Lily Whites" and the "Black and Tans" was still raging as late as December 1959.
In 1956 both factions of the Mississippi GOP sent representatives to the national convention. In the December 1959 C-L piece, Mr. Yerger himself was quoted in his role as state party chair and as a member of the "Lily Whites" on the national party's decision that year to allow Mississippi's 1960 convention delegates to be selected by the state party chair (again, Mr Yerger). He said then that the national GOP's ruling assured the "Lily Whites" of recognition as the true representatives of the Republican Party in Mississippi.
The December 1959 Clarion-Ledger article is here.

If your eyes are better than mine, you can see it above.

Why should we care? Because the history of a group sets the course for the group's development and future. It's especially important because the leadership of the Mississippi Republican Party and its officeholders puts a high premium on the concept of "party loyalty." A long-time member of the State GOP has a lot better chance of being nominated for leadership than does a recent convert. Kirk Fordice and Haley Barbour are the most recent, obvious, examples.

There's no need to witch-hunt: a lot of people made bad decisions in the 1950s and 1960s. But truth is never a bad thing, and the Mississippi Republicans have certainly not "always advocated a colorblind society." Shame on the Clarion-Ledger for letting the Republicans get away with their revisionist history.


Kingfish said...

why don't you make it a .pdf instead so we can blow it up?

Jim Craig said...

I don't know how to do that. The link to the December 1959 article in the Sovereignty Commission files has some kind of zoom function:

Original Article

nmisscommenter said...

I posted on Folo parts of a photo essay that Life photographer took (but never published) of the 1952 Republican black and tan convention, which was in a historic building on Farish Street. The nascent lily whites forced their way into the convention. It was a warm-up for 1956 and thereafter.

I was aware at least as early as that post that the surviving folks of that era deny the whole lily white thing. I've heard others do the same.

WantedToBeALawyer said...

I must take issue, first with a few of your "facts", and then, with a few of your conclusions.

The hand-written note indicates that the newspaper article came from the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, not the Clarion Ledger in Jackson. Also, if the article came from the Clarion Ledger, it should be noted that the Hederman Brothers, owners of the CL at that time, were extremely sympathetic to the segregationist cause and were supporters of the Mississippi democratic party. I think the Commercial Appeal owners were too, but I cannot say for sure. In addition, Mr. Yerger does not identify himself as a member of the "Lily [sic] Whites", the reporter does. The statement in the Salter article that "In 1956, it was all over", seems to me to be accurate. The "Black and Tans" faction existed solely for political patronage since at least the 1920's. Indeed, Perry Howard, quoted in the 1956 article, had moved to Washington, D.C. in 1920 where he permanently resided.

Although I am sure that you are well read on the subject, I refer you to here and the last paragraph here.

However, I agree with your last paragraph, up until you refer to Mr. Yerger's comments as "revisionist history". You have no basis for making that claim. I look forward to a future blog entry examining the democrat's "revisionist" history.

WantedToBeALawyer said...

Drop the [sic] on "Lily". My bad.