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When the special session opened last November with no Farm Bill in sight, Alben Barkley, like a Confederate general trapped into acting as a front for a group of carpetbaggers, unhappily unloosed the Wagner-Van Nuys Bill and its inevitable filibuster. It was temporarily laid aside when the Farm Bill appeared, but nothing is more important to a legislative leader than to keep his promises to the letter. So no sooner was the President's message out of the way last fortnight than Alben Barkley, still smarting from the abuses of the last filibuster, fulfilled his pledge, produced the Anti-Lynching Bill for what he hoped would be the last time.
Last spring under the spur of the two blowtorch lynchings at Duck Hill, Miss. (TIME, April 26), the Gavagan Bill, a similar anti-lynching measure, passed the House. Passage by the Senate therefore meant that the bill would become law barring the unlikely event of a Presidential veto. So as predicted, Texas' Tom Connally promptly organized a filibuster. Not as predicted, that filibuster last week rounded out ten days and had gathered so much momentum that Tom Connally jubilantly announced he would keep it going if necessary until Christmas.
Filibuster. The actual contents of the Wagner-Van Nuys Bill, as simple as they were familiar, would scarcely keep the U. S. Senate busy for that period. Like its predecessors, it provided for Federal prosecution, and a $5,000 fine or up to five years' imprisonment, or both, for sheriffs & peace officers who did not afford criminals and suspected criminals reasonable protection from mobs (any gatherings of more than three persons). Its other principal provision, the payment of an indemnity up to $10,000 to the family of a victim of mob violence by the county whose officials are responsible, is already in the statue books, of twelve States. But filibustered rarely have to talk about bills. As Tom Connally's loyal little band—Georgia's Russell, North Carolina's Bailey, South Carolina's James Byrnes, Tennessee's Kenneth McKellar, Louisiana's Ellender, and Pat Harrison—began their operations they had one stroke of luck. Illinois' porky, cautious William Dieterich had persuaded the Judiciary Committee to tack on an amendment exempting counties (i. e., Illinois' Cook) from liabilities arising from gang murders and labor violence. This gave Kenneth McKellar an opportunity to bait Illinois'. Ham Lewis into a voluble debate on Chicago jurisprudence. North Carolina's Robert Reynolds helped out by discussing Europe, the Orient, the British Isles, South America, Africa, the Malay States.
"Whenever the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or the New Deal Party or any other party," rumbled North Carolina's Josiah Bailey, "caters to the Negro vote, it is going to elect to office common fellows of the baser sort." But when Kenneth McKellar began scornfully quoting from the bill in an effort to establish its unconstitutionality, Senator Wagner pointed out that the passage in question was a quotation from the Fourteenth Amendment. "Yes," stammered Senator McKellar, "it is."