The Press: Petulant Plea

  • Share
  • Read Later

The Negro is fundamentally and perhaps unalterably inferior; he is also immoral, indolent, inept, incapable of learning, and uninterested in full racial equality. The segregationist South feels no guilt about keeping the Negro in his proper place—that is to say, in separate schools. The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering desegregation of public schools was unconstitutional, and must be resisted by all means short of violence. Northern carpetbaggers should stay out of Dixie: they only make trouble, do not understand the South and never will.

Such extremist views would do credit to any redneck, but the sentiments belong to James Jackson Kilpatrick, 41, editor of the Richmond, Va., News Leader and one of the most gifted and eloquent spokesmen for the Old South. They sputter all through his new book, The Southern Case for School Segregation (Crowell-Collier; $3.95). But though diehard racists will doubtless thrill to its themes, as they have thrilled for years to Kilpatrick's racist editorials in the News Leader, the book is really a swan song—Editor Kilpatrick's last roar of defiance in what even he now concedes is a lost cause.

Demagogic Fury. Kilpatrick did not always see racism as a dead-end crusade. A Southerner by birth (Oklahoma), education and temperament, he went straight from journalism school at the University of Missouri to a reporter's job on the News Leader. There, in the capital of the Confederacy, and on a paper dedicated to white supremacy, he soon distinguished himself as an implacable enemy of integration in any form. Made editor in 1951, Kilpatrick ran an editorial campaign that, in large measure, polarized Southern resistance to school integration.

Scarcely had the Supreme Court handed down its decision when Kilpatrick attacked it with demagogic fury. "These nine men," he wrote, "repudiated the Constitution, spit upon the Tenth Amendment,* and rewrote the fundamental law of this land to suit their own gauzy concepts of sociology. If it be said now that the South is flouting the law, let it be said to the high court: you taught us how." While ostensibly recoiling from violence ("ungentlemanly"), Kilpatrick seemed to be inciting it: "God give us men! We resist now or we resist never."

Hollow Victory. As one means of resistance, Kilpatrick proposed the decrepit doctrine of interposition, by which recalcitrant states attempt to block federal authority with their own. His 1955-56 editorial series on interposition has inspired segregationist leaders ever since—from Virginia's former Governor Almond to Mississippi's Ross Barnett. When interposition failed in Virginia, Kilpatrick had another suggestion: close the public schools. And as the state began to do just that, establishing private "academies" from which Negro pupils could be legally barred, Kilpatrick cheered. "Let it stay that way," he wrote, after a high school in Front Royal, Va., shut its doors rather than obey a federal injunction to admit 22 Negroes.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2