The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Deceased Southern Governors Section: more on Arkansan Sid McMath - and now Texan Preston E Smith

I'd be meaning to get back to this neck of the woods, and, belatedly, here we are.

In my October 6 piece, I queried whether McMath's exit as governor in 1953 after four years had been due to the growing furore about the schools desegregation case that eventually became Brown v Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas, of course).

The furore resulting from earlier stages of the schools case had [1] contributed to the demise of (relatively) liberal US Senators Frank Graham (D-NC) and Claude Pepper (D-FL) in 1950 (my piece December 7 2002): I was curious whether the same might have been true for the (relatively liberal) McMath.

Correspondent and fellow blogger John Adams has kindly supplied further particulars:
Brown v. Board of Education wasn't what brought McMath down--it really was a corporate-created 'scandal', courtesy of Middle South Utilities, that did it.

Desegregation was a non-issue in Arkansas in 1954--it wasn't until the Little Rock crisis that it hit the radar screen, and that was three years and two governors later. The desegregation that had occurred in the public schools in 1954 (Fayetteville and Charleston, that I'm aware of--if there were others, I don't know of them) went off without controversy.

He has more at his own blog.

Online, there is a series of five oral history interviews with Sidney McMath on the Arkansas Educational Television Network site: tape 3 has a discussion of Middle South Utilities and the electrical supply problem in general, as well as links to the other tapes in the series.

There is also a transcript of testimony given by McMath to an (unspecified) Congressional committee in October 1954 covering much the same ground.

Both of these sources look, at first glance, to have substantial information. Unfortunately, they, together with John Adam's blog, are the only sources Mr Google supplies for "middle south utilities" mcmath.

Meanwhile, Preston Smith has died at 91 (his official bio): in Texas politics - in Austin - on and off from 1944, he only became governor in 1969, in succession to John Connally, after Connally had decided to retire.

After waiting for so long for the top job, Smith had lousy timing: his tenure coincided with the Sharpstown Stock Fraud Scandal of 1971-2, and
labeled an unindicted coconspirator in a bribery case
he fell in a general clear-out of incumbents in the November 1972 general election.

I'm curious - but not sufficiently to peel off to research it right now! - to know where Smith fitted in in Texan politics. He goes back far enough to coincide with names like Coke Stevenson, Allan Shivers and Ralph Yarborough - as well as Connally and Landslide Lyndon Johnson. Reading Robert Caro's Master of the Senate - which obviously dealt with Texan politics tangentially - I recollect that that some weird stuff was going on in the politics of the Lone Star State in that era. (Plus ├ža change...)

That, too, for another time.

  1. So Samuel Lubell had assured me (in his Future of American Politics).

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