The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, October 06, 2003
Jim Crow era Arkansas governor kaput - Sid McMath victim of schools desegregation suit?
That's not one of those tricky, sleazy journo-type questions that promise a bucketful of innuendo and half-truth - I'd genuinely like to know.
And who is Sid McMath? I'd never heard of him before reading this AP piece (October 6) telling of the man's death at the ripe old age of 91. Sidney Sanders McMath served two terms as governor (1949-1953) , being succeeded by Francis Adams Cherry (one term), who was followed by Orval Faubus (of Little Rock High School fame - 1955-1967).
Another AP piece (October 5) says
In 1954, McMath made an unsuccessful attempt to oust Sen. John McClellan, a Democrat. In 1962, McMath ran again for gubernatorial nomination, but lost to then-Gov. Orval Faubus.
McMath's political demise occurred in 1952 (I'm assuming at the Democratic primary - so far as I can tell, Winthrop Rockefeller was the first Republican governor of Arkansas - 1967-71) - the obits blame
a highway spending scandal that he insisted was politically motivated.
From all accounts, McMath was a reforming governor - thus putting him in the same class with Earl Long (Louisiana), James E Folsom ('Big 'Jim' Folsom to his friends) and (believe it or not) Strom Thurmond and George Wallace . There was a strange post-war bubble of Southern progressivism (not a million miles away from the Southern Populist Movement of the 1890s - associated with Tom Watson), in which a number of pols of McMath's generation set aside the nigger-baiting of the likes of Theodore Bilbo and focused on economic and social issues (a 1998 Atlantic Monthly piece majoring on Faubus still seems to be the best thing online dealing with this now unsung phenomenon - it puts the Civil Rights Industry's set-in-stone chronology right out!)
Desegregation was no part of their agenda: but they believed the obsession with race was keeping Southern whites in their backward condition.
The school case - started in Clarendon County, SC (December 7 2002) - was, I believe, the critical wedge which enabled conservative forces to reassert control in the South, and force reforming governors to change or go - Folsom's second term as Alabama Governor was in the post-Brown mould, I think.
Now, although the media reports put down McMath's failure in 1952 to corruption allegations , I would hypothesise that schools desegregation might have had something to do with it. (Objecting to corruption in Arkansas would be like Hillary Clinton complaining about her spouse's infidelity, surely?)
An Arkansas Times piece of December 31 1999 entitled Arkansans of the Century has the following par on McMath:
A real progressive by 1949 standards, McMath built more highways than any other governor, expanded the medical school, allowed blacks to vote in primaries and improved the black segregated schools.
That's the only online reference I can trace to McMath and Negro education : a hypothesis worth investigating - but, in default of useful information, to say more would just be connecting the dots.
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