Crusades for Freedom

Crusades for Freedom: Memphis and the Political Transformation of the American South

G. Wayne Dowdy
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Crusades for Freedom
    Book Description:

    During the first half of the twentieth century, the city of Memphis was governed by the Shelby County Democratic Party controlled by Edward Hull Crump, described by Time magazine as "the most absolute political boss in the U.S."Crusades for Freedomchronicles the demise of the Crump political machine and the corresponding rise to power of the South's two minorities, African Americans and Republicans.

    Between the years 1948 and 1968, Memphis emerged as a battleground in the struggle to create a strong two-party South. For the first time in its history, both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates campaigned vigorously for the Bluff City's votes. Closely tied to these changing political fortunes was the struggle of African Americans to overturn two centuries of discrimination. At the same time, many believed that the city needed a more modern political structure to meet the challenges of the 1950s and 1960s, preferably a mayor-city council governmental structure. By 1968 the segregated social order had collapsed, black politicians were firmly entrenched within the Democratic party, southern whites had swelled the ranks of the GOP, and Memphis had adopted a new city charter.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-424-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. 1 “We Are Living in a Different Day”
    (pp. 3-18)

    E. H. Crump was cold and wet. On January 1, 1948, he attended the Delta Bowl football game between Texas Christian and the University of Mississippi. As he sat in the stands he was buffeted by high winds and stinging rain that had blanketed Memphis. The night before, on New Year’s Eve, a tornado had touched down in rural Shelby County, killing three people and injuring eighteen.¹ Meanwhile, nine hundred miles away in the nation’s capital, President Harry Truman was dealing with another type of storm that threatened to rip the nation asunder. As the new year dawned, neither leader...

  6. 2 “My Family Ties in the South”
    (pp. 19-32)

    Mayor Pleasants was a tired man. Suffering from poor health and ashamed of his participation in the smear campaign against Meeman, Pleasants informed Crump in September 1948 that he wished to retire.¹ Concerned that Pleasants’s resignation might affect the election, and wanting to choose a successor before the decision was announced, Crump asked the mayor to wait. The overriding consideration for the Memphis leader was to find an able administrator who could stem the perception that the county Democratic organization was tottering. As we have seen, the results of the 1948 Democratic primary and general election were perceived to be...

  7. 3 “All the Cooperation We Can Muster”
    (pp. 33-46)

    By February 1953 Mayor Watkins Overton had enough. For several months the four other members of the city commission, Claude Armour, John T. “Buddy” Dwyer, Frank Tobey, and O. P. Williams, had voted against the mayor’s proposal to construct a downtown parking garage and ignored his opposition to pensions for the widows of firefighters and police officers.¹ The rift grew wider in early February when the four commissioners requested a meeting with Overton to discuss concerns they had with the performance of city personnel director Stanley Dilliard. Appointed by Overton in 1949, Dilliard supervised the conducting of civil service tests...

  8. 4 “Why Didn’t Someone Tell Us This Before?”
    (pp. 47-65)

    Henry Loeb was ready. On September 16 he formally announced what nearly everyone already knew, that he was a candidate for a seat on the city commission. Distancing himself from the administration and Overton tickets, Loeb declared that “I offer myself without political ties or obligations. I will be free, if elected, to represent all the people without fear of favor.”¹ Loeb’s independent stance distinguished him from the other politicians who were running as part of a slate of candidates.

    Shortly before Loeb’s announcement, Overton revealed his running mates for the commission and his platform. Chosen were former city personnel...

  9. 5 “To Compel the White Race”
    (pp. 66-85)

    Russell Sugarmon had a plan. In early 1959 he became convinced that conditions were ripe for him to become the first African American in the twentieth century to achieve electoral office in Memphis. The Tennessee General Assembly had recently passed a law requiring political candidates in municipal elections to run for a specific school board or city commission post rather than the past practice of assigning seats to those who received the highest number of votes.¹ The law was specifically designed to limit the impact of African American voting on local elections. As previously mentioned, since 1951 black voters had...

  10. 6 “Please Don’t Do That”
    (pp. 86-107)

    A. Maceo Walker was very pleased. In March 1961 he became the first African American in the twentieth century to serve on a permanent city board when he was appointed to the Traffic Advisory Commission. Walker was nominated by Commissioner William Farris, and his appointment was widely applauded by both the black and white communities.¹ The son of Dr. J. E. Walker, Antonio Maceo was born in Indianola, Mississippi, in 1909. Maceo and his family moved to Memphis in 1920 in order to expand the family’s life insurance business and to avoid white harassment. We “were a sore spot in...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. 7 “A Great Movement Here in Memphis”
    (pp. 108-138)

    William Ingram just couldn’t keep his promise. Elected mayor on a pledge to bring peace to city government, instead he sowed discord. The city charter stated that the mayor “shall have general supervision of all the officers of the city and see that the ordinances and provisions of the charter are observed.”¹ As mayor, Ingram interpreted this passage to mean he had the authority to appoint or dismiss any municipal official regardless of the wishes of the other four commissioners. Shortly after his January 1964 inauguration the mayor dismissed long-time city attorney Frank Gianotti in favor of Patrick Johnson, Sr....

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 139-142)

    In the years following 1968, white Republicans and African American Democrats continued to dominate Memphis government and politics. In 1970 Memphian Winfield Dunn was elected governor, becoming the first Republican chief executive in over fifty years.¹ Lewis Donelson served one term on the city council, and in 1978 he was appointed state commissioner of finance and administration by Republican governor Lamar Alexander.² His GOP colleague, Robert James, remained on the city council, serving until his retirement in 1988.³ In 1974 conservative ninth district congressman Dan Kuykendall was defeated by African American Democrat Harold Ford, Sr., who held the seat for...

  14. Appendix A. MEMPHIS CITY GOVERNMENT, 1948–1968
    (pp. 143-144)
  15. Appendix B. ELECTION RETURNS
    (pp. 145-148)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 149-172)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-178)
  18. Index
    (pp. 179-183)