Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Theodore G. Bilbo

While attending a presentation about the sources available at McCain Library and Archives, an interesting archive came to my attention. Mrs. Jennifer Brannock had laid out different archives for us to examine, and she gave a description of what each of them was and their significance. She read a letter to us from a former Mississippi Governor and U.S. Senator. During his different terms, he received many different forms of hate letters. When I state different forms of hate letters, I mean that some of them were sarcastic and comical and others were strictly to express their deepest hate for Mr. Bilbo. I returned back to McCain Library and Archives to further read some of the different letters that Mr. Bilbo had received. I found that his replies were sometimes more comical or interesting than the letters that he received. Mr. Theodore G. Bilbo also referred to by some as “the man” was a very liberal democrat. He served twice as Governor of Mississippi and later served as a U.S. Senator. In short terms, I would describe Mr. Bilbo as a proud racist. In some of the letters that I read that he received from different people, they stated their disgust in his racist behaviors and speeches. One letter that was very interesting to me was from an attorney. She stated her name and a return address but did not give what profession she was. In Mr. Bilbo’s reply letter he stated that after looking into his background, he found it quite interesting that she was “ashamed” or “not brave enough” to state her profession as an attorney. Mr. Bilbo went on to explain that he received letters similar to hers on a daily basis, but he chose to reply to her letter simply to show her cowardness by not stating her campaign.

There was many more hate letters received than replies sent back by Mr. Bilbo. One of the most comical letters, which was read aloud to the class during our presentation, was one from three men from up North. The men had cut out a newspaper clipping of a picture with Mr. Bilbo and a “white mule” in the background. The “Yankee’s” as they referred to themselves questioned Mr. Bilbo as to “which one was considered the “jackass” the white one in the background or the one with a hat on”. Mr. Bilbo’s reply was beyond inappropriate but I feel that it showed his true stubborn yet strong will. Mr. Bilbo stated in his letter that he was truly appalled by the lack of intelligence of “Yankee’s” and corrected the three men by stating that the only jackasses in the entire letter were the three men who had signed their names. He went on to state the white mule in the background had more intelligence than the three men combined, and he stated that he hoped the three men would be able to take advantage of the G.I. Bill that he pushed to be passed so that they could receive some type of schooling to enlighten themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Special Collections Department of McCain Library and can see myself furthering investigating the history of Mr. T.G. Bilbo.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I've always learned (being raised by liberal parents) that Mr. Bilbo was the worst kind of racist. And it didn't help that on my one and only trip to the deep south (in 1984) I met a man who was himself the epitome of all of the worst stereotypes about white southerners and was immensely proud of the fact that he owned Theodore G. Bilbo's penstand.

    However, after reading this post I did some more research and see that he was in favor of things like eliminating the poll tax (which helped blacks and poor whites alike) and spending more on education. Like George Wallace, he may have used the racial divisions to cover over his real intent which was to spend more on services that would help poor people-- though having read some things by Mr. Bilbo, there is no doubt that his racism was very real.

    I've at times wanted to understand 'the system' in the Old South-- so that things which seem incomprehensible to me today, can be understood in context. For example, I can't imagine what it would have been like to be in Linwood Shull's shoes-- but he was also a hardworking police chief for many years and by all accounts a good family man. So what would it be that would provoke him and so many others to inexplicable acts of violence and brutality?