Thursday, May 7, 2015

C. Bascom Slemp - The "Lily White' politician who tried to make the GOP in the South white, by divorcing it from the Negro element."

Even before the New Deal and FDR, there was a group of White Republicans who sought to kick Blacks out of the Republican party. The group, referred to by the press and others as "the Lily-White movement", used their influence within the party to appeal to racist White (Democrats) in the South. And while this offered the party a great deal of opportunity for growth it, coupled with the woes of the Depression, eventually lead to many African-Americans jumping ship to FDR in 32'.


In his first weeks in office, President Coolidge made two moves that suggested to all observers he was planning an aggressive run for the 1924 nomination. "The first important act of Dr. Coolidge, after the crown settled over his ears," noted H.L. Mencken, was to appoint as his personal secretary - the equivalent of today's Chief of Staff - Congressman C. Bascom Slemp of Virginia, a man known for his aptitude at securing southern delegates by means both fair and foul. "[W]hatever his merits as a husband and a father," Mencken wrote, Slemp "is surely no statesman; he is a politician pure and simple, and he has specialized in the herding of Republican jobholders in the South. His appointment thus indicates a plain effort to line up these cattle for 1924." The Crisis thought the choice of Slemp - who "has physically kicked Negroes even out of his own party convention" and "brazenly declared himself opposed to Negro suffrage" - "is a blow so serious and fatal that we have not ceased to gasp at it." 
Surveying the arguments against Slemp, the recently-established TIME Magazine noted first, "that he was appointed…to round up Southern delegates for Mr. Coolidge," second, "that he is a "Lily White' politician trying to make the Republican organization in the South white, by divorcing it from the Negro element," third, that "he has been accused, not without reason, of selling appointments, if not for his private gain, at least for the Party purse," and, fourth, "that his name is C. Bascom Slemp."
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