a Powder Keg *Angry Hearing: ‘You Boys Are Sitting on bill prevent him from any reasonable recourse?” “This places me in a rather embarrassing position here,” Martin replied. He .said he was aware Cole had had such difficulties before. Looking over the bill, he said, “they could require you to leave, because the law would apply without distinction to all of us.” Rep. Jim Markgraf of Scurry cited a statement made last year by former president Harry Truman. “He very emphatically said it was the right of the private business owner to exclude from his business anyone he so chose, and that personally he might be belligerent about it.” Rep. Bob Mullen of Alice complained to Martin, “It seems to me your punishment is quite heavy. The maximum fine is about half the annual income of some of these people who participate in sit-ins.” “The purpose of this act,” Martin replied, “is not to encourage them, but to deter them. Either they’d better have $100 ready when they go into the place, or leave when he asks ’em to leave.” Rep. Ben Lewis, Dallas, mentioned the case of a business in his area which closed down one of its stores and moved to another part of town after sit-in demonstrations. “We’ve got some groups,” Martin responded, “who’ll seize on any means to oppress people. These movements were started by colored people,” he said, and he admired their ef foils to gain equality. “But these movements have been seized by other groups who are not minority groups.” He urged passage of the bill “unless this fad is going to continue and grow in Texas.” Then began the bitter, heated questioning of Barnett, the principal witness against the bill. Leading the attack was Rep. W. T. Dungan of McKinney, along with C. W. Pearcy of Temple, Sam Collins of Paris, Charles Ballman of Borger, Markgraf, and Lewis. The exchange lasted almost two hours. Barnett introduced himself as “a minister of the gospel and a teacher of ministers of the gospel. I am representing myself.” He said he would testify under two assumptions: “Every man on this committee is as much concerned for the public good as I” and that as fellow Christians both the committee and he “are sincere in wanting to serve God.” He said he would accept Martin’s explanation that this was not a segregation bill, but a measure to protect the rights of property. He agreed that when sitins means a loss of money and damage to the reputation of a community, they are “not particularly desirable.” But this bill, he testified, “will not do what you want it to do.” The sit-in movement, he said, is an international movement of young people. “In its non-violent aspect, it is most Christian,” he said. “A movement of this sort is here to stay.” Increasing the penalties “would simply be pouring oil on the fire.” The demonstrators do not mind going to jail, and the fines will be paid. “If you are interested in stopping the sit-ins, this isn’t the way to do it,” he said. Merchants in Austin and other Texas cities “have skillfully handled the matter and avoided the demonstrations” by quiet negotiations. “This is the better way.” Although the intentions of the Martin bill are good, he said, it leads “into an area which is a no-man’s land where the law is concerned.” Dungan took the table micro phone. “You stated you were a minister of the gospel,” he said. “What denomination?” “Episcopalian,” Barnett responded. “Have you always been an Episcopalian?” Dungan asked. “What do these questions have to do with the bill we’re discussing?” asked Barnett, who left the Southern Baptist Convention nine years ago for the Episcopal Church. “Do you refuse to answer the question?” Dungan persisted. “I submit that the history of my ministry isn’t pertinent here.” Dungan asked if he thought it should be lawful for a group to come into a store, take ‘it over, and force an owner to close. “The Christian is committed to obeying the law when he believes the law is based on the word of God,” Barnett said. To the Christian, “civil disobedience is often obedience to God. Someimes when rights cannot be seured by legislation, we’ve long ‘ecognized the rights of non-violent protest.” When human dignity is denied, he said, a nonviolent sit-in is justified. “I first got acquainted with you four years ago,” Dungan said, ‘when you appeared against all `:he segregation bills.” He shuffled ;ome papers and continued. “I took it on myself to find out a little about you. I’m interested in hearing your reasons for opposing these bills. “I’ve read a little article or two you’ve written there,” Dungan said. “Then you made a little 2,peech down there at Houston in February, 1960. You criticized certain people for having an ‘East Texas mind.’ I’d like to know what you mean by that.” “My comments on the sociology of East Texas I don’t think are pertinent to this bill,” Barnett replied. “I do,” Dungan said. “I’m from East Texas and I’d like to know.” Barnett repeated his answer. Dungan then cited ,an article by Barnett entitled “Disciples and Dissenters, Texas Style,” in a magazine two years ago. “You criticized quite a few people in Texas as to their beliefs and attitudes.” Barnett again repeated his answer. “Are you now or have you ever belonged to the communist party?” Dungan asked. “I say this question has no pertinence,” Barnett replied. Lewis then began questioning the witness in great detail on his educational background. Responding to a question from Lewis on the right of a businessman to serve whomever he chooses, Barnett said, “He doesn’t have the right to refuse service just for any reason. Have you ever thought of this? How would you feel if for some reason your skin became dark tonight. Think of the places you couldn’t go and where a Negro cannot. I think the sheer inconvenience of it would change your attitude.” Lewis replied that he was once stationed in an “all-colored” country. “They wouldn’t allow me to ‘eat in restaurants.” Apparently they were losing money by allowing white customers, Lewis said. “Their customers wouldn’t come in. They were leery of me there.” Taking over from Lewis, Pearcy asked if he had ever been a Baptist. “Now we’re trying to make the Baptists mad,” Barnett laughed. “I’m not trying to make anyone mad,” Pearcy replied. “We’re trying to give credence to your testimony.” Later Pearcy said: “This question intrigues me. Have you ever been a member of the communist party?” Barnett, visibly angry, said, “I consider that an insult. This committee is turning itself into an investigating committee. I am a man whose record is known. I assume you are a patriotic, loyal American, and I think you should assume I am also.” Hollowell, referring to Barnett’s description of the sit-ins as an international movement, asked him if he is a member of any such “international movement.” “Yes,” Barnett replied. “I’m a member of one great international movementthe Church of Jesus Christ.” Rep. Bob Mullen of Alice, corning to the aid of the witness, interjected, “I hope you won’t evade this question. Do you have a driver’s license?” “Yessir.” “And you say you have taught the Greek language?” “That’s right.” “And that’s a foreign language, too,” ‘Mullen pointed out. Then Dungan resumed his questioning. He asked Barnett if he had been a member of a “subversive organization,” the Southern Regional Council. gating the word of Jesus Christ” than by getting involved in politics? “I look forward to the day min isters don’t have to come down here,” Barnett said. He would pre fer that laymen testify. “A layman could have handled this bet ter than I. I hope to God that day is coming.” World Publicity William Collins Morris of Aus tin, a student at the Episcopal Seminary, testified briefly on the international context. He quote\( a speech of Cuba’s Castro made in. July, 1959, criticizing the Unit ed States on a number of point, and attacking “the hypocrisy o: the United States in several Southern states” on racial injus tices. People from all over the world were listening, he said “This legislation seems to me anc: to others to contradict our claims’ as a democracy and “the superio: way of life” we present to others The concluding witness wa: Bill Grissom of Austin, a studen’ at Episcopal Seminary and an un successful Republican candidate for justice of the peace last November. “I conclude that the main pur pose of this bill is to stop sitins,” Grissom said. “The onl -other purpose I can possibly se ,_ for this bill is to further enlarge the overflowing dockets of the courts and to gain a few more dollars through fines which prob ably won’t do much to alleviate the state deficit. “It will certainly not stop sit ins, but will only make martyrs out of those prosecuted and gain much more publicity for their cause. “I say this from the experience of having planned and helped carry out the sit-ins here in Austin last spring,” Grissom said. “When we planned the sit-ins we didn’t know whether we would be prosecuted or not. We rather expected we might. But we believed so fully in the basic rights of human dignity that we were prepared to face fines and jail. It was shown in Marshall when peoPle were taken to jail there. “If this bill is passed,” he concluded, “there is very little hope that the future sit-ins will be settled peacefully and without wide publicity, which helps no one and hurts many. I believe the sit-ins will continue through the South until minorities receive recognition as human beings and firstclass citizens with the rights that every man is entitled to.” Pearcy then accused the young witness of not having written his statement. “Did you prepare that statement’ by yourself ?” he inquired. “Yessir, by myself,” Grissom replied. “No one helped you with it?” “No sir, no one,” he said. “I sat back there in the back and wrote it.” “Was Dr. Barnett with you?” Pearcy persisted. “He was sitting at the same table while I wrote it, yessir,” Grissom said. At the end of the questioning, Grissom requested he be permitted to ask the committee one question. Granted permission by chairman Hollowell, he closed with a statement instead. “Some statement had been made previously,” he said, “about allowing seeing-eye dogs into business establishments.” With all due respect to the representative who asked abOu,t it, Grissom said, “to me there is a great distinction between a seeing-eye dog and a person.” Helping CoMmunists Just before the rebuttal by the bill’s sponsor, freshman legislator Paul Haring of Goliad rose to say a few words. “I didn’t intend to get up here,” he said. “But I’ve been listening and I got very interested. “This is strictly just a racial bill,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in this state is interested in getting white people out of stores. I know I’ve never been told to leave a store.” The bill, he said, “is aimed at the colored people. “If you report this bill to the House floor it’ll pass for sure, and it’ll create more tension and more racial trouble. You’ve been quizzing all these people about communism. But you’re the ones who are bringing on communism in passing bills like these.” Communist newspapers like, Pravda, Haring said, “are always printing stories about racial injustice in this country.” This bill “would help ingrain injustice in people. You’re helping the communists. It would place another black-eye on this state and this country. If you pass this bill, I wouldn’t be surprise if the communists spread the news all over the world. “Courage is not too much in evidence in these halls,” he said. Statesmen, not politicians, are needed. “If this bill gets to the floor it’ll pass the whole House, because people will be thinking about the’ next election. Think of the next generation and not the next election.” When Christianity started, Haring said, “it was able to wipe out slavery in the rest of the world.” But eventually the Western nations “began importing black slaves from Africa to this country. They were torn from their homes and families and they brought ’em here as slaves.” As slavery “became unfeasible in the North, it spread more and more into the South. “A lot of people in the South wanted to do away with slavery,” he said, “but they didn’t think they could do it.” Then a civil war was fought on the issue. “Everybody ought to be treated as hum .an beings,” Haring said. “There are rights that belong to every man just because he’s a human beinga person.” Mob action of the type just seen in New Orleans must be prevented, he said. “You boys from East Texas are sittin’ do a powder-keg,” he said. “I think you oughta try to solve those problems instead of making them worse. In this country today, the federal government whether we like it or notis pushing for human rights. We can’t sit here in a state legislature and push in the opposite direction. If we do, we’re in for trouble.” Martin, closing the hearing, said the testimony of the witnesses had “strengthened the position of the bill.” If the measure is passed, people participating in sit-ins “either are going to be prepared financially to pay the fines or else sit-out their terms or abstain from these activities.” He reiterated that it was not a racial bill, “but establishes equality regardless of race, creed, or color.” Lewis agreed with Martin’s interpretation that the measure would not be discriminatory. Grissom, who said he had participated in sit-ins, would be required to comply with such a law or be punished, “and he’s,not a nigger,” Lewis said. Hollowell then referred the bill to a subcommittee composed of Dungan, chairman; Lewis, Markgraf, Murray Watson of Mart, and Rayford Price of Frankston. There is no doubt that the subcommittee will give it a favorable report. THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 April 15, 1961 Barnett at first said no, then said Dungan was referring to an organization called the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. “I was a member at one time, but I got out when I learned what
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