ADVICE TO NON-PAUPERS The Faulk Libel Case: Indicting a Whole Era AUSTIN The sporadic, barely token coverage of the John Henry Faulk libel suit trial by most of the nation’s pressespecially the Texas pressis puzr.ling. Even if the real significance of the case was overlooked, it was big news any way a newspaperman looked at it. Witnesses included some of the biggest nuames in show business. Louis N i z e r, Elizabeth Taylor’s lawyer \(if this is your represented Faulk. Ex-boy Wonder Roy Cohn was among the attorneys for the defense. The $3,500,000 libel judgement the jury awarded Faulk was the largest in history. Yet, in Faulk’s home town of Austin one found only occasional and very brief wire stories, buried deep inside the daily. Newsweek ran several good weekly resumes of the trial’s progress, but the New York Times was the only Manhattan paper to report the entire trial. Because of this lack of coverage, many Texans are now asking, “What’s this I hear about John Henry winning $3,000,000?” Some are even asking, “Who is John Henry Faulk?” \(A young lady in Fort Worth asked: “Is there really a John Henry in mind we reprint these excerpts from an article by David Cort in the July 14 issue of The Nation: “ANTI DAY the bill falls due for the wickedsometimes, it is true, a lifetime or a thousand years late, but all morality and hope disappears when people cease to expect that day. “It came, for thousands of people ruined in the 1950’s, in New York Supreme Court, when the libel case of John Henry Faulk against . W. Hartnett, Laurence E. Johnson and Aware, Inc., went to the jury on the evening of June 28, the fourteenth wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Faulk, and a bad six years since Faulk was cut down by the word “Communist,” and brought suit. Since such maligners leave very faint tracks, the trial had dragged on, under Justice Abraham Geller, for eleven weeks, to pick up that sinister spoor. For Faulk, a man who was anything but a Communist, had been indelibly branded as oneand so ruined. As sensible people, we know that this is impossible; still, it happened. “Louis Nizer, author of the book, My Life in Court, was counsel for the plaintiff. His case was that an inhuman, un-American and tragic wrong had been done. The defense was that its acts had been very American, and that personal tragedy is irrelevant and immaterial. “Around 1950, the defendants had discovered that close study of the Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations and the files of the House un-American Activities Committee gave one a tool against thousands of people, especially in TV and radio, which are supported by conservative and easily scared advertisers. You just had to do the homework. If you made it known in the right quarters that a performer or writer had “a significant communist-front record” \(the standIf he defended himself, it would cost him at least $6,000 in the courts, and he was probably still through. Many of the accused therefore took the Fifth Amend ment. In that case, they were through, too. This glorious business flourished most briskly against the members of the American Federation of Television and all performers in TV and radio had to belong. “RV 1955, however, the thing U had grown overripe. The Robespierres had grown fat. And the decent Americans in AFTRA were ready to call a halt and crack down on both communists and blacklisters. They voted to condemn Aware, Inc., and put up a middle-of-the-road slate of officers, including John Henry Faulk, as second vice president. . . . “Faulk was an entertainer . . . of the American heritage . . . He was wholly unlike, and a better performer than, Godfrey, Linkletter, et al. He liked to talk, and he had a lot to say that America liked to hear. He was on the threshold of a $500,000-a-year career when he consented to try to impose some kind of peace on conflict-ridden AFTRA, by running as a candidate. What a fool, I would say, but remember that he was a good-hearted, reasonable man from the country, who thought he was in a decent, reasonable world. “Hartnett, Milton and Aware. Inc., cooked up a bulletin, \(Exto show Faulk’s ‘significant communist-front record.’ . . . Five of the seven items were outright inventions and the other two were absolutely insignificant. . . . “For example, the bulletin represented an interview by the New York Herald Tribune with Faulk as an interview with him by the Daily Worker. For example, again, the bulletin stated that one ‘communist affair’ Faulk attended was a Salute to the United Nations, where the speakers were Secretary of State Stettinius and Trygve Lie \(these latter facts, of course, not mentioned in the cita”THE INTENT to destroy Faulk professionally, and no other intent, was betrayed by the twelve categories of recipients to whom this masterpiece was mailed Feb ruary 10, 1956: newspapers, radio and TV companies, two national advertising agencies, association of retail grocers, motion picture studios, sponsoring corporations, law-enforcement agencies, four ac tors’ unions, patriotic organiza tions, leading magazines, leading columnists. In this list, we see the combined malevolences of Johnson, Hartnett, Milton and the others plotting to corner a man. “From that day on, Faulk never appeared again on television, because he had no contract. But somehow the Committee of Public Safety had been unable to dislodge him from his 5 to 6 p.m. radio show. The people still loved him and the Robespierres raged. “What had happened was that Charles Collingwood, a CBS commentator and president of AFTRA, had told the president of CBS Radio that if Faulk were fired, AFTRA would subpoena and examine the advertising agency executives whose clients had canceled from the Faulk row backed up Collingwood. But sixteen months later, Coilingwas no longer president of AFTRA, Murrow was no longer with CBS, and Faulk was on a Caribbean vacation; and now CBS fired Faulk, though his pro gram had more listeners than any other CBS show. “However, the Terror had been defied, and was resolved to finish the execution. It followed Faulk to promises of jobs in Minneapolis, New York. and San Franciscopromises which then “mysteriously” fell through. That is, the warm, loving conversation suddenly turned distant and evasive. Faulk told his friends in the business he would do anything, even to sweeping out the studio, for after all he had a wife and children. They tried not to tell him that the Terror had conveyed to them that Faulk was not to be hired in any capacity, or the terrible vengeance would fall on one and all. Behind the cur tain, as this agony drew itself out, were Johnson, Hartnett and the members of Aware, Inc., smiling in the various ways they knew how to smile, or even laugh. I saw several of their smiles and they were frightening. “Finally Faulk retreated to his home town, Austin, Texas. In the industry he was a ‘walking corpse,’ but not in his own mind, for Louis Nizer had taken his case against the Terror. . . . “IT IS TO BE hoped that the I defense will appeal so that this largest award in the history of libel cases will be built into the legal structure of the higher judiciary, Already that $3,500,000 award has washed out a lot of mouths. Paupers may continue to gibber, ‘Significant communistfront record,’ but anybody with money had better not join in. “The second hope, which is already more than that, is that John Henry Faulk will now return to his talent for entertaining and instructing the American people.” Prolonged Showdown, Deepening Tragedy The following article was written by John A. Hamilton, associate editor of the Lynchburg, Va., News for the New York Herald Tribune. We reprint it as another reminder to Observer readers that quiet headlines from the Deep South do not always equal progress in racial relations. FARMVILLE, VA. OUTWARDLY there has not been much change in Prince Edward County, nor in its county seat here, since all public schools were shut down under threat of court-ordered integration three years ago. The chamber of commerce reports that the only major new construction has been the ranchstyle building which houses the private school for whites and a Grant’s variety store. Population figures remain fairly static, with perhaps a few Negro families leaving the county because of the lack of educational opportunities for their children. But after three grim years of closed schools and court contests, of sacrifice and privation, a visitor can detect major inward changes. A Confederate soldier mounted on a granite pedestal still looms above Randolph and High Streets here and the monument still bears the inscription: “Defender of State Sovereignty.” Three years ago nearly the entire white population of Prince Edward fell in beside him for another bitter battle. There were rebel yells and harsh threats, and speakers solemnly warned that the “fate of Western civliization” depended on the success of Prince Edward’s stand in closing public schools, a stand which opposed “an unconstitutional court decree.” Today, the monument is still here. And the people are still here. But they express a soft, tired sadness that “the rest of the country did not follow our lead.” “If only we had all stood together,” moaned a well-dressed lady the other day as she waited in a high-ceilinged old home to see Dr. W. Edward Smith, a general practitioner who is afefctionately called “Dr. Willie.” “Prince Edward has been under the gun,” she went on. “Local folks have had to do some scraping for the private school and we got some financial help from outside, from all over the country. Of course, we can’t expect that to continue.” Then she slipped more definitely into the past tense. “I think it has really been marvelous what little Prince Edward has been able to do. If only the rest of the country had done what we did.” DR. SMITH is tall and lankly, with a deeply lined face and a slight, clay-brown mustache. He now serves as chairman of Prince Edward’s school board. The previous chairman, and most of the board, resigned back in 1960 after refusing to declare the closed public school buildings surplus property and to offer them for sale. Instead, the board demanded a referendum on the issue. No referendum was held and the school buildings remain public property. Sitting in his office with one end of a stethoscope hanging loosely about his neck and the other end tucked under his belt, Dr. Smith supported his patient’s pessimism. “Most folks now have the feeling that we will eventually lose our court fight,” he admitted, “but we’ll wait for a definite court order to open the schools; there is no law now saying that we must operate public schools unless the courts make one and sooner or later they will probably make one.” The Prince Edward school controversy has been in court litigation since 1951. It is now before a Federal district judge with the prospects of being resubmitted to state courts for further determination of state constitutional questions. Near the end of South Main, where huge shade trees become fewer and houses become smaller, Mrs. Harriet Allen operates a beauty parlor for Negroes in part of her bungalow home. She sat alone in her tiny living room, her white uniform neat and crisp. If public schools had not been abandoned in Prince Edward County, her son,. Jimmy, would be graduated from R. R. Moton, the Negro high school. “He wanted so much to march at Moton,” said Mrs. Allen, re ferring to the graduation exercise. When public schools were closed, Jimmy, then 15, moved to Richmond to live with relatives and attend Armstrong High School, where he will be graduated next February. His mother explained that although a “B” average student, he had to make up some credits. She said her son intends to go to college. “Jimmy made this at Moton,” she said, pointing to a small maple coffee table. “It broke our hearts when they closed the schools. It meant that we lost Jimmy three years before he would have gone away to school. How can a few men like the supervisors close down all the schools? Why can’t somebody do something to make them open the schools? The courts move so slowly.” ACROSS Main Street from Mrs. Allen at a slight angle stands a green shingle house with ruffled curtains at the windows. The Madison family used to live there, but now only Roger Madison, who owns and operates a cabinet shop, uses the home. His wife, Mary, used to teach at Moton. When schools were closed, she got another teaching job in Maryland, entered one of their sons in St. Emma’s private school in Powhatan County, took another son and daughter, Dorothy, with her to live in Maryland. Dorothy also would have been graduated from Moton this year. She will be graduated from the Maryland school and has won a nursing scholarship for further study. Roger Madison remains in Farmville and in the evenings comes hometo green shingles and ruffled curtains. Back in the business section of Main Street, in his office in the recesses of the courthouse, Superintendent of Schools T. J. matwaine worries about other school problems. With public schools closed, his functions are mostly those of a caretakermaintenance of the buildings, preservation of student records. The Prince Edward p u b li c schools definitely will be shut down for a fourth year. “If public schools were opened this fall,” Mr. Mcllwaine reported, “there would be a Negro first grade of about 600 pupils rang ing in age from six to ten.” Elementary arithmetic indicates that next fall will bring the prospect of a Negro first grade of 800 pupils ranging in age from six to eleven. This points up the Prince Edward dilemma. White residents are beginning to recognize the inevitability of defeat, to feel an increasing financial pinch in maintaining their own private school without publicbacked tuition grants, and to feel growing compassion for the plight
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