Page 9


Washington airport that, having subdued the ultraconservative wing of the Texas party, he would next vanquish its liberal wing. This he was to do. BUT THE DEMOCRATS OF TEXAS were having their day. A smaller than one-third minority of the supporters of Speaker Rayburn’s Democratic Advisory Council had been elected to the State Democratic Executive Committee at the stolen “governor’s” convention in 1956. Yet the entire state committee had been certified “loyal” by the retiring chairman of the D.A.C., Byron Skelton, who had been elected national committeeman with D.A.C. support. His pronouncement was remarkable because one of the two district caucus been stricken from the state committee by gubernatorial veto, with the express approval of Rayburn and Johnson, was Mrs. Voigt of San Antonio, who had served with Skelton as secretary of the D.A.C. and its most effective traveling organizer. \(Texas Democrats are conspicuously ungrateful to Byron Abernethy was a member of the platform committee at the stolen “governor’s” convention in September, 1956. Toward the end of a long day he sought and obtained recognition, probably because he was not known to the officers of the convention. He delivered in a monotone an explicit and scathing account of what the governor-nominate and the two most influential members of the Texas congressional delegation had that day done to the duly chosen representatives of the Democrats of Texas in convention assembled. His style was so impersonal, and his extemporaneous analysis so compelling, that the surprised and scattered delegates who heard it sat glued to their chairs. Not one of the armed guards who had been brought in as assistant sergeants-at-arms so much as moved in the direction of cutting off the microphone. For all the guards could tell, Abernethy was a respected adviser to the convention management. For a brief moment he was just that. Then the chairman came to life and adjourned the convention. There is no text of that indictment. The fact that it is lost to history is probably the reason why it did not lose Dr. Abernethy his professorship at Texas Technological College, in Lubbock, at the time. In May, 1957, members of the group who had produced Johnson’s loyal delegation to the national convention the year before gathered in Austin, 1,500 strong, to continue the work of organizing Texas Democrats. Abernethy’s moderate, forwardlooking, repetitiousand recordedkeynote speech then to the D.O.T. appears to have cost him his job, since at their subsequent meeting, the Shivers-appointed regents voted not to renew his contract. The 1957 organizing session of the Democrats of Texas adopted a constitution and elected Mrs. Randolph, the new national committeewoman, their chairman, Alex Dickiepresident of the Texas Farmers’ Union their vice-chairman, and Fath their secretary. Their effectiveness was attested to by the 1957 victory of Ralph Yar borough in the special election to fill the vacancy in the United States Senate created by Senator Price Daniel’s election as governor, followed by Yarborough’s regular primary victory in 1958, the adoption of a watered-down party registration bill by the state legislature in 1959, and the vigorous campaign of the State Democratic Executive Committee against the D.O.T. throughout the period of its existence. The State Democratic Executive Committee set up a headquarters in charge of Jake Pickle. The state committee had never before operated an interim headquarters. The cost of this one was about equal to Texas’ quota for the expense of the Democratic National Committee. That quota went unpaid while Pickle waged continuous propaganda warfare against the Democrats of Texas. No single influence was more helpful in maintaining the solidarity of the D.O.T. In 1958 the principal speaker for the annual D.O.T. meeting was Glen Anderson, an organizer of the Democratic Clubs in California, now lieutenant governor of that state. The Texas organization was encouraged by the conspicuous success of the Harris County Democrats in winning primary victories for all but one of their candidates, from United States senator to Democratic county chairman. The state group responded to a call from the state executive committee for help in raising the quota for the national committee, with the state committee sharing in the proceeds, by offering to send contributions directly to the national committee. The slogan for this policy was “Dollars for Democrats, but not a nickel for Pickle.” In 1959 the D.O.T. adopted as its platform the report of the 1956 state Democratic convention’s platform committee, the one Dr. Abernethy had helped to write. The party convention whose platform committee had produced it had torn it to shreds, following recommendations from a minority of the committee, after the credentials committee had rigged the convention roll. The 1960 D.O.T. convention readopted the precise wording of the resolution on support of national nominees which Skelton had prepared and Johnson had supported when he needed a loyal delegation to the national convention in 1956. Four years later, needing the help of some who were wavering and some who were even hostile to the national Democratic Party, Johnson found the 1956 resolution obnoxious. D.O.T. delegates to the 1960 “president’s” convention stubbornly insisted on a loyalty affirmation which would have a binding effect on presidential electors. \(Shades of every state convention dispute personal staff, with much to offer, both rewards and reprisals, engineered the defection of many sad and ordinarily responsible Democrats. During the 24 hours before the “president’s” convention, the young men in charge of the key San Antonio delegation, the Texas A.F.L.-C.I.O., and even the Texas Farmers’ Union joined the virtually unanimous majority for L. B. J., without securing adequate corn mitments to the nominees of the Los Angeles convention. Through public theft of the 1956 governor’s convention in a clumsily handled report on credentials; terminating the 1958 convention in disorder before its work was finished; and combining appeals to cupidity with threats of retaliation to dominate the 1960 presidential convention, the group whose survivors may now be called Establishment Democrats had dispersed the effective leadership of the Democrats of Texas, successor to the Democratic Advisory Committee. JOHNSON’S STAFF did not produce this crushing defeat for the D.O.T. without encouraging the resurgence of noisily anti Johnson ultraconservatives who would avoid the label Democrat in any situation but a one-party structure. Their information comes from the publications of Merwin K. Hart’s National Economic Council, Edward Rumely’s Committee for Constitutional Government, and Samuel Pettingill’s Christian Americans. They have read Walter Steele’s National Republic and Gerald L. K. Smith’s The Cross and the Flag, plus the homegrown homilies of Dan Smoot’s Facts Forum News and Ida Darden’s Southern Conservative. Their opinions are borrowed from Upton Close, Fulton Lewis, Jr., Clarence Manion, and “Doc” Benson of Harding College at Searcy, Arkansas. \(If it is objected that some of the foregoing propagandists are currently inactive, so are the minds of the vocal convention delegates favorite local listening is H. L. Hunt’s “Life Line.” The true allegiance of a majority of the Houston delegation to the state Democratic convention in September, 1960, and of large numbers in the Dallas and Fort Worth delegations, was to the Texas Manufacturers’ Association, the Texas Medical Society, and the Constitution Party ; to such specialized propaganda groups as Americans for Constitutional Action, Freedom in Action, Pro-America, the Minute Women, the John Birch Society, and the White Citizens’ Council; in short, to the antebellum nineteenth century. Between elections they concern themselves with the textbooks used in the public schools. Ultraconservative pronouncements are promoted as “Americanism,” “anticommunism,” and “economic understanding.” Their contemporary idols are the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose friendship with Dallas financier Clint Murchison was well known, and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. The same delegates who had vowed in May to go “All the Way with L.B.J.” met in September, after the nomination of Kennedy and Johnson. Although they replaced two disloyal electors, they denounced the national platform and refused to endorse either of the national nominees. Many worked during the presidential campaign under Shivers’ direction as “Democrats for Nixon and Lodge.” Many others sat the February 7, 1964 13