Photo by George W. Gardner RESPONSE A Senator makes a point, besting a growers’ representative, and the spectators at the Rio Grande City courthouse express their glee. before. “Well,” he said, laughing, “up ’till now I hadn’t practiced before the Supreme Court. Nov I’ve got a whole lot higher appreciation of myself.” VV H I SKE Y AND roses awaited the Leggs at their hotel, courtesy of Warren Burnett. Legg chose the bottle. “You enjoy your roses, now,” he said to his wife. We drank a toast to Texas, one to Burnett, one to Legg, one to the Supreme Court, one to Marvin Clewis, and at one point I had a real good one ready to Allan Shivers but then I forgot the words. During a lull Legg said, “King, can you imagine how it’d feel to lay around some ole jail for three or four years wondering what was happening to you?” No, I said, I doubted if any of us could imagine its whole terror. I then remarked that only a few years ago Marvin Clewispenniless, black, convicted of murderwould have been routinely banished to Huntsville to do his twenty-five years. “Things are get ting better,” Legg said. He suddenly got articulate on the law’s majesty: how much it meant, to stand before the nation’s highest tribunal, knowing that the rights of a faceless man, asleep in a distant jail, might occupy that evening the last w a k i n g thoughts of the Supreme Court and that he, a country lawyer, had played a part in it! Later, after I’d made a speech against police brutality, I tried to rhapsodize on how wonderfully American it was that a Texas liberal would come from Goldwater country as the A.C.L.U. agent for a friendless Negro man, but Legg cut me off. “It don’t have nothin’ to do with being liberal,” he said, backsliding on his English again. “It has to do with law.” Well, perhaps it does. I cannot forget, however, that Reagan Legg comes from Midland, and that you can hardly drive around the city without finding Impeach Earl Warren placards sprouting from the well-manicured lawns in certain high-income precincts. I have the notion that if the placard owners could vote on a replacement for Earl Warren, they wouldn’t put anyone in his chair whose heart bled a whole lot for the world’s Marvin Clewises. NI R. JUSTICE FORTAS wrote the court’s opinion. In dry, understated legal language, and citing the appropriate precedents, the Supreme Court agreed with everything Legg had contended \( save for finding no evidence that Petireversed the conviction. Marvin Clewis, recently released from jail, is now eligible for a new trial. Without new confessions, he isn’t likely to be convicted again. One doubts, somehow, that he will rush to sign them even for a bottle of milk and a little bed rest. I would further doubt whether he’s in the market for a Support Your Local Police bumper sticker. Or an Impeach Earl Warren placard, for that matter. He’s five lost years and one good lawyer smarter now. Little People’s Day Rio Grande City and Edinburg New Jersey Senator Harrison Williams, Jr., had just concluded the first of two days’ hearings in Texas of his migratory labor subcommittee. As he left the Rio Grande City courthouse a Mexican-American, about 50 years old, walked up to him and said, “Thank you, Senator, for ‘Little People’s Day’.” Later that evening Williams was walking towards the Ringgold Hotel, where the Texas Rangers have been bivouacked these last several weeks, on his way to see if he could locate Ranger Capt. A. Y. Allee, whose name had been mentioned often during the day. Another Mexican-American man came up to thank Williams for his, and his committee’s presence, saying, “I want to shake the hand of someone big. I’m only a little nothing; you’re a big somebody.” These and other human encounters, between Williams and his fellow Senators on the one hand and the “little people” of Starr County and the lower Rio Grande Valley on the other, made the two days of hearings mote than simply a legislative event. They were at times moving personal experiences for the men from Washington, as Williams indicated afterwards to the Observer. The Senators came to realize that they were being looked to for help in a desperate situation. Reinforcing this impression was the mute but eloquent appeal represented by the overflow crowds of obviously impoverished people at both Rio Grande City and Edinburg. “If the hearings had been attended only by union leaders, clergymen, consumer groups, and the likewell, we could have understood that,” Williams said. But, he went on, most of the spectators were simply people in need, representing only themselves. Williams also found it unusual that the crowds stayed on throughout the hearings. Typically, he said, the number of spectators dwindles during the morning and, after the noon recess, falls off sharply. But not at Rio Grande City. The results of this interaction*, rapport, between the Senators, men of power, and the Valley’s people, of virtually no power has already begun to have farreaching consequences, as will be discussed later on . At Rio Grande City the crowd overflowed onto the front yard of the courthouse, where a loudspeaker broadcast, in Spanish, a running account of the procedings. Many of those inside the court house were unable to understand the hearings, in English. But when they were told, through an interpreter, that they could hear a translation outside, no one moved. Even if they couldn’t understand the language, they understood the nature of what was going on, and none of them wanted to miss being a part of a memorable day. Fred Blackwell, the subcommittee’s counsel for all of its eight years, and a close friend of Senator Williams, also marvelled at the crowds. At Rio Grande City that morning there were some 125 persons standing around on the front July 21, 1967 3
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