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TLD and the War Fort Worth, Austin The word “Vietnam” probably was not uttered a single time during the official proceedings of the Texas Liberal Democrats steering committee meeting in Fort Worth, but that word was in many minds and on many tongues in unofficial discusions and in negotiations to bring the matter before TLD. The organization has, since its inception in 1965, concentrated on state politics, leaving aside national and international issues. This has been done because of the conviction of the organization’s leaders that TLD must not diffuse its attentions to the detriment of the group’s central purpose, to elect a liberal governor, take control of the state Democratic party, and inject liberal precepts into the state’s political dialogue and lawbooks. As the war has escalated there has grown a:iconviction in the minds of a minority of TLD members that Vietnam is the central issue of our times and no political-lroup can fail to relate to this issue and be a significant force. About 100 persons attended the steering committee meeting in Fort Worth. Perhaps 15 wanted to bring the question of Vietnam before the committee. But at a “peace caucus” held the night before the meeting, and again the next morning, several TLD leadersprimarily Dallas attornew Otto Mullinax, TLD secretary Latane Lambert of Dallas, and Robert Hall, a Houston lawyerpersuaded the caucus participants to delay raising the matter until the general membership .meeting planned for Austin this fall. This was agreed to and the caucus prepared a resolution for the steering committee to approve. “The steering committee of Texas Liberal Democrats, recognizing that the issue of war and peace, and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, is of extreme concern to all, hereby declares that at the Fall, 1967, general membership convention of TLD this issue will be confronted frankly and democratically considered to the end that Texas liberals may decide if and how TLD should relate to the issue in 1967-’68.” But the resolution was never brought up during the steering committee’s business meeting. It became apparent that it could not be passed. Many of the supporters of the resolution thereupon left Fort Worth, choosing not to attend the meeting. Particularly avid for passage of the resolution were Martin Wiginton, an Austin lawyer who long has been active in Texas liberal circles, serving for a time as the executive secretary of the liberal Democratic coalition; Chuck Cairns, a professor of speech at the University of Texas; Ed Polk, a Dallas lawyer; Carol Specht, Dallas, a member of the English faculty at SMU; several UT-Austin students, Ernie Cortes, John Muir, Frances Barton, Elaine Trumm; several SMU students, Dev George and Bob Foley among them; Bill Oliver, a United Church of Christ minister in Beaumont, and his wife. In floor discussion that afternoon the proposed general membership meeting that was planned for Austin this fall was rescheduled for sometime in February. Those who had wanted to discuss Vietnam regard this rescheduling as an act of bad faith. They say it is important for TLD to confront this issue before the deadline for candidates to file for elections in Texas. WIGINTON, ON hearing of the rescheduling, wrote seven TLD leaders, saying, ” . . . My information is as follows: tion will be held, not thj,s, fall, but sometime in early 1968 aftei = the filing deadmeeting will be another steering commitheld in some city other than Austinprobably in the Midland-Odessa area. “I wish you would take the time to write and to tell me what actions were taken on the above points, who were the prime movers \(on the surface and in behind it \(both the apparent floor reasons “As I recall, at the last general membership convention it was fully understood, and an organizational commitment made, that TLD would hold another general membership convention in the fall of 1967. This being true, the steering committee would not have the authority or power to change this basic item. Was this discussed during Saturday’s meeting? “If all this . . . is true, liberalism, honesty, and decency were betrayed. It would be an act of devious cowardiCe. “Is it true? If it is what should and can be done about it? If this is going to be the trend of events for 1967-’68, then the breach between generations of liberals and radicals in Texas is going to be tragically deepened. Lyndon will be happy, and the people will suffer even more. . . .” One of those whom Wiginton wrote was the Houston attorney, Hall, a close friend of Wiginton’s. Hall, it had been said as the Fort Worth convention concluded, would confer with Wiginton and others of the peace caucus to achieve some sort of understanding. On receiving Wiginton’s letter Hall wrote back: “After drafting two eloquent and imaginatively profane replies to your letter, both of which replies I have prudently filed in the wastebasket, I have decided on the following: You are, in my opinion, as garbled as your . information and, since I believe your condition to be hopeless, I shall not try to confuse you with any further rational discussion. . . .” Last Saturday, a week after the steering committee meeting, 15 of the opponents of the U.S. role in Vietnam gathered at Cairns’ house in Austin to discuss what response, if any, to make to TLD’s “failure of will” to meet the issue of Vietnam, as one person expressed it. After some two hours of discussion it was determined that an organization must be formed for left-of-center Texans as an alternative to TLD, a group that will confront more forthrightly, as it was put, the issues of Vietnam, La Huelga, urban blight, and social need that face Texans. Chet Briggs, Austin, the Texas coordinator for the National Conference for New Politics, suggested mailing a tabloid newspaper to persons who might be interested in addressing themselves to such concerns. Ninetyfive dollars was raised to pay for mailing the tabloid. It advises of the NCNP’s meeting in Chicago in two weeks at which Martin Luther King and Dr. Benjamin Spock will speak. A King-Spock presidential and vice presidential ticket is a possibility next year and would center on opposition to the. U.S. role in Vietnam and in favor of more vigorous confronting of social problems in this , country. Plans were also made by the 15 at Austin to meet in Houston this weekend to discuss the proposed Texas organization with liberals and radicals there, most especially the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activists. After similar discussions with other groups that might form a “New Politics” type of ‘grOup in the state it is likely that an organizational meeting will be called this fall in Austin. AVOTER registration drive is being planned by TLD. Ronald Platt, Beaumont, the organization’s chairman, says he hopes that a drive costing at least $16, 150 can be supported, providing four fulltime workers for registration campaigns particularly among Negroes in East Texas and Mexican-Americans in South Texas. Some coordination of existing local organizations’ campaigns in certain precincts of the larger cities will be undertaken, but this work, which has been done for years by local liberal groups, will largely be left to them. Money would be raised by contributions; it is thought the national Democratic party and the Texas AFL-CIO will chip in large amounts. This was a factor that weighed to some extent in the opposition by TLD to any action pertaining to Vietnam, since national Democratic leaders would look dimly on opposition within the party to U.S. policy as to Vietnam. And Texas labor, following the lead of national labor, is solidly committed to Johnson in 1968. Some of those in TLD opposed the nation’s participation in the Vietnam war say they are willing to risk losing the big contributions for a voter registration drive, since such a drive will August 18, 1967 3