developed a rapprochement between Harding and the radical right that has radically altered the style of life of the drudging, debt-ridden college which had been opened under that name in 1924 at Morrillton, Ark., 60 miles to the west of Searcy. When Benson came to Harding, the college had just been moved to Searcy to occupy an abandoned Methodist college campus, closed by the Depression, and it was $68,000 in debt. In the Benson years, however, Harding’s list of benefactors has taken on the appearance of a cross between Fortune magazine’s five hundred biggest American corporations and the subscribers to Progressive Farmer. Many of America’s largest corporations have come to Harding’s support, and in generous measure, as have numerous foundations and wealthy individuals and thousands of dollar-a-week contributors, mostly Bible Belt farmers and shopkeepers grateful for Harding’s espousal of their own simplistic view of God and country. When Benson retired as Harding president in 1965, the college’s assets approached $25 million. They have continued to grow. FOR THE radical right, Harding’s success has meant tons of pamphlets, leaflets, newsletters, newspaper columns, speech reprints, school curriculum outlines, and flannel board presentations; a multi-million-dollar library of films, filmstrips, and radio tapes; the “Benson Boys,” a speakers’ bureau ready to go any place to excoriate communism anywhere at Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the State Week and Austin Forum-Advocate. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Editor, Greg Olds. Associate Editor, Kaye Northcott. Editor-at-large, Ronnie Dugger. Business Manager, C. R. Olofson. Business Manager Emeritus, Sarah Payne. Contributing Editors, Elroy Bode, Winston Bode, Bill Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Lee Clark, Larry Goodwyn, Harris Green, Bill Hamilton, Bill Helmer, Dave Hickey, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Larry Lee, Dave McNeely, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, James Presley, Charles Ramsdell, John Rogers, Mary Beth Rogers, Roger Shattuck, Robert Sherrill, Edwin Shrake, Dan Strawn, John P. Sullivan, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he the drop of a crusade contribution; and an immensely popular set of indoctrination seminars in the form of Harding’s flag-waving Youth and Freedom Forums. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, which keeps tabs on such matters,, has concluded that Harding College is “the largest producer of radical right propaganda” in the country. Benson, who at 70 remains the iron-fisted major domo of the Harding Americanism program, still says, as he has for years, that his whirlwind crusade for national redemption touches the lives \(and, as he does not say, often the Today a stylishly manicured campus swells with big oak trees and greensward, staid but substantial dormitories, an imposing administration building with a colonnaded entrance, and the newer, better-known American Heritage Center. The latter is Benson’s pride and joy, a splendiferous maze of 150 hotel-styled guest rooms, a 500-seat “Freedom Forum” auditorium, a cafeteria, and a cluster of offices, some of them occupied rent-free by the National Education Program, Harding’s “separate but equal” front for its right-wing political activities.* Shortly after the glittering Heritage Center opened in 1965 the president of the University of Arkansas took a tour and afterwards was heard to remark: “I wish we could afford something like this.” No doubt he could for a price, the kind of a price that Harding College has had to pay. With the possible exceptions of agrees with them, because this is a journal of free voices. The Observer is published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly from Austin, Texas. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Single copy, 25c. One year, $7.00; two years, $13.00; three years, $18.00; plus, for Texas addresses, 41/2% sales tax. Foreign, except APO/FPO, 50c additional per year. Air-mail, bulk orders, and group rates on request. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas 78705. Telephone 477-0746. Editor’s residence phone, 472-3631. Change of Address: Please give old and new address and allow three weeks. Form 3579 regarding undelivered copies: Send to Texas Observer, 504 W. 24th, Austin, Texas 78705. Subscription Representatives: Arlington, George N. Green 1202 S. Pecan, 277-0080; Austin, Mrs. Helen C. Spear, 2615 Pecos, 451-1805; Beaumont, Betty Brink, 2255 Harrison, 835-5278; Corpus Christi, Penny Dudley, 12241/2 Second St., 884-1460; Dallas, Mrs. Cordye Hall, 5835 Ellsworth, 821-1205; El Paso, Philip Himelstein, 331 Rainbow Circle, 584-3238; Ft. Worth, Dolores Jacobsen, 3025 Greene Ave., 924-9655; Houston, Mrs. Kitty Peacock, PO Box 13059, 523-1232; Lubbock, Doris Blaisdell, 2515 24th St.; Midland, Eva Dennis, 3523 Seaboard, 694-2825; Snyder, Enid Turner, 2210 30th St., 443-9497 or 443-6061; San Antonio, Mrs. Mae B. Tuggle, 204 Terrell Road, 826-3583; Wichita Falls, Jerry Lewis, 2910 Speedway. 766-0409. Parsons College of Fairfield, Iowa where for years education was subjugated to the profit motive and Bob Jones University of South Carolina still as adamant as ever in its loco parentis view of sex and religion** no college will draw jaundiced looks from legitimate educators swifter than Harding. At Harding, the educational process hasn’t been tainted so much by treating the student as a dollar mark or spoonfeeding him his religious tenets and reproductive facts, but by the intrusion of ultra-conservatism into the hallowed domains of every discipline from Biblical studies to home economics. Citing Godless communism, the college gets a nervous tic at any mention of such topics as Darwin, Jim Beam bourbon, minis, mods, hard rock, Catcher in the Rye, the United Nations, Sen. J. William Fulbright, legalized abortion, Norman Mailer, or the Harvard Divinity School. If it gets a fair hearing at Harding while not fitting neatly and unanimously into the three-cornered kerchief of conservative Biblical literalism, doctrinaire “free enterprise,” and a theory of government perhaps best termed “democracy of the fittest,” then someone is going to catch hell for it. Benson is well-acquainted with such situations. In his less inexperienced days, he often joined causes with more zest than discretion. One liaison he later regretted was with Arkansas’ strong-armed “Veterans Industrial Association.” \(A New York World-Telegram columnist said at the time that the VIA’s Little Rock headquarters of this vitriolic “right-to-work” movement gave Benson an anti-labor tinge he has felt called on, occasionally, to deny. Another time, in 1946, Benson accepted an invitation to speak at a motley New York rally which, it turned out, reeked with anti-Semites, anti-Catholics, and other assorted ultra-rabids. Benson later said meekly that he had thought he .was going to an anti-communist rally. But these were minor lapses. At the time, his “department of public education” was leaping, even its opponents had to concede, to one incredible success after another. *The regional North Central accrediting agency took a dim view of Harding’s unabashed mixing of education and politics, and it was not until the college ostensibly separated the two that accreditation came in 1954. Although it was true that the National Education Program was placed under a separate charter and board at that time, Benson remained as president, the organization remained on campus, and the of its Bible professors were fixtures at NEP’s Freedom Forums and other programs. Moreover, Harding found it difficult to keep the college and NEP separated in fund-raising brochures. When a $2 million building program was launched in 1963, a public relations piece noted that $700,000 of the amount would be used to construct a building to house NEP. **See Observer contributing editor Larry L. King’s account, “Bob Jones University: The Buckle on the Bible Belt,” in his book . . . and Other Dirty Stories. THE TEXAS OBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co. 1970 A Journal of Free Voices’ 64th YEARESTABLISHED 1906 A Window to the South Vol. LXII, No. 2 7 January 23, 1970
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