Society national council; Dr. Howard Kershner, head of the Christian Freedom Foundation; Edward Hunter, head of the Anti-Communist Liaison Committee established by Tulsa’s Billy James Hargis to unify the radical right; Dr. Milton Lory, president of the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies; and others. At the very moment that Norman Thomas was raising his socialist ire in New York concerning “Communism on the Map,” about 125 executives \(many of numerous widely known US companies were in Searcy, getting a home-brewed dosage of the film’s blunderbuss assessment of the communist-socialist threat. There that year in 1962 were top officials from Boeing Aircraft, Gulf Oil, Southwestern Bell Telephone, Houston Lighting and Power, Quaker Oats, Monsanto Chemical, Stockham Valves and Fittings, GM’s Pontiac Motor Division, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber. And sitting beside them or appearing on the program were representatives of the following right-wing extremist groups: John Birch Society, the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, Four Freedoms, Americanism vs. Communism, Letters of Correspondence, Christian Economics, and Lamplighter Study Group. All in all, since 1946, nearly one thousand US companies and 392 school systems and colleges had sent executives to Harding’s Freedom Forums to learn of the alleged communist conspiracy worming its way into America’s every nook and cranny. To boot, Harding coordinated 50 to 60 Freedom Forums on the road each year, furnishing speakers, materials, and guidance. The apparent tie-in of the John Birch Society materials and the Harding film, “Communism on the Map,” would put the major corporations on guard, the country’s liberal commentators thought. But they turned out to be wrong. Goodyear, Boeing, Alcoa, Jones and Laughlin Steel, Revere Copper and Brass, Convair, Arkansas-Missouri Power Company, Texas Power and Light, Schick Safety Razor, Ohio Bell Telephone, and North American Aviation, among others, showed it and its replacement films hundreds of times during and after 1961. This was despite the fact that even Dr. Schwarz and his Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, hardly impartial, had felt obliged to disown “Communism on the Map” and admit that its showing had been a mistake. But neither liberal commentators nor hardly anyone else knew at the moment just how intertwined were the interests of Dr. Benson, NEP, and some of the nation’s “most public spirited corporations.” I N THE FALL of 1964, two hard-working staff members of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith released the results of a four-year survey of 4 The Texas Observer radical right groups that they said spent millions each year on an “assault on democratic progress.” Suddenly, industry’s fealty to Harding became clearer. In the five years prior to 1963, for example, Republic Steel had contributed $140,000 to Dr. Benson’s “educational and propaganda activities,” the report said. Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation had donated $57,000; Gulf Oil, $55,000; US Steel, $33,000. Others, including Humble Oil and Refining Company, had given lesser but substantial amounts. Eye-opening, too, was the revelation that the Sloan Foundation remember GM’s Alfred P. Sloan Jr.? had given Harding $600,000, Armco Steel Foundation, $67,500; the Allen-Bradley Foundation, $60,000; and the Texas Educational Association, with its strong. Birch Society connections, $47,250. There were others. The largest known gift to NEP had come from an individual, the late Harry R. Kendall of Evanston, Ill., Dr. George Benson an insurance executive, who left the college stock worth $2.5 million. \(Following his generous donation, Kendall received an These gifts corporate, foundation, and individual from conservative donors were the dollars, an NEP staffer admitted in a letter to Harding’s school paper in April, 1968, that “have enabled us to build most of our plant.” The resounding success that Benson has achieved with “the big money” is enough to turn any fund-raiser green with envy, especially others in the anti-communist field. “Benson,” says the Rev. Carl McIntire, founder of the militant American Council of Christian Churches, “though a preacher, makes a straight businessman’s approach and over the years has received some of the biggest contributions.” A former Harding professor phrases it less delicately: “Hard-boiled businessmen succumb to emotional appeals when cleverly made. Benson’s lingo is tailored to appeal to the high-class trade.” Dr. Benson* has fought the lumping of Harding and NEP in the “irresponsible” column. A few years ago, he wrote the Denver Post: “Harding College has taken care not to become affiliated with any of the extreme groups on either right or left.” In this assessment, he conveniently overlooked the long, incriminating list of speakers definitely affiliated with extremist groups who have appeared repeatedly at his Freedom Forums. He also conveniently overlooked his own early affinity for the Birch Society and his many carbon copy views of their gospel of political extremism. Yet if he feels comfortable with these tenets the rabid fear of alleged “fifth column” communist infiltration, the suspicion of any dialogue with the “Reds,” the blanket criticism of US governmental trends in the last 40 years Benson hasn’t adopted the . extremist style. Julius Duscha of The Washington Post went to Searcy in 1964 to interview Benson and, to Duscha’s surprise, found Benson to be “an extremely mild-mannered man.” THERE IS NO doubt that Benson made a studied effort after those early indiscretions to stay aloof from the patently inflamatory situations. He has eschewed visible involvement in local or state politics, a move intended, as much as anything, to protect the tax-free status of NEP. Although during 27 of his 29-year presidency, his church school excluded Negroes, Benson has, until only recently, kept a civil Southern tongue on the entire race issue. In the mid-1950s, at some risk to his following, he even declined to take a stand with the pro-segregation forces in the incendiary school integration row at Little Rock. Nor is he anti-Semitic. In these respects, he has been the “gentleman’s right-winger,” and his supporters, with a sense of wounded probity, point to these moderate attributes as evidences that the man is, after all, a kindly, benign, latter-day Moses seeking only to keep the American prople from whoring after false gods, from lusting after the treacherous, enticing leeks and garlics left in the exodus. They are overlooking the fact, however, that the executives of those generous blue-chip companies avidly courted by Benson place great stress on outward stability, a measured demeanor, a man of their own markings. Rarely has Dr. Benson disappointed them. Today, Benson still enjoys great popularity in those quarters where fears of a communist takeover of the United States flourish. And his latest, perhaps last, crusade isn’t calculated to damage his standing. After years of enforced non-recognition, Benson and NEP have discovered the American Negro. For $175 *The “Dr.” is honorary; he has received four honorary doctorates, the first from Harding in 1932 before he became the college’s president.
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