A Senator Ralph Yarborough with Adlai Stevenson Courtesy Eakin Press vatives who considered her a traitor for some reason, and Mrs. Randolph, a real “traitor to her class,” laughed and replied, “They hate me more than they do you.” For hypocritical or power-sucking Democrats she reserved her withering and open contempt. “Billie,” she said one day to Carr, “you’ll have to meet with ‘the gents.’ … I’m tired of them.” She had a special contempt for the wheeler-dealing, power-mongering, flatout opposition to liberals as “the red-hots,” and the compromising with conservatives in which Senator Johnson had specialized since about 1948. When Johnson, the year after his 1955 heart attack, made his first to the press, “It is criminal of any person to run for office after having a major heart attack…. I am not a Lyndon Johnson person. I am not interested in electing another heart case President.” She confirmed to me, during those days, a story I had heard and asked her about, and which Crawford felicitously reports. Senator Johnson had asked Mrs. Randolph to come up to his hotel room. “Well, Mrs. Randolph,” he opened up the conversation, “what can I do for you?” Mrs. Randolph replied straight to his face, “Nothing.” Can told Crawford that when, as Vice-President, Johnson called Mrs. Randolph on the telephone and greeted her by her first name, she boomed back at him, “Who gave you permission to call me Frankie?” When Johnson advocated “junking the forty-hour week” on behalf of a space race with the U.S.S.R., she publicly accused him of blaming workers for the U.S. failure to launch a missile before Russia did. When Johnson asked her to stop me from criticizing him in the Observer, holding fast to our agreement that the editor would have exclusive control of the editorial contents of the Observer, she told him to talk to me. Crawford writes, about that agreement: “Her sponsorship of the Texas Observer alone would have won Randolph a place in the annals of Texas politics; but her allowing and encouraging the editors she hired to follow an independent course in the articles they chose to write and their writing itself was extraordinary. It won their lifelong respect and the respect of all those who work toward an independent journalism. The Observer remains a living testament to Randolph’s ideals and the practical way in which she put her money to work where it would do the most good.” Eddie Ball, the Houston steelworker organizer, and Kathleen Voigt, the leader of the Bexar County Democrats in those years, imply in Crawford’s book, respectively, that Mrs. Randolph had “absolute power” over the Harris County Democrats and that she deceivingly faked out Ms. Voigt on the national committeewoman election in 1956, by making a deal with Ms. Voigt that they would support a third candidate, a close ally of Mrs. Randolph’s, the late Lillian Collier of Mumford, who thendisappeared as a candidate as Mrs. Randolph swept to victory. Mrs. Randolph believed in democracy; Ball mistakes her influence for dictatorship. Maybe she and Lillian did double-cross Ms. Voigt I feel a need to know more about this than Crawford relates but the fact that Mrs. Randolph did become the committeewoman gave her that official base of strength as she led what was historically the most powerful progressive movement in Texas since the farmers’ populism of the nineteenth century. Ann Fears Crawford closes her biography: “In the liberal-labor movement, Randolph was a lodestar, a person who drew people to her, training them and empowering them to work toward a common goal pushing issues, electing solid Democrats who worked for the liberal agenda, and seeing that every person had equal access not only to political office but to social justice as well…. She not only talked about ending segregation, but avidly worked toward that goal…. Her money gained her access; her organizational talent ensured her place in history. She learned from political women -‘Minnie Fish’ [Minnie Fisher Cunningham], Lillian Collier, Marion Storm, and other activists what women could do, and what they should do, and went about doing it in her own way, in her own time…. She set the example and mentored women…. Frankie Randolph always stood by her convictions and fought the good fight. Hers was a life well worth living.” Ronnie Dugger, founding editor of the Observer, is national co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 14, 2000
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