The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on November 26, 1981 · Page 15
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 15

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Thursday, November 26, 1981
Page 15
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Page 16 The Salina Journal - Thursday, November 26,1981 Reasons to give thanks found despite poverty KAYNEVILLE, Ala. (UPI) - In this season of thanksgiving, what do the people of one of the poorest parts of the United States have for which to give thanks? The Rev. Bill Mason appeared momentarily perplexed by the question. Tiivri, brightening, he replied with no irony intended, "People in Lowndes County who don't have much can look around them and see people who have Poverty, explained the pastor of the Hayneville Presbyterian Church, is relative. The people of Lowndes County — a civil rights battleground during the 1960s — also can be thankful for a degree of racial harmony, another condition that is relative. The congregation of Mason's church, established in 1842, is entirely white. Churches in the county have never integrated. The county's public schools are virtually all black. Parents of white youngsters pay tuition to send them to two private schools. "Whites will do everything they can to maintain the private schools," Mason said in an interview in the living room of the parsonage, warmed by a log fire crackling in the fireplace. Still, there baa been great change in Lowndes County, which for the past decade has had a black sheriff. The county government is run by blacks. Whites run the government of the county seat town of Hayneville. Both black and white officials say the two governing bodies cooperate. In any case, worsening problems in the local economy overshadow any racial differences. Mason worries that federal budget cuts may harm the "truly needy" President Reagan has said will not suffer. The great majority of the beneficiaries of the federal aid programs in the county are black. Mason fears worsening economic conditions could lead to another round of racial unrest. "If the cutbacks keep coming, a lot of blacks might feel they've been put back in the '60s," said the young minister who came to Hayneville four years ago from Mississippi. "Nobody in this county wants to relive the '60s." Mason acknowleged there was not yet much "voluntarism" in the county to offset the effect of budget reductions. Churches must step in "The government has set up all these programs so the churches have just let the government have the responsibility," he said. "I think the churches are going to have to take on some of the responsibility of helping the poor. When programs are cut out, the churches and civic organizations will be challenged to take up the slack." The cutting already has begun but District Judge Ted Bozeman said, "We haven't really felt it yet but we expect it to hurt. The only industry in this town is welfare and government." Bozeman and other whites generally support the budget cuts. "I like what the president is trying to do," said the judge, a Democrat in a Democratic stronghold. That ii a view unihared by John Bibbs, a 66-year-old black who hu been getting Social Security disability payment* for a decade. "I've got arthritis," said Bibbs, who said he must live only on the $252 per month he receives, plus the $112 monthly Social Security check his ailing wife gets. Bibbs said he no longer receives food stamps because "they said we had too much money coming in." Bibbs, who has a grandchild and the youngest of his eight children living in his modest frame house on a rural road, said, "I'm afraid they're going to cut me off Medicaid." He raises corn, sweet potatoes, peas, peanuts and collard greens in a small garden, but Bibbs said most of his income goes for food. "We buy a lot of turkey legs to make soup," he said. Cecil Cross, editor of the Lowndes Signal, a weekly newspaper published at nearby Fort Deposit, said, "There's nobody in this county who doesn't have plenty to eat. Nobody is going to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day." Cross said 75 percent of the county's population of about 19,000 are black. He estimated that 50 percent of the adult blacks "are getting some kind of government check." High Jobless rate State figures put the county's unemployment rate at 15.7 percent — almost double the national figure — but whites and blacks agree the jobless rate for blacks is much higher. Lowndes County lies in the heart of the Black Belt, a cotton growing region that extends across the Deep South. In addition to cotton, the area depends on soybeans, cattle and, in recent years, pulpwood. "Farmers are on the brink of disaster," said Reuben Haigler, vice president of the Hayneville Bank. "They're holding on by their fingernails." Haigler, who acknowleged there had been some foreclosures on farm loans, put the blame on high interest rates. "I've got friends who are farmers who haven't made any money in five years," Haigler said. "I'm against government aid, but the fanners have got to get some kind of break." Haigler said many farmers are selling their land and putting the proceeds in high-yielding money market funds. "In the past 10 years, this county has been going to pine trees," he said, adding that the loss of the farms had hurt the community. Haigler said the county must attract industry to survive. There are plans for a General Electric plant, but it is not expected to be in operation until 1985. Haigler acknowleged the racial turmoil of the 1960s had damaged efforts to attract industry to the county. Industries looking for places to locate want a good public school system, Haigler said, adding that the one in Lowndes County has "gone to hell." Tom Coleman does not talk to reporters, and his friends and neighbors do not talk to reporters about Coleman. On a sweltering August day in 1965, when Coleman was a 52-year-old state highway engineer and part-time deputy sheriff, he shotgunned two young white northern clergymen involved in the local civil rights struggle. Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian, died instantly in front of a general store on the town square on which stands a stone monument to Civil War dead. The Rev. Richard Morrisroe survived but was paralyzed. The clergymen had just been released from the local jail when they were gunned down. Acquitted Coleman's trial was held that fall in the two-story, chalk-white courthouse which dominates the square and which was built in 1833 by slaves. Coleman was acquitted. Now retired, he lives quietly in a brick house at the edge of town. As a result of the voter registration campaign that had brought Daniels and Morrisroe to town, Sheriff John Hewlett and other blacks were swept into county offices. "I have nothing against Tom Coleman," said Hewlett, now serving his third term in a county where some white men such as Editor Cross say, "He's the best sheriff we've ever had." In fact, Hewlett said, Coleman monitors a scanner radio in his home and sometimes telephones "tips" to him and his two deputies, who are black. ;" "He's been real helpful to us," Hewlett said. "He doesn't show his age at all. His son's a state trooper." Hewlett needs all the help he can get because he does not have enough deputies. "I need at least four," said the sheriff, who plans to run for office again next year. Hewlett said he lost two of his deputies when their salaries were eliminated in a reduction in a program under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). Hewlett blames a recent increase in shootinga and assaults on worsening economic conditions. "People out of work get frustrated," he said. Willie Ruth Myrick, a deputy for nine years, earns $690 a month. Unmarried, she supports two children and a niece. "They cut off my food stamps when I got a 15 percent cost of living raise,' she said, adding that her household will have a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner because she raises "a few turkeys." Hayneville Mayor Jim Wible, a farmer who raises about 300 brood cows and 400 feeder steers, said $3 million a year comes into the county in welfare payments and food stamps. He said the budget cuts will hurt. Echoing a general sentiment, he said, "I'm afraid things are going to get worse before they get better.' The economy aside, Lowndes County is a good place to live, the mayor said in an interview at his attractive home nestled among trees draped with Spanish moss. "We're a peaceful little community," Wible said. "We don't have any racial problems." Principal Joe Thomas, principal of Russell Elementary School in Hayneville, admits to some problems. Thomas, a black, worries that some of the 285 of his 303 pupils who get federally funded free school lunches may be cut off the program, as a few already have been. Thomas also worries that there are only eight white children in his public school and only three of his teachers are white. The principal said maybe the poor local economy will bring back some of the white students, some of whose parents find it difficult to pay the $67 per month private school tuition. The interview concluded and the school day over, Thomas dispatched the last busload of students toward home and walked outside to carefully lower and fold the American Flag. A rifle shot echoed across the rolling and wooded terrain, evidence that the deer hunting season had begun. Across the road, at a brick building which houses the offices of the Department of Pensions and Security, the waiting room still was filled with blacks waiting patiently to apply for food stamps or other services rendered to the poor by their government. Send your news tip to The Salina Journal, $45 in prizes awarded every week. MIIMIfHIMIMflMllffHfllflHMHlf New & Pre-Owned kimeall 11 Pianos Reduced In Price Under $1O95.OO Subject To Prior Sale — Organs $ 99 HOUGH'S PRE-HOLIDAY SALE KIMBALL SWINGER PRICE START AS LOW AS LA Y-A WAY NOW FOR THE HOLIDA YS PIANOS ORGANS HOUGH 245 South Santa Fe Downtown Salina Since 193S 825-4541 Now As Seen On TV Reg. 1495.00 $ 1295°° LP. Roth and Sons, presents investment classics When you put your money In a blazer you deserve the luxury and long wearing quality of pure wool. Natural beauty and shape combined with classic styling to look as marvelous next month or next season as the day you buy It. 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