Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 13, 1976 · Page 74
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 74

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 13, 1976
Page 74
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John W. Davis and his running mate, Gov. Charles Bryan. Parallels in History: (Continued from 3M) White said of him, Al Smith was "city born, city bred, city "broke," city-minded, and city-hearted." "I would rather," Smith himseif said once, "be a lamppost on Park Row than Governor of California." ··Oscar W. Underwood. U.S. Senator from Alabama, was hailed by his Southern supporters as a "true Wilson Progressive" who had championed low tariffs and supported the League of Nations. While personally a wet, Underwood felt local option should decide in the matter of Prohibition--an opinion that jibed with his "states rights" stand on other matters. "More shrewdly than manv Southerners," writes Robert K. M u r r a y in The 103rd Ballot, "Underwood correctly perceived lhat if laws on a national scale could be passed concerning drinking, why not concerning the social rights of Negroes?" Underwood was an open opponent of the Klan, castigating that organization as the source of most of the South's troubles since the Civil War and he went to the national convention determined to force through an anti-Klan plank in the Democratic program. ··Samuel Ralston, U.S. Senator from Indiana, looked like Grover Cleveland, weighed more than 300 pounds and wasn't very well. A middle of the roader. a dry but not militant aoout it. a supporter ot tne League of Nations, Ralston was the former governor of and now senator from a farm state. Ralson himself was not anxious to run but he was pushed into the race by Thomas Taggart. the Indiana political boss, who was sure that all the other candidates were either too conservative, too radical, too Southern or too wet. In addition, there were several "favorite son" candidates--Sen. Carter Glass of Virginia who never said anything stronger than "Dad bum it" and who was so short it was said he could get on stilts and still walk under a dresser to find a collar button; ^m CHARLESTON. W.VA. (continued) Gov. Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska, the brother of William Jennings Bryan, a bitter partisan and a nonstop talker, and William Jennings Bryan himself, the former Boy Orator of The Platte, the Great Commoner, who had been his party's presidential nominee three times and who, in spite of his advancing age and declining health, was believed to want to lead the Democratic ticket one final time. Whether he got the nomination or not. Bryan came to New York in 1924 (as a delegate from Florida* determined to make his influence felt in the writing of the platform and the choice of the candidates. A religious fundamentalist and a fanatic dry, Bryan was upset by the emergence of urban influence in the Demccratic party. Bryan was happy to write off the entire north east--to give those states to the Republicans. The Democrats could win if they carried the West and the South and only a bona-fide dry. anti-Wall Street" "progressive" could do that. Bryan at first spoke kindly of McAdoo. but then came the revelation that McAdoo had taken S150.000 to represent Edward Doheny. one of the architects of the Teapot Dome Scandal, in negotiations with the government of Mexico over Doheny's Mexican oil lands. McAdoo was to receive another S900.000 if the Mexican government didn't expropriate Doheny's property. McAdoo defended himself saying that his employment had been open, that the U.S. government was opposed to expropriation and lhat he had acted as a lawyer and not as a lobbyist. But Bryan said McAdoo had the "oil taint" and he backed away slightly from him. So the Democratic convention opened on Tuesday. June 24. 1924. with the smell of lions hanging in the stifling Madison Square Garden air. The circus had wound up its New York engagement only a couple of days earlier and workmen had had to work round the clock to get the hall in readiness for the Democrats. Tex Rickard. the sports promoter and owner of the Garden, had promised to give the Democrats the use of the hall free of charge "for as long as the convention lasts." This wasn't as altruistic an offer as it might seem since Rickard shrewdly--and correctly--figured he could make a small fortune from the concessions. There were too few seats and not enough rest rooms, but Democratic National Chairman Cordell Hull called Madison Square Garden "the most beautiful convention hall' 1 he had ever seen. And you couldn't beat the price. Some of the delegates--especially McAdoo's supporters--weren't at all happy to be meeting in New- York. They were on Al Smith's home turf and the balconies were packed with Smith's Tammany Hall partisans. Furthermore. New York'remained defiantly wet in spite of Prohibition and its speakeasies, it was feared, would prove a fatal lure to susceptible delegates from the more law'abiding parts of the country. Later on McAdoo the dry would complain. "Some of my be'st men have been hopelessly d r u n k ever since they landed in New York." A thousand New York restaurants had signed a pledge not to raise their prices during the convention. Police rounded up all the known pickpockets ir the city. Gallery tickets for the opening ceremonies were being scalped at S100 each. Babe Ruth showed up wearing an Al Smith button. For the first time in history, the entire proceedings of the convention were going to be carried on radio to the whole nation--or. at least, that part of the nation that had access to a radio set. Radio was to make a popular hero of one delegate. Gov. William W. Brandon of Alabama who. for 101 roll call votes, arose to shout into the microphone: "Al-a-bam- ah-h-h casts twen-ty foah votes fo- ah Os-cah Double-yew Un-n-n-der- wood!" This announcement quickly De- came a national catchphrase and comedians used it to draw a quick laugh of recognition from their audience. The keynote speaker was Sen. Byron Patton ( P a t ) Harrison of Mississippi, a stem winding orator of the old school who "could deliver a speech on Lee in a Confederate cemetery that would melt the tombstones themselves." Harrison shouted into the microphones for an hour and 15 minutes, pausing once for a 20 minute demonstration when he mentioned the name of Woodrow Wilson and again to let a soprano sing every verse of The Battle Hymn of The Republic. She wasn't supposed to sing them all, but once she got started no one could stop her. H a r r i s o n also set off g r e a t whooping and cheering in the galleries when the wet Smith supporters there thought he said: "What this country needs is a real beer." What he actually said was "What this country needs is another Paul Revere." At some point in the proceedings, a pigeon symbolizing the Dove of Peace was released in the hall. "The poor bird," writes Murray, "flew bewildered and frightened toward each of the hall's twelve searchlights before finally seeking refuge among the steel rafters. Its continued presence there caused nervous glances to be cast heavenward by the assembled delegates." On June 25. the roll call of the states began for the purpose of nominating candidates for president. The Underwood demonstration degenerated into fist fights all over the hall and the band had to play The Star Spangled Banner repeatedly to bring things under control. Arkansas's Sen. Joseph Robinson was nominated and the band played Old Black Joe not knowing that at that very moment Sen. Robinson was under suspension from the Chevy Chase Country Club for blackening the eye of a fellow golfer on the 15th green. McAdoo's nominating speech was made by James Phelan and it was the worst speech ever heard. It would have "killed the nomination of Thomas Jefferson running on a ticket with Andrew Jackson" one listener declared. More fist fights. Franklin Delano Roosevelt nominated Smith, calling him "the Happy Warrior of the political battlefield." and unleashing a w i l d , uncontrolled demonstration. A corps of Smith men in the galleries set off fire sirens hooked to cases of dry batteries. "This metallic din." writes Murray, "wiped out all human voices and became a nerve-wracking tidal wave of sound that was in marked contrast with Roosevelt's witty and urbane speech. Men and women sit- t i n g in front of these machines were blown out of their seats and staggered around shell-shocked. Children in the audience screamed with fright." Davis was the last candidate to be nominated. The speech, only 18 minutes long, was made by Judge John H. Holt and was followed by a five minute demonstration thai was a model of propriety. There was no parade and no uproar. West V i r g i n i a delegates just stood on their chairs and waved flags and held up portraits of the candidate. A seconding speech was made by Mrs. Izetta Jewel Brown, described the next dav in the Acu- York Times by Elmer Davis as "that most suave and gracious of lady delegates." Davis (Elmeri said Mrs. Brown's speech would be worth 100 votes. Will Rogers had said: "I am a member of no organized political party. I am a Democrat. 'Seic York Times columnisl Arthur Krock had written: "To a Republican, peaceful conventions are the light of his eyes and the breath of his nostrils. They mean victory, jobs, power, high t a r i f f bills. White House receptions, peace. To a Democrat, they are ghastly because he cannot smell the warm odor of his party's life blood." What had happened until now had been only prologue. Now the real blood letting was to begin. The platform committee was ready to give its reoort. There were three main points at issue--Prohibition, the League of Nations, and the Ku Klux Klan. Any one of them alone was capable of splitting the convention asunder. Taken all together, they reduced it to a shambles. The most wrenching battles came over the Klan. The problem was whether to condemn the Klan, by name, in the platform or to simply denounce "any effort to arouse .religious and/or racial dissension" but name no names. At that point in history, the Klan had a large membership through the Midwest and the South. It shared activities with many Protestant churches and rising politicians joined it as routinely as they did the Elks Lodge or the American Legion. It was estimated that as much as 20 per cent of the House of Representatives owed its election to Klan assistance. Several Democratic leaders were convinced that if the party condemned the Klan by name, it would mean the defeat of a number of Democratic legislators if not the party's presidential candidate. Supporters of Underwood and. later, of Smith were determined to name the Klan in the platform. The opposition was led by McAdoo's men. When the words "Ku K l u x Klan" were mentioned in the convention hall, a storm of abuse came from the galleries, packed w i t h Smith supporters. On the floor, the McAdoo delegates began screaming back and waving their fists. Fights broke out all over the hall, visitors in the gallery leaned over and spat on the delegates, 1,000 policemen were hustled to the Garden to restore order. Speaker followed speaker to the podium to denounce or defend. Finally William Jennings Bryan was recognized. Bryan was the grand old man ol Democratic politics. Now he called on the convention not to split the party by inserting "three l i t t l e words" into the platform. Don't single out the K l a n . he pleaded. Twice. Bryan had to stop speaking so that order could be restored. The third time the chairman beat his gavel so hard on ttie podium tnat the microphones almost fell off. He screamed above the uproar that if Bryan wasn't allowed to continue, he'd order the police to clear the galleries. In a fervent peroration, stung by the crowd's h o s t i l i t y . Bryan fell back on his fundamental religious beliefs: ··! call you bark in the name of our God:'I call you back in the name of our party; I call you back in the name of the Son of God and Saviour of the world. Christian?. stop fighting and let us get together and save the world from the materialism that robs life of its spiritual -June /.')'. lf)7(i. Sunday (lan'tr

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