Thursday, July 21, 2011

Letters from a segregationist past (Warning: Language)

U.S. District Judge Harold Cox. To civil rights activists, the name evokes a wave of anger as he referred to blacks as "niggers" and "chimpanzees" while on the bench. Jere Nash and Andy Taggart devoted several pages to the unlearned jurist in Missssippi Politics: The struggle for Power, 1976-2006. I never knew much about Judge Cox but after reading about him, I thought it might be worth posting his letters on this site to give younger readers a little view of Mississippi history and what civil rights activists faced in the courtroom as its history that should not be forgotten. Communist bomb-thrower Jere Nash was kind enough to provide me with copy of them from his research.
The book states:

"As it turned out, no judge was reversed more regularly thereafter on civil rights cases than Harold Cox. In 1964, when the federal government was litigating a voter registration case in Judge Cox's courtoom, Cox told the Justice Department attorney that was "not interested in whether the registrar is going to give a registration test to a bunch of niggers on a voter drive." Later that day, Cox complained that the African-American plaintiffs were 'acting like a bunch of chimpanzees...."

(Greenville attorney Victor McTeer arguing civil rights case before Judge Cox) "As McTeer was preparing to make his argument, cox said, "I guess this is another one of those nigra versus white folks cases."

However, Judge Cox's tactics and what can only be loosely called jurisprudence backfired on him: "In the end though, civil rights lawyers came to view Harold Cox as their best friend, as one of them later observed: "If the Fifth Circuit saw Cox's name on an opinion from Mississippi, they would reverse it without hardly looking at it" (Ironically, I hear the same thing said about by more than a few lawyers about two particular circuit judges in Hinds County of the opposite race.).

JJ obtained from Mr. Nash copies of two letters Judge Cox wrote. The first one was in reference to a mural in Judge Cox's courtroom, yes, the mural that has been the focus of more than a few comments and articles over the years as it was made in 1938 and shows blacks "picking cotton and playing the banjo and were the only adults in the painting not wearing shoes."

Attorney Frank Parker, a Harvard Law School graduate representing the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, asked the Judge to cover or remove the mural because it "compromises the dignity of black litigants". Judge Cox responded with this letter. No excerpts are posted as its better just to read the letter in its entirety.




A second letter is on page 3 in the above embed. Judge Cox complains in a letter to the Justice Department about a Justice Department attorney Cox thought got too aggressive towards the Judge. Once again, no excerpts will be posted, just read the letter in its entirety.









19 comments:

J. Kev said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frugal Gal said...

J. Kev., "stately" Mr. Taggert is a co-author and business partner with Mr. Nash and considers him a friend. Many more people could learn from the example of Taggert and Nash -- with a little maturity and character, you can disagree with someone wholeheartedly without hating them.

J. Kev said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

1) KF - I can't read the faded copy of the 2nd letter. I didn't even try page 3.

2) Perhaps Mr Nash can remind us to which political party did the "unlearned judge" (love it!) belong? I expect these omissions from all "news" sources except Fox, and found it curiously missing here ;-)

Frugal Gal said...

(sighs)

I keep forgetting how many people just NEED to hate someone.

(withdraws, seeks place where reasoned discourse wins the day)

(slits wrists upon discovering such places no longer exist)

J. Kev said...

Tell me, ma'am, where anything I said was inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

Just curious if we readers would have been provided a "language warning" had harsh words, other than those of a racially-insensitive nature, been included in these letters..........

Many will disagree with me (because this position is currently unpopular), but history will correctly attribute the fall of the U.S. to political correctness. It's behavior that's tantamount to seeing something, understanding it, and knowing it's the truth, but simply choosing to deny it out of fear that others might look upon you unfavorably.

Just think of the number of problems you encounter in everyday life that are a direct result of a society who chooses to look the other way.....have to closely guard your possesions at ALL times? Afraid to let your wife/children go to the store at night? The list goes on......

Now think about it as you experience a knee-jerk desire to blast me for being bold enough to say/imply what I have: Are any of my suggestions here untrue?

Anonymous said...

Do you think Jere Nash ever felt uncomfortable with Sen Robert Byrd
past?

J. Kev said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J. Kev said...

Anderson:

You may find my language distasteful. And Leftists like yourself love to squeal, "Hatemonger!" at the slightest challenge to one of your own. ("Racist!" being the default deflector.)

Rhetoric aside, point to one inaccuracy in my characterization of Mr. Nash. Go ahead.

Kingfish said...

All right, I zapped them all. Not one of them had anything to do with the subject of the post but instead were about trashing someone who was nice enough to provide this website a copy of the letters despite the fact we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Don't like it? Oh well, not my problem.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why reasonable people can't disagree in an agreeable manner? It is called, "the loyal opposition" (no matter which end of the political spectrum you fall on) for a reason. Please, give us all a break people and GTFU when you don't agree with someone.

Anonymous said...

Kingfish,

I would appreciate seeing the posts you removed. Being critical of Jere Nash does not justify removal of the posts. Nash is a big boy and can handle criticism.

Go Cubs!

Anonymous said...

Judge Cos was appointed to his seat in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the first judge Kennedy appointed after taking office. His appointment was cleared by the Justice Department.

Cox's nomination for judge was bitterly opposed by the NAACP and by other civil rights groups.

But Judge Cox was supported for the post by Mississippi Senator James O. Eastland.

Judge Cox and Senator Eastland were classmates at the University of Mississippi in the early 1920's. For years, Judge Cox was chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee for Hinds County. Before his appointment, Judge Cox was interviewed by Robert Kennedy then the Attorney General. Judge Cox gave assurances that he could administer the law fairly to all Citizens.

From the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Files Online.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly the appointment of Cox was the price Eastland charged Kennedy for allowing Thurgood Marshall to be approved by Eastland's judiciary subcomittee.

Anderson said...

Not one of them had anything to do with the subject of the post

Fair enough.

Anonymous said...

I fail to understand why people can't understand the difference between " political correctness" and civilized discourse. Nor can they seem to understand the difference between free speech and being a rude, crude, hateful boor.

It is possible to disagree and disapprove without name calling or using foul language. Intelligent GROWN UPS can do that. Children and idiots cannot learn those skills.

Anonymous said...

" Kennedy appointed Cox" is the same as " we didn't treat our maids like that" or " that's the way it was back then and not everybody was bad" or " Nathan Bedford Forest" was a great general.
All statements are technically true.
And,it's true that segregation and prejudice were common everywhere.
The difference is that brutal killings and violence not only took place here, there was no moral outrage and those committing or abetting those violent acts not only avoided justice but in some cases ,remained in positions of authority.
Eastland was reelected. There were demands from the Mississippi Bar that Cox be impeached. Forest was part of a vigilante group that killed people, some of whom did nothing deserving of the death penalty. There are still excuses rather than outrage when one of our own behaves badly or even criminally.
The past haunts us only because, unlike the Germans, we haven't completely denounced the bad behavior. Sometimes I wonder if Ted Bundy was a Mississippian, a group would be saying, " Well, he volunteered at a suicide hot line so he wasn't THAT bad".

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