JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Friday, November 04, 2016


I find it fascinating how we can suddenly lose sight of things that are vital to us and surround us. Consider this fable; in the final hours of Saturday, 20 May, 1995, Mrs. Paula Dixon leaped on the back seat of a motorbike, rushing to make a plane – British Airways flight 32, bound for London. Trying to stretch out her ten day vacation in Honk Kong, the 38 year old divorcee had left herself precious little time to make her 11:45 pm flight out of Kai Tak airport. During her dash to make that plane, Paula fell off the moving bike, hitting the pavement and bruising and cutting her arm. After scrapping her self off, and finishing the trip, Paula made it to the departure gate with just moments to spare. But while the 747 was waiting on the tarmac Paula's arm began to hurt and swell. So she called a flight attendant, who luckily was a trained nurse. And thus began a swirl of currents in which the fate of this mother of two would be swept between an obsessed turn-of-the-century factory worker, and a Dadaist acolyte born in South Philadelphia in the summer of 1890. 
As the eldest of four children, Emmanuel grew up surrounded by threads and swaths and shreds of things. He was the first child of Russian immigrants, a garment factory worker who earned extra money by doing a little tailoring and a mother with an artistic flair who assembled collages out of errant scraps of clothing. When he was seven the family moved to the slums of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York City. And at about the same time, suffering from the anti-antisemitism common in America of that age, the family shortened their name from Radnitzky to Ray. Emmanuel would soon shorten his first name to simply Man.
The flight attendant called for a doctor, and two responded. They decided Paula had broken her arm, and at her urging, fashioned a quick fix, a splint out of a Hong Kong newspaper, and rubber bands. She was given morphine from the aircraft's first aid kit, and tried to relax while the plane took off, bound for Heathrow airport, 14 hours away. But just an hour later, at 33,000 feet above the Bay of Bengal, Paula had bent over to take off her shoes and felt a stabbing pain in her left side. Suddenly she couldn't catch her breath. One look convinced both doctors Paula had not only broken her arm, but a rib as well. When she bent over, that broken rib had punctured the tissue surrounding her left lung, inflating it like a child's balloon and preventing her lung inside that tissue from expanding. Without immediate surgery, Paula Dixon was going to strangle to death..
Seventy miles east of Detroit, the town of Jackson, Michigan grew because people who thought they were going somewhere else, paused here for whatever reason, and stayed for whatever reason. The railroads came because the soil was good for farming, and since it was a convenient place to change crews, they built shops here, which attracted other industry. By 1900 the town of 25,000 included a mechanically inclined Canadian tinkerer named Albert J. Parkerhouse. He found work at the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company, pulling cold steel, brass and copper through dies to form lampshade frames, bed springs, paper clips, wheel spokes and wire fences, anything that could be sold for a profit. He stayed because the work was steady and because if any of the workers stumbled upon an idea, the owner, John B. Timberlake, encouraged them to follow it. And one cold morning in 1903, Albert Parkerhouse was irritated because when he got to work there were no empty hooks to hang his heavy jacket from.
With Paula stretched out across an entire row of seats, and the improvised instruments sterilized with five star Courvoisier. brandy, an incision was made just below her collar bone. Then while one doctor held the cut open with a knife and fork, the other took a catheter from the first aid kit. One end, with a flap in it, was slipped into a bottle of seltzer water - the flap keeping the fluid from rising into the tube. And then the open end of the catheter, stiffened at the suggestion of a flight attendant with a straightened wire coat hanger, was slowly forced through the muscle tissue and into Paula's chest cavity. The patient, who had no more anesthetic, said she felt like beef on butcher's hook.
In 1913 the young Man Ray was exposed to the electrifying Armory Show, which Teddy Roosevelt walked out of, declaring “This is not art!”  But Man Ray thought it was, and was, he said,  "elevated." At the show he met the cubist painter of “Nude Descending a Stair”,  Marcel Duchamp. The two became fast friends, and enthusiasts of the heady freedom of "Dada". The word meant various things in various languages, but to German writer Hugo Ball who adopted it, it meant nonsense, the rejection of art as only things worthy of inclusion in a museum. In 1915 Man Ray had his first one man show in New York and bought a camera to document his art. Eventually he became best known for his surrealistic and absurdest photographs. But he never let go of the wonder and whimsy he had experienced from his mother, and what he now called his “ready-mades”.
Once the catheter had penetrated the tissue surrounding Paula's left lung, the coat hanger was removed, and the air pressing around Paula's lung could now escape into the catheter. Each time she expanded her lung, a little more of the air strangling her was expelled. The flap in the catheter and the seltzer water kept what was expelled from slipping back, and each breath got easier. Within ten minutes Paula Dixon was breathing normally. With a doctor at her side, the exhausted patient fell asleep. The exhausted doctors drank the remaining Courvoisier.
On and off for weeks, Albert Parkerhouse twisted and bent lengths and thicknesses of wire from the factory floor. Finally he hit upon what he thought was the best design to support his jacket without wrinkling it. Timberlake filed for a patent in January of 1904 (Number 822,981) (above) and made profits for the next 77 years pulling wire coat hangers. Albert was not bitter he had received no share of his invention, but he was annoyed that on the patient application he was not listed as the inventor. A few years later he moved to Los Angeles where he started his own wire company. He died in 1927 of a ruptured ulcer at the age of 48.
The big white British Airways 747 landed at London's Heathrow airport at 5:00 in the morning of Sunday 21 May, 1995. Paula, who felt good enough that she had eaten breakfast, was immediately transported to Hillington hospital, just north of airport . Here her make-shift surgery was closed and she slowly recovered from the ordeal, One year later she returned to Hong Kong to be married to her motor bike driver, German banker Thomas Galster. She told reporters, “If it wasn’t for my doctors I wouldn't be here today”. And, she might have added, she also owed her life to a wire coat hanger. If one had not been invented by an irritated Albert Parkerhouse in 1903, Paula Dixon would have died on that plane in 1995. That is what you call an unintended consequence.
Man Ray was finding it difficult to make a living as an artist in New York City. He wrote, “All New York is Dada, and will not tolerate a rival.” He then burned many of his older unsold works, borrowed $500, and set off for Paris, where he would live the rest of his life. One of his last works created in New York City was “Obstruction”, a three dimensional collage, described by the N.Y. Museum of Modern Art as a “pyramid of coat-hangers, each with two more hangers suspended from its ends...in arithmetic progression until almost an entire room was obstructed. This pyramid had an even, but changeable equilibrium; if only one hanger was set in motion, the entire pyramid oscillated with it.”
It must have reminded Emmanuel of his childhood, surrounded by a forest of hangers, all suspended just out of reach, hangers hanging from the ceiling, representing at the same time a whimsical playground for the child and a crushing existence of endless work for his parents, the pattern of their collective individual lives, connected yet separate, each suspended from the others. Life, Emmanuel seemed to be saying, is mostly just hanging on.
- 30 -

Thursday, November 03, 2016


I'm amazed that more people in 1892 did not heed the observation of steel mill owner John Metzlaff. He summed up the entire summer of acrimony and fear mongering over whether English should be the only language used in Wisconsin schools, in a single world - “ridicules”. As impossible as it might have been to believe at the time, this ultra-conservative capitalist asserted that in “10 or 20 years, almost nobody in Milwaukee would even be speaking German”. Republican Secretary of State Jerry Rusk agreed, calling the campaign year a “blundering business”. But the idea that the crises then gripping the state was not really a crises, does not seem to have occurred to many others in authority, which is fairly depressing, if you stop to think about it.
William Dempster Hoard saw the world as his Methodist minister father had seen it, as the minister “Demp” might have become, had he not argued with his instructors over church doctrine. Even as a young man Dempster already “knew what he knew, and was not to be deflected,.” as Robert Nesbit has put it. Instead, Hoard built a small newspaper empire in rural Wisconsin, promoting his ideas about politics and agriculture with that religious fervor he might have directed toward religion. In the pages of “Heord's Dairyman” he invented the modern dairy farm, from the alfalfa forage to silos for storage to breeding that produced bountiful milk and sweet cheese. He counseled his farmer congregation to “Speak to a cow as you would to a lady.” Then, at 56, in his 1888 campaign for governor. the Republican “Cow Candidate” preached to the voters his second great secular passion – education. “The child ...has a right to demand of the State”, he said, to be “provided with the ability to read and write the language of this country....I would recommend to require that reading and writing in English be daily taught” Such political theology led to Hoard's victory in 1888, winning with a 21,000 vote majority.
But Wisconsin was no longer the homogenized Anglo-America it had been in Hoard's youth, which contained, he a admitted, “no foreign element but the Irish”. By 1890 over 70% of the million and a-half residents of Wisconsin were either foreign born or first generation Americans. Four out of ten Wisconsinites spoke German in their homes and in their Lutheran and Catholic churches and parochial schools. And they were already having an impact on state politics. Since 1874 it had been legal for Milwaukee factory workers to enjoy a beer with their Sunday meal. But that change tasted sour to the temperance leaning Methodists and Episcopalians across the rolling farm districts that were Governor Hoard's base. It wasn't that the Anglo-Americans descendants were any more bigoted than the the newly arrived German-Americans. But it is human nature to mistrust strangers.
Early in 1890, as Governor Hoard's re-election campaign was just gearing up, he was visited by five Lutheran ministers. The men of the cloth warned Demp not to enforce the objectionable portions of Bennett's Law, or he would be a one term governor. According to his own account, Governor Hoard chose to lecture the petitioners. “If you plant your church across the pathway to human enlightenment,” he warned, “you will lose the respect of the young men in your church.” The offended Lutherans, who believed they WERE on the path to enlightenment, stormed out the Governor's office, determined to do battle. This is what happens when ministers think they are politicians and visa versa.
It was named Bennetts law, after Assemblyman Michael Bennett from the farming village of Dodgeville. But Governor Hoard had written it, and inspired it, and forced it through the legislature with a minimum of debate on 18 April 1889. The bill required daily school attendance for all children between seven and fourteen, and it required that all instruction be in English. To meet the first requirement, the law mandated all schools, public and parochial, report attendance records in the public press. And to insure this, the law levied fines for school officials and parents who failed to ensure their children met both requirements.
Lutherian clergy saw Bennett's Law as over reaching by the government, and an usurpation of parental rights. And, they pointed out, of the 346 Lutheran and Catholic schools in Wisconsin , just 139 did not teach in English. And in those school that taught in German, most of the students also attended public schools. The alliance of Democrats and Church groups was strengthened when the Republican claim of 40,000 to 50,000 children in the state not attending any school at all was shown to be mere hyperbole. However, the proof did not prevent the bogus number from being repeated.
In his stump speech that year, William Hoard proclaimed, “The parents, the pastor, and the church have entered into a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, who are denied by cupidity and bigotry the privilege of even the free schools of the state.” He also claimed he possessed “as friendly a feeling towards our German-American population as any man in this country;...I want the little German boy and girl...to have the same chance in life as my children. Without a knowledge of the English language they can not have this chance.”
A German language newspaper responded, “It is not sufficient for them that we should become Americanized...but they want us to become de-Germanized. And they think that can be accomplished first by destroying German schools.” U. S. Senator, Democrat William Vilas, pandered by asking, “What is the difference if you say 'two and two make four' or 'zwie und zwei machen vier?” And then on 1 April, 1890, the Republican incumbent mayor of Milwaukee was handily defeated by a Democratic newcomer, newspaper man and humorist George Peck.   A month later 100 Republican bigwigs met in Madison to supposedly endorse Bennett's Law, and the best Hoard's people could get from them was a no comment.
At their state convention in August, the Democrats sounded like winners. They nominated Peck to run for Governor, declaring Bennett's law “unwise, unconstitutional, UN-American, and undemocratic.” The Republicans met the same month (and in the same city) and renominated Hoard, while promising to modify the law. They also raised a red flag over their Milwaukee headquarters bearing the image of a one room schoolhouse. The words on the flag read, “Stand by it”.
Hyperbole became the favored language of public discourse. The Chicago Journal called Hoard a “giant armed for the war against...pestilent foreign-ism.” Hoard warned that those who stood in his way were “like cows in front of a locomotive”. The Republican Stevens Point Journal suggested that Governor Hoard would rather die than abandon Bennetts Law. Democrats called Episcopalian clergymen, liars. A Catholic Bishop claimed from the pulpit that Bennetts law had been secretly written by the anti-religious Freemasons. And a Freemason newspaper seemed to confirm this when it trumpeted, “give us ten years under the Bennett Law and we will in each town where English is now spoken, have a lodge...The Bennett Law will be the keystone of a higher civilization.”
It was, in fact, not. On Tuesday, 4 November, 1890 Hoard's cows came home. His 21,000 vote majority in 1888 became a 30,000 vote minority, as he lost 43% to 52% to Peck. The Democrats won every seat in the executive branch, and control by a 2-1 advantage in both houses of the state legislature. Wisconsin's congressional representation went from 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats, to 8 Democrats and 1 lone Republican. That year Wisconsin voted for a Democratic President for the first time since 1852. And everybody blamed William Dumpster Hoard (above, left).
On 3 February. 1891 the new Democratic Wisconsin legislature repealed Bennett's law.  It was replaced a few months later with an almost identical law, but without the English only requirement. But, as John Metzlaff had predicted. just seven years later the Democrats in Wisconsin passed a law requiring English only be used in even parochial schools, and this time there were no mass protests. It seemed as if the citizens of Wisconsin did not so much object to the language requirement, as they did not trust preachers like William Demptser Hoard to make that decision for them. “Demp” might be able to energize his base, but his inability to respect his opponents lead the Republican party to an electoral disaster. 
“Demp” would have done well to remember his own advice, from the pages of “Hoard's Dairyman”. “Happiness”” he observed, “doesn't depend on what we have, but it does depend on how we feel toward what we have.”
- 30 - 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016


 I think the first act curtain fell on Chicago's innocence just after five on Monday afternoon, 27 November, 1905. That was when 38 year old Marshall Field  Jr,  heir to $150 millions (about $10 billion today) department store fortune,  died at Chicago’s Mercy hospital. He had been admitted five days earlier with a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and now he was dead. And there has never been a good explanation as to just how he had been shot.
The official story was that while in his bedroom on the morning of 22 May, Marshall (above) had been cleaning his gun, dropped it and the gun had gone off. The butler and a nurse said they had immediately rushed to his aide. But a reporter for the Chicago Daily News tried to replicate the accident with an identical weapon, but it  refused to discharge. The papers were afraid of losing advertising from the Marshall Field Department stores, then the largest retail chain in America, so the public questions stopped there - for the time being.
The Field’s mansions, father’s and son’s (above), stood next to each other on “Millionaires Row” - Prairie Avenue on Chicago’s south side. The row was home to Pullman, Armour, Sears, and the Fields. In fact 70 of the most powerful families in America lived within a square mile of each other, and this was not a place usually visited by public scandal. After the funeral, Marshall’s widow and three children moved in with his father. But it stood no chance of being a happy home. The very next year the elder Field died of pneumonia, and the widow returned to her native England, leaving behind 2 empty mansions like open wounds. And many along Millionaires Row blamed a section of Chicago called "The Levee"
Less than a half mile from Millionaires Row,  the Levee District was home to sin and vice of unsurpassed depravity and popularity. It was bordered by 18th street on the north, 23rd street on the south, South Clark on the west and South Wabash Avenue on the east. And at its immoral center was the Everleigh Club. 
For eight years Ada and Minna Everleigh (above) were the “Queens of the Levee”, running one of the most popular brothels in the Chicago. Minna (right) famously greeted each customer with a delightfully wicked, “How’s my boy?”
Their thirty girls catered to an upscale clientele, charging $50 just to get in the front door of 2131-2133 South Dearborn (above). Once inside the plush parlor, extras were extra. It was common knowledge that for years Marshall Field Jr. had been a regular at the Everleigh Club, and the rumor was that Marshall had been shot at the club by one of the girls, or had shot himself there,  because he was being blackmailed by one of the "ladies".  Those kinds of events were rather common in The Levee.
One door to the south of the Everleigh Club was Ed Weiss’s bawdy house, "The Capital", and to the north was "The Sapphro", run by his brother Lou Weiss. In fact, jammed into the Levee were dozens houses of prostitution; Dago Franks, French Em’s, Old 92, and in direct cutthroat competition with the Everleigh sisters was Madam Vic Shaw’s House at Dearborn and Cullerton. In between the whore houses were opium dens, cocaine factories, gambling joints, peep shows and bars - lots and lots of bars.
Ringmasters of this sin circus -  the Princes of the Levee -  were two men; the big, blustery city alderman, John J. Coughlin (right), and his diminutive doppelganger, Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna (left). 
The gimlet eyed “Hinky Dink” (above) received his nickname because he stood just 5 feet tall. He was normally “…glum and quietly dressed”, and usually chewing on a cigar. He was a teetotaler, and his wife was a temperance worker. He also was an Alderman, as well as owning and operating several bars and gambling houses in the Levee, the most famous of which was The Workingman’s Exchange on Clark Street. 
Here barflies, bums, tramps, the unemployed and the homeless could find beer for a nickel, a free lunch and, come election day, a job as a “repeater”, for this was where politics and vice crossed paths. Given pre-marked ballots by “Ward Heelers” who walked the district, these "repeaters" were transported to various polling places, where they would trade their pre-marked ballots for blanks. On returning to "The Exchange", their blanks could be traded in for fifty cents worth of beer.  While they drank their new ballots would be marked and the game would go another round. In twenty years neither "Hinky Dink" nor "Bathhouse" John Coughlin ever lost an election.
“Bathhouse” earned his nickname because he had once worked as an attendant at a bath house, a Levee euphemism for a gambling joint. Coughlin was over sized and overdressed and prone to outbursts of poetry, such as his infamous compositions  “She sleeps by the Drainage Canal” and “Why did they build the lovely lake so close to the horrible shore?”  His typical “Signs of Spring “concluded, “There are many other signs of spring which come by wireless wire; One of which is Yours Sincerely, who is tuning up his lyre. Just to twang a song to nature 'bout the brooks and fields of green; O, I wonder if I'm understood; I wonder, yes, I ween.”
One of Chicago’s mayors asked Hinky Dink if Bathhouse was just crazy or a drug addict. Hinky Dink replied, “To tell you the god’s truth, Mayor, they ain’t found a name for it yet.” These two men had a genius for skimming protection money from the Levee. Their enforcement arm was the Chicago Police Force, and in addition to their weekly take of up to a thousand dollars per establishment,  they sold tickets to the annual First Ward Ball. In the words of historian, "Every employee of a house of ill-repute or gambling den, every robber, pickpocket, safe-cracker, and streetwalker, and every bartender, bawdy house entertainer, and low groggery proprietor, all were required to buy tickets…”
The Ball was held each December, and Ike Bloom, owner of “Freiberg’s Dance Hall”, was responsible for selling the tickets. Ike was half clown and half cold blooded killer, whose club was “the most notorious place in Chicago”, which was quite a charge, considering Chicago at the time. The ball was billed as a charity, and in 1906, as the press began to reviel the Levee on their front pages, a reporter from the Tribune asked Hinky Dink where all money raised went. Hinky Dink replied, “Charity, education, burying the dead, and general ward benefits for the people” Asked what he meant by ‘education’, Hinky got a little testy. “It consists of hiring good halls and good speakers to teach the people of the First ward to vote the straight Democratic ticket.” And that was the end of that interview.
Each year the First Ward Ball grew in size and sank in reputation. The 1908 festivity attracted “20,000 drunken, yelling, brawling revelers” who filled the Chicago Coliseum on South Wabash Avenue (above) and clogged the streets outside. When the Law And Order League tried to stop the orgy, they inspired Bathhouse to write, “Strike up the march, professor, and I will lead the way; We'll trip the light fantastic too, until the break of day. Who knows that ere another ball, we'll be outside the city hall; Be gay, but not too gay.” And Hinky Dink groused, “Whenever you hear one of them fellows shouting that Hinky Dink is a menace to society and that he has horns, just keep your hand on your watch. Savvy?”
One newspaper  attempted to describe the scene inside the Coliseum. “The crowd was so enormous that when women fainted – a common occurrence – they had to be passed overhead from hand to hand towards the exits. Cigar smoke settled on the floor in such thick fogs that visibility was no greater than 30 feet in any direction. The noise of shuffling feet and murmuring overpowered the sound of the dance band, and fist-fights and shoving erupted in all quarters. When Lyman Atwell, photographer for the Tribune…began setting up his flash and tripod, security notified (Bathhouse) who…personally jumped on Atwell, breaking his camera and knocking him to the ground…
"As usual, things started to get interesting at midnight, when the regiments of madams and their inmates showed up, led by the Everleigh Sisters. This caused another influx of thousands of men to attempt to enter the building…”  Hinky Dink lorded over the affair from a table off the main floor. Then, at midnight, Bathhouse, wearing a green jacket, a mauve vest, lavender pants and a stove pipe silk hat led a winding Conga Line called The Grand March. Said the newspaper, “The most infamous party in Chicago history lasted until 5 a.m., when the last drunken revelers staggered out…”
But since the death of the Fields, the millionaires had been speaking with their feet, abandoning their mansions, and moving to the supposedly safer northern suburbs. One newspaper observed that Prairie Avenue had become undesirable to those for whom it was affordable, and un-affordable to those for whom it was desirable. With each wave of press coverage the reformers were gaining power. The establishments in the Levee began to scatter. The 1908 First Ward Ball would prove to be the last.
The mayor finally ordered the Everleigh club (above) closed,  in October of 1911. The sisters walked away with $1,000,000 in cash. Minna took the loss philosophically. “If it weren't for married men”, she admitted, “we couldn't have carried on at all, and if it weren't for cheating married women we could have made another million.” Minna died in 1948, Ada died in 1960. She was 93.
Bathhouse John Coughlin served 46 years as a Chicago Alderman. He died in 1938, $50,000 in debt. “Hinky Dink” Kenna spent his last years alienated from his family, living in a suite in the Blackstone hotel and cared for only by a male nurse. He died in 1946 and left behind a million dollars…in cash. His will stipulated that $33,000 of it should be set aside to construct his mausoleum. His bitter children had Hinky’s will set aside. Instead they marked his passing with an $85.00 wooden tombstone. 
At Hinky’s funeral, half the pews were empty, and few sent flowers. As one old First Ward lobbygog (Ward Heeler) put it, “If you don't go to other people's funerals, they won't go to yours.”
In truth it was not the reformers or the Law and Order League that put the Levee out of business. And few were foolish enough to believe that all those sinners had repented. What killed the Levee was the arrival of Prohibition in 1920, which freed the sinful  Levee from its confinement, providing it profits to spread and multiply. The new Prince of Chicago sin was “Big Jim” Colosimo, the man who brought Al Capone to Chicago and who married Madam Victoria Shaw. As Hinky Dink explained, “Chicago ain't no sissy town.” And Marshall Field Jr. would have certainly agreed.
- 30 -

Monday, October 31, 2016


I now relate a passionate political ménage à trois, a story loyalty, intrigue and infidelity, a tale so legendary that sixty years later the broken hearts are still tender. It is the story of three men - one who loved only money, a second who loved only himself, and a third who loved the man he might have been. Two of these men came from poverty and one was born to wealth. All three died wealthy, but only one was so honored in death that he lay in state for two days under the rotunda dome of the U.S. Capital. And he was the loser.
The paramour of these three suitors was the national appendage that is Florida. It became a state in 1845 and then again in 1868. But it was always two states, the northern third, familiarly tied to the insular deep South, and the southern third, more worldly, more latin. In 1950 Florida was a Democratic citadel, with one million registered Democrats to 69,000 Republicans, making victory in the Democratic primary tantamount to election. But there was change on the wind and it began in the string of small coastal towns, from Port St. Luicie to Palm Coast, where the two Florida's blended, each rudely intruding upon the politics of the other.
Politics, to Edward Gresham Bell (above). was merely a means to an end. Said Edward, “"I suppose some people might call me tight with a dollar.” Not even Midas had a purer love of money than Edward. He had sought gold in Alaska, but struck it in 1921 when his sister, Jessie, became the third wife of heir Alfred DuPont. DuPont took on Edward as an assistant and together they built a fortune in Florida real-estate, lumber, and banking.  Alfred died in 1935 leaving behind a $26 million trust fund. His widow Jessie became a philanthropist, but despite that, within three years, Edward had tripled the value of the trust.
Edward was ruthless, a “hard-nosed conservative financier", who began each evening meal with a glass of Jack Daniels and the toast, “Confusion to our enemies!”. He had no personal life, only a business existence. He tried marriage once, but reduced it a multi-clause contract which even defined “nagging”.  After ten years Edward bought his wife out for $250,000.  He once said , "When I go across the creek, it will be because I can't help myself or can't work any longer."  By 1950 the 68 year old Edward was a still working, still a political king maker. And he had begun looking for new king.
The old king had been a troublesome liberal, Claude Denson Pepper. He was a fifty year old horse-faced,  glad-hander who admitted, “I was a New Dealer before there was a New Deal. And I remained one when the ideology came under bitter attack.”  Born to Alabama sharecroppers, Pepper's ambition got him into Harvard Law School. Moving to Florida in the twenties, in 1936 Claude won a U.S. Senate seat in a special election. He was staunch defender of F.D.R, and a good friend of Roosevelt's Vice President, the 'uber' liberal, Henry Wallace.
But Roosevelt dumped Wallace in 1944, and Pepper was unhappy with his replacement, Harry Truman. In the 1948 Democratic convention, Pepper tried to form an “Anybody but Truman” uprising, but it never caught fire.  And then, to everyone's surprise, Truman beat Dewey in November. And now Truman was also looking for somebody, anybody,  to run against Claude Pepper.
George Armistead Smather earned the nickname 'Smooch' at the University of Florida because of his womanizing. During the late 1930's Senator Pepper had helped him get an appointment as an assistant U.S. attorney. But coming home from the Marine Corps in 1945, the handsome 37 year old lawyer had won his own seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the fourth district of Florida. There he befriended the equally young and handsome Navy veteran, Jack Kennedy.
In 1949 President Truman summoned the two term congressman to the White House, where he asked George for a favor. “I want you to beat that son-of-a-bitch Claude Pepper.” To hear George tell it, he tried to warn Claude. “I went to his office one day and said, "Claude, I'm getting a lot of encouragement to run against you. Everybody in Florida thinks you're off your rocker with this Joe Stalin bit." He said, "Oh, no, no I'm not. I'm not worried about it anyway.” At least that's the way George told it.
The “Stalin bit” was a 1946 speech Claude had given to a pro-Russian group, in which he said that nowhere in the world were “minorities given more freedom, recognition and respect than in the Soviet Union.” In a later speech Claude said Stalin was “a man we can work with” Such inane pandering had earned Claude the title “Red Pepper”. And that was just the opening Edward Bell was looking for.  Bell was not worried about the Red menace, so much as the blue collar menace. He was determined to stop the New Deal labor movement at the Florida boarder.  So he opened his purse strings to support George Smathers.
Speaking in Orlando at a 12 January rally George opened the 1950 primary campaign by warning the 3,000 supporters of “a deliberate conspiracy, hatched by the labor overlords in Washington. Working with them, and lending their evil, unsavory arts, are communist agitators....Negro organizers who have learned how easy it is to inflame the hates and prejudices of their own race...a mixed mob of political saboteurs who has invaded Florida.” And he ask if his listeners “liked the idea of Florida elections being controlled by the negro vote, by labor bosses and communist sympathizers....”. That's what George actually said.
What George did not say was what Time magazine claimed he said. "Why, J. Edgar Hoover, the whole FBI, and every member of Congress knows that Claude Pepper is - a shameless extrovert! Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy.” Some reports even added the charge that “Pepper matriculated with coeds.”
It was a political joke, and as old as the hills, far older even than Edward Bell. But it wasn't true and it masked the vile stump speech that George Smathers (above) actually used. After comparing intergration and labor unions to treason, George would build to his crescendo. "The outcome (of this election) can truly determine whether our homes will be destroyed, whether our children will be torn from their mothers, trained as conspirators and turned against their parents, their home and their church.”
Meanwhile, in his slow, exgaserated southern drawl, Claude Pepper would ask, “How . . . can . . . you . . . vote . . . for . . . someone . . . from . . . NEW JERSEY?”  The Sumter County Times editorialized that “the boys in overhauls are pretty much his (Pepper's) boys, and an overhaul vote counts as much as the ballot of a DuPont.” The working class supported Claude because he supported universal health care, but that earned the enmity of the American Medical Association. And Pepper did not support integration. He complained Smathers was telling “white people I am too friendly with the Negroes and he is telling the Negro I have betrayed him.” He accused Smathers of misleading campaign literature, spreading race and religious prejudice.
It was the last pre-television campaign in Florida, when Claude could joke, "If it had been a Hollywood contest, I wouldn’t have put up a qualifying fee”.  And he was right. It was the traditional politics of rally's with barbacues, fish frys, hush puppies and square dances. But in the end, it was also revolutionary.
The results were a landslide. George Smathers took 55% of the vote, winning by 64, 771 votes. And his win had not come from the “crackers” of north and west Florida. Claude Pepper had carried those counties. What threw the election to Smathers were voters along the east coast, blue collar workers who cast their lots with the manager class, who they expected to shortly join, who were terrified that "Negroes" would take their jobs.  Ran the banner headline in one Florida east coast newspaper, "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow . . . We Have Won....And Staved Off Socialism.” It even appeared that more than a few Republicans had registered as Democrats just to defeat Claude “Red” Pepper. And it was the very first whisper of the shift to a solid Republican hold in the South.
When Ed Bell died in 1981 the duPont Trust he ran was worth $2 billion. By 2006 it was was valued at $4.5 billion. George Smathers served on the Warren Commission, investigating the murder of this friend, President Jack Kennedy. Even after, he remained a Kennedy supporter. In 1968, one of his ex-secretaries, Mary Jo Kopechne, was killed in an accident while riding in an automobile driven by Ted Kennedy.  By then George had decided not to run for re-election.. George and his wife divorced, and he sold his Key Biscayne home to Richard Nixon. He then became a successful lobbyist and car dealer. When he died in 2007 'Smooch” left $24 million to the University of Florida.
Ten years after his Senate defeat Claude Pepper won a seat in the House of representatives, where he established a strong anti-communist reputation. Winning re-election every two years, in 1977 he became chairman of the Select Committee on Aging, collaborating with Alan Greenspan on a plan that saved Social Security.  He joked that he and Speaker Tip O'Neal were the only Democrats who drove Ronald Reagan crazy. When he died on 30 May, 1989,  his coffin lay in state under the Capital dome for two days.
Today, in Federal elections, Florida  is again two states, and firmly in the fold of neither political party.
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