Box 17, Folder 14, Document 8

Dublin Core

Text Item Type Metadata



© Sunday, August 4, 1963 *


RE iste, SEE New York Herald Ttibune — sent SP mtthen Ue TNR BS RE

All Alone With His Courage

A Dixie Mayor and Rights

By Walter Rugaber
Special to the Herald Tribune


For days the word went
out’ from the big business
men and civic leaders, the
political pros and public opin-
ion molders, the people in
Atlanta who usually count
the most.

“You're making a big mis-

The message was plain,
blunt and nearly unanimous.
Ivan Allen jy., the 52-year-
old merchant-turned-Mayor,
listened very carefully.

Then, all alone with his
courage, he flew off to Wash-
ington and went before the
Senate Commerce Commit-
tee to read a carefully drafted
14-page statement :

“Gentlemen,” the Mayo:
said firmly, “If I had your
problem, armed with the lo-
cal experience I have had,
I would pass a public: ac-
commodations law.”

Mr. Allen thus became the
first—and. just possibly the
last—Southern politician to
voice public approval of the
most controversial portion of
the civil rights bill.

The Mayor followed an
outraged squadron of South-
ern political leaders, includ-
ing Gov. Ross R. Barnett of
Mississippi and Gov. George
C. Wallace of Alabama. The
air was heavy with denuncia-

Sen. Strom Thurmond of
South Carolina, a member
of the Senate committee,
seemed hardly able to be-
lieve his ears at the Mayor's
stand. A lot of the home
folks had the Same reaction.

“T wish to nominate you,”
one man wrote, “as Mr. Mau
Mau of 1963. . ... I under-
stood that you are a half-
brother of Martin Luther
King and that may explain
your position.”

It came as somewhat of a
surprise that at least those
who wrote the Mayor sup-
ported his stand about 2 to 1
in initial stages of the reac-
tion last week.

“Deeply proud of you,” a
telegram said.

But few believed the ma-
jority to be on Mr. Allen's

The state and city cham-
bers of commerce had moved
in the opposite direction, and
a canny political observer

“We has taken a very peril-
ous step. I seriously doubt he
can make it stick in the polit-
ieal forum —particularly if
these things are still un-

Mr. Allen, with strong Negro
support, took office in Jan-
wary, "1962, after a harsh
battle with arch-segregation-
ist Lester Maddox. The Mayor
drew 64 per cent of the vote.

He went in asa son of the

city’s old-line business com- |

munity. While with his

father’s multi-million dollar
office supply firm he became
president of both the city and
state chambers of commerce.

But now the board room
boys are a little on edge. None
of that “Mau Mau” stuff, of
course. While the Mayor's
political life may be damaged,
his personal stature is ad-
judged secure.

“It took a lot of courage to
do what he did,” one acquain-
tance said with a touch of
awe, “and if that’s his per-
sonal view —hell, I respect
him for it.”

*Sure, the friend continued,
segregation is wrong. But a
Federal law against is some-
thing else. “This was the crux

of the worry: Mr, Allen had:

“deserted private enterprise.”

The prominent owner of
several cafeterias in town
sent the Mayor a long, sting-
ing telegram expressing shock
and disappointment, then
placed blown-up copies in his

But in perfect. ilustration
of the temper of things, the
man’s eating places were be-
ing picketed at the same time
by whites whose signs
branded him a. “leader for

The cafeteria owner had de-
segregated most of his chain
last June. His concern was not
civil rights, he insisted, but
the preservation of free enter-

The Mayor came back to
Atlanta and found two main
schools of thought about his
startling behavior before the
Commerce Commitee.

The least substantial ver-
sion put it down as a shallow
bid for Negro votes. But
seasoned observers said that
even with a full turnout he
would still need plenty of

For a quarter-century win-
ning Atlanta politics has been
based on a highly successful
“alliance” between Negroes
and the so-called “‘better-
class” whites.

And the thought was that
the latter might prefer free
enterprise over Mr. Allen
when the 1966 term comes up.
The Mayor has indicated that
he now intends to run again,

The second feeling about
the Mayor's testimony con-
sidered the possibility that he

_ had talked with President



slam-bang reductions!

Kennedy and wes angling for
a Federal job.

Mr. Allen denicd it stoutly,
insisting that Le talked with
no one in Washington except
the committee official who
invited him to appear.

He later received a short
letter from the President
which praised ‘a number of
effective points” in the state-
ment. Mayor 4llen seemed
genuinely surprised by it.

About his testimony he says
simply that the nation’s May-
ors have been stuck out on a
limb and leit there to handle
the whole racial crisis by

The Supreme Court. has
been striking down segrega-
tion laws for years, he points
out, and yet no really solid

legislation “has taken their +!


public items show