Extracts of Reports for 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976

On the National Party Political Conventions

The popular contemporary view of the modern civil rights movement is that the struggle to end racial injustices was to a considerable extent a morality play centered in the South. The truth, however, as Mitchell’s reports and other papers show, is that the movement instead was an unending series of fierce national political battles. While the epicenter of the movement was the South, the morality plays presented through the demonstrations and other forms of nonviolent confrontations simply reinforced the NAACP’s broader political and legal struggles for racial equality. The heart of this struggle was waged in Washington.

As Mitchell explained in 1950, when he became director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, "Washington is not just the Congress. It is also the numerous executive agencies of government that administer laws affecting our daily lives. In the Capital, the NAACP is a David operating against a great many strongly supported, loud-talking Goliaths. We never forget, however, that the original David won."

Mitchell’s driving priority was gaining the type of presidential leadership in the struggle that Lyndon Johnson exemplified. That leadership reinforced his other priority. In the pattern of the seismic 1948 Democratic Party Convention, he sought adoption of strong, meaningful civil rights planks at the quadrennial national party gatherings. The following extracts provide his first-hand views of three conventions.

 

POLITICAL CONVENTIONS

For 1964, 1968, AND 1972

Extracts of Reports by Clarence Mitchell, Jr.

September 11, 1964

REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC CONVENTIONS

Perhaps one of the most dramatic presentations of the year was made by the members of the Mississippi Freedom Party at the Democratic National Convention. The impact of the testimony and the persuasiveness of the case must be attributed to the highly effective and devoted work of Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., who served as their counsel without fee. Having had an opportunity to see Mr. Rauh at work on this case before and during the convention, the Director would like to pay a special tribute to him for his outstanding services.

Perhaps the most important item to be remembered about the Republican Convention was that very few colored delegates were present. On the other hand the number of colored delegates attending and actively serving in the Democratic Convention was sharply increased over previous years

September 5, 1968

SPOTLIGHT ON POLITICAL CONVENTIONS

Although news, radio and television coverage concentrated on the colorful and controversial aspects of the National political conventions, there was much in them to give reassurance on the importance of the NAACP’s long fight for political participation.

Varying figures were given on colored delegates attending the Republican Convention at Miami Beach. It is safe to say that the actual number of alternates and delegates was less than one hundred. On the other hand, the presence of Senator Edward Brooke (R.-Mass.) was a source of inspiration for many young people who attended the public sessions. The writer is happy to say that he, too, felt a thrust of pride when Senator Brooke was addressing the convention and also when the Senator was publicly identified as a part of the group which was seeking to create a more liberal image for the G.O.P.

Testimony on behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights was presented to a subcommittee of the Republican Platform Committee. Mr. Roy Wilkins made the presentation. He was accompanied by Mr. Arnold Aronson, Secretary of the Conference and the Director of the Washington Bureau, who is also chairman of the Conference’s legislative committee. Mr. Wilkins was given a cordial and attentive hearing. The full text of his testimony is available.

Mr. Clarence Townes of the Republican National Committee showed great courtesy and cooperation in making appropriate arrangements for Mr. Wilkins and all other representatives of important civil rights groups at the convention. The Director of the Bureau would like to note for the record that there was a very friendly atmosphere at the G.O.P. convention. This was in sharp contrast to overt hostility shown by many delegates at the Goldwater dominated convention in 1964.

The Bureau Director was called upon to make remarks at one reception for delegates. He also attended a meeting at which Governor Ronald Reagan of California agreed to answer questions. The director asked Governor Reagan what he would do, as President, to help eliminate filibustering and committee obstruction in Congress. Governor Reagan said "Well, that’s a hypothetical question."

"BIASED AND VINDICTIVE"

Biased and vindictive are appropriate words for describing the handling of the Democratic National Convention by CBS and NBC television, in the opinion of the writer of this report.

There were 210 colored delegates and 171 alternates at the Democratic National Convention. All states of the old Confederacy were represented by interracial delegations. In past conventions that the Bureau Director has attended organized labor delegates were the largest pro-civil rights bloc. This time the colored delegates out-numbered the clearly identifiable labor group. This, in itself, was a newsworthy development on the political scene. A listing of the number of colored delegates is attached to this report.

Colored delegates served on key committees. Furman Templeton, Jr., Esq., the son of one of the Bureau Director’s old school mates, was one of the counsels serving with Governor Richard J. Hughes, chairman of the Credentials Committee.

During the hearings on credentials it was interesting to note that Arthur Shores, Esq., was one of the delegates sitting in judgment as a representative of the State of Alabama. One Alabama spokesman referred to him as the man whose home had been bombed times without number.

For the writer of this report, there was high drama and great fulfillment of the American dream when he heard the voice of Dr. Aaron Henry answering for Mississippi on the roll call of states. It was also heartening to see the camaraderie among the South Carolina delegates. Senator Russell Long of Louisiana proudly told the Bureau Director about the number of colored delegates from his state. Almost all of the colored persons from the South could boast of impressive records in the fight for civil rights, if they had chosen to do so.

Yet, somehow all of this was played down by NBC and CBS. These networks chose, instead, to feature Yippies, Hippies and Negroes who were attacking the Johnson-Humphrey team. One colored delegate who attempted to burn his admission card was given preferred treatment. On the basis of past experience with conventions of both major parties, the writer of this report states unequivocally that there was more free speech and action on the part of delegates at Chicago this year than at any other national political convention in the past twenty years.

Because of the historic importance of some of the happenings at the Democratic Convention, the writer of this report offers the following:

THE CREDENTIALS DISPUTES

ALABAMA

There were two delegations from Alabama contending that the officially designated delegates should be unseated. The claimants said that the official delegates were pro-Wallace and would support that segregation candidate in the national elections. Those pressing the claim wanted to unseat the entire official group. Conversations revealed that while some of the claimants were simply interested in good government, others were really trying to prevent Vice-President Hubert Hunphrey from getting the nomination. As a test question, I asked one of the principal claimants whether she would support Vice-President Humphrey if he became the nominee. She angrily replied that she would not. In contrast, one of the so-called pro-Wallace delegates voluntarily announced that he would support whoever the convention nominated.

Again, as a test question, I asked one of the claimants whether he wanted Mr. Shores unseated along with those he identified as pro-Wallace. This gentlemen said "Shores must go too." In contrast, Mr. Shores told the writer of this report that he expected that some of the diehard segregation delegates from Alabama would drop out of his state’s group and additional colored delegates would de added. That is what happened. Thus, it could not be said in fairness that the refusal to seat the Alabama claimants was a triumph for racists. What the dispute did reflect (and this will be the subject of a comment at the end of the report) was the need for sweeping revisions of the method of choosing convention delegates so that there will be a fair and uniform national system.

The Credentials Committee voted to seat the regular Alabama delegation on the condition that each delegate take a written pledge that he "did not support the Presidential nominee of another party." Those delegates refusing to sign were replaced by loyal alternates or members of the Alabama Independent Party. The Independent Party was a racially mixed group. The Credentials Committee rejected the challenge of a group called the National Democratic Party. A move to adopt a minority report that would have seated the National Democratic Party group was beaten on a roll call vote -- 883½ to 1,605.

GEORGIA

As with Alabama, the group seeking to unseat the official Georgia delegation was basically in favor of nominating Senator Eugene McCarthy (D.-Minn.) or Senator Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.) as the party standard bearer. However, conversations with some of the members of the group revealed that, even before the Credentials Committee made its decision, a compromise that would permit both delegations to be seated was acceptable. It should be noted that again, as with Alabama, a complete displacement of the official state group would have resulted in the ouster of prominent Negro delegates. One was State Senator Leroy Johnson and the other was Mrs. Mamie B. Reese, president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. The decision to seat both groups and divide the votes between them, in the opinion of this writer, illustrated the desire of the Credentials Committee to promote harmony and [f]airness. There is no doubt that the Georgia system of selecting delegates is abominable, but it would hardly have been fair to replace the few Negroes who had managed to break through and become delegates.

On the convention floor a minority report to seat the challenging delegation, which was headed by Representative Julian Bond of the Georgia Legislature, was defeated by a vote of 1,041½ to 1,413.

Following the Georgia vote, delegates, mainly from California, New York and Wisconsin, joined with persons in the galleries chanting "We want Julian Bond." Order could not be restored and the convention was adjourned until the following day (August 27).

MISSISSIPPI

Both Vice President Humphrey and Senator McCarthy supported the seating of the Loyal National Democrats which was the group challenging the Mississippi regulars. The Loyal National Democrats group was racially mixed.

It is not possible to speak too highly of the Mississippi delegations and its great victory achieved by displacing the so-called official group. The political wisdom of Charles Evers and Dr. Henry was also evident in that the differences between civil rights groups in the State were ironed out and all united for the common good. In looking over the list of Mississippi delegates the writer saw the name of C.C. Bryant, long time NAACP leader of McComb, Mississippi. That name brought up the picture of an earnest, bespectacled, neatly dressed man faithfully attending to the business of civil rights through the years. It also caused recall of a telephone conversation with Mr. Bryant, a few years ago after his home had been bombed, in which he said, "I can’t talk long because my wife is on guard and I must take her place."

A tribute is due to Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Esq., who helped to keep the fight for fairness alive in the years between 1964 and the present. The writer of this report will not easily forget the enormous pressures that were exerted to get Mr. Rauh to abandon the effort to seat colored delegates in 1964. Serving as the lawyer for the group, Mr. Rauh converted a strong moral case into a powerful legal argument as well.

OTHER CONTESTS

A Texas challenge was rejected by the Credentials Committee and the Committee action was approved by the full convention 1,368 to 955. A North Carolina challenge was rejected by the Committee and the Committee’s action was upheld by a voice vote on the convention floor.

Fifteen state delegations were challenged in whole or in part.

They were:

Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

The New York challenge was withdrawn before the start of the Convention. The Louisiana challenge also was formally withdrawn, although it received a brief public hearing before the Committee and reached the Convention floor in the form of a majority report to seat the regular delegation. The Committee rejected Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin challenges.

PLATFORM HEARINGS

The appearance of Mr. Wilkins at the Platform Hearings before the full committee was greeted with applause from the members. Here, again, it should be noted that colored delegates were serving as committee members and the chairman. Representative Hale Boggs (D.-La.) provided a fine example of how a presiding officer should handle dissenters. Representative Boggs (who has supported civil rights legislation, including fair housing) was given some vigorous working over by several witnesses. One group of Welfare Mothers, headed by Dr. George Wiley, was vocal and plain spoken in discussing welfare problems. To this listener (who does not agree with some of Dr. Wiley’s methods) there were several constructive suggestions in the Welfare Mothers testimony. Although some of the testimony and conduct by the group could have been called out of order, the chairman was always courteous. He also approved Dr. Wiley’s request that the full delegation of ladies be in the hearing room. At the close of welfare testimony, one network camera group began removing its equipment. When I discussed this with the man who gave the instruction, I pointed out that Mr. Wilkins was also scheduled to appear. The gentleman said Mr. Wilkins would be covered "by another camera." I have no way of knowing whether there was, in fact, coverage of his live testimony by "another camera" of that network. Since Mr. Wilkins was given a long ovation by the committee at the end of his testimony, it is my opinion that this deserved "live TV treatment" just as was given to the welfare group.

THE VOICE OF DISSENT

It is ironic that, in a political convention that nominated the most dedicated of fighters for civil rights and was attended by more colored delegates than any other, there would be so much emphasis on discord and division in the news media accounts. I talked with two of the ladies of the Welfare Mothers group at the airport in Chicago. They said that they were leaving because they were not going to be put "in the middle by the peace demonstrators." According to these ladies, they had joined a pre-convention parade to protest about welfare matters but found that some effort was being made to provoke arrest in connection with the peace protest. They decided to leave.

Unfortunately, the method of giving credentials for admission to the convention was needlessly complicated for some well known personalities. On the other hand, persons who were observed booing, carrying signs denouncing the Vice President and engaging in other efforts to discredit the President and Vice President seemed to have little trouble getting through the security arrangements. The security force seemed very diligent in looking at tickets for admission to boxes. Yet, some of the persons entitled to occupy such boxes found that unauthorized demonstrators were already in them when they arrived. It also appeared that the surest way to be on camera was to try to disrupt the convention while wearing either Hippy or African attire. For example, the writer noted several network camera men busily interviewing some vehement California dissenters while totally ignoring the South Carolina delegation which included such distinguished citizens as Reverend George Holman, Reverend I. D. Newman, Matthew Perry, Esq., and others.

During one of the convention scenes the writer of this report saw Sander Vanocur of NBC busily seeking confirmation of reports that Senator Edward Kennedy would challenge Vice President Humphrey. Later, Messrs. Huntley and Brinkley announced that colored delegates were so dissatisfied with the way the convention was being run that they were going to vote en masse for Reverend Channing Phillips, head of the District of Columbia delegation, as a favorite son on the first ballot.

At that time some of the Kennedy and McCarthy supporters were working to stop the Vice President on the first roll call. Obviously, a shift of 210 delegates to a favorite son might well have put the Vice President in a precarious position. The writer checked with many of the colored delegates and found that the first time they heard anything about a mass protest vote was on the NBC program. About forty of the colored delegates voted for Mr. Phillips and the remainder of those supporting him were for the most part white delegates opposing Vice President Humphrey.

There were 142 colored delegates in the states that cast votes for Mr. Phillips. It is interesting to note that on the first ballot Mr. Phillips received 67 ½. votes. The State count is as follows:

 

STATE

No. of Colored Delegates /

TOTAL 142

No. of votes for Phillips

67½

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Georgia

Indiana

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

New Jersey

New York

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Wisconsin

District of Columbia

13

3

3

17

5

20

3

9

3

7

20

5

8

6

1

4

1

14

17

3

1

3

1

2

½

1

2

½

1

1

2

1

21

 

The efforts to discredit the Vice President were incredible to one who has known him through the years. For example, riding up to a room above the fifteenth floor of the Conrad-Hilton) where the McCarthy headquarters were located) usually permitted one to get a first hand exposure to some of the insulting, off color and even vulgar expressions being uttered usually by older persons for the amusement of younger listeners.

One colored convention visitor who was wearing a Humphrey button was admonished by a well dressed, bearded white man who said, "I don’t see how any black man could be for Humphrey." The man with the Humphrey button, noting that the bearded man was accompanied by a lady, said "Out of respect for the lady with you, I will not give you the profane response that you deserve."

The lobby of the hotel was literally saturated with stench bombs and other foul smelling matter. When one opened windows at night it was impossible not to hear the four letter words that were being chanted in the park across from the hotel. Most the obscene words were linked to the name of the President or Vice President.

The so-called Hippies or Yippies sometimes carried black flags which are supposed to symbolize the banner of anarchy. There seemed to be a conscious effort to involve Negroes, but very few were among the demonstrators. At one point enroute to the convention on Thursday night I observed some bearded individuals encouraging colored children to run in and out of stores in a very disorderly manner. Fortunately, the arrival of some policemen halted the activity.

I have by no means exhausted the list of items that could be mentioned to show that most of the confusion, booing and highly destructive conduct at the convention was carried on by a well organized minority located at strategic places.

A SUGGESTION

Assuming that the convention survives as a political institution, between the November elections and 1972 there must be an all out effort to reform the method of selecting delegates. Whatever system is used should be uniform throughout the country. Fifty-four different methods of choosing delegates simply cannot be understood or policed in a way that will prevent abuses. Also delegates must be chosen to represent compact areas of states and territories wherever population concentrations permit. This will insure greater minority group representation.

There should be a well balanced citizen study of the news coverage of the conventions -- especially the coverage given the Democrats. The television media were the worst offenders in giving personal slants to the coverage but other media also included a great deal of opinion in what were supposed to be facts and news.

SPECIAL NOTE

Some commentators and writers have lampooned the use of a device with red and green lights to check tickets and other admission credentials at the Chicago Convention Hall. There have also been references to the use of barbed wire. Although the checking device appeared to have little value, in fairness it should be noted it was also used by Republicans at Miami Beach. The barbed wire frequently referred to was the four or five strands customarily used at the top of wire fences around factories, estates, and sometimes recreation areas.

NUMBER OF DEMOCRATIC NEGRO DELEGATES AND ALTERNATES

(1968 CONVENTION)

State

TOTAL DELEGATES/

NEGRO DELEGATES/

NEGRO ALTERNATES

(TOTAL)

2622

210

171

* Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Canal Zone

District of Columbia

Guam

Puerto Rico

Virgin Island

32

22

19

33

174

35

44

22

63

43

26

25

118

63

46

38

46

36

27

49

72

96

52

24

60

26

30

22

26

82

26

190

59

25

115

41

35

130

27

28

26

51

104

26

22

54

47

38

59

22

5

23

5

8

5

2

0

1

1

13

3

3

1

4

17

0

0

8

5

1

1

5

9

0

4

1

20

3

9

3

0

0

2

0

7

0

20

4

0

5

5

0

8

1

5

0

7

6

1

0

4

1

1

1

0

0

14

0

0

4

7

1

0

9

0

0

0

2

1

18

0

0

7

3

1

1

5

4

0

4

2

16

2

6

3

0

0

1

0

2

0

7

6

0

12

4

1

8

0

4

0

5

11

0

0

7

0

0

0

0

1

7

0

0

3

 

 

September 5, 1972

DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN CONVENTIONS

The Bureau director attended the Democratic and Republican conventions at Miami Beach, Florida. In a sense, both were vindications of the NAACP’s long and successful fight to encourage black citizens to register, to vote and to participate in the political process.

Remembering the days when black delegates at Democratic national conventions were few in number, the director was gratified to see the high degree of visibility and participation of black delegates. Many of them are also NAACP leaders.

The number and participation of black delegates at the Republican convention was very small. Nevertheless it was encouraging to note that some of them are NAACP leaders and outstanding citizens. Obviously, they had little effect on the party’s civil rights position but this was also true with respect to white delegates having influence in other areas. The Nixon administration was in firm control and there was virtually no chance for anyone to get anything that the President did not approve.

The Bureau director attended sessions of what were called black caucuses at both conventions. Few delegates attended these meetings. Most of those who came were visitors of special guests of the conventions. In summary it may be said that at the Democratic convention the black caucus sessions had little impact because so many delegates were highly sophisticated and did not need any advice or guidance. The black caucus session at the Republican Convention had little impact for a different reason. All impact at the convention came from the White House.

September 8, 1976

DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN CONVENTIONS

The Bureau Director represented the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights at the Democratic National Convention in New York City and the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

In contrast to the early years of the Director’s attendance, the number of Black delegates is substantial. The Democrats had 329 Black delegates and the Republicans had 76. This does not include alternates.

The Republican platform hit a low point in threatening to consider a Constitutional amendment to halt pupil transportation as a means of accomplishing desegregation of public schools. The Democratic platform weasel wordedly suggests that transportation be a "last resort."

Platforms and most other really significant happenings at these conventions were controlled by forces that made binding decisions before the delegates got in town. So far as the NAACP-Leadership Conference presence is concerned, its chief purpose is to emphasize our desire to maintain working relationships with both parties. The goodwill generated by this does not have much impact while the conventions are in session, but it does have real value in relationships with members of Congress and other officials in Washington in the normal day to day contacts.

It should be noted that the cost of attending the conventions is one of the chief problems of most delegates. This factor explains why some must look to sources that insist on commitments to vote for candidates and policies that may not reflect the true interests of the individual who is voting.

At the Republican convention, the Director attended a caucus of very frank and well educated members of a professional group. All of those in the group were elected delegates. Their expressed opinions ran from liberal to very conservative. At the end of the meeting forms were passed out so the delegates could collect their expenses from the professional group with which they were identified. There were no differences in the treatment of those who said they were supporting Governor Reagan, those who were supporting President Ford and those who seemed unhappy about both candidates. Those in charge of the meeting asked the delegates to vote for certain specific policies in the platform and emphasized that no commitment was sought on certain other issues. It was an impressive demonstration of how to provide necessary expense money and at the same time not restricting the recipients of the money.

The name of the group sponsoring the caucus is not included because the director was there as a guest. Almost all of those who attended the meeting were white.

 

 

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