Harbinger of South’s reaction on race? Not exactly
January 12, 2014 by Lew Powell
“As North Carolina Democrats go to the polls this Saturday to pick a candidate for United States Senate, the politicians here will be looking for the first clue to the political impact on the South of the Supreme Court’s ruling against public school segregation.”
— From “North Carolina Poll Will Be First Hint of South’s Reaction” in the Wall Street Journal (May 27, 1954)
That “first clue” to response to Brown vs. Board of Education turned out to be misleadingly positive: In the Democratic primary, incumbent Sen. Alton Lennon, a hardline segregationist, narrowly lost to moderate former Gov. Kerr Scott.
In “Triumph of Good Will: How Terry Sanford Beat a Champion of Segregation” (2000), John Drescher casts the race as both a rematch of Frank Porter Graham vs. Willis Smith in 1950 and a precursor to Sanford vs. I. Beverly Lake in 1960.