‘Even the mules in the South wear shoes’

On this day in 1933: Sen. Josiah Bailey of North Carolina takes the floor to note that “Even the mules in the South wear shoes.”

Bailey’s is one of many indignant responses to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins’ characterization of the South as “an untapped market for shoes. . . . A social revolution will take place if you put shoes on the people of the South.”


Would Huey Long really have had Josiah Bailey shot?

On this day in 1935: Once again assailing the Roosevelt administration on the floor of the Senate, rogue populist Huey Long of Louisiana points toward New Deal supporter Josiah Bailey of North Carolina. About the existence of poverty, Long asks rhetorically, “You will take my word for it, won’t you?” Bailey stands and, as gasps echo from the galleries, replies that “I am utterly unwilling to take your word for that or anything else!” In the ensuing exchange, Long threatens to campaign against Bailey’s reelection, and Bailey suggests that Long’s interference in N.C. politics would be met with tar and feathers.

Remarkably, the two will remain friends. Long often drops by Bailey’s Mayflower Hotel apartment for drinks, and Bailey invites Long on fishing trips from Morehead City. On one such expedition Long, expounding his plans to become dictator-president, supposedly says his first move would be to have Bailey shot. Bailey is amused, but confides later that he thought Long had been perfectly serious. Long himself is assassinated on Sept. 8, 1935.


How not to be named ambassador to New Zealand

“In 1943 Roosevelt asked Jonathan Daniels to serve as minister to New Zealand, [but] Senator Josiah W. Bailey blocked his appointment. A foe of Daniels in state politics, Bailey did not like Daniels’s  reference to Robert E. Lee’s army as ‘largely composed of white men who were not only slaveless but almost as degraded as colored men by slavery.’

“He also took exception to Daniels’ description of Senator Robert Rice Reynolds as ‘a demagogue who is a clown, not a master’ and of himself as a ‘demagogue’ and ‘sycophant.’ ”

— From “Jonathan Daniels and Race Relations: The Evolution of a Southern Liberal” by Charles W. Eagles (1982)


Apartheid amendment fails to catch on

On this day in 1915: The N.C. Senate rejects Clarence Poe’s plan for a “Great Rural Civilization.”

Fearing that the migration of young people into the already crowded cities was undermining society, Poe — the influential editor of the Progressive Farmer — drafted a plan that strangely foreshadowed Floyd McKissick’s ill-fated Soul City experiment of the 1970s.

While visiting the British Isles in 1912, Poe had interviewed a white South African, who persuaded him that apartheid offered whites the best opportunity to help blacks.

Framed as an amendment to the state constitution, Poe’s plan empowered voters in a rural district to prohibit land sales to persons of the minority race. Although this provision would not force anyone to leave, Poe believed that ultimately the countryside would be dotted with quiet, pastoral villages, either all-white or all-black.

Although Poe enlisted such influential allies as Josiah Bailey, later a U.S. senator, and Julian Carr, the Bull Durham magnate, his plan stirred hornets’ nests of protest across the South.

After the 1915 General Assembly, more concerned with the World War raging in Europe, votes down the proposed amendment, the “Great Rural Civilization” will not be heard of again.

Antilynching bill: Step toward Reconstruction II?

“[North Carolina’s Josiah] Bailey became the first Southern senator to outline what he perceived as a dangerous aspect of the [1937] antilynching measure…. To him, it  represented the vanguard of a much larger movement aimed at dismantling Southern society.

” ‘I fear it, I dread it, I fight it, I argue against it because I know the moment it goes through the very men who put it forward will almost be compelled to go ahead with the old Civil Rights Act [of 1875]….

“Reconstruction all over again…. will destroy the South.’ ”

— From “Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965” by Keith M. Finley (2008)

The Civil Rights Act of 1875, passed in the waning days of the last biracial Congress of the 19th century, was not enforced, and the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1883. It contained many provisions — such as guaranteed access to public accommodations — that eventually were included in 1960s legislation.