Political Activism & Politicians
Mississippi politicians were particularly influential in the anti-communism movement in Mississippi and the United States. They proposed legislation to create groups to identify suspected communists in America and were vocal in their distaste for the Communist Party. These leading politicians had enormous impact on the anti-communism movement in the United States.
Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo was a well-known segregationist. During his time in the Senate, as well as the other elected positions he held in Mississippi, Bilbo frequently talked of his support of segregation. In 1939, he proposed the Greater Liberia Act to repatriate African Americans to Liberia. Due to this proposed legislation, Bilbo's stance on race relations became well-known around the country.
Bilbo's beliefs were frequently publicized by the national media. After he was elected to his third term to the U.S. Senate in 1946, various groups lobbied to have his seating in the Senate rejected. Bilbo blamed the negative press on communists. In May of 1944, many citizens and activists demanded his resignation as chairman for the Senate District Committee (which had jurisdiction over the District of Columbia). In a May 13, 1944 article in the Washington Star, it states that Bilbo "[scoffed] at the 'insane, egotistical and pusillanimous' request that he resign as 'ex-officio mayor' of Washington..." and directed his "oratorical blast" at the Communist Party who he blamed for the upheaval.
Bilbo's many supporters around the state and country asked questions like "Why Should Communism seek to unseat Senator Bilbo?" In a letter sent by the President of The Allied Veterans Political Association of America, Samuel W. Silverman, to members of the United States Senate, Silverman states that he has "delineated an organized, communist attempt to oust Bilbo." He goes on to write "It is needless to cite the case of Sen. Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi - a sincere, loyal and fine Southern gentleman. Sen. Bilbo has spoken upon a subject which is of a very controversial nature; a subject [race relations] to which he has given a great deal of close attention and real study. He has every right to express his opinion of that subject. Yet communism crucifies him for doing so." Rather than stating that people wanted Bilbo out of office because of his views on integration, his supporters and Bilbo himself labeled all people against him as being communists, even though most civil rights supporters were not affiliated with the Communist Party.
Local supporters respected Bilbo because of his attack on communists. In a letter from a citizen of Braxton, Mississippi, the supporter wrote, "Anybody who can aggravate, exasperate and irritate those New York pinks, reds and blacks as you have so well and capably done ought to be stationed in Washington permanently, and without the bother of an occasional election." This letter was typical of the types of letters received by Bilbo during these years.
Due to the pressure from, as Bilbo would say "communists," the United States Senate refused to seat him for his third term. The Senate supported his dismissal by stating that Bilbo condoned the use of violence against African Americans attempting to vote and that he had accepted bribes in the past.
Other prominent Mississippi politicians were important in the anti-communism movement on a national level. In 1938, a special committee focusing on investigating un-American activities was created to look into the actions of supposed Nazis, communists, and members of the Ku Klux Klan. This committee, known as the Dies Committee after its chairman Martin Dies, never focused on investigating the Klan but did concentrate on communism and its supporters. Mississippi Congressman William Colmer was a member of the Rules Committee at the time, and as a member, was one of the people who pushed the vote to establish the Dies Committee.
In 1944, when the term for the Dies Committee was up, Congressman John Rankin from Mississippi, a former member of the Dies Committee, proposed that it should become a standing committee. The passing of this amendment resulted in the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of which Rankin was a vocal member. He was one of the key members to push for the investigations into Hollywood's connections with communism in the 1940s.
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