Dixiecrats and Democrats: Alabama Politics 1942-1950

By William D. Barnard | Go to book overview

4

RACE, CLASS, PARTY, AND
THE BOSWELL AMENDMENT

In 1944 the Supreme Court held Texas' white primary unconstitutional. 1 In January of 1946, the Executive Committee of the Democratic party in Alabama declared its spring primary open to all voters. Efforts had been underway for two years, however, to tighten Alabama's rather lax registration procedures so as to preclude the possibility of mass registration of Negroes.

After reading the Supreme Court decision outlawing the white primary, former-Governor Frank Dixon, a leader in the conservative faction of the state party, wrote Gessner T. McCorvey, the chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee, urging a careful study of measures to tighten the web of restrictions that surrounded the ballot box in Alabama. "There should be some definite planning by the best brains in Alabama," Dixon urged, "with the view of setting up a system [to prevent mass registration] which will stand up" in court. If such a system were not devised, not only would the Democratic party's supremacy in the South be endangered but so also would conservative hopes of dominating Southern Democracy. "It is obvious," Dixon wrote, "that the only thing that has held the Democratic Party together in the South for many years past has been the thing which caused its strength in the first place, namely, white supremacy." The Democratic party nationally, "through its titular chieftain [F. D. R. ], has repudiated this doctrine," he warned, and "if that repudiation affects our local control, through forced registration of negroes in this State, the Democratic Party will become anathema to the white people in the South." 2

Alabama's registration laws were enough to give pause to those frightened by the prospect of an enlarged electorate. The Constitution of 1901 exempted anyone who owned taxable property assessed at $300 or more from other qualifying requirements, including literacy. This had been adopted as a constitutionally acceptable means to reassure illiterate but

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