THE ENDURING CLASH:
Race, Class, Party, and the
In October of 1947, four of Alabama's leading journalists tried to dissect the nature and prospects of Southern liberalism. Colonel Harry B. Ayers, editor of the Anniston Star and a Democrat of progressive views dating back to Woodrow Wilson, argued that the outlook for liberalism in Alabama was auspicious. Dr. D. L. Hunt, editorial writer for the Birmingham News, agreed. Liberalism, he thought, was increasing in strength both in the larger cities of the state and in the smaller towns, particularly in north Alabama. Oscar Zuber, editorial writer for the News and formerly for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, extended the optimistic projections of Hunt and Ayers to the South as a whole, with the lone exception of Virginia. Only Gould Beech of the Southern Farmer dissented from the sanguine views of his colleagues. 1
Beech's recent encounter with conservative forces in the legislature undoubtedly colored his judgment. He was not alone, however, in the pessimism with which he viewed the prospects for Southern liberalism. The Birmingham News thought Beech had been "impressive in the picture he drew of oppressive forces at work in the South to crush independence of thought and expression." Still, the News felt that "in Alabama, as in the South at large, there are vastly more progressives than is realized by many of us or by critics in other sections of the country." The News was optimistic for the future. "If this [liberal] sentiment could be made cohesive, the pace of emancipation from old and unhappy prejudices would become more rapid and more constructive." 2
The optimism of the News, of Ayers and his colleagues would soon be tested in the election year of 1948. The States' Rights revolt in Alabama that year was the successful culmination of a series of attempts by the conservative faction within the Democratic party to wrest control of the state's political life from the adherents of the New Deal and, in more recent days, from the followers of Folsom. Rebuffed in 1944 in their
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Publication information: Book title: Dixiecrats and Democrats: Alabama Politics 1942-1950. Contributors: William D. Barnard - Author. Publisher: University of Alabama Press. Place of publication: University, AL. Publication year: 1985. Page number: 95.
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