Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Joe T. Patterson and the White South's Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Joe T. Patterson and the White South's Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement

Article excerpt

Joe T. Patterson and the White South's Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement. By Robert E. Luckett Jr. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015. Pp. xiv, 291. $65.00, ISBN 978-1-4968-0269-9.)

Robert E. Luckett Jr.'s Joe T. Patterson and the White South's Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement highlights the role of Joe T. Patterson, Mississippi's attorney general from 1956 to 1969, in leading the white South's efforts to undermine the so-called Second Reconstruction. Luckett shows the effective strategy moderate segregationists used to fight integration. He compares their long-term strategy to the shortsighted actions of radical segregationists. Patterson was very concerned about Mississippi's reputation and how violent clashes destroyed the state's image, even though he was equally dedicated to maintaining segregation. The moderates preferred to outflank the civil rights fighters by using the letter of the law to undermine the spirit of civil rights legislation. Patterson was an old-fashioned segregationist who believed that the best way to maintain the racial status quo was to use chicanery. Patterson and his fellow moderates preferred a quiet, reasoned approach over the loud, violent antics of Governor Ross R. Barnett and his cohort.

Luckett describes Patterson as a skilled legal tactician, who used states' rights arguments as a cudgel against civil rights legislation. A fiscal conservative, Patterson guarded the state's funds, even protesting state resources being given to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. Born in Europa, Mississippi, Patterson was reared in the racial miasma of segregated small-town Mississippi. As a child, he watched his father provide legal aid to their impoverished neighbors. Patterson left college early before attending Cumberland University Law School. After graduating and getting admitted to the bar, he returned to Calhoun City where he was elected city attorney. Patterson then served two terms in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Later he served as chief legislative assistant to U.S. senator Byron Patton "Pat" Harrison, a New Deal Democrat. …

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