Alabama in the Twentieth Century

By Wayne Flynt | Go to book overview

2
Every Man for Himself
Politics, Alabama Style

You know as well as I do that Southerners, with all their charm, are worm-eaten
with unreasonable prejudices. The lower order of Southerner is one of the most bes-
tial human beings ever born of woman. He has been flattered continuously by
fawning politicians for more than 100 years, so that today he has all of the vanity of
an authentic aristocrat. … He is the active enemy of every civilizing force in south-
ern life.

—Grover Hall, editor, Montgomery Advertiser, to Major Howell, editor,
Atlanta Constitution, November 29, 1936

The political scientist V. O. Key Jr. had a unique vantage point from which to analyze Alabama politics. In 1946 the Bureau of Public Administration at the University of Alabama hired Key away from Johns Hopkins University. A Texan by birth, with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Key's assignment was to supervise a study of southern politics. He brought to the task encyclopedic knowledge, a lucid writing style, an insider's fascination with his subject, and an outsider's perspective.

Key wasted no time locating the heart of Alabama's political culture. Unlike Virginians, who deferred to the state's “first families” and other political elites, Alabamians adhered to their state motto, We Dare Defend Our Rights. They venerated frontier Jacksonian values that rejected pretentiousness, scorned outsider meddling, and held “first families” in suspicion at best and contempt at worst.

Key cited two examples. When the Alabama legislature debated an antisedition act in 1935 (it would have made advocacy of overthrowing the gov

-29-

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Alabama in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xv
  • Part One - Alabama's Political Economy 1
  • 1: In the Beginning the 1901 Constitution 3
  • 2: Every Man for Himself Politics, Alabama Style 29
  • 3: Selling Alabama the Economy 107
  • Part Two - Alabama's Society 173
  • 4: Life from the Bottom Up Society 175
  • 5: Teaching the People Education 220
  • 6: On and off the Pedestal Women 251
  • 7: Counting Behind White Folks African Americans 317
  • 8: Fighting Mad Alabamians at War 373
  • 9: Beyond the Game the Social Significance of Sports 407
  • Part Three - Alabama's Culture 441
  • 10: What Would Jesus Do? Religion 443
  • 11: Plain and Fancy Folk and Elite Culture 485
  • Notes 533
  • Selected Bibliography 545
  • Index 579
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