THEODORE G. BILBO "Shibboleths for Statesmanship"
BY ROMAN J. ZORN
The poll tax brings the entire race question before the American people. . . . It has become necessary for us now to consider and to openly discuss the forces which are today attempting to destroy the color line. . . . We will tell our negro-loving, Yankee friends to "Go Straight to Hell." --SenatorT. G. Bilbo, Address to Mississippi Legislature, March 22, 1944.
VISITORS TO THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS, IN MID-NOVEMber of 1942, witnessed deliberate sabotage of the legislative process. To casual spectators the Senate might have seemed engaged in routine business, but further observation would have revealed a weazened, be-spectacled little man-- Senator Theodore Gilmore ( "The Man")Bilbo--lengthily haranguing a sea of green carpets and empty desks. In continuing the filibuster against the anti-poll tax bill, the Mississippian had announced: "Let me say to the Senators now present that if they have any business to transact in their offices, I hope they will feel at liberty to attend to it; because I propose to hold the floor until the Senate adjourns."1 Accordingly, only a half- dozen somnolent senators remained in attendance while "The Man Bilbo" continued his five-day speaking marathon.
In the galleries, wondering visitors leaned over the railings, trying to understand the proceedings. Instead of watching a legislative mill grind out solutions for wartime problems, they listened to a monologic defense of the Southern "color line" and of anachronistic "States Rights." Instead of statesman-like debate, they heard Bilbonic fulminations against Negroes and____________________