The Negro and Southern Politics: A Chapter of Florida History

By H. D. Price | Go to book overview

2. Negro registration

JUDICIAL AND LEGISLATIVE POLICY

On March 16, 1944, Florida's Attorney-General J. Tom Watson--no close relative of the Georgia Populist despite certain similarities- replied to a question submitted to him: the question whether members of the colored race should be allowed to register as Democrats. His answer, which ought to have caused the old Tom Watson to rest a little more securely in his grave, was:

Political parties in Florida do not perform a governmental function, neither do they, or either of them, constitute a governmental agency. Such parties came into existence, not as the children of statute, but as a result of the exercise of the free will and choice of those citizens who compose them. . . .

The Democratic Party in Florida, speaking through its State Democratic Executive Committee, has provided that only white persons may become members of such Party. See Resolution Number 2, adopted January 17, A.D. 1944. This determination of qualification for party membership is a valid exercise of the inherent power of the Party. . . .1

At this time the Supreme Court decision on the Texas white primary was still pending.

Just eighteen days after Mr. Watson delivered his opinion on the private nature of political parties the Supreme Court held, in the case of Smith v. Allwright, exactly the opposite. Eight of the nine Justices agreed that when the privilege of membership in a party "is also the essential qualification for voting in a primary to select nominees for a general election, the state makes the action of the party the action of the state." The wording of the decision left little hope for any form of white primary:

-26-

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The Negro and Southern Politics: A Chapter of Florida History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Acknowledgments iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Introduction ix
  • I. Politics--For Whites Only? 3
  • 2. Negro Registration 26
  • 3. Campaign Tactics and the Negro Voter 59
  • 4. the Negro and the Pattern of Florida Politics 82
  • Notes 113
  • Bibliographical Note 125
  • Index 129
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