Monday, November 19, 2007

LTE spreads false charges

In a letter-to-the-editor in Sunday's Clarion Ledger, Briley Richmond of Ocean Springs, Mississippi defends Mike Wallace but spreads the already refuted charges against Charles Pickering.

Richmond says, "Pickering was law partner to the head of the Sovereignty Commission in 1964."

Bill Minor refuted this charge years ago in a column saying:

Those who cite federal District Judge Charles Pickering's havein practiced law in Laurel during the 1960s with then-Lt. Gov. Carroll Gartin as indiciative of pickering's segregationist past are barking up the wrong tree.

This writer knew almost all of the players on the scene back in those days of racial extremism and Gartin, who died suddenly in 1966, was far from being one of the racists.

Gartin, in fact, was defeated for governor in 1959 after being branded as a "moderate" (a term implying being soft on segregation back then) by the segregationist white Citizens Councils.

Evidently some opponents of Pickering's elevation to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals belive it damaging evidence that Gartin, Pickering's one-time law partner, had servedon the infamous state Soveregnty Commission.

For the record, Gartin as lieutenant governor (from 1956 to 1960 and again from 1964 until his suddden death in 1966) was by law designated as ex-officio vice chairman of the Sovereignty Commission, but he had little to do with the commission's operations.

When Gartin ran for governor in 1959 with the backing of progressive Gov. J.P. Coleman, he was a strong favorite to win until the then-powerful white Citizens Councils began flexing their political muscle and elected their chosen candidate, Ross Barnett....

Certainly, if Pickering's association with the late Carroll Gartin is the best "evidence" foes have against his judgeship appointment, they don't have much of a case.

Richmond next charges, "Then, in the early '70s, he used his position in the state Senate to seal the records of the Sovereignty Commission."

Richmond is just reading from anti-Pickering talking points. The vote on the Sovereginty Commission was either to seal the records and preserve them, or to destroy them. The progressive vote was to seal them; the segregationist vote was to destroy them as to hide them from history. Furthermore, Pickering had no involvement with the Commission's actions and he voted to abolish the Commission as a state Senator.

Richmond is right to defend Mike Wallace against his attackers. But he missed the point that these are the exact same people who attacked Pickering with the exact same type of allegations. And just as the lied about Wallace, they lied about Pickering.

A suggestion to Richmond, read the books.

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