Monday, August 16, 2010

James J. Kilpatrick (1920-2010), columnist (and racial segregationist) for the Richmond News Leader is Dead.

The Washington Post notes this afternoon that: 

"James J. Kilpatrick, 89, a fiery advocate of racial segregation as a Richmond newspaper editor in the 1950s who became a sparring partner of liberals on the television show "60 Minutes" and a syndicated columnist who offered conservative views on subjects ranging from politics to proper use of the English language, died Aug. 15 at George Washington University hospital. He had congestive heart failure."

Kilpatrick was born in Oklahoma City but came to Richmond around 1940 - for a while he lived on West Ave. near what is now the Monroe Park Campus of VCU. 
The Washington Post wrote:

"He went to work for the News Leader and rose quickly under the tutelage of editor Douglas S. Freeman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. At age 30, he succeeded Freeman as editor."

Kilpatrick might be one of our most "infamous" Richmonders - the New York Times sums it up pretty well:

"Mr. Kilpatrick popularized interposition, the doctrine that individual states had the constitutional duty to interpose their separate sovereignties against federal court rulings that went beyond their rightful powers and, if necessary, to nullify them, an argument traced to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John C. Calhoun. 

He debated on television with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wrote on race and states’ rights in “The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia” (Regnery, 1957) and “The Southern Case for School Segregation” (Crowell-Collier, 1962).

At times, Mr. Kilpatrick went beyond constitutional arguments. In 1963, he drafted an article for The Saturday Evening Post with the proposed title “The Hell He Is Equal,” in which he wrote that “the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race.” 

Good riddance.

- Ray B.



eraserhead said...

He was dreadfully wrong on one of the greatest issues of his day. He recanted, not nearly enough for many who judge by today's standards, but he confessed his error.

You give him no credit for anything else in his life. This is a churlish review of a complicated life. Apparently, by your standards, almost no white man ever associated with Richmond before 1960 should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Ray (hates racists) Bonis said...

Dear Eraserhead,

Other than my comment about "good riddance," I let him speak for himself - I quoted from two articles about his life and focused on his work in Richmond (which is what this blog is all about).

I linked to both of those articles where they mention how he later said he was wrong about integration. And I have read in the past on what he had to say about his work in Virginia and I do not think he recanted enough - my standards, not anyone elses.

Just think about this - his fine work in giving the legal justification of racial separation led to many bad things, including the closing of the schools in Prince Edward County, forcing a good number of African Americans NOT to finish school, depriving them Opportunities later in life. He and his kind (racists) destroyed people's lives for generations. He's dead now, and I say, good riddance to bad trash!

- Ray Bonis

Ray Bonis said...

And another thing, read what Garrett Epps, who grew up in Richmond, has to say about mr. Kilbatrick

Nelson said...

From this site

we get:

"When criticized by an annoyed segregationist for apologizing for “your former views regarding racial integration,” Kilpatrick hastened to set the “record straight”:

I did not say I was sorry for my former views on racial integration. I said, very carefully, that I was sorry I ever defended the practice of State-sanctioned segregation. There is a world of difference. Neither did I ‘belatedly come to the conclusion that I was wrong about my former stand on equality of the races.’ As I tried to make clear, I belatedly came to the conclusion that I was wrong about my former stand on the rightness of State-sanctioned discrimination."

I don't call that recanting.

eraserhead said...

I'm glad you could use Kilpatrick's death to preen in your own distinctively 2010 anti-racist reflection.

What fascinates me is how Kilpatrick was not percieved as a Bull Connor figure and how, despite his views, he could be friends with Oliver Hill or willing could debate a Dr. Martin Luther King on television.

Of course, that's a much more complicated view than just declaring him a garden variety racist and boldly declaring yourself a paragon of racial sensitiviy.

You revel in his passing; I struggle with the contradictions of his legacy.

At least there's finally some comments on this blog.

Ray Bonis said...

Ha.! Yes, comments are always welcome.

And yes, my posts on Kilpatrick are not complicated and more from the gut...

And yes, he was no Bull Connor but Kilpatick provided the legal framework for segregation. Just look up "Interposition" - a word that Bull Connor probably couldn't spell, but Kilpatrick promoted as a way for Virginia (and the South) to avoid integration. The nicest thing I could say is that Kilpatick, well educated, should have known better than an ignorant slob like Bull Connor. They were both racists.

Garrett Epps says it better: "Ideas have consequences, conservatives like to say. Kilpatrick's racist ideas legitimized the worst kind of hatred, and his constitutional doctrines gave cover to defiant Southern governors like Orval Faubus and George Wallace."


CM said...

I'm glad the Shockoe Examiner had an item about Kilpatrick's passing, because I felt like it mostly got ignored - even by the local news. Why is that? I didn't even know the man was still alive! Does anyone know what kind of work he did after 1980 or so?

CM said...

In response to Eraserhead's original criticism of the post, I agree with Garrett Epps that Kilpatrick's passing (and therefore the review of his life's work) was handled with kid's gloves. This guy was the John C. Calhoun of the twentieth century. Why pretend otherwise? Harry Byrd never would have been so successful at positioning anti-segregation extremism as a dominant force without Kilpatrick's typewriter and influence.

eraserhead said...

This, via Larry Sabato, from Dr. Holsworth's blog, captures my assessment of JJK:

Larry Gets It Exactly Right

It’s never easy to get the words and tone right in an obituary of a prominent yet controversial public figure such as James J. Kilpatrick. But I think that Larry Sabato’s commentary on his passing this week got it exactly right. Sabato noted that Kilpatrick should be judged by the totality of his life, including the contributions that he made to national journalism through his syndicated columns and his debates on 60 Minutes. At the same time, Larry did not minimize the pain caused by Kilpatrick’s doctrine of Massive Resistance to desgregation or suggest, as some commentators did, that Kilpatrick had “redeemed” himself. Sabato acurately observed that Kilpatrick left ‘deep wounds” that “had not healed even 50 years later.” Anyone with more than passing acquaintance with Richmond is fully aware of the indelible scar that was left by the espousal of Massive Resistance by one of the capital’s leading newspapers.

I was not surprised at the relatively low-key coverage of Kilpatrick's death: the victors write the history. We lionize the giants of the civil rights movement as they pass; we quietly note the passing of those on the wrong side of history.

Read This said...

Bob Winthrop said...

To ignore Mr. Kilpatrick's segregationist writings is like asking a Titanic survivor how the voyage was, other than the problem with the iceberg. He made his reputation as a segregationist. That was his claim to fame.

Massive resistance was the low point in modern Virginia's history. That it failed is a blessing. He gave massive resistance its voice. To fight the good fight for an unworthy cause is no virtue.