On January 28 Lyndon announced that he had appointed a new White House assistant, W. Marvin Watson. The new assistant has been working as executive assistant to the president of Lone Star Steel Company of Dallas. Watson has also, according to the announcement, been holding down the Chair of the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee. He will be, said Lyndon, assigned to work on "special projects" with state and local governments.
The Watson appointment opens up the whole Pandora's Box of Lyndon's political roots in the far-right, and strongly suggests that those roots have by no means been severed.
Anyone familiar with the realities of corporate life, knows that political attitudes are frequently a key factor in the rise and fall of corporate executives. As assistant to the Lone Star president, Watson must be supposed to have subscribed, or to have been in sympathy with, the political position taken by the president of the firm, its board of directors, and the corporation itself. What has that position been?
Lone Star Steel and its directors have been a major source of support for the Life Line Foundation, mouthpiece for the far-right pronunciamentos of Dallas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt. Life Line provides a radio commentary daily over more than 300 stations, a newsletter published three times a week, and a sort of book club, as well as urging listeners to form "Constructive Clubs" for direct action.
Lumping together "All enemies of freedom — communists, fellow-travelers, etc." as "The Mistaken", Life Line says that the United Nations is "under the domination of the Soviet and pro-Soviet 'neutrals'"; that foreign aid is "subsidizind socialism in many countries;" that the October, 1962 missile confrontation over Cuba "looks like a Victory but... it is a defeat;" and urges the curtailment or discontinuance of "farm plans, aid to education, huge highway spending, urban renewal... and other services."
One additional fact may serve more clearly to characterize the politics of Life Line Foundation. In recent years Life Line has paid more than $2,000 to Medford Evans in lecture fees and travel expenses. Evans has a record of association with most of the far-right groups in the country — he is a coordinator of the John Birch Society and a consultant to and member of the white Citizens Council in at least five states. The current issue of the Mississipi white Citizens Council publication, Citizen, carries an article by Evans in which he explains that COFO an SNCC are agents of international communism.
Now to get back to Lyndon's new assistant. His firm, Lone Star Steel, has contributed more than $10,000 to the operations of Life Line Foundation. On the Lone Star board of directors is Robert L. Thornton, Chairman of the Mercantile National Bank of Dallas. The Mercantile Bank has contributed more than $1,000 to Life Line. Also on the Lone Star Board is James Willian Aston, President of the Republic National Bank of Dallas. Republic National has contributed more than $1,000 to Life Line. Again, on the Lone Star board is Robert H. Stewart, president and director of the First National Bank of Dallas. First National has contributed more than $33,000 to Life Line. Republic, First National and Mercantile are, respectively, the 21st, 27th and 89th largest banks in the U.S.
One wonders if Lyndon wanted Watson as an assistant in spite of these facts, or because of them. As James Reston commented in the Times last Week, the quality of Lyndon's appointments is a much surer indication of where he's likely to go, than is all the rhetoric his speech writers devise.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act calls for the suspension of federal funds in any program which is conducted discriminatorily. Lyndon's administrators, under the tutelage of Hubert, have delivered their ultimatum to the Southern racists — either pledge to comply with the act, or have federal education funds cut off after March 4th, 1965. The 1964 Act, itself, makes no provison for such pledges. It simply provides that funds shall be cut off if discrimination continues.
The fact that Lyndon is giving his Southern friends a chance to get off the hook — to keep the funds and the discrimination — is revealed by an indiscrete statement from an Alabama school official. He's quoted as saying "...we'll come nearer having Negroes in our schools next year if we don't sign /the complaince pledge/." So much for Lyndon and the "pledges" he's extracting from the Southern racists.
In view of Lyndon's at least rhetorical interest in both poverty and civil rights, it is interesting to recall the first piece of major legislation to pass the Congress after Lyndon took over the Presidency. Its was passed with the blessings of Lyndon. Here's what the situation was.
For years the U.S/ Government has been supporting the price of cotton by paying around .32 per pound for it. This means that if a farmer cannot sell his cotton to firms who want to use it for manufacturing purposes and get at least .32 per pound, then he can sell it to the U.S. Government for that price. What this also means, of course, is that firms which want to buy U.S. cotton must pay at least .32 per pound for it.
Brokerage and export firms which sell U.S. cotton to manufacturers in other countries have also been subsidized by the U.S. Government for some years. These firms sell U.S. cotton in competitions with cotton produced in other countries, which sells for less because the government of these other countries do not support the price of cotton as does the U.S. Government. The world price for cotton has been about .24 per pound. The U.S. Government, then pays to these brokerage and export firms which sell U.S. cotton abroad, the difference between the U.S. price of cotton and the world price, so the firms can sell U.S. cotton at the world price without losing money. This payment to these firms is usually around .08 per pound. Needless to say, these payments, to the farmers who produce the cotton, and to the exporters who sell it abroad, come from the money that all Americans pay in federal taxes.
For years U.S. textiles manufacturers, who buy U.S. cotton from which to make cloth in their plants in this country, has been complaining that they are being discriminated against. The textile manufacturers argue that, since foreign textile firms can buy U.S. cotton from the subisidized exporters for .24 per pound, the foreign firms can sell their products in the U.S. for less money than can the U.S. textile firms who have to pay .32 per pound (the U.S. supported price) for it. The U. S. textile firms have wanted the U.S. government to pay them the difference between the U.S. price and the world price, in the same way the government does the exporters.
Finally, in late 1963, the U.S. textile manufacturers managed to get a number of congressmen to support them. In the Senate these supporters were led by Senator Eastland of Mississipi, himself one of the largest cotton farmers in the State. The law the Textile manufacturers wanted passed provided that all textile mills in the U.S. would be paid by the U.S. government the difference between the world market price and the U.S. subsidized price, for the U.S.-grown cotton they bought. Opponents of the law argued that it was senseless thus to subsidize everybody in the cotton business, particularly when the people who do the real work of producing cotton and making cloth, the workers on farms and factories, underpaid as they are, would have to provide the taxes to pay the textile manufacturers.
Opponents further argued that if U.S. textile mills were being discriminated against by having to pay .32 for U.S. cotton when foreign mills buy the same cotton for .24, then the thing to do was stop subsidizind the exporters. This, they said, would raise the price of U.S. cotton to the same level for both foreign and domestic purchasers of U.S. cotton. Their arguments, of course, got nowhere.
On February 28, 1964, Senator Eastland made a long and impassioned speech on the floor of the senate in favor of the bill to subsidize the textile mills. He was joined by virtually every other southern senator. In fact, the line-up of Senators arguing for the cotton bill was much the same as that which later formed to filibuster against the civil rights bill. Thee cotton bill was passed by the Senate shortly after Eastland's speech.
Lyndon had held up introducing the House-passed civil rights bill until the Senate could act on the Southern-supported cotton bill. If Lyndon had wanted to, he could have insisted that the cotton bill be considered by the Senate only after the civil rights bill had been passed. If he had done this, the Southerners could not have filibustered the civil rights bill without holding up, and possibly ensuring the defeat, of their cotton bill. For reasons best known to himself, Lyndon did not choose to do this. And in not choosing to do it, he threw away unused the best weapon he had against the crippling amendments (such as the jury trial amendment) which these same cotton-bill-supporters later inserted in the civil rights bill.
Well, now the results of the cotton bill are partially in. It is possible to see just how much damage Lyndon did to the taxpayers of the country. Between April 11 and July 31, 1964, Lyndon paid the U.S. textile mills more than $57 million in subsidy payments authorized by the 1964 cotton bill. When the total cost of the subsidy for 1964 is in congressman estimate it will run about $500 million. This, we would remind Lyndon, is more than half the total he asked for his "war on poverty."
Most of the textile mills which split up this $57 million are in the South. For example, there is Erwin Mills Inc., a subsidiary of Burlington Industries (largest textile producer in the U.S.), with its plant in Stonewall Mississipi. Erwin got $327,645.69.
Another of Lyndon's larger donation went to Cannon Mills Co., of North Carolina, makers of Cannon towels, sheets, etc. Cannon got $3,406,733.09.
Still another was J.P. Stevens & Co., of South Carolina, which received $4,206,356.81.
Still another interesting donation went to Calloway Mills of LaGrange, Ga. Calloway Mills is the property of the Calloway family, one of whom was just elected to the House from Georgia on a Republican-Goldwater plataform. The Calloway familiy owns the mill through their control of the tax-exempt Calloway Foundation which, according to a 1960 House Select Committee on Small Business publication, owns 100% of the stock in Calloway Mills. Thus, for pratical purposes, Calloway Mills is a tax exempt industry. They got $660,275.17 of Lyndon's largesse.
We hope in the near future to complete a study of just who each of the recipients of these donations were, who owns them, what their other connections are, and how they fit into the power structure of the nation and of the South.
February 3, 1965.
Copyright © Jack Minnis, 1965