The Second Primary
The Second Primary
7 The Second Primary
- The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott
Julian M. Pleasants
- University Press of Kentucky
Although close in the vote totals, Willis Smith initially decided against calling for a runoff against Graham. Urged on by conservative supporters, including future US Senator Jesse Helms, and aided by three Supreme Court decisions undermining the principle of separate but equal, Smith called for the runoff. The ensuing seventeen days would constitute probably the most raucous, divisive, bitter, and racist campaigns in the state’s history. Smith continued to hammer away at Graham for his support of a fair employment practices commission and his associations with communism and socialism, but the contest took an ugly turn with an increase in incendiary racist literature. Smith’s backers printed ads complaining about bloc voting in black precincts where Graham received 95 percent of the vote and raising the fear that blacks would be the deciding factor in state politics. There were ads with black men dancing with white women in Britain in World War II. The most venomous ad was “white people wake up!” which pointed out a potential racial Armageddon where blacks would take white jobs, there would be intermarriage between the races, blacks would be eating in the same restaurants with whites, and black children would be going to school with white children. While Frank Graham refused to denounce the attacks, Governor Scott defended Graham and castigated Smith’s followers for their bitter descent into racist invective. The tide had turned to Smith, and he defeated Graham by twenty thousand votes, a stunning defeat for the progressive forces in the state. In the end, while charges of Communist leanings and the Supreme Court decisions hurt, the most important factor in Graham’s defeat was race. This defeat was a blow to Governor Scott and the Truman administration, and political power in the state now shifted back to the more conservative, traditional wing of the party. Despite the defeat, Scott continued to harass phone and electric companies, urging them provide better services to rural areas. He also began spending the bond money to build roads and schools.
Racist literature, Bloc voting, Jesse Helms, Supreme Court decisions
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