The Dixiecrats and the Election of 1948

In 1948 some Southern Democrats decided to bolt the Democratic party because of its Civil Rights policies and have a separate State’s Rights Democratic national ticket. They were called Dixiecrats. Strom Thurmond was their presidential candidate. They had a convention in Birmingham, Alabama. Newspaper accounts of the events, along with the photos of the convention show the thoroughly Confederate nature of their movement. Ironically, all the campaign literature used national symbols, including the Statue of Liberty. So even though they were Confederate and sectional, they were conscious of the need to project a different image to the nation. This information comes from a microfilm from the University of Mississippi called the States Rights Scrapbook.

The following are some excerpts of newspaper reports in the Alabama and Mississippi papers at the time. Remember that the “Stars and Bars” is the well-known Confederate Battle Flag.

The Birmingham News – Sunday, July 18, 1948 – page 1.
Orators Have Field Day
It was a responsive, excited, sometimes hysterical crowd — and the convention orators made the most of it. The magic names were Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. They never failed to bring swelling roars from the audience.
The rat-tat-tat of “Dixie” played by a swing band, raised the people screaming to their feet. The phrasemakers talked over and over about “the dagger in the back of the South.” Recognizing its cure, the crowd yelled back with one, vast voice.
The swaying state standards, Confederate banners, gyrating paraders, all bathed in the unreal …

The Birmingham Post, Saturday, July 17, 1948 – page 1, from an article “Around the Hall.”
Hats Go Off for Stars and Bars
The entire audience stood silently with hats over hearts at 10:18 a.m. when a delegation of University of Mississippi students marched to their seats behind the Confederate battle flag.
It was the most impressive and best organized stunt of the convention until that hour and gave the anxious crowd a “break’ in their wait for the delayed opening of the conclave.
They were followed into the hall seven minutes later by 10 Birmingham-Southern College students wearing string bow ties and carrying both Confederate battle and Alabama state flags.

Voice is Willing But Mike is Dead
Thomas Maxwell, Tuscaloosa political figure who once advocated “shipping the Negroes back to Africa” in a campaign address for the U.S. Senate took the limelight early, trying on several occasions to talk to the assembled delegates over a “dead” mike.

Lee’s Picture Brings Cheers
Best “prop” brought onto the convention floor was a picture of Gen. Robert E. Lee, carried high by a group of from 30 to 40 Birmingham-Southern students, most of them members of Kappa Alpha fraternity.
The stunt pulled at 10:40 a.m. brought a spontaneous cheer from the near capacity crowd of some 48000 delegates and spectators.

The Birmingham News, Saturday, July 17, 1948 – front page.
There is a photo of students with Confederate battle flags. The following is the caption.
STUDENTS FAN REVOLT FIRES – More than 50 black-hatted University of Mississippi students converged on Birmingham for the “grass roots” convention Saturday of revolting Southern States Rights Democrats. They were picked as “student delegates” at a hurriedly called meeting on the university campus yesterday. “We’re not here on a student lark, but are on serious important business,” said one of them. Six of them are pictured above in the Tutwiler Hotel Lobby. Left to right, they are Eddie K. Wilson, John C. Murray, Jr., Cleveland Davis, Lamar Triplett, Andrew Sullivan Jr. and Bobby Gene Jones.

Also, from the same page is an article about the conventions.
… Ruby Mercer, singing star of the Starlight Opera, started the conference off with the “Star Spangled Banner,” and broke into “Dixie,” drawing cheers from the auditorium. She sang a second chorus which the audience joined in.
Something like hysterical excitement swept the auditorium as Bull Conner, Alabama delegate, called walkout delegates from Mississippi and Alabama to the stage. The audience whooped and gave out rebel yells as walkouters bore their state flags and Confederate flags tot he front of the auditorium.

[Note: “Walkouters” were Democratic delegates to the Democratic national convention who walked out in protest over the Democratic adoption of a Civil Rights plank in the Democratic platform. Continuing.]

At 10:30 a.m., a half-hour after the convention originally was scheduled to start, Municipal Auditorium was about half-filled. Spectators, several carrying Confederate flags, filled the balcony seats about halfway to the rear of the hall. …
… Cheers broke out from the audience off and on as a band on the stage played such Southern tunes as “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” “Dixie,” “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” A “Rebel Yell” ripped across the hall.

Columbian Progress, July 22, 1948, front page caption under a photo.
The above picture shows Attorney Kelly J. Hammond, local attorney, leading the Mississippi delegation into the convention hall at Birmingham waving a Confederate flag.This was the first Confederate flag to enter the huge hall and brought the crowd to their feet with Rebel yells and applause. Also shown in the picture with Mr. Hammond are Willie Beebe, John Horn and Rev. L.R. Horn also of Marion county. (photo courtesy of Birmingham Post)

The Birmingham News, July 17, 1948, Late sports edition, front page articles and photos. One article was about the Henry Wallace (Not George Wallace) supporters being booed. The members of the Progressive Democrats, another third-party, picked the Dixiecrats.

Reb Flags Greet Wallace Pickets

Dixiecrats Boo Third Party Group
Pickets bearing pro-Henry Wallace signs appeared briefly before the meeting hall of the Southern states’ rights convention to be greeted by a host of Confederate flags. There is a picture of one of the Henry Wallace picketers hold a sign with the slogan, “End Lynching – Win With Wallace.” The caption reads, “Wallace Picket Mocked.”
On page 2 of the same issue is an article about former Oklahoma Gov. William H. Murray, known as “Alfalfa Bill” who is here for the convention. There was a photo of two students with their “original Confederate flag” listening to Murray with the following caption. The same photo and caption was also on the front page of the Birmingham Post, July 17, 1948.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] Human Welfare segregated by Bull Connor during the Southern Conference for Human Welfare; in 1948, the Dixiecrats held their convention nominating Strom Thurmond; and, in 1956, Nat King Cole was attacked in the middle of his concert (by Ace Carter, later to […]

  2. […] it had long been embraced as the banner of white supremacy in the mainstream South — from the presidential campaign trail and governors’ offices, to state houses and law enforcement, to everyday citizens and the Ku […]

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