Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review and a contributing editor to such publications as Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Remembering James J. Kilpatrick, a Leading Conservative Voice
James J. Kilpatrick, a prominent conservative voice for half a century as a newspaper editor and columnist, author, and television personality, died in August at the age of 89.
He was a prolific writer and a sharp debater and is perhaps best remembered for his intellectual combat with liberal journalist Shana Alexander on "60 Minutes."
He was also a highly controversial figure because of his promotion of racial segregation as editor of The Richmond News Leader in the 1950s.
Kilpatrick gave new life to the idea of interposition championed by Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina in the years before the Civil War. It was Calhoun's view that states could protect their citizens from the authority of the federal government. A number of southern states began to pass pro-segregation laws that adopted the interposition language promoted by Kilpatrick.
In their Pulitzer-Prize winning book, The Race Beat (2005), about journalism in the civil rights era, Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff wrote that:
Kilpatrick, by propagating a whole vernacular to serve the culture of massive resistance -- interposition, nullification, states' rights, state sovereignty -- provided an intellectual shield for nearly every racist action and reaction in the coming years.
Later on, Kilpatrick regretted the role he had played in defending segregation. He told a Roanoke newspaper in 1993 that he had intended merely to delay court-mandated integration because
. . . violence was right under the city waiting to break loose. Probably, looking back, I should have had better consciousness of the immorality, the absolute evil of segregation.
Virginia in the 1950s is hard for young Americans of the 21st century to imagine. At that time, this writer was a student at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. These were the years of segregation. Blacks could not eat in public places frequented by whites. Each public place had four restrooms, "Black Men," "Black Women," "White Men," "White Women." Williamsburg's small movie theater did not have a balcony, so a segregated section was created by roping off several aisles for the use of black patrons. Blacks did not only not attend the college as students, but were not welcome as speakers.
In my junior year, as an officer of a club called the Political Science Club, I and several of my fellow members decided that it was time for a change. We invited the distinguished president of Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) -- the black college down the road -- to address our group. Dr. Alonzo Moron came to Williamsburg and we managed to take him to dinner at the Williamsburg Inn (his light complexion helped). His address was academic and non-controversial. The result: our group was thrown off campus and I was called to the president's office.
At this time, I had already been writing a column in The Flat Hat, the college newspaper, each week and was recognized as something of a conservative. The president said: "I am surprised at you. I thought you were a conservative." I replied that racism was not one of the things I wanted to conserve. We had our next meeting at the Methodist Church. I told the president that our next speaker would be a defender of segregation.
That speaker was Richmond News Leader editor James J. Kilpatrick. We had dinner with him, and accompanied him to the Methodist Church. He presented a legal defense of segregation. During the question period, he was asked, "Isn't it immoral in a free society for men and women, because they are black, not be able to have dinner or go to a movie or use a rest room?" His reply was something to the effect that it was simply a legal question and nothing more.
But Jack Kilpatrick could not be so easily categorized. An energetic newsman, he became a favorite of Douglas Southall Freeman, the News Leader's long-time editor, and was named its chief editorial writer in 1949. Mr. Freeman retired and Kilpatrick was appointed the paper's editor in 1951.
One of Kilpatrick's first actions at the News Leader was to champion the case of Silas Rogers, a young black shoeshine man who had been convicted of fatally shooting a Virginia police officer in 1943. Poring over the court transcripts, Kilpatrick found inconsistencies in the testimony. He retraced the steps of the accused killer and tracked down witnesses the police had never contacted. His reporting over two years led the governor to pardon Rogers. A black newspaper in Richmond inducted Kilpatrick into its honor roll for courage and justice in 1953.
Jack Kilpatrick showed us that there are indeed second acts in American life. He ultimately acknowledged that segregation was wrong and re-examined his earlier defense of it.
"I was brought up a white boy in Oklahoma City in the 1920s and 1930s," he told Time Magazine in 1970.
I accepted segregation as a way of life. Very few of us, I suspect, would like to have our passions and profundities at age 28 thrust in our faces at 50."
In his widely syndicated national column, Kilpatrick shunned racial politics. His signature issues became self-reliance, patriotism, a free market-place and skepticism of federal power. He regularly exposed overbearing local laws and judicial rulings. This campaign got under way in 1959 when a pedestrian who climbed across the hood of a car that blocked a downtown Richmond intersection was hauled into court by the driver, an off-duty policeman, and fined $25 for malicious mischief. That inspired Kilpatrick to create the Beadle Bumble Fund, named for the Dickens character in Oliver Twist who proclaimed "the law is an ass."
The fund, Kilpatrick said, was devoted to "poking fun and spoofing the hell out of despots on the bench." It paid the fines of victims of legal travesties in the Richmond area with contributions from readers.
Kilpatrick also railed against turgid prose in his book The Writer's Art (1984). In his "On Language" column in The New York Times, William Safire wrote that Kilpatrick's essays on "the vagaries of style are classic."
After leaving the News Leader, in 1966 he embarked on a column for The Washington Star syndicate. "A Conservative View," which was carried by newspapers throughout the country. This column continued until 1993 when he began a weekly column, "Covering the Courts." In the 1970s, he sparred on television with Nicholas von Hoffman and later Shana Alexander on the "Point-Counterpoint" segment of "60 Minutes." The Kilpatrick-Alexander clashes on issues like the Vietnam War and the women's movement were parodied on "Saturday Night Live" by Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin.
Kilpatrick said that liberal critics thought of him as extremely right-wing -- "10 miles to the right of Ivan the Terrible" -- but he befriended many who were his ideological opposites. In 1998, he married Marianne Means, a liberal columnist for Hearst Newspapers. His acquaintances included the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), an anti-Vietnam War presidential candidate who was his neighbor in rural Virginia. McCarthy said he found Kilpatrick charming and well-versed on 17th and 18th century literature and philosophy. "The man is not locked into a mold. He's not just the curmudgeon you see on TV," he said in 1973, adding that Kilpatrick had "kind of a country manor style."
In today's journalistic arena, commentators are likely to identify themselves clearly as liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats, and toe what they believe to be the proper party line. They end up often defending the indefensible and stirring controversy where real issues and principles are hardly involved. They seem always angry, and the decibel level is higher than ever. That was not the style of Jack Kilpatrick. He viewed himself as a "fiercely individualistic" writer and spoke only for himself -- not any political faction. He said he was once on television to take the side of "The Conservative's View of Watergate." He asked himself, "Just what is a conservative's view of burglary?"
Jack Kilpatrick thought for himself. Sometimes he was right, and sometimes wrong. Our national discourse is weaker and less vibrant without voices such as his.
Celebrating Young Americans for Freedom at Fifty: The Real Beginning of the Modern Conservative Movement
Fifty years ago a small group of conservative students and young adults gathered at the family home of Bill and Jim Buckley in Sharon, Connecticut. When they left that weekend they had formed a new organization, called Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and agreed on a basic statement of principles they called the Sharon Statement. In many respects, this event marks the real beginning of the modern American conservative movement.
In September, that event was celebrated in Washington, D.C. as many long-time political activists, who started their involvement in YAF, gathered to commemorate that meeting in Connecticut on September 9-11, 1960.
In part the Sharon Statement, largely composed by M. Stanton Evans, then the 26-year-old editor of The Indianapolis News, declared:
We as young conservatives believe . . . the foremost among the transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force. That liberty is indivisible and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom. That the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense and the administration of justice. That when government ventures beyond these rightful functions it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty. That the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power.
An important new book has been written about the history of YAF, A Generation Awakes: Young Americans for Freedom and the Creation of the Conservative Movement (Jameson Books). Its author, Wayne Thorburn, joined YAF in 1961 and over the next 14 years held nearly every position in the organization, including serving as executive director from 1971-73. Formerly a faculty member at three universities, Thorburn held appointments in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administration.
Since that meeting in Connecticut in 1960, writes Thorburn:
Literally thousands of young conservatives have passed through YAF and developed into leaders of the conservative and libertarian movement. . . . They were the initial force for the Goldwater campaign and the opposition to New Left violence on American campuses. They provided an intellectual challenge to the liberalism that has dominated American intellectual life. They were the grassroots force and the strategic leadership for the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and constituted a major part of the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s. Today they lead the major organizations of the 21st century Conservative movement."
While much has been written on the various liberal trends and groups that emerged in the 1960s, the history of YAF and its contributions to contemporary American society have not received the attention they deserve. Out of this organization came a Vice President of the United States, 27 members of Congress, 8 U.S. Circuit Court judges, numerous media personalities and journalists, college presidents, professors, and authors.
Lee Edwards, an early YAF leader, editor of the group's magazine The New Guard (this writer also edited The New Guard in the late 1960s) and a respected author, maintains that Senator Barry Goldwater, Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, Jr. were the three critical pillars of the developing movement:
First came the man of ideas, the intellectual, the philosopher; then the man of interpretation, the journalist, the popularizer; and finally the man of action, the politician, the presidential candidate.
With the contributions of these men and others, the stage was set for the creation of a national political movement.
Historian Matthew Dalek notes that:
Anti-statism, economic laissez-faire, and militant anti-Communism -- three of the ideological pillars that would support a resurgence of conservatism in American life -- had been articulated by YAF on September 11, 1960.
John A. Andrew in The Other Side of the Sixties, writes:
Historians of the sixties have focused chiefly on the Left as an advocate for change, but in the early sixties, the Right was actually more active in challenging the status quo.
YAF was coming into being as a national conservative youth organization at a time when there was no "conservative movement" as it is known today. Two early conservative student leaders were David Franke, who attended George Washington University, and Doug Caddy, who was at Georgetown. As Franke was about to move to New York City to start work at National Review in the summer of 1960, Caddy organized a tribute dinner in his honor. The speakers at the event were Bill Buckley and Bill Rusher, from the magazine, Reed Larson of the National Right to Work Committee, and James J. Wick, publisher of Human Events, while telegrams were read from Senator Goldwater and Governor Charles Edison of New Jersey. As Caddy noted:
About 25 persons were present. In 1960, this was the size of the Conservative movement's leadership -- 25 persons could easily fit into a small hotel dining room.
Those who joined YAF were dedicated to bringing about change in society. Their enemy was what they perceived as the Establishment -- and it was a liberal establishment that they saw in power on campus and in the Nation's Capital. Historian Matthew Dallek noted that:
YAF was the first national youth movement to shatter the silent conformity that had reigned on campuses since World War II . . . before anyone ever heard of the counter-culture.
When YAF came into existence, partisan politics were quite different than they have become at the present time. YAF identified itself as a "conservative" organization, not a "Republican" one, "emphasizing the non-partisan conservatism of the organization," Thorburn points out:
. . . the featured speaker at an early meeting of the Greater New York Council was Connecticut Democratic Senator Thomas Dodd, an ardent anti-Communist opponent of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. . . . The composition of congressional letter writers to The New Guard was a vivid commentary on mid-20th century American politics as letters of praise and congratulations came from several Democrats, including Sen. Frank Lusche of Ohio, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Spessard Holland of Florida along with a number of Republican elected officials . . . . Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was a featured speaker at the 1971 YAF National Convention.
YAF worked eagrly for the nomination of Senator Barry Goldwater, helped to start the Conservative Party of New York in 1961, worked in the New York City mayoralty campaign of William F. Buckley, Jr., launched campaigns against East-West trade, engaged the New Left in vigorous debate over the war in Vietnam, and constituted the foot soldiers in Ronald Reagan's campaigns for the presidency.
From the very beginning, YAF rejected all forms of racial, religious, and ethnic discrimination. At the YAF National Convention of 1963, held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the Galt Ocean Mile Hotel initially refused to allow Don Parker, a leader in the Kings County (Brooklyn) YAF who was black, to register. The Brooklyn delegation and then Bob Schuchman, the former National YAF Chairman, threatened to walk out and cancel the event, the hotel withdrew its objection and Don Parker integrated the hotel.
At the YAF 1965 national convention of 1965, J. A. Parker, who was to become a leader of black conservatives and President of the Lincoln Institute of Research and Education, was named to the National Board of Directors. He eventually became president of both the Philadelphia YAF chapter and Chairman of Pennsylvania YAF. He recalls his commitment to the Goldwater campaign, asking:
Did you know he was a lifetime member of the NAACP? . . . When he was a member of the City Council, he was the guy who led the effort to desegregate downtown Phoenix. When he took over his family's department store, Goldwater's, he was the first to hire black junior executives and start a training program for them. All this had nothing to do with the law.
Within YAF, of course, there many disagreements and divisions, often pitting conservative traditionalists against libertarians. One successful crusade YAF entered into, with libertarians in the lead, was opposition to the military draft. David Franke, a YAF founder and editor of The New Guard, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. After reading the YAF Board's resolution, Franke outlined the reasons for a voluntary military, a system that would remove the elements of compulsion as well as the inequities of the selection process then in effect, provide the military and individuals properly motivated and trained to serve, and force changes in military pay and procedures. This testimony was printed in the May 1967 issue of The New Guard, an issue almost totally devoted to the case for a volunteer military. Included were supportive quotes from a number of political leaders, academics, business and military leaders, as well as feature articles by Barry Goldwater ("End the Draft"), Russell Kirk ("Our Archaic Draft"), and Milton Friedman ("The Case for a Voluntary Army"). An opening editorial proclaimed:
With this issue begins a long-range educational and action program by YAF promoting voluntarism not only in the military, but in other areas of society as well.
Principle was YAF's motivation, not partisan political gain. In recent years, many of those who call themselves "conservative" seem to have other motivations. After all, the growth of government power, of deficits, and of governmental involvement in almost all aspects of society have come about as a result of actions taken by Republicans, as well as Democrats.
Summing up YAF's legacy, Wayne Thorburn writes:
During the latter half of the 20th century, YAF was a major contributor to the development of a conservative movement in the U.S. The efforts of those who met in Sharon, Connecticut, resulted in the creation of grassroots cadres of dedicated supporters on campuses and in communities around the nation.
Among those speaking at the anniversary celebration in Washington were many old YAF leaders: former Rep. Robert Bauman (R-MD), Don Devine, former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, former Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr. (R-CA), and Richard Viguerie, who transformed American politics in the 1960s and 1970s by pioneering the use of direct mail fundraising. J. A. Parker recited the pledge of allegiance and former Senator James L. Buckley (C-NY), addressed the group. It was an historic occasion. Fortunately for the country, YAF's influence continues into the 21st century. *
"Measures which serve to abridge . . . free competition . . . have a tendency to occasion an enhancement of prices." --Alexander Hamilton