EDITORIALS A Great And Good Man One of the saints of our times, which being translated means one of God's chosen people, was in town earlier this week. We refer to Brooks Hays, former congressman from Arkansas, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, lawyer, educator, raconteur, human. This editor first met Congressman Hays in Chattanooga in 1936 at the organizational meeting of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. The editor was fresh out of college. Mr. Hays, not yet a member of Congress, was one of the organizers of the Conference. He went on to take a role of leadership in that organization and others which soon were referred to as left-wing, communist-tainted by the right-wing Liberty Leaguers. Nevertheless, Brooks Hays was elected to Congress, and he stayed there 16 years. Nothing short of the racial integration issue of the mid-50's cut him down politically. He pleaded for reason and justice at a time - in Little Rock - when that was treason. So he lost his seat in the House. It was rewarding to see and hear him again - to learn that he has lost none of his sweetness of spirit, despite political setbacks, and that he has as much hope and faith for and in the future as he ever did. The issues in these parts in the late 30's, and until not too many years ago, principally were the voting franchise and farm tenancy. The poll tax thwarted the democratic process in every southern state for a long time. In Alabama, the tax was most oppressive. Only here was it cumulative up to 24 years, or $36, and that meant that hundreds of thousands of poor -white and black - could not vote. Additionally, we had a lilly white Democratic primary in Alabama and in several other states of the southern region. Since there was no Republican party worthy of the name in the Deep South, the white primary meant that Negroes were systematically excluded from having any part in the political process. Cotton tenancy and sharecropping were the economic devils that afflicted the region. Rural poverty remains as the scourge of the southland, but it is nothing by comparison to the situation in the 30's. Many a family of man and wife and five or six children contracted to work as tenants or sharecroppers under arrangements that yielded them not more than $400 or $500 a year. Brooks Hays was scandalized, sickened and challenged by the joint evils - denial of the right to vote and rural poverty - and he was a tremendous influence for dealing constructively with these problems. His techniques might not today stir the troops into action. Despite the fact he abhorred injustices which marked the times, he was no breast-beating, demagogic politician haranguing the mob to tear down. He did not pit race against race. Class against class. His was the reasoned approach based on concern for fellow man; the intellectual approach based on common sense economic principles. We hear and read a great deal today about the New Politics of the South. The Southern Governors Conference in Atlanta this week gave rise to a number of newspaper articles and television commentaries about the new day that is characterized by such as Govs. Carter of Georgia, Askew of Florida, Scott of North Carolina, West of South Carolina, and Bumpers of Arkansas. As we read and listened, we could not help but think that it has been men such as Brooks Hays, who hung in and fought the battles for reason and right, who have made it possible for the Carters and the Askews and all the others to come to the places they now occupy. Without the Brooks Hayses -and others like them of great good will and conviction - the South of this day might have been lost irretrievably to the demagogues and the haters. He is one of those who stands as living proof that human decency can triumph over the base. We are refreshed and encouraged anew because he was in Auburn this week.
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