Sunday, February 4, 2001

Through Spokane's eyes

Old editorials look back at turbulent time

Fuse Burns in South

From the Spokane Daily Chronicle, Friday, March 26, 1965. Written by an unnamed Chronicle editorial writer.

Another unspeakable crime is on record in Alabama, in connection with the voting-rights demonstrations. The killing of Viola Gregg Liuzzo of Detroit on a lonely stretch of highway west of Montgomery is appalling almost beyond the point of discussion.

This much, though, is bound to be said: Its occurrence cannot have come as a surprise. Emotion which seethes to the point of savagery does exist in several southern states, on the crucial matter of Negro emergence to first-class citizenship. However wrong, it is there, and the whole nation knows it is there.

This is a free country -- for most citizens but not yet all -- and Mrs. Liuzzo had the right to be where she was. She was determined at personal risk to fight for a cause, as are the many others who have assembled around Selma and Montgomery from distant spots in recent days and weeks.

But the question -- even more potent today than yesterday -- concerns the wisdom of that influx. There must be a wiser way to neutralize an explosive state of unbending mind.

For the explosives remain dangerous. It could happen again, and it must not.

Alabama Slaying Showed Bitterness

From The Spokesman-Review, Saturday March 27, 1965. Written by an unidentified Spokesman-Review editorial writer.

The killing of a Detroit woman shortly after she had participated in the Selma-Montgomery march of civil rights advocates has left a stain on the state of Alabama.

The subsequent arrest of four men, reputed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, has indicated how quickly the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation went to work on this case at the request of President Johnson.

In turn, the President has issued a denunciation of the Klan in terms that are probably unprecedented for a Chief Executive.

The killing resolves nothing, and there may be others. It is a question whether the march and demonstration advanced the cause of civil rights. It is a certainty that the death of Mrs. Liuzzo will not slow the movement now under way.

Voting-Rights Bill Calleda Revolution in U.S. Law

From the Spokane Daily Chronicle, Thursday, March 25, 1965. By syndicated national columnist David Lawrence.

The American people may discover someday that, if the voting-rights bill becomes law and is upheld by the courts, it can create a precedent for the most far-reaching changes which could affect not merely voting rights but the rights of citizens in almost every other field of law. For, indeed, the voting-rights bill constitutes a revolution in American law.

What it means can best be understood by applying the new formula to any other legislation. Thus, by using the schemes of the proposed voting legislation, Congress could suddenly decide that any state may be punished if it had segregated schools going back for a period of 10 years.

In short, all states which have had practices that now are disapproved could be put on probation for 10 years in the same way that several states would be placed under such a ban by the new voting-rights legislation.

Careful examination of the proposed voting-rights bill shows that certain states are to be arbitrarily adjudged guilty of discrimination in the field of voting. Any of these states which cannot prove to the courts that there has been no discriminatory practice in registration or voting within its territory during the previous 10 years would not be able to enact through its legislature any new law on this subject.

This means that, no matter how just or fair the new state law happens to be, a federal court may bar a state from enforcing the legislation just because someone in a local office, somewhere in the state, engaged during the 10 preceding years in discriminatory acts or practices.

All this illustrates how easily constitutionalism can be brushed aside in an emotional era wherein street demonstrations and marches exert a controlling influence on Congress and bring about changes in the Constitution by a simple act of Congress without giving the people in 50 states a voice in the amending process.

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