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Francis Walter

Francis Walter

Francis Walter was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, on 26th May, 1894. After graduating from George Washington University he served during the First World War in the United States Air Service.

Returning to the United States in 1919, Walter was admitted to the bar and became a lawyer in Easton. He had numerous business interests in the town being a director of both the Broad Street Trust and the Easton National Bank. A member of the Democratic Party, Walter was elected to Congress in 1933.

In June, 1952, Walter and Pat McCarran instigated the passing of the McCarran-Walter Act that imposed more rigid restrictions on entry quotas to the United States. It also stiffened the existing law relating to the admission, exclusion and deportation of dangerous aliens as defined in the Internal Security Act.

Walter, who took an increasing interest in the activities of the Communist Party, was appointed chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1955. A post he was to hold until his death on 31st May, 1963.


Walter Francis White
Walter Francis White
Walter Francis White.jpg
Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
In office
Preceded by James Weldon Johnson
Succeeded by Roy Wilkins
Personal details
Born July 1, 1893
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Died March 21, 1955 (aged 61)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Parents George W. White
Madeline Harrison
Alma mater Atlanta University
Known for Civil rights activist
Walter Francis White (July 1, 1893 – March 21, 1955) was an African-American civil rights activist who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for almost a quarter of a century, 1931-1955, after starting with the organization as an investigator in 1918. He directed a broad program of legal challenges to racial segregation and disfranchisement. He was also a journalist, novelist, and essayist. He graduated in 1916 from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), a historically black college.

In 1918 White joined the small national staff of the NAACP in New York at the invitation of James Weldon Johnson. He acted as Johnson's assistant national secretary and traveled to the South to investigate lynchings and riots. Of multiracial, majority-white ancestry, at times he "passed" as white to facilitate his investigations and protect himself in tense situations. White succeeded Johnson as the head of the NAACP, leading the organization from 1931 to 1955.

White oversaw the plans and organizational structure of the fight against public segregation. He worked with President Truman on desegregating the armed forces after the Second World War and gave him a draft for the Executive Order to implement this. Under White's leadership, the NAACP set up its Legal Defense Fund, which conducted numerous legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement, and achieved many successes. Among these was the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which determined that segregated education was inherently unequal. White also quintupled NAACP membership to nearly 500,000.[1]

1 Early life and education
2 Career
3 Marriage and family
4.1 Investigating riots and lynchings
4.2 Scottsboro Trial
4.3 Anti-lynching legislation
5 Attacks on Paul Robeson
6 Literary career
7 Awards and honors

Early life and education
Walter Francis White was the fourth of seven children born in Atlanta to George W. White (b. 1857) and Madeline (Harrison) White (b. 1863). Among the new middle class of blacks (see The Talented Tenth), George and Madeline, both born into slavery, ensured that Walter and each of their children got an education. By the time Walter was born, George had attended Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University, still known as one of the South's historically black colleges) and become a postal worker, an admired position in the federal government.[2] Madeline graduated from the same institution and became a teacher. (She had been briefly married in 1879 to Marshall King, who died the same year.[3]) White received a good education growing up. "He attended the Atlanta public schools, finished the Atlanta University high school in 1912, and the college there in the class of 1916. This period of study enabled White to spend eight years in the old Atlanta's unusual atmosphere at its zenith. There he imbibed the rarest traditions of Yankee idealism and instruction which had been enriched by a decade of W. E. B. Du Bois's unprecedented researches on the Negro and rigorous teaching. Undoubtedly White's life work reflected on the "Old Atlanta University's pioneer and still unequaled contributions in Southern colored institutions of higher learning."[4] The White family belonged to the influential First Congregational Church, founded after the Civil War by freedmen and the American Missionary Association, based in the North. Of all the black denominations in Georgia, the Congregationalists were among the most socially, politically and financially powerful.[2] Membership in First Congregational was the ultimate status symbol in Atlanta.[2]

Of mixed race with African and European ancestry on both sides, White had features showing the latter. He emphasized in his autobiography, A Man Called White (p. 3): "I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me." Of his 32 great-great-great-grandparents, five were black and the other 27 were white. All members of his immediate family had fair skin, and his mother Madeline was also blue-eyed and blonde.[5] The oral history of his mother's family is that her maternal grandparents were Dilsia, a slave and concubine, and her master William Henry Harrison. He had six children with Dilsia. Much later he was elected as president of the United States. Madeline's mother Marie Harrison was one of Dilsia's daughters by Harrison. Held as a slave in La Grange, Georgia, where she had been sold, Marie became a concubine to Augustus Ware. This wealthy white man bought her a house, had four children with her, and passed on some wealth to them.[3] White and his family identified as Negro and lived among Atlanta's Negro community.

George and Madeline took a kind but firm approach in rearing their children, encouraging hard work and regular schedules.[6] In his autobiography, White relates that his parents ran a strict schedule on Sundays they locked him in his room for silent prayer, a time so boring that he all but begged to do homework. His father forbade Walter from reading any books less than 25 years old, so he chose to read Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope by the time he was 12.[7] When he was 8, he threw a rock at a white child who called him a derogatory name for drinking from the fountain reserved for blacks.[7] Events such as this shaped White's self-identity. He began to develop skills to pass for white, a device he used later to preserve his safety as a civil rights investigator for the NAACP in the South.[7]

White was educated at Atlanta University, a historically black college. WEB Du Bois had already moved to the North before White enrolled, but Du Bois knew White's parents well.[8] Du Bois had taught two of White's older brothers at Atlanta University.[8] Du Bois and Walter White later disagreed about how best to gain civil rights for blacks, but they shared a vision for the country. (See Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems.)

After graduating in 1916, White took a position with the Standard Life Insurance Company, one of the new and most successful businesses started by blacks in Atlanta.

He also worked to organize a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which had been founded in 1909. He and other leaders were successful in getting the Atlanta School Board to support improving education for black children, who were taught in segregated schools, which were traditionally underfunded by the white-dominated legislature. (Blacks had been effectively disfranchised at the turn of the century by Georgia's passage of a new constitution making voter registration more difficult, as did all the other former Confederate states.)

At the invitation of activist and writer James Weldon Johnson, 25-year-old White moved to New York City. In 1918, he started working at the national headquarters of the NAACP. White began as secretary assistant of the NAACP Du Bois and other leaders got over their concerns about his youth. White became an undercover agent in investigating lynchings in the South, which were at a peak. With his keen investigative skills and light complexion, White proved to be the NAACP's secret weapon against white mob violence.[9]

White passed as white as a NAACP investigator, finding both more safety in hostile environments and gaining freer communication with whites in cases of violations of civil and human rights. He sometimes became involved in Klan groups in the South to expose those involved in lynchings and other murders. In the Little Rock, Arkansas, area he escaped on a train, having been harbored by several prominent black families because of threats that a black man "passing for white" was being hunted down to be lynched. The NAACP publicized information about these crimes, but virtually none was ever prosecuted by local or state southern governments.

To become a popular leader, White had to compete with the appeal of Marcus Garvey he learned to display a skillful verbal dexterity. Roy Wilkins, his successor at the NAACP, said, "White was one of the best talkers I've ever heard."[10]

Throughout his career, Walter White spoke out against segregation and discrimination but also black nationalism. Most notably, White and Du Bois's 1934 conflict was over the latter's endorsement of blacks' voluntary separation within US society.[11]

Marriage and family
White married Gladys Powell in 1922. They had two children, Jane White, who became an actress on Broadway and television and Walter Carl Darrow White, who lived in Germany for much of his adult life. The Whites' 27-year marriage ended in divorce in 1949.[12]

Because White was a public figure of a noted African-American rights organization, he generated great public controversy shortly after his divorce by marrying Poppy Cannon, a divorced white South African woman, who was a magazine editor with connections in the emerging television industry. Many of his black colleagues and acquaintances were offended. Some claimed the leader had always wanted to be white others said he had always been white.[13]

Gladys and their children broke off with White and his second wife. White's sister said that he had wanted all along simply to pass as a white person.[13] His son changed his name from Walter White Jr. to Carl Darrow, signifying his disgust and desire to separate himself from his father.[13]

Investigating riots and lynchings
White used his appearance to increase his effectiveness in conducting investigations of lynchings and race riots in the American South. He could "pass" and talk to whites as one of them, but he could talk to blacks as one of them and identified with them. Such work was dangerous: "Through 1927 White would investigate 41 lynchings, 8 race riots, and two cases of widespread peonage, risking his life repeatedly in the backwaters of Florida, the piney woods of Georgia, and in the cotton fields of Arkansas."[14] (Peonage was a new form of unpaid labor.)

In his autobiography, A Man Called White, he dedicates an entire chapter to a time when he almost joined the Ku Klux Klan undercover. White became a master of incognito investigating. He started with a letter from a friend who recruited new members of the KKK.[15] After correspondence between him and Edward Young Clark, leader of the KKK, Clark tried to interest White in joining.[15] Invited to Atlanta to meet with other Klan leaders, White declined, fearing that he would be at risk of his life if his true identity were discovered.[15] White used the access to Klan leaders to further his investigation into the "sinister and illegal conspiracy against human and civil rights which the Klan was concocting."[15] After deeper inquiries into White's life, Clark stopped sending signed letters. White was threatened by anonymous letters that stated his life would be in danger if he ever divulged any of the confidential information he had received.[16] By then, White had already turned the information over to the US Department of Justice and New York Police Department.[16] He believed that undermining the hold of mob violence would be crucial to his cause.

White first investigated the October 1919 riot in Elaine, Arkansas, where white vigilantes and Federal troops in Phillips County killed more than 200 black sharecroppers. The case had both labor and racial aspects. Black sharecroppers were meeting on issues related to organizing with an agrarian union, which whites were attempting to suppress. They had established guards because of the threat, and a white man was killed. The white militias had come to the town and hunted down blacks in retaliation for that death and to suppress the labor movement.

Granted press credentials from the Chicago Daily News, White gained an interview with Arkansas Governor Charles Hillman Brough, who would not have met with him as the NAACP representative. Brough gave White a letter of recommendation to help him meet people and his autographed photograph.

Learning that his identity was discovered, White was in Phillips County briefly before taking the first train back to Little Rock. The conductor told him that he was leaving "just when the fun is going to start" because they had found out that there was a "damned yellow nigger down here passing for white and the boys are going to get him."[17] Asked what they would do to him, the conductor told White, "When they get through with him he won't pass for white no more!"[17] "High yellow" was a term used at the time to refer to blacks of mixed-racial descent and visible European features.

White published his findings about the riot and trial in the Daily News, the Chicago Defender, and The Nation, as well as the NAACP's own magazine, The Crisis. Governor Brough asked the United States Postal Service to prohibit mailings of the Chicago Defender and The Crisis to Arkansas, and others tried to get an injunction against distribution of the Defender at the local level.

The NAACP provided legal defense of the black men convicted by the state for the riot and carried the case to the US Supreme Court. Its ruling overturned the Elaine convictions and established important precedent about the conduct of trials. The Supreme Court found that the original trial was held under conditions that adversely affected the defendants' rights. Some of the courtroom audience were armed, as was a mob outside, so there was intimidation of the court and jury. The 79 black defendants had been quickly tried and convicted by an all-white jury: 12 were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death 67 were condemned to sentences from 20 years to life. No white man was prosecuted for any of the many black deaths.[18]

Scottsboro Trial
White's first major struggle as leader of the NAACP centered on the Scottsboro Trial in 1931. It was also a case that tested the competition between the NAACP and the American Communist Party to represent the black community. The NAACP and Walter White wanted to increase their following in the black community. Weeks after White started in his new position at the NAACP, nine black teenagers looking for work were arrested after a fight with a group of white teens as the train both groups were riding on passed through Scottsboro, Alabama.[19] Two white girls accused the nine black teenagers of rape.

Locked in a cell awaiting trial, the "Scottsboro boys looked to be prime lynching material: dirt poor, illiterate, and of highly questionable moral character even for teenagers."[19] The Communist Party and the NAACP both hoped to prove themselves as the party to represent the black community. Scottsboro was an important battle ground for the two groups.[20] The Communists had to destroy black citizens' faith in the NAACP in order to take control of leadership, and they believed that a Scottsboro victory was a way to solidify this superior role over the NAACP.[20] Their case against the NAACP was easier, as White and other leaders were second in approaching the case after the International Labor Defense.[21] Ultimately, the differing approaches to the case demonstrated the conflicting ideals between the two organizations. To White, "Communism meant that blacks have two strikes against them: blacks were aliens in white society where skin color was more important than initiative or intelligence, and blacks would also be Reds which meant a double dose of hatred from white Americans."[22] White believed the NAACP had to keep distance and independence from the Communist Party for this reason. Ultimately, the Communist leaders failed to consolidate their position with blacks.

White said, "The shortsightedness of the Communist leaders in the United States (led to their eventual failure) Had they been more intelligent, honest, and truthful there is no way of estimating how deeply they might have penetrated into Negro life and consciousness."[23] White meant the Communist's philosophy of branding anyone opposed to their platform was their failure. He believed the NAACP had the best defense counsel in the country, but the Scottsboro boys' families chose to go with the ILD partly because they were first on the scene.[23]

White believed in capitalistic America and used communist propaganda as leverage to promote his own cause in securing civil liberties. He advised white America to reconsider its position of unfair treatment because they might find the black population choosing radical alternative methods of protest.[24] Ultimately, White and other NAACP leaders decided to continue involvement with the Scottsboro boys since it was only one of many efforts they had.[25]

In his autobiography, White gave a critical summary of the injustice in Scottsboro:

"In the intervening years it had become increasingly clear that the tragedy of a Scottsboro lies, not in the bitterly cruel injustice which it works upon its immediate victims, but also, and perhaps even more, in the cynical use of human misery by Communists in propagandizing Communism, and in the complacency with which a democratic government views the basic evils from which such a case arises. A majority of Americans still ignore, the plain implications in similar tragedies." [26]

Anti-lynching legislation
White was a strong proponent and supporter of federal anti-lynching bills, which were unable to surmount the opposition by the Southern Democrats in the Senate. One of White’s many surveys showed that 46 of 50 lynchings during the first six months of 1919 were black victims, 10 of whom were burned at the stake.[27] After the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, White, like Ida Tarbell, concluded the causes of such violence were not rape of a white woman by a black man, as was often rumored, but rather the result of "prejudice and economic competition."[28]

That was also the conclusion of a Chicago city commission, which investigated the 1919 rioting it noted specifically that ethnic Irish in South Chicago had led the anti-black attacks. The Irish were considered highly political and strongly territorial against other groups, including more recent white immigrants from eastern Europe.

In the late 1910s, newspapers reported a decreasing number of southern lynchings but postwar violence in Northern and Midwestern cities increased under the competition for work and housing by returning veterans, immigrants and black migrants. In the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of blacks were leaving the South for jobs in the North. The Pennsylvania Railroad recruited tens of thousands of workers from Florida alone.

Rural violence also continued. White investigated violence in 1918 in Lowndes and Brooks counties, Georgia. The worst case was when "a pregnant black woman [was] tied to a tree and burned alive after which (the mob) split her open, and her child, still alive, was thrown to the ground and stomped by some of the members."[29]

White lobbied for federal anti-lynching bills during his time as leader of the NAACP. In 1922, the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill was passed overwhelmingly by the House, the " first piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives since Reconstruction that specifically protected blacks from lynchings."[30] Congress never passed the Dyer bill, as the Senate was controlled by Southerners who opposed it.

Blacks were then largely disfranchised in southern states, which were politically controlled by white Democrats. At the turn of the 20th century, the state legislatures had passed discriminatory laws and constitutions that effectively created barriers to voter registration and closed blacks out of the political process. White sponsored other civil rights legislation, which was also defeated by the Southern block: the Castigan-Wagner bill of 1935, the Gavagan bill of 1937, and the VanNuys bill of 1940. Southerners had to mount a major political and financial effort to take the Castigan-Wagner bill out of consideration and to defeat the Gavagan bill.[30]

White had become a powerful figure: segregationist senator James F Byrnes of South Carolina said in session about the Dyer bill, "One Negro has ordered this bill to pass. If Walter White should consent to have this bill laid aside its advocates would desert it as quickly as football players unscramble when the whistle of the referee is heard."[30] White's word was the only thing that kept the bill before Congress. Although the bill did not pass the Senate, White and the NAACP secured widespread public support for the cause. By 1938, a Gallup poll found that 72% of Americans and 57% of Southerners favored an anti-lynching bill.[31] White also contributed to creating alliances among civil rights activists, many of whom went on to lead in the movement from the 1950s.[31]

Attacks on Paul Robeson
During the McCarthy era, White did not openly criticize McCarthy’s campaign in Congress against communists, which was wide-ranging. American fears of communism were heightened, and the FBI had been trying to classify civil rights activists as communists. White feared a backlash that might cost the NAACP its tax-exempt status and end up with people equating civil rights with communism.[32]

White criticized singer/activist Paul Robeson, who was accused of pro-Soviet leanings. Together with Roy Wilkins, the editor of The Crisis, he arranged for distribution of Paul Robeson: Lost Shepherd, a leaflet against Robeson, which was written under a pseudonym.[33]

Literary career
Through his cultural interests and his close friendships with white literary power brokers Carl Van Vechten and Alfred A. Knopf, White was one of the founders of the "New Negro" cultural flowering. Popularly known as the Harlem Renaissance, the period was one of intense literary and artistic production. Harlem became the center of black American intellectual and artistic life. It attracted creative people from across the nation, as did New York City in general.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston accused Walter White of stealing her designed costumes from her play The Great Day. White never returned the costumes to Hurston, who repeatedly asked for them by mail.[34]

White was the author of critically acclaimed novels: Fire in the Flint (1924) and Flight (1926). His non-fiction book Rope and Faggot: A Biography of Judge Lynch (1929) was a study of lynching. Additional books were A Rising Wind (1945), his autobiography A Man Called White (1948), and How Far the Promised Land (1955). Unfinished at his death was Blackjack, a novel on Harlem life and the career of an African-American boxer.
1927 – White received the Harmon Award (William E. Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement among Negroes) for his book Rope and Faggot: An Interview with Judge Lynch, a study of lynching.
1937 – Awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP, for outstanding achievement by an African American.
2002 – Molefi Kete Asante listed Walter Francis White on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[35]
2009 – White was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.[36]

Family and early years

Francis Walter Allan was born in 1832, the son of John Allan and his wife Ellen. His father was a writer (a lawyer).

The 1841 census return has John and Ellen with 7 children living at West Bay, Greenock, with the family of James McNair, his wife, 4 children and 8 other persons – a household of 23 persons in total.

By 1851 Ellen is widowed and living with her, by then, 9 children and 2 servants in Barony in Glasgow. Her second son, 19 year-old Francis, is listed as a Clerk to a Calico Printer.

He disappears from the records for a while which suggests that he may have been overseas, possibly in India. At some point he sets up his own company F. W. Allan and Co, Merchants and Shipping Agents.

In 1874 he married Catherine Hamilton Smith, daughter of the Right Revd Dr James Smith of Cathcart. At the time of his marriage he was 42 and his wife was 38.

Timon, Walter Francis (1876&ndash1952)

Walter Timon, lawyer, judge, and legislator, was born on October 4, 1876, at Rock Ranch in San Patricio County to John and Ellen (Keating) Timon. His father, a rancher, sent Timon to private schools in Corpus Christi and San Antonio. He later attended National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio, where he earned a degree in business administration. After completing his undergraduate studies, he went on to earn a degree in law from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. Admitted to the Texas bar in 1901, Timon almost immediately began to run for political offices. He served as county attorney for San Patricio and in 1903 represented the region in the Twenty-eighth Texas Legislature. He returned to the Texas House of State Representatives in 1905 as well. Following his terms in the legislature, Timon ran for and won the position of county judge of Nueces County. Under his administration Nueces County built a new courthouse in Corpus Christi in 1914. He served as county judge until 1917, when Governor James E. Ferguson appointed him to the Twenty-eighth District Criminal Court. Timon's career in politics was sometimes plagued by controversy. In May of 1915 a Federal Grand Jury indicted him and numerous other county officials for voter manipulation in the previous general election. When the case came to trial in September, prosecution witnesses testified that Timon had suggested that the use of bribes was the only way to insure victory. Although the jury convicted five and acquitted sixteen of the defendants, they could not agree on Timon's part in the affair. The government attempted to revive the case in 1917 but ultimately dropped the charges against Timon. Personal troubles also haunted Timon in 1917. He was named executor of his late mother's estate in 1916, and his sisters, led by Cecilia Leahy, brought suit to contest her will. After an initial mistrial, the case eventually ended in Timon's favor. Despite the court ruling, harsh feelings remained among the siblings to the extent that Mrs. Leahy's son, Harry J. Leahy, stalked Timon. On October 15 while in Brownsville on business, Timon shot his nephew in a hotel lobby. Leahy avoided serious injury when the bullet was deflected by a gold watch in his pocket. Although Leahy was not in possession of a gun at the time, Timon claimed he shot in self-defense. Leahy was arrested and held based on his uncle's charges. As president of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce following the 1919 hurricane that devastated both commercial and residential districts, Timon spearheaded the campaign to build the Corpus Christi seawall and breakwaters. At his suggestion, city planners laid an extra-wide city boulevard along the seawall. The street was named in his honor. Timon also served on the Nueces County Navigation Commission from 1923 to 1925. He married Bessie Baker of Lebanon, Ohio, on April 12, 1899. The couple had two sons, both of whom died in childhood. Timon died on August 2, 1952, in Corpus Christi.

A New Middle Class

White was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 1, 1893, one of seven children. His father, George W. White, a postal worker, graduated from Atlanta University and his mother, Madeline, a teacher, graduated from Clark University. While both parents had been born into the Maafa (Atlantic slavery), the family was part of a new black middle class in the south, and White was able to attend Atlanta Preparatory School and Atlanta University. After graduation in 1916 he became an insurance salesman with a job at the Standard Life Insurance Company, one of the largest and most successful African American businesses of the era. Intent on a business career, he also started a financial and real estate investment company.

During this period, White took an interest in civil rights. He became active in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a few years after its organization. James Weldon Johnson, then executive secretary of the NAACP, impressed by the young man, hired him in 1918 as assistant secretary and brought him to New York.

Taking advantage of his physical appearance, from 1918 until 1929, White personally investigated forty-one lynchings and eight race riots.

Investigating the notorious race riots in Elaine, Ark., in 1919, in which three whites and 200 Negroes were killed, he posed as a reporter for The Chicago Daily News. He interviewed some of the seventy-nine Negro men imprisoned, some lynchers, and even the Governor of the state, before escaping on a train one jump ahead of a mob that had discovered his identity.

White published his findings in a number of leading journals, including the Nation, the New Republic, the Chicago Defender, and the New York Herald-Tribune, in addition to the NAACP magazine The Crisis. Among the more notorious events he investigated were the 1918 lynching of Mary Turner in Valdosta, Georgia, nine months pregnant at the time of her murder.

Profile: Francis Walter

The McCarran-Walter Act repeals the racial restrictions of the 1790 Naturalization Law and grants first-generation Japanese-Americans the right to become citizens. Senator Pat McCarran (D-NV) is one of the strongest anti-Communist voices in the US Congress, and led investigations of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Along with Representative Francis Walter (D-PA), another outspoken anti-Communist, McCarran introduced the legislation bearing their names. Aside from granting Japanese-Americans citizenship, the law stiffens restrictions on “entry quotas” for immigrants into the US, and broadens the federal government’s power to admit, exclude, and deport “dangerous aliens” as defined by the Internal Security Act of 1950, another signature McCarran legislative success. [John Simkin, 2008 American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]

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Francis Walter - History

Big River Dams

Big River is the site of the earliest logging camps and dams in Mendocino County. The first saw mill was built on a promontory near the mouth of Big River, called, today, the Mendocino Headlands. As one might expect, the early lumbermen initially cut the trees that were most accessible to the saw mill. In the virgin forest, towering old growth was everywhere—in plain sight. Bull teams pulled the logs up an incline to the sawmill later iron tracks and rail cars did that job.

As logging progressed to areas more and more remote, the mill became dependent upon Big River for transportation, since, as yet, there were no railroads in the Mendocino forests. In seasons when there was sufficient water, harvested logs could be floated downstream to enclosures at the mouth of the river, called booms sometimes logs broke loose from the enclosure and floated out to sea. Eventually dams were constructed to artificially raise water levels in drier seasons. Water was collected behind the gates of a splash dam. When a gate was tripped, a flash flood would move the logs downstream. Dams could be synchronized to trip their gates at just the right moment in order to maximize the flow of water downstream. Occasionally, there were log jams, in some cases lasting 2 or 3 years. The only solution was to blast the jam and in the process blast boulders, fish, vegetation, and anything else in the river channel. The first dam on Big River, Little Northfork, was 11 miles from the saw mill the furthest dam, 48 miles. (Jackson, 2).The Mendocino Mill Company (1855-1872) and its successor the Mendocino Lumber Company (1873-1905) used "river drives" more extensively than any other timber operation on the North Coast (Graham Matthews 3).

In his book, Big River Was Dammed, W. Francis Jackson documents at least 27 dams on Big River. Jackson recalls how he walked the river banks and reminisced about his many relatives who had worked on Big River and filled a young boy's head with stories of logging camps, bull teams, and log rafts. The largest of the dams that Jackson documents used over 1 million feet of timber in its construction (Jackson, p.2). The dams, which were major threats to aquatic wildlife, are gone. The last log drive and operation of the dams was in 1937 the result was a log jam (Jackson 104). Some dams fell into ruin over time, although there is lingering evidence of their presence. The California Department of Fish and Game called for the destruction of others in order to allow for the migration of fish.

Many of the locations of the historic Big River dam and logging camps are on MRC land . The logging dams and their approximate construction dates are listed below locations in red are either on MRC land or very close to our property boundary (Jackson, 4):

1. Little Northfork (1860)
2. Chamberlain Creek (1860/1870)
3 .James Creek (1860/1870)
4. Milliken (1860/1870)
5. Lower East Branch (1860/1870)
6. Lower Two Log Creek (1860/1870)
7. Upper Two Log Creek (1870/1880)
8. Upper East Branch (1870/1880)
9. 36-Mile (1880s)

10. Martin Creek (1883)
11. Dougherty Creek (1885)
12. Lower Gates Creek (1886)
13. Handley Halfway (1887)
14 Upper Ramon Creek (1888/1890)
15. Northfolk of Ramon Creek (1888/1890)
16. Upper Gates Creek (1892)
17. Soda Creek (1892)
18. Horsethief Creek (1893)

19. Johnston Creek (1900)
20. Russell Brook (1907)
21. Lower Ramon Creek (1909)
22. Hellsgate (1913)
23. Johnston (1914)
24. Mettick Creek (1915)
25. Anderson Gulch (1917)
26. Valentine Creek (1919)
27. Big Northfolk (1924)

Jackson provides numerous photographs in his book on the Big River dams. Below, however, is a rather unusual photo showing the wheel and cable to open the dam gate.

Photo Credits

Transporting logs on Big River. Robert J. Lee Collection.
Dam gate, Kelly House (Mendocino) Collection.

Secondary Source

Jackson, W. Francis. Big River Was Dammed. Mendocino, CA: FMMC Books, 1991.

White, Walter F.

Introduction: Walter Francis White was a leading civil rights advocate of the first half of the twentieth century. As executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1931 to 1955, he was one of the major architects of the modern African American freedom struggle. White, whose blond hair and blue eyes belied his African American ancestry, was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 1, 1893, the fourth of seven children. His parents, George W. White, a graduate of Atlanta University and a postal worker, and Madeline Harrison White, a Clark University graduate and school teacher, were solidly middle class at the time when the vast majority of Atlanta blacks were working class. Walter White graduated from Atlanta University in 1916 and one year later helped establish the Atlanta branch of the NAACP after briefly working as an insurance agent.

In 1918, at the invitation of James Weldon Johnson, the NAACP’s executive director, White moved to New York City, NY, and became the assistant secretary for the national organization. White’s first major racial justice campaign effort in the national NAACP office came when he persuaded the Association to oppose the Atlanta Board of Education’s decision to eliminate seventh grade for African American students as part of an effort to finance a new high school for white students. Between 1918 and 1931, White built a national reputation both within and beyond NAACP circles. He authored a number of books, including Rope and Faggot: A Biography of Judge Lynch (1929), which became a major expose of lynching in the U.S.

At great personal risk, White used his fair skin, blue eyes, and other “white” features, to successfully infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations. His clandestine surveys of these groups and their activities gave the NAACP first-hand knowledge of at least 40 murders of black people. By 1931 White had become executive secretary, the highest position in the association. During his tenure, the NAACP led the fight for anti-lynching legislation, and initiated trailblazing legal battles to eliminate all-white primaries, poll taxes and de jure segregation. Working with labor leader A. Philip Randolph, White in 1941 helped persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 which prohibited racial discrimination in defense industries and established the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), the first Federal agency to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination measures.

Francis E. Walter (PJW)

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Portrait of Francis E. Walter

53rd United States Secretary of State
May 27, 1959 – January 20, 1961

Representative from Pennsylvania
March 4, 1933 – May 27, 1959

Francis E. Walter (May 26, 1984 - May 31, 1963) served as United States Secretary of State under President John Wayne from 1959 to 1961. Originally a Democrat member of the House of Representatives, he switched party lines to Republican following Senator Estes Kefauver's campaign for civil rights in the 1956 presidential election. Walter was a staunch anti-communist and chairman for the House Un-American Activities Committee. His work there caught the attention of Wayne, who nominated him for Secretary of State after the death of John Foster Dulles. During his brief role as Secretary of State, Walter's doctrine was to prevent the spread of communism abroad by first cleansing it from the United States. Actively working with Attorney General James D. Johnson, the Civil Protection Unit were established, a domestic police force that would keep the peace. The CPU was notorious for its brutal methods and discrimination. Walter's tough stance on immigration would be utilized during the subsequent presidency of Harry F. Byrd.

After the 1960 election, Walter would retire from active politics and died in 1963.

Leake, Walter Francis

Walter Francis Leake, lawyer, politician, and textile manufacturer, was born in Richmond County, the son of Walter and Judith Leake. Growing up in the county, he attended local schools and was enrolled at The University of North Carolina in 1815–16 he was a trustee of the university from 1846 to 1868, and in 1847, when President James K. Polk was on campus, Leake participated in the oral examination of some of the students prior to their graduation. Returning home in 1816, he studied law and farmed. He was a delegate to the reform convention that met in Raleigh in November 1823 to discuss the needs of western North Carolina for constitutional reform. In 1831–32 he was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons, and in 1832–33 he served in the senate.

In 1840, as chairman of his Democratic district convention, Leake was directed to write President Martin Van Buren to determine his attitude as a presidential candidate towards slavery. Leake pointed out that "Southern Democrats . . . will not support any man for the Presidency, who does not give the South Satisfactory assurances, that he is opposed to the bold and mischievous movements of the Abolitionists." In 1844 he attended the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore that nominated his fellow North Carolinian and friend from college days, James K. Polk, for president. Leake was considered for appointment as ambassador to Cuba and to Brazil but withdrew his name from consideration for the former and the latter did not become available. In 1846 and again in 1857, he was a candidate for his party's nomination for governor but was defeated. In 1861, however, he represented Richmond County in the Secession Convention.

Leake is best known for laying the foundation for the textile growth of Richmond County. Perhaps his most notable accomplishment was the establishment of the Richmond Mill, the first cotton mill in Richmond County and the fifth in the state. It was chartered in 1833 with him as president. The mill was burned in 1865, when General William T. Sherman's troops invaded the state, but in 1869 a new mill, Great Falls Manufacturing Company, began operation with Leake as president, a post he held until his death. As late as 1945, when the first textile mills were sold to outside interests, all but one of the eight textile mills in the county were being operated by Leake's descendants.

Leake's first wife was Mary Cole, and they were the parents of Anne Cole, Mary Cole, and Hannah Pickett. After Mary's death, he married Mrs. Harrison Lawyer. He was buried in the Leake cemetery in Rockingham.

Charlotte Observer, 29 Apr. 1879.

John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1979 (1981).

William Omer Foster, "The Career of Montfort Stokes in North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review 16 (July 1939). http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll9/id/4207 (accessed August 20, 2014).

James E. Huneycutt and Ida C. Huneycutt, A History of Richmond County (1976).

James M. Ledbetter (Rockingham), interview.

Elizabeth G. McPherson, ed., "Unpublished Letters from North Carolinians to Polk," North Carolina Historical Review 16 (July 1939). http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll9/id/4207 (accessed August 20, 2014).

Elizabeth G. McPherson, ed., "Unpublished Letters from North Carolinians to Van Buren," North Carolina Historical Review 15 (April 1939). http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll9/id/4207 (accessed August 20, 2014).

Additional Resources:

United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, The Manufacturers Building, Rockingham, N.C. March 8, 1979. http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/RH0002.pdf (accessed August 20, 2014). [Image of building].

Hutchinson, John. 1998. No ordinary lives: a history of Richmond County, North Carolina, 1750-1900. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co.

Watch the video: Multi species fishing at Francis E Walter dam August 2019, (January 2022).