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Note to sign painters: Head for West Virginia . . .

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Your editorial in the Metro Section on Monday, July 19, 2010 entitled, Renaming dorm at UT proper, recounts the changing of Simkins Hall’s name to Creekside Hall, an action taken because of the scholarly research of Tom Russell, a former UT law professor and inquiries by the Austin American-Statesman. In what appears to be a rewrite of history, William Stewart Simkins is now considered a racist because of his association with the Ku Klux Klan, and therefore not worthy of having his name on a student residence named in his honor some 56 years ago, in spite of the fact that he was a longtime popular professor and considered a great legal scholar and teacher.

The article states that, Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.

This letter is not meant to criticize UT for renaming the student hall. It is a matter of no consequence to me, nor should it be to anyone else, including your editorial writers and the 2,000 black students enrolled at UT. The student residence is UT’s property and subject to any name they prefer, for whatever reason. Nor will the renaming affect William Stewart Simkins—he’s been dead since 1929.

However—and this is a big however—it should affect the sovereign state of West Virginia. West Virginia is morally bound to follow in UT’s footsteps. They must follow UT’s lead and rename everything in West Virginia that carries the name of Robert C. Byrd, the late United States senator from West Virginia. The state should also rename everything that carries the name of Erma Byrd, placed there by the senator in honor of his long-time wife.

A member of the Democratic party, Byrd served as a West Virginia senator from 1959 to 2010, and was the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving member in the history of the United States Congress.

Why, you may ask, should the people of West Virginia rename all the places that sport the senator’s name? My answer is because it’s the right thing to do, the honorable thing to do. West Virginia should take the moral path and remove the name Robert C. Byrd from any and all public buildings and areas—parks, streets, highways, bridges, monuments and history books, and from all local, state and federal institutions and offices. While at it they should also remove and rename all the locations and institutions the senator named in honor of Erma Byrd, his late wife. Married for 69 years (1937—2006), one can reasonably assume that she was aware of his association with the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1944, Byrd wrote to segregationist Mississippi Senator Bilbo: I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds. Click here to read the complete Wikipedia article.

Over the coming years, beginning with his first campaign, Senator Byrd did a complete about face—he renounced and denounced the Ku Klux Klan and embraced the black population of the United States, or at least the voting population of West Virginia, and was re-elected to his seat for the next fifty years.

Does that redeem him? Will his record in the U.S. Senate nullify the feelings he expressed in his 1944 letter to Theodore Bilbo, the segregationist Mississippi senator?

Perhaps—and perhaps not.

Listen to the You Tube video below, an interview with Tony Snow in 2007—the senator starts out fine, but manages to step on his pepperoni before the interview ends, so stay with it to the end to hear his apology for his comments. Did he really change his feelings? Remember that  this interview was conducted in 2007 following decades of professing far different feelings toward blacks—a slip of the tongue, perhaps?

In closing, allow me to repeat UT’s reasoning for renaming Simkins Hall:

Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.

I submit to you that the same rationale should be applied by West Virginia residents regarding the plethora of places that are named in Byrd’s honor. Click here to read the 51 places that have been identified, plus nine named to honor his wife, a total of 60 and counting—the authors do not claim that the list is complete and are soliciting any that do not appear on the list.

The following editorial statement should appear in the Charleston Gazette and every other newspaper in West Virgina:

Once the past was uncovered, it is clear that Robert Byrd’s name and the name of his wife are inconsistent with the mission of the various edifices and other locations that bear their names, therefore they must be renamed—the present names are an affront to West Virginia’s population of some 52,000 African Americans.

An important footnote: West Virginia is home to some 52,000 African Americans—that’s 50,000 more than were supposedly affronted by William Stewart Simkins’ name on a residence hall at Austin’s University of Texas campus. I wonder if an effort has ever been mounted to rename even one of the 60 plus places in West Virginia that bear the Byrd name?

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wider audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Meet the family . . .

The purpose of this posting is to continue to record events in my life that my children may have heard about but don’t have many of the details, and to make a matter of record other events of which they have no knowledge—of course it is a given that there are events in my life that I will not discuss. Hey, I’m no different than everyone else—some things are better kept to one’s self, right up to and including the instant that the last breath is exhaled.

I have told my children to never give all of one’s self to another or to anything else, not to work and not to play and perhaps not even to You Know Who—I have told them to always hold something in reserve, something to build on in case everything else collapses. I taught them that if that advice seems like nonsense, disregard the advice—just forget it. And as for giving or not giving your all to You Know Who, I believe that each of us should hold back a bit there also. There will always be time to settle up at the final reckoning.

Come to think of it, I know I gave that advice to one of my daughters, but I’m not sure I rewarded the other two with such sage stuff. Hey, maybe I felt that the one I told was the only one that needed such advice, or perhaps I felt that she was the only one that needed and would heed such advice—oh, well, no matter—I suppose it’s not too late—I can still give that advice to the other two daughters.

How about that such sage stuff I mentioned? I really love alliteration!

One of my three princesses—the second born of my three daughters—the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia—has for many years urged me to submit to a recorded interview that she would conduct and create a digital video recording for her and her two sisters, and I suppose she would insist that it would also to be a record for posterity. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone other than my daughters would want such a document. I fact I can’t imagine why they would subject themselves to the torture of seeing me on film—a little bit of me goes a long way!

If I were to make the video and produce 50 copies—one each for my daughters and the additional 47 copies for friends and relatives—I’m sure that most or all of the extra 47 copies would stay on the shelf or wind up in a thrift store. I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand, and most of my relatives are neither in condition nor position to view a DVD. There may be machines and electric receptacles up there—or down there, as the case may be—but I harbor considerable doubt. Besides, I don’t even know 50 people.

My parents and my siblings and all my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have all departed for greener pastures. At one time I was aware of a gaggle of cousins, likable people of both sexes, but I have no knowledge as to whether even one has survived. Considering the ages of their parents when my cousins were born, the odds are that many, perhaps most, and possibly all have departed, and at least a couple of them departed for warmer climes. My nieces and nephews numbered thirteen at one time. I can account for seven of them, but I have no knowledge of the others as to how many and which ones may be extant.

I begged out of the interview, but I agreed to blog on Word Press in lieu of submitting to a video interview. I began blogging 15 months ago in March of 2009, and as of this date I’ve posted 168 stories, most of which deal with me, my immediate family, my parents and my siblings.

I have only slightly touched on my siblings and their families, and my daughter asked specifically for postings relating to them. My children have only a limited knowledge of my relatives, and according to that busybody in Virginia, all three of them would like to learn more.

This posting is merely an advance notice of my intention to bore—oops, I mean regale—my viewers with stories about my parents, my siblings and other relatives—aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozen. And be warned and beware—I intend to be brutally accurate in my stories—after all, why not? Virtually all—perhaps all—of those I will introduce have already departed this vale of fears and tears for Elysian fields, those fields that in Greek mythology were the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. And as this point, I will state that some of my relatives were heroic and some were virtuous, but very few qualified on both counts, as you will see when I begin posting them.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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