Snubbing a Judge dishonors McCarthy & friends as they display hypocrisy of the lowest order…
Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
News that members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives decided to deny a motion to name a federal courthouse in Tallahassee for deceased federal Justice Joseph W. Hatchett tells us more about the snubbers. Justice Hatchett was the first black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. The bill, co-sponsored in the Senate by both Florida senators and introduced in the House by Florida Republican Vern Buchanan, was blocked for reasons that can only be defined as racist. This is further evidence that Kevin McCarthy has lost control of his caucus and his mind.
Judge Hatchett was a revered member of the Florida court whose history as the first black man to serve on the federal bench in Florida was 88 years old when he died last year. The New York Times describes the racist barriers that Judge Hatchett had to overcome:
A legal legend in his state, Justice Hatchett could not stay in the hotel where the Florida bar exam was being administered when he took it in 1959 because of Jim Crow laws segregating the South. When he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Judge Hatchett was the first Black man to serve on a circuit that covered the Deep South.
— Annie Karni, NYTimes, April 12, 2022
J.Crow 2.0 Alive and not-so-well
What is even more disturbing is that the bill was due to sail through both houses of Congress with little notice until a freshman House member pulled the plug. Andrew Clyde, a newly elected Georgia Republican, dissented because of an Appeals Court decision handed down in 1999 overruling a lower court order that allowed prayer at a high school graduation ceremony — a decision that was informed by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Engle v. Vitale. In 1962, that Court ruled in a 6–1 decision that required prayer in a school setting violated the Establishment Clause. In the Georgia case heard by the Appeals Court, Hatchett wrote for the 2–1 majority, “We hold that the Duval County school system’s policy coerces objecting students to participate in prayer…”
As Clyde circulated the 23 year-old Appeals ruling, House members — including Buchanan the bill’s sponsor — suddenly withdrew support, denying the required two-thirds vote for passage. When asked why he withdrew his support after co-sponsoring the bill within his caucus, Buchanan responded. “I don’t know.” We do!
For apologists of bigotry among right-wing lawmakers like Jim Crow denier Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., the brazenness of his House colleagues in pulling their support from such a routine bill should be alarming. Blacks in America are not even allowed the simplest laurels for their achievement, let alone their name on a public building or a seat on the Supreme Court. How dare they! Justice Hatchett’s sin in their eyes was doing his job, and it ranks far beneath the toadyism and corruption of one of their own, Justice Thomas, whose career has been buoyed by his adherence to right-wing ideology at the expense of justice and the Constitution. The sophistry of those like Scott who excuse rather than challenge their party’s extremists was evident by his silence. Scott, who was so offended by Sen. Cory Booker’s reference to Jim Crow in 2.0,as Republicans blocked voting rights legislation in January, responded to Justice Hatchett’s slight with — — crickets.
Let’s consider that hypocrisy by pointing out the naming of similar buildings throughout the South for men far less worthy than Justice Hatchett. The following list is taken from an article written by Eric Kratz on Government Executive:
- John A. Campbell U.S. Courthouse; Mobile, Ala.: Campbell resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court at the outbreak of the Civil War to accept a role as Confederate assistant secretary of war. After the war, Campbell fought as an attorney against reconstruction in the South.
- Clifford Davis — Odell Horton Federal Building; Memphis, Tenn.: Davis served as a Democratic congressman in Tennessee for 25 years. He first rose to political power with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, a group in which he was actively a member. Davis went on to become a signatory to the Southern Manifesto in 1956, a resolution introduced in Congress to decry Brown v. Board of Education’s mandate that states end segregation in Congress to decry Brown v. Board of Education’s mandate that states end segregation in schools.
- William M. Colmer Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse; Hattiesburg, Miss.: Colmer, a Democratic congressman, helped spearhead what became the Southern Manifesto, a document that implored southerners to use all “lawful means” to resist the “chaos and confusion” that school integration would cause. It was signed by 82 House members and 19 senators. He fought “tooth and nail” to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, according to The New York Times. Of early court rulings against segregation, Colmer lamented there would be “an even increasing intermingling of negroes and whites in public places.” Colmer went on to author a second manifesto in Congress that warned of “grave” dangers of federal legislation protecting civil rights.
- Thomas G. Abernethy Federal Building; Aberdeen, Miss.: Abernethy also signed the Southern Manifesto, as well as a letter to the administrator of Veterans Affairs in 1957 requesting VA segregate its medical facilities. A Democratic House member for 30 years, Abernethy left a significant trail of racist speeches and writings. In one such address on the House floor, Abernethy said, “There can be no dispute that a negro problem does exist in our country; that it exists in each and every section where negroes have collected in number; and that the problem is in proportion to the number in each area or city,” adding that, “for nearly 200 years we have lived in peace with our Black brethren of the South.” He went on to say God supported segregation. “Had he intended us to all be alike — an amalgamated, mulattoed mixture of man — surely he would have so created us.” Abernethy suggested the push for civil rights was part of a Zionist and communist conspiracy.
- Alton Lennon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse; Wilmington, N.C.: Lennon, who served in both the Senate and House over 20 years, was the only southerner in Congress to vote against a measure citing the KKK for contempt of Congress, saying he never heard of a Klan member being subversive. Lennon called on the Justice Department to prosecute Black civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael for making anti-draft statements. He campaigned on a promise to “fight to preserve southern traditions” and “massive resistance” to desegregation, according to North Carolina historian John Godwin.
- Strom Thurmond Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse; Columbia, S.C.: Thurmond served in the Senate for 48 years and was one of the leading voices against desegregation and civil rights. He ran for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948 on a pro-segregation platform and vehemently opposed all civil rights legislation, launching the longest-ever speaking filibuster in an attempt to defeat the 1957 Civil Rights Act. When running for president, Thurmond said at one event, “There’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.” While he served in the Senate through 2000, he never publicly renounced his segregationist views.
- J.L. McMillan Federal Building and Courthouse; Florence, S.C.: McMillan served in the House for more than 30 years. He spent two decades as head of the District of Columbia Committee, and “made little attempt to hide his contempt for the capital’s African-American majority,” according to John Lawrence, a long-time congressional staffer and author of “The Class of ’74: Congress after Watergate and the Roots of Partisanship.” When Washington’s black mayor sent the district’s first budget to Congress as it pushed for autonomous rule, McMillan responded by sending a truckload of watermelons to the mayor. McMillan was a signatory to the Southern Manifesto.
- Charles E. Bennett Federal Building; Jacksonville, Fla.: Bennett signed the Southern Manifesto and voted against most civil rights bills. He later claimed to have a change in conscience and voted in favor of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In a speech on the House floor preceding that vote, however, he called Robert E. Lee “the greatest of all southerners.” He went on to win acclaim for his advocacy for disability rights and ethics in Congress.
- Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and Courthouse; West Palm Beach, Fla.: Rogers, a Democrat in the House for more than 20 years, signed onto the Southern Manifesto and repeatedly opposed civil rights legislation. He later became known for his work advancing medical research and health care services.
- George W. Andrews Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse; Opelika, Ala.: Andrews signed the Southern Manifesto as a congressman. He continued his opposition to desegregation, saying after a 1962 Supreme Court decision inhibiting school prayer, “They put the Negroes in the schools and now they’ve driven God out.” In voicing opposition to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he derided in Congress Martin Luther King Jr., and his supporters as “street performers” who were not actually interested in registering to vote. Of King and his attempt to march in Selma, Andrews said, “His record indicates that wherever he goes there is trouble. If he were to leave the state of Alabama today, in my opinion, there would be no further trouble.” Of the “Bloody Sunday” events in which marchers were beaten by police, he said, “I am sorry human beings had to be policed into obedience.”
- Richard B. Russell Federal Building; Atlanta, Ga.: Russell, a senator for nearly 40 years, co-authored the Southern Manifesto. He led a boycott of the 1964 Democratic convention after President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, calling the landmark legislation, “shortsighted and disastrous.” Gilbert Fite, a historian who wrote a biography of Russell, said, “White supremacy and racial segregation were to him cardinal principles for good and workable human relationships. He had a deep emotional commitment to preserving the kind of South in which his ancestors had lived. No sacrifice was too great for him to make if it would prevent the extension of full equality to blacks.” One of the Senate office buildings next to the Capitol Building is also named after Russell.
- Prince H. Preston Federal Building; Statesboro, Ga.: Preston, a Democratic congressman, signed both the Southern Manifesto and the letter requesting VA segregate its hospitals.
Judge Hatchett Honored by His Deeds
This list, of course, is hardly inclusive. It represents the low-hanging fruit, easily accessible and openly public. It doesn’t contain the public school buildings, college buildings, streets, or bridges honoring the names of dead racists. Mr. Clyde and Kevin McCarthy chose to snub a distinguished American whose life promoted the ideals of our nation on specious claims of being guilty of upholding the constitution they have trampled on during their tenure. The gutless McCarthy will do anything to satisfy the bigots and laggards who dominate the Republican caucus. He cannot offend them because they help pave the way for his goal as Majority Leader of the House should his party prevail in 2022. McCarthy relishes his practice of hypocrisy, both aware and uncaring, which makes him chief among his fellow lemmings.
Mr. Clyde, a Baptist deacon before being elected to the House from Bogart, Georgia (pop. 1326), is part of the insurrectionist wing of the House who voted against certifying Biden’s election the night of the the insurrection, and was later one of 12 House Republicans who voted against honoring Capitol Police who protected him from the mob on January 6 — an event he euphemistically deemed “a normal tourist visit.” To further demonstrate his disdain for justice and the rule of law, Clyde refused to shake the hand of a Capitol police officer who was beaten unconscious defending his sorry ass. If you wonder where he stands on civil rights issues, Representative Clyde was one of only 3 members who voted this past February against the Emmet Till Antilynching Act, which made lynching a federal crime.
Judge Hatchett doesn’t need the votes of Kevin McCarthy’s racist caucus to honor his achievements, his life and the inspiring story of how he overcame a segregated south to become the first black justice on the Florida Supreme Court is judgment enough. Mr. McCarthy, who defends the insurrectionists within his party and shamelessly seeks a reward for his naked ambition, is a relic of America’s past — an artifact of the rancor that has long threatened our freedoms. As long as they are in power, Jim Crow will walk among us. It cannot be allowed to seep into our future. History is often an unforgiving judge, and in the words of Joe Biden’s favorite Irish poet, there is always this:
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave…
But then, once in a lifetime,
the longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
— from The Cure at Troy, an adaptation by Seamus Heaney
We wait for the day when justice rises up and renders its verdict on our time. For McCarthy and his cohorts, they can only hope that the rhyming of hope and history brings justice rather than vengeance. And if history has its way, the name Kevin McCarthy will be spoken in hushed tones, deemed unfit even for placement above a Capitol basement restroom door.