Neo-Nazis, Beatniks, Vegetarians—and Uncle Sam: The Long, Strange Roster of 1960’s Third Party Presidential Hopefuls
The 1960 great presidential debate. A perspiring Richard Nixon versus a bronzed John Fitzgerald Kennedy—but no Lar Daly.
Yes, Lar “America First” Daly, for not only were Tricky Dick and JFK on the ballot so was a host of truly lesser lights, starting with perennial third-party icon Lar Daly but spreading far left and far right and far weird in a dozen other directions. No Theodore Roosevelts appeared on the horizon in 1960, no Gene Debses or Fighting Bob LaFollettes, not even a Norman Thomas, a Henry Wallace, a J. Strom Thurmond. George Wallace and Ross Perot and John Anderson and Ralph Nader lay years ahead. But while 1960 clearly marked a nadir, a deep, distinct mucky slough, in third party quality, it did not reflect a diminution in quantity.
Most noticeable, though not necessarily most popular in terms of votes cast was Mr. Daly, a 48-year old Chicago bar stool manufacturer who sang and played the fiddle in taverns—and unsuccessfully competed for every office he could think of, all the while attired in a beautifully-tailored Uncle Sam suit.
Over the years, Lar Daly had vociferously boosted Douglas MacArthur and Joe McCarthy. He had once offered to Harry Truman to personally drop an atom bomb on the Kremlin. Most recently, however, he had become an expert on the Federal Communications Commissions’ arcane Equal Time Rule and used it as a crowbar to euchre precious free air time, whether back home in Chicago or nationwide. He never did succeed in gaining a podium at the Kennedy- Nixon Great Debates (though only because the United States Congress passed special legislative to prevent his presence) but when JFK guested on Jack Paar’s late-night NBC talk show, Daly demanded—and got—his own appearance with Paar.
Paar fumed. The studio audience booed. And Daly calmly informed the nation: “You only choice is America first—or death.”
The nation thought otherwise.
Lar Daly, apostle both of nuclear war and the equal time rule, was, however, merely the most piquantly-clad contestant in 1960’s unusual rag-bag of hopeless hopefuls. Measured by votes cast, meaningful platforms, or ability to lead, all offered negligible value. But in understanding what lay below the neat Madison Avenue-driven world of Washington politics, in delving into the murky, irrational subconscious of the American mentality on the cusp of the pressed gray flannel 50s and the frayed blue denim 60s, into the contradictory madness (or, sometime, truth) that lay just below the Lazy Shave surface, 1960’s third party aspirants possessed rare, inestimable, often overlooked, value.
They were, in their virtually anonymous aggregate, the men who made the Democratic and Republican parties look sane. Yes, some were, indeed, quite mad, not in the sense of such up-and-coming phenomena as the John Birch Society or the Students for a Democratic Society, nor merely conniving or eccentric, but simply outright mad.
Such was the rather obvious case of Dick Nixon’s fellow Whittierite, Gabriel Green, who boldly claimed to have personally observed seventy-five flying saucers and had secured the backing of the 30,000-member Amalgamated Flying Saucer Club of America. “With the help of spacemen,” the lanky, wild-eyed, 35 year old bachelor confided to skeptical terrestrials, “I believe I can carry millions of votes and many areas. They will help me, not necessarily at the precinct level, but by supplying me with information.” Of course, Green was not the only one in contact with the spacemen. “All of our high scientists have been taken to other planets,” he stated rather matter-of-factly, “President Eisenhower flew out to Edwards Air Force Base for a briefing with a saucer crew.
“I know that Nixon has been contacted, but I am not sure about Kennedy.”
In some ways, however, Gabe Green seemed far ahead of his major party rivals, in fact, downright prescient. While Messrs. Kennedy and Nixon prattled on about non-existent missile gaps and rock-strewn Quemoy and Matsu, Gabe Green foresaw giving everyone a credit card—and free health and dental insurance. “I may not win in 1960,” he forecast, “but I’m sure of 1964.”
But most were not so prescient—or so mad.
Some bore the tattered standards of long established parties, though among those were parties on their last legs, political movements that could have used whatever assistance little green men might offer, and it was difficult to understand how they had survived at all, in any form, with even the smallest membership. Discovering such entities with hearts still beating was akin to finding a species of marine life thought to have become extinct millions of years ago.
Such was the case of the rapidly-expiring Greenback Party. The cheap-money Greenbacks had been around since 1876, although they hadn’t mounted anything approaching a real campaign since 1884. In 1960, Greenbacks made Prohibitionists seem like the wave of the future. Unable to hold a convention, nonetheless, in late February 82-year old party chairman John Henry Zahnd (also its 1924, 1928, 1936, and 1940 hopeful) announced his party’s candidates: Oklahoma-born 65-year old Los Angeles “ambulance first aid man” (and occasional author) Whitney Hart Slocomb and 75-year Boston-based book publisher Edward Kirby Meador (coincidentally, the Slocomb’s publisher). Meador, the party’ s 1956 vice-presidential candidate, claimed descent from Benjamin Franklin. The party barely had time to announce its team and its slogan (“all reform waits for money reform— then let us get money reform first”) before submerging once again into the murky depths of organisms largely thought extinct.
The Socialist Labor Party (SLP), just as old as the Greenbacks, had, on the other hand, taken its time getting started but once it did had evinced remarkable staying power for such a small group plagued such higher-profiled rivals as Gene Debs’s once-vibrant Socialist Party. Founded in 1876, the SLP didn’t bother naming slates of electors until 1884, speaking English (as opposed to German) until 1890, or designating an actual presidential candidate until 1892, but it had offered candidates every four years since— despite the disadvantages of having its 1920 standard bearer jailed for murder and its 1928 candidate expire while rescuing a drowning child.
The 1960 SLP platform, adopted in convention at the ballroom of New York’s Henry Hudson Hotel that May, screamed: “the overriding issue . . . is—SOCIALISM and SURVIVAL V. CAPITALISM and CATASTROPHE!” Displaying unusual—though, nonetheless, admirable— terseness for a party platform, the document paid only lip- service to nationalizing business and industry, displaying far more passion regarding nuclear waste (“high-level, boiling hot”) and smashing “the present procapitalist unions.” The SLP’s ticket consisted of New Yorker Eric Hass, longtime editor of the party official organ, “Weekly People,” and 45-year old Wisconsin housewife Georgia Purvis Cozzini—the team it had offered in 1952 and 1956. When the blond, bespectacled, Nebraska-born Hass (a former railroad brakeman, reporter, and advertising man) wasn’t editing or running for president, he ran almost compulsively for everything else: once for city City Council President, twice for United States Senator, three times for Governor, and four times for mayor. Cozzini was no slouch, either. She herself had run for United States Senator and Governor (the first time when she was just 27—Wisconsin’s first female gubernatorial candidate) twice times each.
Upon the campaign trail, the grim-looking Haas (a self- proclaimed “bona-fide Marxist”), armed himself with charts to illustrate his bona-fide Marxist views of how to organize society, traveling coast-to-coast to address equally “grave, expectant” listeners. “When he talks the language of socialism,” the New York Times noted, “he somehow sounds more like an insurance salesman than a didactic, doctrinaire radical.”
That may not have been a compliment.
The rival Socialist Workers Party (SWP), on the other hand, was less socialist than communist, essentially being a Trotskyite offshoot of the Communist Party USA. Existing in various forms since 1928, the SWP advocated, among other items, increasing America’s supposed missile gap by destroying the nation’s nuclear armaments and withdrawing all U.S. troops from foreign soil.
Poised against both the Stalinist and post-Stalinist East and the capitalist and post-capitalist West, the SWP posed no particular threat to anything, save to its proponents’ ability to earn a living. In 1960, it nominated—as in 1952 and 1956— two New Yorkers: 53-year old former New York City truck driver Farrell Dobbs, a personal friend of the martyred Leon Trotsky, and former “cannery worker, waitress and labor organizer” the petite, 43-year old petite, yet fiery, Myra Tanner Weiss.
Mrs. Weiss’s Mormon grandfather had fled to Canada when his church banned polygamy in 1890. She had long since abandoned her proletarian activities and was now the stylishly attired wife of a Trotskyite psychotherapist. Originally a Herbert Hoover Republican, Dobbs had performed yeoman work in making the Teamsters union a national force. Federal authorities had jailed Dobbs during World War II for advocating “violent overthrow of the US Government.” Though not the only candidate to have served behind bars, Dobbs was 1960’s only presidential candidate to visit Cuba during the campaign. He liked what he saw. The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was not running. Still reeling from McCarthy Era scrutiny, it hadn’t run for much of anything in quite a while, and when it so attempted, it usually didn’t achieve ballot position. In August 1960, the party undertook a reasonably unusual move, publishing a resolution in its official organ, The Worker, basically favoring the Kennedy-Johnson ticket. While refusing to describe the Democrats as a “lesser evil,” the CPUSA lectured followers that “it would be a still greater error to adopt a negative, defeatist, ‘curses-on-both-your-houses’ position.” Such thinking, the party continued, would “only encourage ‘stay-at-home’ moods and feed such sects as the SLP or the Trotskyites [the SWP], who render only lip service to socialist aims.”
And, the CPUSA advanced, such above-the fray attitudes would be irresponsible, in view of “the indisputable fact that the Nixon-Lodge ticket has abandoned the peace pretexts of the Republican Party, and today symbolizes before the country and the world those two-faced, double-dealing provocative policies of the Eisenhower regime . . .”
“Moreover, Nixon’s record in the House, in the Senate and as Vice President is marked by one long series of anti-labor reactionary deeds. A defeat for this ticket would be heralded everywhere as a defeat for those war-inciting and anti-labor policies.”
“We should,” the Communists continued, “be sharply critical of the past role on peace and social and labor legislation of both Kennedy and Johnson . . .” but “what we must clearly recognize is that the mass of the common people with whom we must march forward—or stand still—are to be found in that camp . . . because they have been influenced to believe in the platform commitments of the Democrats.”
It required a rather pedestrian, maddeningly-similarly named, quartet of rightist parties to counterbalance the one Marxist party not running and the two who were: The Constitution Party, the Constitution Party of Texas, the Conservative Party of Virginia, and the Conservative Party of New Jersey. The Constitution Party had rattled around since 1952, when it nominated two candidates not particularly interested in its endorsement: Douglas MacArthur and Virginia United States Senator Harry Flood Byrd. In 1956 it nominated a candidate who did want its endorsement, former IRS Commissioner T. Coleman Andrews. Andrews received 107,929 votes, quite possibly the highest total ever recorded by a certified public accountant. But the glory days of T. Coleman Andrews were long past, and in Dallas, in July 1960, the Constitution Party, demanding withdrawal from UN and abolition of the income tax, designated a ticket consisting of virtually unknown 68-year old insurance executive Brig. General Merritt B. Curtis (USMC-Ret.) and 66-year old retired stockbroker Curtis B. Dall, known merely for being FDR’s ex son-in-law.
Splintering from the Constitution Party (or perhaps never related to it, it was tough to tell in such circles), the “Jeffersonian Democrat” Constitution Party of Texas met on August 10—coincidentally also in Dallas—naming 35-year old Clarksburg, Mississippi attorney Charles L. Sullivan, as its presidential candidate. The youthful, and even more youthful-looking, Sullivan finished third for governor the preceding year. He accepted the CPT nomination despite disagreeing with party demands for (what else) withdrawal from UN and abolition of income tax.
To confuse already confused matters, when the Constitution Party of Texas finally got selected a running mate for Sullivan, it turned out to the Constitutional Party’s own presidential candidate, Merritt B. Curtis!
In New Jersey, an outfit calling itself the Conservative Party of New Jersey nominated Utah’s ornery former Republican governor—and 1956 vice-presidential nominee of Texas Constitution Party—J. Bracken Lee. The New Jersey party seemed to have no particular strategy or reason for existence. That was not so a few states to the south, where an outfit designating itself the Conservative Party of Virginia selected Augusta County farmer and active segregationist C. Benton Coiner. Coiner’s job was to provide the dominion’ s electors a chance to bolt the Democratic Party in November and cast their twelve votes for Harry Flood Byrd. Moving beyond simple traditional left and right, we now come what may best be described as the dietary parties. The American Vegetarian Party didn’t want you to eat meat.
They also didn’t want to bother getting on the ballot, and urged supporters to write-in their candidates—two New Yorkers: balding, bespectacled 67-year old publisher, editor, and movie and debate promoter Symon Gould (party founder; 1948, 1952 and 1956 VP nominee; and one-time victim of U.S. postal service harassment) and 50-year old naturopathic physician Dr. Christopher Gian-Cursio. In 1942 and 1947 authorities convicted Gian-Cursio of practicing medicine without a license. In Gian-Cursio’s latter trial, radio comedian Fred Allen appeared as a character witness. Back in 1947 Gould had higher hopes, projecting 5 million Vegetarian votes in the upcoming 1948 contest:
Three million of these would be the American vegetarians and the remainder of the votes would come from prohibitionist, anti-vivisectionists and anti- cigarette smoking groups. We will also attract other groups of people of similar high moral principle.
That same year, candidate Gould became embroiled in a trans-Atlantic feud with the one of world’s more prominent— and older—vegetarians, octogenarian playwright George Bernard Shaw, regarding revelations of Shaw’s heretical ingestion of cod liver oil. Gould ordered Shaw to stop—or, at least, cease calling himself a vegetarian. Shaw declined. By 1960, the Vegetarians had larger goals in mind than protecting the humble liver of the humble cod: world peace. Their platform promised:
The philosophy of Vegetarianism is synonymous with Universal Brotherhood and Universal Peace. Its fundamental principle of “anti-killing,” if internationally adopted, would unconditionally eliminate wars. In furtherance of this anti-slaughter ideal, vegetarians are opposed to the killing of animals for sustenance, sport or style.
The Prohibition Party didn’t particularly care what you ate, but did care what you drank, and had passionately so cared for quite some time. From 1884 through 1920, their ticket had received at least 100,000 in each election (271,058 in 1892)—and, of course, 1920 saw national prohibition take effect. But 1920 was decades—and the repeal of one constitutional amendment—ago. Drys still understood the importance of getting on the ballot, but they were getting scarcer and older, and irrelevant to a martini-imbibing, Rat Pack-admiring world.
In March 1960 Prohibitionists nominated 56-year old Rev. Rutherford L. Decker, pastor of Kansas City’s Park Hill Baptist Church, and 47-year old E. Harold Munn, assistant to the dean of Michigan’s Hillsdale College. Eleven states listed the party on their ballots.
“America’s greatest need is for a revival of reality in religion which will throw off the yoke of oppression the liquor traffic has fastened upon the nation,” Decker pled at one of his rare rallies, “Twenty-five million citizens are directly and adversely affected by alcohol through the alcoholism of over 5,000,000 victims of this disease.
“More people are killed each year in America by drink caused accidents and drink induced and complicated diseases than any war in which this country was ever engaged.”
Last, but definitely least, in this category, was retired farmer Mr. Connie B. Watts, the “Front Porch Party” write-in candidate who pursued a leisurely campaign, gently rocking away on his very own Banks County, Georgia front porch. Early press attention (what there was of it) focused on Watts’ s vow to pass “a law to keep them ‘vine-ripened’ stickers off of them mushy green tomatoes,” but Watts was no off-his- rocker, one-issue crank. His platform really centered on better housing for birds (Watts had long contended all birds could talk—though, he cautioned, only the Baltimore Oriole could sing in ragtime) and he proposed putting the unemployed to work boring holes in trees to further that goal. Kennedy and Nixon worried about separating church and state. Bishop Homer A. Tomlinson, leader of the Queens Village, New York-based Church of God didn’t.
Campaigning once again on the Theocratic Party ticket— with fellow Church of God Bishop Bill Rogers as his running mate—Tomlinson pledged to “end all taxes,” substituting the principle of taxation with the more lucrative principle of tithing—to him.
Tomlinson’s church was a family-based denomination. His father, A. J. Tomlinson had founded it—dubbing it the “Tomlinson Church of God.” When A. J. expired, Homer and his brother, Overseer Milton, squabbled over who might lead their father’s flock, an argument Bishop Homer chose to settle by taking a sledge hammer to his sibling’s real estate. Police intervened.
Having temporarily abandoned hope of reclaiming the entirety of the family-founded church, the pink-faced, usually cheery, Bishop Homer embarked upon a grander mission: proclaiming himself “King” of all fifty states, every individual nation on earth, and, eventually, of the whole world (duly crowned behind a Tennessee tobacco barn in 1954). Such coronations were relatively easy operations, facilitated by an inflatable globe, a $6 folding aluminum lawn chair/throne, and a modest crown that presaged those distributed to countless youngsters at neighborhood Burger Kings. It must be said, the coronation held in Red Square particularly startled onlookers.
Despite Bishop Homer’s earlier lack of electoral success, in August 1960, at Cape Giradeau, Missouri, running-mate Bishop Rogers issued a call for 30 million write-in votes for the ticket—a rather ambitious total since Dwight Eisenhower had only received 35 million in 1956.
Another seasoned campaigner was Henry Krajewski, now ensconced on the American Third Party ticket. The 48-year old Secaucus tavern owner (and former pig farmer) had first sought the White House, back in 1952, polling 4,203 votes with the “Poor Man’s Party,” before, seeing his popularity recede in 1956—much like Adlai Stevenson’s, in Krajewski’ s case, to a more modest 1,829 votes. In 1952, the 6’2”, 240 pound Krajewski—a man of many talents, he spoke six languages and could play the “piano, accordion, guitar, banjo, organ, drum, and bugle”—advocated not a two-party, but, rather, a “two-president” system.
“If you had a Democrat and a Republican in the White House,” Krajewski philosophized, “they’d be so busy watching each other that there would be no danger of dictatorship.”
Mr. Krajewski was a candidate of the old fringe politics, advocating such relatively mainstream items as tax cuts (particularly on alcohol), McCarthyism, and free milk for school children. The American Beat Consensus Party successfully ostentatiously avoided the mainstream trap. By 1960 everyone knew what a beatnik was— countercultural, alienated, espresso-swilling, guitar- strumming, folk song-singing, black-bereted and bearded (if male; long, straight-haired if female), marching to the beat of a different drum, usually a bongo—even though few squares had yet actually met one. The American Beat Consensus Party introduced two bearded Chicago beats—36-year old William Lloyd Smith and 45-year old black pacifist/ anarchist/poet Joffre Stewart—to the political system with stream-of-consciously platform “abolishing the working class, a $10 billion subsidy for artists, forgetting the budget and balancing the debt, making peace with everyone (since all beatniks are cowards) and legalized nepotism, excess profits and mink coats.”
Smith was a Chicago bookseller (“the only Midwesterner who has been nominated”) of distinctly limited business acumen who listed himself in the Yellow Pages as “Philosopher.” Stewart’s claim to fame hung largely from being depicted in Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”:
Who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the F.B.I in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets.
The beats convened in unconventional convention in a Greenwich Village nightclub—Lincolnesque former cowboy and former-fellow Chicagoan Slim Brundage’s properly black-walled, black-floored, black-ceilinged, properly- misspelled “The Colledge of Complexes” on West 10th Street. Each delegate marching to a different bongo, the party took four ballots to nominate Smith, as he rolled past Joffre Stewart, various other beats, and other higher profile nominees of decidedly varying beat characteristics—Jack Kennedy, Senator Eastland of Mississippi, and Adam Clayton Powell.
Smith capped his nomination by promising to abolish the federal government and then resign from office. To heal any breach in party ranks he selected his strongest opponent, Stewart, as his running mate. It was, noted one witness, “a gesture as shrewdly and coolly political as Kennedy’s pick of Johnson.” College of Complexes owner Brundage became Smith’s campaign manager.
Smith went on to picket the Republican National Convention in Chicago with his 23-year old girlfriend, Mary Lou. “I liked what I heard,” she said (presumably from Smith, not the GOP). They (Smith and Mary Lou) married, and the American Beat Party Consensus campaign fell strangely silent.
The fates conspired to resuscitate it. As Mary Lou recalled: “Our honeymoon was in New York because CBS had Bill on a show called ‘Other Hats in the Ring.’ The network put us up in an elegant hotel one night. We spend the rest of the time on the floor of one of his friend’s apartments.”
“Other Hats in the Ring” was a third party candidate’s dream—an hour of free air time on a nationwide TV hookup. One would surmise, that if Richard Nixon and John Kennedy could agree on a debate format, this collection of beggars certainly could.
Eric Hass fumed that CBS had promised him that he would share their stage with representatives of the Socialist Labor, Prohibition, Constitution, and States Rights parties.
Reaching CBS’s studios to tape the program, however, he found neither Constitution nor States Rights candidates, but rather beatnik William Lloyd Smith, Prohibitionist Rutherford Decker, and Vegetarian Symon Gould. Hass didn’t mind debating Decker. He didn’t even mind meeting with States Rights Party neo-Nazis, but he did very much mind being reduced to the level—“a farcical flea circus”—of beats and health food nuts.
He might have been right. When cameras rolled, William Lloyd Smith termed the choice of either JFK or Dick Nixon akin to one between “syphilis and gonorrhea, cholera and cancer.”
And yet neither Lar Daly, William Lloyd Smith, Henry Krajewski, nor Bishop Homer Tomlinson and company were the most improbable candidates, Comrade Eric Hass might have appeared with.
The Rev. Clennon King was.
Though both Clennon King and Martin Luther King were black, both were ministers, both had roots in Alabama and Georgia, the Rev. Clennon King was clearly not to be confused with the Rev. Martin Luther King.
Clennon King, at this stage of his career was primarily an educator—or at-least an ex-educator. A decade earlier, teaching at all-black Virginia Union University, he organized an airborne, world tour of fifty students to combat communism. It never got off the ground.
Teaching history at Mississippi’s all-black Alcorn A & M College in 1957, King penned a series of articles for the Jackson State Times defending segregation and attacking the NAACP (it “fights freedom”). Alcorn’s entire student body struck. The administration fired, but later re-instated, King. He kept writing, defending segregation, moving to national publications, took up preaching (bounced from his first congregation and arrested for trying to break back in), attempted to send his daughter to all-white Gulfport, Mississippi elementary school, and finally left Alcorn for good. In June 1958 (three years before James Meredith’s experience) King embarked upon the implausible next step of attempting to integrate an all-white institute, the University of Mississippi.
Ole Miss’s white authorities committed him as insane. Released twelve days later, in part through NAACP efforts, King pathetically advertised selling his household furnishings to bankroll a back-to-Africa movement, faced charges for family abandonment, and departed the South for California. In November 1959, he also left his wife and six children—this time, for good, on a Mexican beach.
Thus, when 39-year old Clennon King announced for the presidency in January 1960—the first black ever to do so— as standard bearer for the newly-formed Independent Afro- American Unity Party—and further announced that he had selected Richard Nixon as his running mate—California authorities wanted him for abandonment.
Nobody seemed to connect the two events. King achieved ballot position, albeit without Vice President Nixon, as the Afro-American Party, as the nation’s first black presidential candidate—in just one state.
Being Clennon King, master of the improbable, that state was, of course, . . . Alabama.
The Rev. King may—or may not have been—the most unorthodox candidate to actually gain access to any state ballot (Lar Daly and Bishop Tomlinson and William Lloyd Smith and Gabriel Green and Symon Gould were, after all, only write-in candidates; the Communists weren’t even writing-in), but there was no contest for which on-the-ballot party harbored the most vicious and dangerous elements— that award went to the National States Rights Party (NSRP). Founded by youthful, yet veteran, hate-mongers Dr. Edward R. Fields and J. B. Stoner (the former a chiropractor, the latter an attorney), the NSRP bore only marginal resemblance to Strom Thurmond’s 1948 third-party effort, the States' Rights Democratic Party. Thurmond’s party was establishment segregationist, 1960’s NSRP was Klan- based at best, neo-Nazi at worst—homegrown fuehrer George Lincoln Rockwell and his chief lieutenant Matt Koehl had participated in its efforts two years previously —and usually operated at its worst level. Adolf Hitler, Stoner once remarked, was “a moderate.” “Compared to Stoner,” one fellow right-winger observed, “Hitler probably was a moderate.”
The party (its motto: “Honor—Pride—Fight! Save the White”; it’s symbol a suspiciously SS-like thunderbolt) traced its roots back to the earlier officially subversive Columbians movement, the Christian Anti-Jewish Party, and the United White Party.
A Kentucky newspaper described the NSRP platform thusly:
1. Encourage voluntary resettlement of Negroes in their African homeland. 2. Restore segregation in the Armed Forces. 3. Permit only “White Folk to take part in affairs of government or serve in courts.” 4. Demand that government should refrain from competing with private enterprise. 5. Demand that confiscatory taxation policies of the federal government be ended immediately. 6. Demand the removal of all federal control over National Guard units and law enforcement agencies of the states. 7. Demand that all financial and moral support to the State of Israel cease as a basis for the rebuilding of Arab-American friendship. 8. Favor complete separation of all non-White and dissatisfied racial minorities from “our White Folk Communities.” 9. Preservation of Indian national life in America and unlimited development of reservation facilities. 10. Demand that total segregation be maintained in the nation's schools and that only “members of the White Folk Community be allowed to engage in the educational and cultural activities of our White society.”
In 1960, Fields (now, still only 28) and Stoner (now 36) still called the shots and aimed to nominate Arkansas Governor Orval W. Faubus (distinguished for resisting Little-Rock school de-segregation in 1957). In March 1960 over 100 “delegates” gathered in solemn convention at Miamisburg, Ohio (just outside Dayton) and did just that.
Faubus might have made a credible George Wallace-style third party effort, save for three factors: one, the South had not yet been substantially integrated, and backlash levels remained relatively low; two, Faubus possessed few of Wallace’s special talents; and, three, Faubus, once he realized what sort of folks were nominating him, quickly backtracked from the adventure—and, in fact, endorsed, with some enthusiasm, the Kennedy-Johnson ticket (though not the national Democratic platform).
Robert Bolivar DePugh, a 47-year old Norborne, Missouri veterinary drug manufacturer and leader of the newly-formed extremist (and, in actuality, never very large) Minutemen movement, pinch-hit for Faubus. Running for vice-president was retired Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin, of Wetumpka, Alabama, commander of the carrier Enterprise during World War II, and cashiered in 1949 during the fight over armed forces unification. Crommelin might have been the General Billy Mitchell of his generation; instead, he was merely another racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic crackpot. Faubus, however, remained on a number of state ballots, including that of Florida, and that latter fact was to prove significant. The Sunshine State contained a fairy significant, though typically dissension-riven, KKK contingent. In September 1960 reporters asked long-time Florida Klan leader, 49-year old Tampa Bay-area general contractor (and two-time gubernatorial candidate) Bill Hendrix, if he was backing Faubus. He answered yes. They then interviewed Hendrix’s rival Grand Dragon, W. J. “Bill” Griffin. Griffin hated Hendrix, and knowing Hendrix was supporting Faubus, he couldn’t. Reluctantly, Griffin endorsed Richard Nixon. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have attracted much notice beyond Griffin and Hendrix’s Tampa Bay home base, but in the third Kennedy-Nixon debate, diminutive (under the five-foot mark) New York Herald Tribune columnist Roscoe Drummond queried JFK regarding Adam Clayton Powell’s recent claim that “all bigots will vote for Nixon and all right-thinking Christians and Jews will vote for Kennedy rather than be found in the ranks of the Klanminded.” Kennedy smoothly responded:
Well, Mr. Griffin, I believe, who is the head of the Klan, who lives in Tampa, Florida, indicated a—in a statement, I think, two or three weeks ago that he was not going to vote for me, and that he was going to vote for Mr. Nixon. I do not suggest in any way, nor have I ever, that that indicates that Mr. Nixon has the slightest sympathy, involvement, or in any way imply any inferences in regard to the Ku Klux Klan. That's absurd. I don't suggest that, I don't support it. I would disagree with it. Mr. Nixon knows very well that in this—in this whole matter that's been involved with the so-called religious discussion in this campaign, I've never suggested, even by the vaguest implication, that he did anything but disapprove it. And that's my view now. I disapprove of the issue. I do not suggest that Mr. Nixon does in any way.
Of course, he didn’t.
Nixon quickly repudiated Klan support, but the Klan was used to being repudiated, and the next day Griffin sputtered, “I don’t give a damn what Nixon said. I’m still voting for him.” Grand Dragon Griffin controlled few votes, but that was hardly the point. He could stampede votes in the opposing direction, particular in the days before the election, when newspaper after newspaper dutifully noted his weeks-old endorsement. “In an election in which Kennedy’s narrow victory depended so heavily on the overwhelming margins piled up in Negro precincts in cities such as Chicago,” Klan historian David Chalmers theorized, “perhaps W. J. Griffin’s words helped make the difference.”
Upon such ephemera as the sheet-clad feuds between not- so-grand Dragons, the fate of nations may hang.