Hate-Monger with Literary Trimmings:
From Avant-Garde Poetry to Rear-Guard Politics
Since the late Huey Long departed this world in a blaze of ambiguous gunfire, our professional rabble-rousers have been a singularly untalented lot. To call the roll is to summon a parade of faceless political pitchmen, most of whom are not even dowered with a first-class neurosis. Gerald L. K. Smith, Gerald Winrod, Joe McWilliams, Joe Kamp, Frank L. Britton, Conde McGinley, James Madole, Kenneth Goff, John Hamilton—there is scarcely a personality among them, nor can they often command more than a corporal’s guard of loyal crackpots to follow them.
Can this judgment be safely extended to include Frederick John Kasper, the Cadmus of Clinton, Tennessee, Ezra Pound’s disciple, and reportedly once a Negrophile habitué of New York’s Greenwich Village?
One is not sure. Kasper’s debut showed promise. Unquestionably, he sowed the dragon’s teeth of racial hatred and fear in the sleepy little Anderson County seat of Clinton, which, if left alone, might have experienced no more trouble in desegregating its schools than did a score of other border state communities. It would seem, too, that Kasper did it almost single-handedly. The angry men and women who poured out of the Cumberland hills to demonstrate and riot before the Anderson County courthouse had failed signally to respond to previous attempts at agitation and incitement. It is significant, too, that while Kasper was in jail on a vagrancy charge the disorders subsided, only to boil over again when he was released and assumed command of the pickets besieging the Clinton High School.
Of what stuff, then, is this our Cadmus made? Have the combined influences of a middle-class New Jersey home,1 a Southern military academy, Yankton College, Columbia University, and Ezra Pound shaped this self-avowed trouble-maker into an effective leader of Southern segregationist resistance and revolt?
John Kasper was a young man,
A young man were he
Tall and twenty-six he grew
In this “homeland of the free”. . . .
My father’s name is Truelove,
My mother’s name was Agee,
No jew Supreme Court Justice
Gonna make my laws for me. . . .
John Kasper was a young man,
A young man were he
When he went to fight the battle
Of Clinton, Tennessee.
So runs the patently inauthentic folk ballad that was distributed in the lobby of the Clinton courtroom when Kasper’s trial for sedition and inciting to riot opened the day before the national elections. Its subject—and possibly its author as well, unless it was composed by Kasper’s former roommate, the talented if somewhat effete poet-economist Eustace Mullins—is a six-foot, slightly stooped, and faintly decadent-looking young man with a narrow forehead and a beaked profile. His charisma, such as it is, smolders damply out of deep-set blue eyes that never lost their hurt-spaniel look even when Kasper, his long-fingered white hands weaving dialectical arabesques in the air, was animatedly instructing the jury, the prosecution, and a gaping audience of Tennessee hill-billies in the Poundian doctrines of history, race, economics, and jurisprudence.
Does Kasper believe this nonsense? Is he sincere?
The question was much discussed by members of the jestingly named “Southern War Correspondents Association” who had come to Clinton during the riots and returned to cover the trial. The consensus was that while Kasper has certainly proved himself on and off the witness stand to be a cynical and unctuous pitchman, he is profoundly sincere in at least one respect: namely, his anti-Semitism. This judgment was confirmed in the writer’s presence when I accompanied a Jewish colleague who approached Kasper outside the courtroom and tried to get him to confirm or deny the reports of his Negrophile past.
“I’m not talking during the trial,” said Kasper. Then, his voice rising and his eyes signaling his hill-billy entourage, he snarled:
“And I’m certainly not talking to a Jew!”
The biographical data concerning Kasper are scant, and most of it second-hand since neither the subject, his close relatives, nor his intimate friends have been very communicative to reporters. Frederick John Kasper was born in 1929 in the city of Camden, New Jersey. Both his parents were born and brought up in this country. His father, who died some years ago, was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a moderately successful combustion engineer.
Kasper’s schoolmates in Camden remember him as a quiet, retiring boy and a good if not brilliant student. During his mid-teens he was sent to the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia for two years, thence briefly to Temple University in Philadelphia, and from there to Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota. His teachers at this small private college, whose history is associated with the native agrarian radicalism of the Populist period, were impressed with Kasper’s intellectual gifts, but described him as a “trouble-maker with pronounced left-wing political sympathies.”
After two years, Kasper transferred to Columbia’s School of General Studies, his draft board having classified him 4-F. Kasper majored in philosophy, with a minor in English literature, and was graduated in 1951. Although his grades were average to good, Columbia seems to have been less impressed by Kasper’s intellectual gifts than was Yankton. There are no reports of his engaging in any political activities on the campus, although he is said to have described himself on one occasion as an “intellectual fascist.”
The only one of his teachers who remembers him is the poet Babette Deutsch (a contributor to Commentary), who conducts a course in “Twentieth Century Poetry” in Columbia’s School of General Studies. Miss Deutsch recalls that in her treatment of Ezra Pound she said that his poetry must be respected, however much one might abhor his politics. In the classroom discussion that followed, Kasper declared that he, on the contrary, found little to interest him in Pound’s poetry, but was greatly impressed by his politics. There ensued a verbal free-for-all between Kasper and members of the class, all of whom were outraged.
Subsequently Kasper sent Miss Deutsch an apologetic note, appended to a term paper, thanking her for bringing him to an understanding of the dangers of fascism and Stalinism alike, and to a sense of humane values. Still later, after he had been graduated from General Studies and had begun to issue his “Square $ Series” of reprints and translations, Kasper visited his former teacher on two occasions and asked that his paper-bound edition of Pound’s translation of the Analects of Confucius be adopted for use in her classes, but nothing came of this proposal. Miss Deutsch adds that, while she has had a good many neurotic young men and women in her classes, she did not consider Kasper to be one of them.
In 1952 or thereabouts, Kasper became associated with Florette Henry, an intelligent and attractive Negro woman in her twenties, in the “Make-It-New” bookshop (named after the title of one of Pound’s books) at 168 Bleecker Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. About the same time, Kasper became the publisher, with David Horton, of the aforementioned “Square $ Series” which included two of Pound’s translations, The Unwobbling Pivot and the Great Digest of Confucius and Confucian Analects. Other items in this series were Thomas H. Benton’s Bank of the United States, Alexander Del Mar’s Barbara Villiers or a History of Monetary Crimes, and Eustace Mullins’s The Federal Reserve Conspiracy. According to Mr. Mullins, who is an ardent admirer of Pound, “the nation’s banking reserves were placed in the hands of the Jewish international bankers for the purpose of carrying out their nearly fulfilled world dictatorship plan.”2
In addition to selling this and similar literary merchandise, the “Make-It-New” bookshop issued a catalogue of recommended reading which included the spurious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and John O. Beaty’s virulently anti-Semitic The Iron Curtain over America. It also took orders for subscriptions to such anti-Semitic periodicals as Conde McGinley’s Common Sense, Frank L. Britton’s American Nationalist, and Robert H. Williams’s Williams’ Intelligence Summary.
It would appear that Kasper established personal contact with Ezra Pound shortly after his graduation from Columbia in 1951. At Pound’s suggestion, two members of the Pound literary circle in Washington picked up Kasper in New York and drove him to Washington, where he visited the poet in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. (En route to Washington, Kasper astonished and repelled his hosts by his obsessed political diatribes and unrestrained, incoherent ranting.) Thereafter, Kasper maintained frequent contact with Pound, up to and even after his involvement in the Clinton affair had gained him national notoriety.
During Kasper’s New York period there was little to distinguish him from a dozen other obscure anti-Semitic hate-peddlers except his somewhat more inflated intellectual and literary pretensions, which derived largely from his Poundian discipleship. At that time he was not anti-Negro.
Prior to the spring of 1956, when his Virginians Awake! pamphlet was issued, he had apparently made no contributions whatever to segregationist literature. On the contrary, his “Make-It-New” bookshop was a recognized center for the distribution of pro-Negro books and magazines and was patronized chiefly by Negroes and Negrophile whites, including some students from the Communist party’s Jefferson School.
During this period, in fact, most of Kasper’s friends and associates would appear to have been Negroes. Florette Henry was his associate and assistant in the conduct of the bookshop. Ted Joans, the Negro artist, and Ned Williams, the choreographer, were both intimate friends, or so considered themselves. At one time, according to Joans, Kasper helped him and his white wife to obtain an apartment. Joans remembers a fish fry in Brooklyn at which Kasper jumped on a table, urged all present to join the NAACP, and recruited twelve new members on the spot. But he himself did not join, “because of the Jew”—meaning presumably because of the support given to the NAACP by Jews—so Joans remembers Kasper telling the dismayed gathering.
When asked to comment on these and other statements by former Negro friends in the Village, Kasper has insisted that he was interested only in exploring the cultural roots of his Negro acquaintances; that he encouraged them to become interested in their own race, and to stop imitating the whites; that he tried vainly to induce one of his Negro acquaintances to translate the work of the late Leo Frobenius, the German archaeologist and anthropologist (quoted in Pound’s Cantos) whose unflattering estimate of Negro potentialities is in accord with the Poundian philosophy of race which Kasper now espouses.
Joans, Williams, and other Negroes interviewed by George Barner of the Amsterdam News are unable to recall any such expressions of interest in their culture by their one-time friend and companion. What they do remember is that in the discussions of race-relations problems which occurred frequently at the Sunday night gatherings in the bookshop, Kasper invariably took the side of the Negro and expressed his disgust with the ill treatment they were receiving in the South. Joans quotes him as saying on one occasion: “If I were a strong Negro, I would lead a march on Washington. If I were a Negro, I would holler in front of the United Nations building until somebody noticed me. If I were you, I’d take one of my paintings and hang it on the Museum of Modern Art. All they could do would be to jail and fine you. And think of all the publicity you’d get.”
Kasper is said to have declared that, as for himself, he was prepared to go to any extreme to make his name known to history, and was convinced that sooner or later his chance would come.
After he left New York Kasper made an unsuccessful attempt to associate himself with Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Afterward, Kasper claimed, he served briefly as campaign manager for Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin during the latter’s unsuccessful bid for John Sparkman’s seat in the United States Senate. In 1949 Admiral Crommelin was suspended from duty for revealing information bearing on the then pending unification of the armed forces. Subsequently he joined the group who organized the Madison Square Garden rally of Ten Million Americans Mobilizing for Justice to Senator Joseph McCarthy, in November of 1954. In Admiral Crommelin’s speech on that occasion there were dark references to “the hidden force in our government” which, he declared, had decreed the political liquidation of the Senator from Wisconsin. A native Alabaman and ardent segregationist, Admiral Crommelin loyally visited Kasper in jail during his incarceration for violating the Court’s order that he stop interfering with the desegregation of the Clinton High School, and was a character witness at his trial.
In the spring of 1956, apparently, Kasper decided that destiny was beckoning and that he must answer her summons, even if it involved betraying the Negro friends with whom he had shared his dreams and ambitions. A few months before, he had moved his book business to Washington, where it became the Cadmus Bookshop, at 1246 Wisconsin Avenue. His devoted Negro assistant, Florette Henry, whom he had introduced to Pound on one occasion, remained behind in New York. In her place he had acquired a new associate, Mrs. Nora Devereaux, formerly a bookseller in New York.
In Washington, Kasper continued to visit Pound at St. Elizabeth’s, although there are unconfirmed rumors that at about this time they had a violent quarrel. However, the Pound influence continues to be apparent in the pamphlet Virginians Awakel with which Kasper made his debut as a segregationist publicist and organizer. It was first released at a Washington press conference, following Kasper’s announcement, in June of this year, that he had launched the Seaboard White Citizens Council, affiliated with the radical secedent wing of the Alabama WCC headed by Ace Carter.
Newsmen were amazed and baffled by the wild incendiarism and seemingly contrived illiteracy of this weird opus, which declaims:
Jail the NAACP! Hang the Supreme Court Swine! Destroy the Reds! Save the White!
Now damn all race-mixers . . . the stink: Roose, Harry & Ike
God bless Jeff/Jax & John Adams, also Abe.
Loathe carpetbag, despise scalawag. Hate mongrelizers. (pink punks, flat-chested high-brows, homos, perverts, freaks, golf-players, poodle dogs, hot-eyed Socialists
Fabians, scum, mould on top of the omelette, Myerization of News, liars for hire; the press-gang, degenerate liberals crying for petrefaction of putrefaction,3 complaining s—used to be blacker and richer,4 Social democrats, new dealers,
Said Ben: Better keep ’em out or yr/grand children will miss you. . . .5
Death for Usurers, money monopolists, obstructors of Distribution (international finance, World Bank and Bunk, Unesco currency, Federal Reserve racket, Barney Baruch’s check book, Schiff and Warburg finance Bolshevik refolooshun 1917, Lehman finances Newhouse $$ Birmingham News).
Most readers, not to speak of the Tennessee hill-billies and Alabama red-necks who presumably are being addressed, are likely to be baffled by these exhortations, which appear on what Kasper laughingly refers to as “the literary cover” of his pamphlet; they require almost as much elucidation as one of Pound’s later Cantos.
As a matter of fact, the language, the references, and even the abbreviations and the orthography obviously derive from Ezra Pound. The writer purchased a copy of the most recent installment of Pound’s Cantos, Section: Rock-Drill6 (Cantos 89-95) from Mrs. Devereaux, Kasper’s loyal friend and associate in the management of the Cadmus Bookshop. The lady proved to be a devout avant-garde illuminate, who insisted that she found Pound’s last Cantos not only admirable but even intelligible. When I confessed my own relative inadequacy, she suggested that I might acquire needed enlightenment by visiting Mr. Pound at St. Elizabeth’s hospital, with the chance that at the same time I might meet Kasper, who planned to visit the master on his return from an organizing trip in the South. (Pound regretted his inability to see me and subsequently has been inaccessible to journalists in general.)
The first use of the Virginians Awake! pamphlet was to implement Kasper’s rabble-rousing efforts in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the first weeks of August. Apparently he drove almost directly from Charlottesville to Clinton, arriving in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 25, and sleeping in his car. That afternoon and evening he went from house to house urging people to resist the admission of Negroes to the Clinton High School, which had been ordered to begin desegregation the following Monday when school opened. The subsequent action of the Clinton drama was detailed by witnesses at Kasper’s trial for sedition and incitement to riot, which began in the Clinton Court House on November 5 and ended on November 20, when an all-male jury that included four self-avowed segregationists found him not guilty on both counts of the indictment.
Clinton has 3,712 inhabitants according to the last census. It is seventeen miles north of Knoxville, midway between the atomic center of Oak Ridge and TVA’s model town of Norris. The drab little town has a central square dominated by its big, ugly pre-Civil War courthouse; a two-story brick hotel of the same vintage that is famous for serving the best Southern cooking obtainable north of McMinnville; three handsome modern churches; an avenue of prosperous middle-class homes; a small Negro settlement of some fifty homemade shacks and cottages clinging to the slopes of Foley Hill, which rises steeply in back of the modern new high school.
Most of the eight hundred children enrolled in the Clinton High School are brought in by bus from the surrounding countryside; from the dingy mine villages and the little hard-scrabble farms perched above the coves and inlets of TVA’s many-fingered Norris Lake, which flooded much of Anderson County’s best farmland. Their parents are poor people. They have been poor for at least six generations, ever since their pioneer Scotch-Irish, Huguenot, and German ancestors followed Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap, but stayed behind when Boone and his hardier companions pressed on north into the “Indian pasture” of the rich Kentucky Basin.
Poverty, isolation, inbreeding, ignorance, the cumulative effects of their traditional cornpone and fatback diet—all are reflected in their gaunt faces, their toothless gums, their gnarled and stunted bodies. These are the people whom John Kasper, tall, twenty-six, educated, and talking a marvelously impressive hodge-podge of Blackstone, Douglas, Frobenius, Ezra Pound, and Joe Kamp, came to save from the ignominy and mongrelization being engineered for them by those nine unhanged Supreme Court swine in collusion with the NAACP, the Jews, and the Communists.
Clinton’s school authorities, as they now ruefully acknowledge, forgot about these people when, in the spring of 1956, they set about preparing the high school children and their parents for the enrollment in September of a dozen Negro students. Everybody agrees that Principal D. J. Brittain, Jr., and the school board did a good and careful job with the PTA and the service clubs, and with the congregations of most of the churches. But they forgot the Pilgrim Holiness sect, better known as the Holy Rollers. They forgot about the fundamentalist Baptist lay preachers—over two hundred of them in Anderson County alone—who on Sunday brush the straw from their coats and wash the coal dust from their faces and preach a millennial fire-and-brimstone gospel from the pulpits of the little mountain churches and store-front meeting houses. In short, they forgot about the people who might have been expected to give them the most trouble, and did.
All the best people of the town were persuaded that since every possible means of legal resistance to desegregation had been tried in vain, they had best relax and obey the law, if without enjoyment. Hence when John Kasper knocked at their doors that Saturday afternoon and evening and urged them to picket the schools with him, they sent him packing and alerted the town authorities. The next day, when he went to the office of the Clinton Courier-News to buy cardboard for his picket signs, he was met by an improvised committee of good citizens who urged him to get out of town. When he refused, they had him jailed for vagrancy.
Not, however, before Kasper had seen the other people, the poor people of Anderson County, who have been left with so little else with which to nourish their pride that their membership in the master race has become their most precious possession.
Not before Kasper had stood on the steps of the courthouse and addressed a crowd of several hundred of these people, telling them that they didn’t have to let the “niggers” into their school (Kasper has difficulty in remembering to say “nigger” or “nigra” and betrayed his earlier training by frequent lapses on the stand). Not before Kasper had lit the fuse that set off a train of subsequent explosions.
Just what Kasper actually said and did that Saturday night and during subsequent appearances on the picket line in front of the high school and on the courthouse steps was the chief subject of debate during the trial. J. Benjamin Simmons, Kasper’s shrewd counsel, was helped by frequent restrictive rulings of the court which prevented the admission of evidence connecting Kasper directly with the riots.
While Kasper was in the Clinton jail, from Sunday afternoon until the following Tuesday noon, when he was released for lack of evidence, a few dozen leaderless men and women, with some teen-age truants, milled about the entrance to the school, waving placards proclaiming “We won’t go to School with Niggers” and distributing a flyer adorned with a photograph that purported to show French prostitutes kissing Negro GI’s. The accompanying text declared, over the imprint of the Seaboard White Citizens Council: “We are an action program. We proclaim action as our creed. We are fighting. You must fight with us.” Yet the prosecution was not permitted to connect Kasper directly with the authorship of this inflammatory document.
The school opened with comparatively few absentees and the next morning, with Kasper still in jail and the picketing still spotty and non-violent, the attendance rose from 776 to 803, with classes crowded to overflowing. Tuesday noon Kasper was released from jail. Immediately he assumed leadership of the picket lines and spoke to a large crowd assembled on the school ground. That evening he harangued a rally in front of the courthouse. The next morning he reinforced his picket lines with fifty stay-away students and non-student teenagers, and sent ten automobiles—three of them with Michigan licenses—circling through the streets of Clinton with their horns blowing.
By this time the town was in the incipient stages of what promised to become a first-class race riot. In the deserted streets of Foley Hill above the school the Negroes posted guards to warn of approaching raiders, while their wives and children huddled in cellars and attics. Many loaded their families into their cars and fled to relatives in other towns. Frightened teenagers begged their parents not to send them again through the ever more menacing gauntlet of the picket lines. In the town, Bobby Kane, a Negro student, was chased by a mob of fifty teenagers and adults. The police failed to intervene before he had been cornered, kicked, and beaten by a former white student named John Garter.
Three Negro students were rescued from the mob by the Clinton football team and returned to the sanctuary of the principal’s office. Two other Negro students and a Negro woman who had defended herself with a knife were chased by the mob.
At another rally that evening, Kasper declared himself to be pleased with the results of his efforts. He would remain in town, he said, until the Negroes were removed from the school.
Knowing that they were working against time, a group of responsible citizens including Mayor W. E. Lewallen, Horace Wells, the newspaper editor, and Leo Grant, Jr., an Oak Ridge attorney and one-time paratrooper in the Korean war, debated what could be done so that peace might be restored to the boiling community. Wednesday night they urged Federal Judge Robert L. Taylor in Knoxville to issue an order enjoining Kasper, five of his named collaborators, and “all other persons who are acting or may act in concert with them,” from further interference with the carrying out of the integration order that Judge Taylor had signed eight months previously.
Meanwhile the Mayor asked the state authorities in Nashville to alert the Tennessee Highway Patrol and ready a unit of the National Guard. Nobody doubted that they would be needed, for by this time Kasper had accomplished his purpose. The dragon’s teeth he had helped to sow far and wide in the community that had so hoped for peace were sprouting up everywhere; in streets of the town, in the shouting picket lines that continued to picket the high school, and in the surrounding towns and villages, where the Negroes were beginning to arm themselves, stay away from work, and darken their homes at night.
Again John Kasper went to jail, this time for contempt of court, but promptly another equally dangerous Cadmus arrived in town. On Friday night Kasper’s friend and ally, Asa (Ace) Carter, the former Birmingham radio announcer who had led his faction of violent activists out of the more conservative Alabama White Citizens Councils, addressed a gathering of at least fifteen hundred people in front of the courthouse. Before he was through the mob had wrecked practically every passing car bearing Negro passengers. Men, women, and teenagers linked arms and marched up and down shouting “We want Kasper!” At one point a mob numbering at least two hundred people started up Main Street toward the home of Mayor Lewallen. When police cars blocked the highway, they turned back, but continued milling around town for the remainder of the night, shouting at passing cars and shooting off firecrackers.
Clinton has a police force of seven. It had proven itself quite unable to control the Friday night mob, and there was every reason to expect worse trouble Saturday night. The Governor had promised help, but thus far none had appeared.
In desperation, the Mayor and the Common Council called in Leo Grant, Jr., and asked him to recruit an emergency posse of citizens. Saturday morning, Grant swore in forty-seven deputies. They armed themselves with anything they could get, from German burp guns to ancient fowling pieces and single-shot target rifles. At the last moment, Grant managed to obtain a couple of machine guns and six teargas grenades from the Mayor of Knoxville.
As the afternoon wore on and the ugly mood of the gathering crowds became manifest, Grant contemplated his meager army with a sinking heart. To make an adequate show of force it should have been twice as big, and armed in such a way as not to excite the ridicule of the populace. Shouts of “Let’s get the nigger lovers!” “Kill them!” and “Take their guns!” greeted the appearance of the posse in the square. Over three thousand people were jammed into the area around the courthouse. For a while the police, each officer surrounded by a squad of Grant’s deputies, were able to keep the crowd moving. Then, at about 8 o’clock, a mob of six hundred jeering, yelling adults and teenagers solidified on the east side of the square.
The final scene could not have been better timed if Hollywood had produced it. As the posse slowly advanced in line of skirmish and Grant bowled a tear-gas bomb at the feet of the mob, the howl of the Highway Patrol’s sirens was heard and a score of police cars drove into the square. A half dozen arrests were made, after which the crowd became orderly and listened until midnight to speeches by orators representing the Tennessee Federation for Constitutional Government and other segregationist organizations. The next day, Sunday, saw the National Guard bivouacked in the square and Clinton’s ordeal was over for the time being.
Partly because of the persistent objections of defense counsel, most of which were sustained by the court, the jury was given no sequential account of the riots that Kasper was accused of inciting. Much important evidence was excluded by Judge Hutson’s ruling that Kasper could not be considered responsible for disorders occurring while he was in jail in Clinton and Knoxville. Kasper denied authorship or approval of some incendiary racist literature distributed in Clinton both during the riots and subsequently, although it bore the imprint of the Seaboard White Citizens Council of which he is executive secretary. He also denied using the inflammatory language attributed to him by peace officers who had heard his speeches on the picket lines and at rallies of his followers.
By way of showing that not only the effect but also the intent of Kasper’s activities was to incite disorder and violence, Detective Harold Fincher of the Birmingham police force was permitted, over the frantic objections of defense counsel, to testify that Kasper had said in the Central Park Theater of Birmingham on September 13, two weeks after the Clinton riots:
“The people of Clinton needed a leader. I’m a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker. I’m not through up there. We want trouble. We want it now. We need lots of rabble-rousers. Some of us may the and I may the too. It may mean going back to jail, but I’m going back to fight. We went as far as we could have gone legally. Now is the time to fight, even if it involves bloodshed.”
Fincher’s hand-written notes were submitted to the jury for examination and returned to the judge, who handed them to the defense attorney. At this point they disappeared; and no stenographic transcript of the trial proceedings was taken.
The trial had other equally inexplicable aspects. At least one radio broadcaster took tape records of some of Kasper’s most inflammatory speeches, but no attempt was made to introduce this evidence into the record. Attorney General John Lee West saw the cover of Virginians Awake! for the first time when this writer provided the prosecution with a photostat of the incendiary document, a copy of which was apparently available during the week of the riots to anybody in the Knoxville-Clinton area who chose to write for it to the Seaboard White Citizens Council, as did a local radio reporter.
D. J. Brittain, Jr., the gentle, scholarly high school principal who endured the concentrated fury of Kasper’s “action program,” was permitted to testify that Kasper had threatened in the presence of his picketers: “I will get the niggers out of the schools or you out.” But he was prevented by the objections of the defense and the rulings of the judge from describing the incredible ordeal to which he was subjected without let-up during the riot week and long afterward: the continuous midnight ringing of his telephone, the ugly voices out of the night snarling foul insults and threats whenever he lifted the receiver; the fiery crosses burned in front of his house; the boycott by active segregationists of any tradesman courageous enough to continue dealing with Brittain; the whispering campaign broadcasting rumors that bombs had been planted under the school—it so terrified parents that the week after the riots attendance at the high school dropped to around two hundred, less than a third of normal.
The children are back now, including all but one of the twelve Negroes who were enrolled when school started. One of the latter, the gifted Jo Ann Allen, was elected vice president of a school society. During the troubles only a handful of children joined the picketers and it was the children who rallied to the defense of their principal when the superintendent and the school board seemed likely to let him down. Practically all of them, along with many of their parents, signed a petition that Brittain be retained, offsetting another petition for his dismissal that had been circulated by the Anderson County White Citizens Council. Undoubtedly many of the signers of that petition were in the packed courtroom when Brittain, worn thin and haggard by weeks of harassment, mounted the witness stand.
Had he felt frightened and intimidated—asked Assistant Attorney General Fischer—when Kasper called him out of his office and demanded that he “get the niggers out or resign”? There were muffled guffaws from the audience, quickly suppressed as the judge gaveled for order.
Brittain winced, then glared back at the smirking faces of his persecutors. Some of them he had reason to know. Others he knew only through their voices, the voices that had given him so many weeks of sleepless nights, snarling curses, and threats until he discontinued his telephone, moved to a new address, and virtually went into hiding when not at the school.
They are not through with him, nor is Kasper, who announced, following his acquittal, that he planned soon to establish headquarters for the Tennessee White Citizens Council in the Clinton area and launch an intensive drive to undo what had been started there, by blocking all further efforts to implement the Supreme Court’s desegregation order.
When the jury announced its verdict, after less than an hour’s deliberation and only two ballots, close to three hundred people rose to their feet, yelling, screaming, and stomping. Kasper grinned, bowed, and pumped the hands of his admirers.
The Fates had by no means overtaken Cadmus yet. But Kasper had achieved his goal: trouble and notoriety. It was a question whether he could achieve anything more.
1 At Columbia University, where most of Kasper’s friends appear to have been Jews, Kasper sometimes talked of his early home life, describing his childhood as unhappy and distorted by frequent quarrels with his parents. He was forced to attend Sunday school against his will, one acquaintance reports him as saying, and he was withdrawn after he had made a great scandal by challenging the religious teachings of the Sunday school.
2 Mullins was briefly employed by the Library of Congress; his employment was terminated because of his bigoted activities.
3 See Canto XV: “and the fabians crying for the petrification of putrefaction” (The Cantos of Ezra Pound, New Directions, 1948)
4 Ibid.; “claiming that the sh-t used to be blacker and richer.”
5 See Canto LII: “Remarked Ben: better keep out the jews or yr/grand children will curse you.“ Pound’s source here clearly seems to be an anti-Semitic document circulated in this country during the 30’s by Nazi propagandists which purported to be a copy of a speech attacking the Jews made by Benjamin Franklin during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The speech was allegedly contained in the “private diary” of Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, a fellow delegate to the Convention. But no such “diary” exists, nor have historians been able to find any record of it. Furthermore, historians doubt that the language and phrasing of the speech could be of Colonial origin. In short, they have branded the document a fake. (See The Institute News, published by the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa., Vol. III, No. 4, August 1938, pages 1–2.)
6 New Directions, 1956.