[From "The Men of Magnolia"]
What often comes to mind when thinking of Mississippi? The images are most likely not very flattering and often tend to be a bit stereotypical. The Magnolia State receives much criticism and condescending feelings from many who do not live there and from a few who do. While the beliefs and ideas espoused by normies is typical as per their brainwashing, what perplexes the mind is the lack of admiration for and lack of attention that Mississippi receives from Southern Nationalists, possibly due to it sending fewer men to fight than other states in the Confederacy or having very few known leaders or generals during that war.
Maybe it is because of the lack of notability of much of its political leadership following the War until at least the 1960’s. Perhaps it is simply a lackluster state. Despite the lack of attention it garners, Mississippi produced many of the best and staunchest Southern Democrats of the 20th Century. Many were firebrands and did drum up the ire of social media and the government in their fights against the communist-backed Civil Rights Movement and worked diligently to stave off its success, one in particular even writing a book in defense of segregation. This article seeks to shed some light on a few of these great men and justify why Mississippi is the most underrated state in Dixie among Southern Nationalists.
John E. Rankin
John Elliot Rankin served as a state representative to the House for sixteen consecutive terms from 1920 to 1952. What makes him stand out among the other men mentioned on this list is his willingness to work extensively within, what was at the time, the liberalizing Democratic Party in order to benefit Mississippi, as well as, ensure segregation remained in effect without butting heads with other congressman. While he worked to ensure his state’s voice was heard in Congress, much to the chagrin of the many liberal northern Democrats, he supported FDR’s New Deal programs as an attempt to spur development and investment in poor rural areas, even coauthoring the Tennessee Valley Authority. He also supported the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944.
Despite his support for the New Deal, he supported the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944 being distributed in a decentralized manner to the states, thus allowing Jim Crow laws to be utilized when enforcing this act in the South. He hated the UN, seeing it as a threat to America and stated, “The United Nations is the greatest fraud in all History. Its purpose is to destroy the United States.” He was also known for his hatred of communists, even helping establish the House Un-American Activities Committee. He did all this and much more in his passion to fight against communists in the government, as well as, maintain the representation of his people within the government, a trait far too uncommon today.
Fielding L. Wright
Fielding Lewis Wright never served any offices above the state level. Following his service during World War I, he served in the Mississippi Senate and House and eventually went on to be lieutenant governor to Thomas Lowry Bailey. He took the position of governor when Bailey died in 1946 and was reelected as governor in 1947. He governed Mississippi during a time of drastic change. The South, being heavily rural, was working to industrialize and modernize its economy following World War II. Wright worked to ensure this happened. He also focused greatly on the Civil Rights issue, states’ rights and segregation, which ultimately resulted in his political wins as governor.
However, he did not always achieve success. Wright is most well known for running on the vice presidential ticket for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, a party which failed to win the election and disbanded shortly after. He did not succeed politically following the end of his governor term in 1952 and was defeated, returning to his old job of law practice.
Theodore G. Bilbo
Theodore Gilmore Bilbo served two non-consecutive governor terms, once from 1916 to 1920 and a second time from 1928 to 1932, and was later elected to the US Senate from 1935 to 1947. Prior to this, he served in the Mississippi Senate and was lieutenant governor. His term as governor was quite successful in implementing progressive policies, managing to organize state finances, reform education policies, build a charity hospital, create a board of bank examiners and ban public hangings. He earned the nickname “Bilbo the Builder” because of his success in authorizing a state highway system, building lime-crushing plants, establishing new dormitories at the Old Soldiers’ Home, constructing a tuberculosis hospital and working toward the eradication of the South American tick. His political career is filled with many projects, events and ideas he undertook.
Despite having done so much as governor, what he is most well known for were his racial attitudes, as well as, his time in the US Senate. He spent much of his time feuding with other members of Congress, especially another Mississippi Senator by the name of Pat Harrison. Bilbo represented the poor tenant farmers, whereas Harrison represented the upper-class planters and merchants. Bilbo also drew much criticism for his outspoken views on racial segregation; in fact, he is the only person on this list who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. However, like most other Democrats, he did support FDR’s New Deal administration and even proposed an amendment to the federal work relief bill that would have deported millions of blacks to Liberia. He came up with the idea out of inspiration from beliefs espoused by black separatists such as Marcus Garvey.
He may have done quite a lot in regards to upholding segregation and supporting it orally, but the staple of his racial legacy was his book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization. In this book, Bilbo summarized his views on race and segregation. Unfortunately, he died in 1947 not long after the book was published. Interestingly enough, on his deathbed, he requested the black editor of the newspaper Negro South to publish the statement, “I am honestly against the social intermingling of Negroes and Whites but I hold nothing personal against the Negroes as a race. They should be proud of their God-given heritage just as I am proud of mine. I believe Negroes should have the right [to indiscriminate use of the ballot], and in Mississippi too—when their main purpose is not to put me out of office and when they won’t try to besmirch the reputation of my state.” He was quite an interesting man indeed.
Ross Robert Barnett
By far the most notable person on this list, Ross Robert Barnett was the Governor of Mississippi from 1960 to 1964. This man was a firebrand and carried that image anywhere he went; his gubernatorial campaign included its own song, based off the state anthem “Go Mississippi.” He garnered spotlight for being an outspoken, staunch segregationist, especially for being a governor with those views during the most intense leftist Civil Rights push. He allowed for the arrests of various Civil Rights activists and Freedom Riders and was a member of the Citizens’ Council. He also fought in a vain attempt to keep Ole Miss, his alma mater, from being integrated. On the eve of the Ole Miss riot of 1962, he attended the Ole Miss vs Kentucky Wildcats game. The crowd numbered roughly 41,000, waving countless rebel flags and unveiling a huge rebel flag on the field. When the student body shouted “We want Ross!” he stepped out onto the field and shouted the now famous sixteen word speech: “I love Mississippi! I love her people! Our customs. I love and I respect our heritage.”
Barnett continued to work against integration, but to no avail. Interestingly enough about him, he was a Baptist Sunday School teacher and often espoused Biblical views on racial separation. He made statements such as “The Good Lord was the original segregationist. He put the black man in Africa. … He made us white because he wanted us white, and He intended that we should stay that way.”
Unfortunately, Barnett would only serve one term as governor. He served in other lower positions and areas of influence, but never again saw the same level of political success and popularity as he had during his time as governor. He is the only person on this list to actually live to see the Civil Rights Movement’s conclusion and is one of the few Southern politicians who lived afterwards for several years to never renounce or backtrack any of his previous racial views and stated, “Generally speaking, I’d do the same things again.”
Mississippi produced some of the finest men in Dixie and still does. It may not have shined during the War of Northern Aggression quite as much as states like Virginia or Tennessee, but it proved its mettle and worth during the Jim Crow Era, specifically, the latter part of it. Mississippi is a beautiful state with a long history of hardiness and stalwart men who refused to cave to the ideals of the weak and evil men. These weak men now control much of the government and more continue to flood here, fleeing the messes they made of their homes in the North and on the West Coast.
It is quite unfortunate that the Magnolia State does not receive the love it most certainly deserves, as the Men of Magnolia were truly some of the best.