Sunday two days ago I listened to magnificent interview on Ga NPR Two Way Street program, the widow of Atlanta Rabbi Rothchild Janice talking about her wonderful relationship with Coretta Scott King.
For those of you who want to skip my blog or do the background listening immediately here I the link.
http://gpbnews.org/post/janice-rothschild-blumberg-150th-anniversary-temple-kate-tuttle-cold-war Copy and paste or wait till I get to a better computer in a few days to enervate for you.
Some great stories, among the more endearing, an hour long conversation in early 60s when Coretta and Janice were talking about Martin getting arrested. Coretta didn't know how to explain it to her oldest child, Yolanda, five at the time, tell the Rabbi's wife: She 's yet to even know she's a colored child.
Roughly the peak moment is the backstory on the Jan 27, 1965 Atlanta celebration for Martin Luther King Jr of his Nobel Prize. Mayor Ivan Allen and Rabbi Rothchild were meeting lukewarm reception for the idea till AJC legend Ralph McGill went to south Georgia plantation of Coca Cola Robert Woodruff. Woodruff said the third world will not think highly of a product whose hometown is cool on King. And Coke may have to consider moving its corporate headquarters.
Well when that word got around, the enthusiasm increased and the Grand Event bulging at the seams Black tie event became the Night that Made Atlanta.
There was a similar event in the Furman Drama as the plot unfolded that came to the break with South Carolina Baptists.
For this you have to see things through my imagination a little, and a creative understanding of how Lee Atwater's "nigger memo" evolved into the politics of SBC morphing into the Tea Party and this Trump moment. Through that lens this story takes on added weight to a penultimate level of the Coke King Nobel event. See the links at the end of my Barnum Circus Blog.
South Carolina Fundamentalists were making a play for Furman adding trustees of their choosing the board annually. It came to the point where Rocky Purvis of Union SC an 81 grad was on the board by late 80s. His Brother Paul was early 90s FU SGA Prez and his Dad of Darlington SC is on video confronting the President of the Baptist WMU in 93 in Richmond Va, High Baptist drama.
In 87 or so Rocky was at the Baptist Southeastern Seminary linking up with the forces of Jesse Helms and the Birch Society inflected Jerry Vines of West Rome Baptist Church to oust my Dad's great friend and 57 SEBTS Classmate Randall Lolley as President. Rocky in that drama joined forces with Tony Beam of Rutherfordton NC now a "Christian" radio personality in Upstate SC supporting Trey Gowdy.
I was delighted to see the clip from the powerful movie Jackie Sunday night on the Oscar show, the clip where Jackie makes reference to the John Birch Society of Dallas, a strong influence on WA Criswell that hated Kennedy so. Read the Book Dallas 1963. Dallas loaded the gun, but Oswald pulled the trigger. A Similar parable could be told of Jesse Helms, The Birchers and Criswell and minions like Buster and Beam and the takeover of the SBC.
But I don't want to get too far ahead.
Furman Trustee in the 80s and longtime before that was Tom Hartness, head of Pepsi Cola bottling for the Southeast. Furman conspiracy theorists will want to look into the legend he was in Dallas for a Cola Convention the night before JFK was assassinated with Nixon the Keynote speaker. But I don't think that is part of the equation. It would however be interesting for a Furman panel to have a public conversation speculating on the conversations he and Charles Daniel, Thurmond and Roger Milliken might've been having in the early 60s framed in Joe Crespino's magnificent work Strom Thurmond's America.
Nixon spent the night at the Daniel mansion in 1962, now the home of Furman presidents since Gordon Blackwell.
Hartness son Sean, now a Furman trustee and his wife Courtney Tollison, a Furman grad, History proff and bright light in the Upcountry History Museum; those two would suggest Hartness Senior's heart was in the right direction in those days, maybe even a little more enlightened on race politics than Daniel. But I don't know.
Whatever the case, Tom Hartness in early 90s with my friend Chaplain Jim Pitts--Pitts father was Nixon's barber in the white house-- now retired, find themselves on a mission from Greenville to visit Rocky Purvis in Union South Carolina to see if he would call off the dogs. From there its Pitts story to tell but the version I heard was quite colorful. History shows Purvis kept it up for the fundies resulting in the famous sweat specially called meeting of South Carolina Baptists in May 92 or so in Columbia SC. The AC went out that day. Pitts called me that night and said it was hotter than hell in there but Furman came away "Saved" from the fundamentalist designs.
Institutional salvation in the ambience of a sawdust trail in August tent revivals. Marshall Frady musta loved it.
These two Cola stories have a great novel in there somewhere. Added relish is the great friendship of nFurman Chaplain LD Johnson--Furman's Abe Lincoln. FU President Gordon Blackwell, himself a Baptist minister's son, and that of Greenville's Great Mayor of the Jewish faith, Max Heller.
Blackwell endorsement of Heller for US Congress opposed by Lee Atwater and Jesse Helms does have honest comparisons to the Ivan Allen, Woodruff, King story in Atlanta.
Do listen to the Janice Rothchild interview. It's a jewel.