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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Sixties in Biblical Proportion

   The Sixties didn't end for me in Gaffney SC till about 1978. Gaffney was always about ten years behind so coming in under eight was about right. That was our last year in Gaffney having arrived January 1962.

    In the Spring of 78 and our family's leaving there was a racial tension coming to a resolution in my Dad's congregation, this ten years after school desegregation and my four years at Furman. I was back at home for three years during which time my sister brought a black friend home from Mars Hill College  with a group of 14 or so friends;  and resentments about people of color playing basketball in our back yard, the church parsonage had been building for some time.

    I was submitting a few provocative pieces to the local paper and challenging some shibboleths on a few occasions flagrantly and before I knew it a former school board member, a leader of the Freedom of Choice Movement (Strom Thurmond's Distract and Delay maneuver of the late 60's) came looking for me cause as he said in a phone conversation later, he was "gonna stand on my toes and beat my Ass into the Ground.".

    I thought about Getting the Frawg Night and  upping the ante a little with taunts about mayhem but that went against everything my Dad had been about for 16 years, not to mention The Chaplains at Furman at the witness of Will D Campbell who they introduced to me.

   And it turns out the Board Member had a family tragedy in the past with his father's suicide with the Textile Strikes of the late 40s.

    So it all began to register with me as I was already trying to make sense of my geographical demonstration plot and what had happened as I was coming of age with Textile Politics and religion in Upstate SC.

   Frye Galliard is 7 years older than me. He was steeped firsthand with key players at Vanderbilt ( class of 1968) and was soon to come to Charlotte NC where he was a writer and columnist for the bulk of his Professional career.

   So his book Hard Rain, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility and Innocence Lost,  a Chronicle of the Decade of the 60s which hit the shelves August 14 has gripped me. It's 600 pages are magisterial and enthralling as he seeks to take it all in, from a perspective I have yearned for when thinking about such things the last 40 years. He has been awake the whole time, more awake than me, and Gaillard as a Senior at Vandy within a few weeks he was in the inner circle of arrangements to have Stokely Carmichael and RFK, Bobby Kennedy  on campus. As a junior in High School, he came up from Mobile to Birmingham for a field trip in April of 63 and happened to be in a hotel and saw Martin Luther King Jr handcuffed and taken off to jail at the beginnings of the childrens marches that got international attention; the catapulting incident of King's Letter from the Bham Jail.

     Galliard was there. His  colleague at the  Charlotte Observer, Jerry Shinn was a Gaffney native of the 60s.And as a Southerner from the Alabama where my Mother's family goes back to the 1840s; you get the picture we got a similar headset.

     So I'm all in with this read, another Third Testament, existentially, contemporaneously with a roll call of shared heroes from King to Will Campbell, Marshall Frady, Frank Johnson, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and Cager Lee.

      First thing I did when I got the book was check the index to see if Frady was named. Sure enough, three notices with great Frady phrases the captured a moment or a personality; and the last reference to Frady names him among three others who were the supreme journalists of the era.

     I am becoming an evangelist for this read. Ive gotten in touch with the key organizers for the  Gaffney Class of 68 Homecoming Reunion this year, the last year of Desegregation, encouraging them to have a group read to add sustenance to their conversations when they celebrate their 50th in a few months. And if you are anywhere within ten years shaping of the 60s, ahead or behind, get this book. Have your children or friends who follow in the 80s and further as great history lesson.

    I want to spotlight a few episodes in the book where Frye shines the brightest and add a few caveats.

     Gaillard  adds texture to Barry Goldwater with some good stories that never registered with me before. I am especially interested in BG as Ive mentioned elsewhere on this blog my summer of 1970 friendship with Roger Milliken, Jr. His father lived in nearby Spartanburg SC, twenty miles west of Gaffney, though Roger was often away at prep school and most summers at their home in Maine.

    Legend is Roger Sr. called Goldwater on the phone and told him personally to run for President. In Hard Rain Gaillard says with misgivings after JFK's assassination, Goldwater's inner circle convinced him in December of 63 to take the plunge. However a Politico story of 2015 does say strongly Milliken was the strongest voice and pocket in that conversation.That story is an easy google for Milliken and GOP history.

    Interestingly the same story says my friend Roger Jr. a recent President of the Nature Conservancy whose career has been in Maine with the family's timber interest, gave a quarter million dollars to the Obama camp in 2012.

    For two years at Furman from fall 72 through spring of 74 Nixon's Southern Strategist Harry Dent's daughter  Dolly was a student there during my time. She was one of the prettiest females I'd been around then and I haven't seen many prettier since then. Her younger sister Ginny, a friend of Trey Gowdy since their time at FBC Spartanburg,  and I often speak frankly oppositionally on facebook.

   So knowing Roger Jr, a collegiate acquaintance with Dolly, and later a fascination and distaste for South Carolina's Lee Atwater you can see how I was focused on Gaillard's take on Kevin Phillips in Hard Rain.

      For my two cents Frye gets it right

      For several of the last seven years or so Ive been frustrated with Morning Joe, NPR's 1a Program and recently Georgia NPR almost daily hour long Political rewind for not getting the point of the Southern Strategy and how a key component the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention was in that edifice.

     Frye has several references to Garry Wills who I recognized as spot on a half decade ago in New York Review of Books piece on Joe Scarborough's book on the recent History of the GOP. And then Wills did the same truth telling exposing some of the shallow analysis EJ Dionne.

    And for his great work in The Soul of America, castrating with Historical reference Trump's demagoguery, Jon Meacham dropped the ball on Bush 41 who was never president without Lee Atwater and without his Dad there is no 43 as perfected by Rove with Atwater's dodgy devil's game.
    Wills was on to it all along. And a couple years ago Wills was ratified in Wuthnow's Rough Country where Atwater 83 confession is framed properly. Atwater said you can't say "Nigger" anymore so you have to dress it up with the politics of Abortion, school prayer, Other religion cards and then the Marion Hammer Stand Your Ground reinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment. So it is all the Devil's game and Kevin Phillips started it and in three pages Frye Gaillard spells that out.

     Paul Harvey in Freedom's Coming, says Billy Graham's stepchild Al Mohler said abortion politics was the "stick of dynamite " that gave fundamentalists in the SBC a new ball game for another generation as the murky race politics of Paul Pressler, Jesse Helms, Ed McAteer, Albert lee Smith and his Eagle Forum wife Eunie of the anti Brown V Board generation ran its course and they passed the baton to a succeeding generation of fundamentalist dogmatics who played the Wallace 60s game with a new issue.

   And then as Wills and Wuthnow and now Gaillard recognize, put some shine on it and as pretty as she is and was Dolly's Daddy and Kevin Phillips begat Atwater, who begat Rove who begat good god almighty Donald Trump.

    There is one piece I do wish Frye coulda mentioned in his succinct and spot on treatment of Nixon and his divided strategies at play in his own mind, and that was a piece in the New Yorker of a few years ago where John Buchanan was with Nixon in 66 in Columbia SC in a smoke filled room of Republicans and they trial ballooned some anti integration rabble and Buchanan said the boys were applauding Nixon wildly and and he thought ole Dick was about to blow the doors off the walls and the chandeliers were gonna fall.

  In fact here is the key paragraph, a George Packer piece in the New Yorker, the rise of the American Right. Quoting Packer:

                   Buchanan calls this event “the most memorable” of that 1966 campaign—the first election of the backlash—and afterward Nixon exulted, “This is where the energy is! This is where the future of the party is!” Buchanan denied that the speakers had appealed to racism—before a crowd of incensed white men, in South Carolina in 1966, they didn’t have to. Nixon didn’t condone racial prejudice, as Buchanan protests (a little too much), but he walked a carefully calibrated line—keeping some public distance from the likes of George Wallace, while rousing the anxieties and anger of Wallace’s millions of supporters and encouraging them to think of Nixon as their man. In a memo during the 1968 campaign, Buchanan warned Nixon not to go after the Alabama governor: “Wallace is the symbol of Southern resistance to Washington in the South, just as we would like to be the symbol of resistance to Washington and its policies in the nation. We will want, I would think, the people who are supporting Wallace now to be in our corner perhaps later.” This approach came to be known as the “Southern strategy,” and Buchanan was its unapologetic advocate.

   End quote.

    But Frye could not say everything as he comes in at 600 pages and that before the thorough end notes start. One of the glories of this book as its reach is expansive over one decade, is blogs and conversations like this one can take up and emphasize other experiences of the 60s as Frye concedes at the outset his book is in many senses just that for himself. But I doubt a better more thoroughgoing frame comes along any time soon. And Beside most of us whether dead center child of the 60s or on the tail end have much more than on average about seven years to go anyway.

   Frye has a moving frame for M L King's Riverside Address April 4, and quotes him at some length. He mentions King was on panel in LA Feb 28 with George McGovern and Mark Hatfield. A few days earlier in the bitter cold King was part of a March against the Viet nam War in NYC and addressed a throng of 100,000 people. The event Is commemorated in Kate Hennessy's biography of her grandmother Dorothy Day of a few years ago. Day was present at the March that day, sitting on the steps of a Catholic Church across the square from the United Nations, though it is doubtful Day and Martin spoke that day.
    To lighten up a little in his Chapter on Music, Muscle Shoals Alabama and Spooner Oldham, Frye does record the much known session the Stones had there a few days before Altamont in 69 . A friend of mine, documentarian Brett Morgen, now nominated for 7 emmy's for his masterful NatGeo work on Jane Goodall a few years ago did the Rolling Stones up good in Crossfire Hurricane. Not from that doc but the one produced by Bama Public TV on the Swampers is the Story of Bill Wyman and wife leaving the Holiday Inn in the Shoals after the famous session there. February garbed up in heavy faux fur Hippie looking attire of the day, a naïve houselady, young White woman at the Shoals asked Wyman and his wife if they were with some rock n roll group.

   Wyman replied yeah, Martha and the Vandellas!

    Here are a couple more Stories from Folks whose path has crossed mine, stories marinated in the 60s.

   For one David Shi, two years ahead of me at Furman, and in 69 later to become chair of the History department at Davidson and President of Furman, was present at the Atlanta Pops Festival about 30 miles Southeast of Chic Fil A's first dwarf house the summer of his High School Senior year, 1969. Janis Joplin was there and I think Hendrix; 100,000 Crackers and various other assorted ethnic groups a good six weeks before Woodstock.

     And you can't get much more sixties than this  Furman Delegation to Marshall Frady's Funeral in 2004. Will Campbell, Frady's great friend--Billy Graham was flummoxed Frady had ten pages on Campbell in the Billy Gee Bio An American Parable--sent Furman Chaplain Jim Pitts to read Will's eulogy for Frady at the Funeral where Jesse Jackson was the keynote eulogist. Jackson called Frady his "homeboy" from their contemporaneous days in Greenville SC early 60s.

    Pitts Father Milton, was Nixon's barber; also cut Reagan's hair. Pitts good friend TC Smith of the Furman religion faculty accompanied Pitts to the funeral. Smith flew in from Berkley California in 65 to March with King and the Civil Rights workers and Furman grad Martin England, a founder of Koinonia Farms in Americus Ga. In fact Pitts reports TC Smith was in a car with Viola Liuzzo a few hours before she was assassinated. Viola was chaufering folks around that day after King Proclaimed the Moral Arc of the Universe is Long but it Bends Toward Justice. She took  Smith and others to the train station for a ride to Atlanta to catch his plane back to California. TC told me and others they had to hit the floor in the train as shots were fired  through their coach as they were leaving Montgomery.

   And my final coda here is best understood as imagination based in fact.

    The fourth Sunday of August 1983 at the annual Helton Reunion in East Tennessee on Walden's Creek outside Pigeon Forge My Dad was the guest preacher. His Mother's side of the family. George McGovern had heard of the good trout fishing in that beautiful valley and good Methodist he was was present for the Sunday morning service. The family invited him to stay for lunch and he did.

     My Dad's first cousin Bush Helton, recognized him from the pulpit saying it was an honor to Have him there and with a smile said, while you are welcome we want you to know that other than my sister and Billy's boy Stephen you are likely the only Democrat with us this morning.

    I wish I had known then, wish it had registered with me McGovern's panel conversation with Martin L King Jr and Mark Hatfield in Los Angelos in February 1967. Woulda been a golden opportunity to chat with him for ten minutes or so about the key event that among all the others of his Lincolnesque career stood out.

   And finally maybe a stretch but Hard Rain shared my late August attention with a second reading of Denis Johnson's remarkable novella, TRain Dreams. (Google the James Wood, Guardian Review). TD's fictional character Robert Grainier, as grand an American character as Huck Finn, dies in 1968.  Find and Read the last paragraph of that novella.

   That crosses over as my epitaph for the Sixties.

    Did I say Bob Dylan's son Sam edited the Bama Doc I consulted? (smile)




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