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Marion A. Wright Papers

On 6 February 1950, attorney Marion A. Wright (1894-1983), a Marion native then recently retired to Linville Falls, N.C., wrote District Judge J. Waties Waring (1880-1968), of Charleston, that for some time he had been toying with the idea of attempting to write an article on him "along the line of the Profiles which appear in The New Yorker," feeling that the thing about the judge's career which would command the interest of readers would be his "connection with so many and such crucial Civil Rights cases." Wright stated that he intended trying to sell the prospective article "to the magazine section of the Sunday New York Times, or perhaps some other national magazine" and asked if Waring would "consent to fairly extensive interviews." While Wright admitted that "this article might be better written by a professional writer," he also thought that "it might have a certain value as being written by one South Carolinian about another."

This collection of sixty manuscripts, 1950-1952, is the file of letters and other items resulting from this overture to Judge Waring. The three principal correspondents are Wright and Judge and Mrs. Waring, but there are also letters from various magazine editors, as well as from University of South Carolina political science professor George L. Sherrill, whose confidential assistance Wright solicited in securing copies of the anti-Waring resolutions which had recently been made by the South Carolina General Assembly.

The chief focus of interest is the revealing content of the letters written to Wright by the Warings. In his initial response to Wright's request, Judge Waring wrote, 9 February 1950, that he was "very sincerely and deeply gratified" by his overture and promised to cooperate with him in every way towards the preparation of the article, not out of the desire "of being publicized for any personal reasons, but because I think that anything we can say and that gets to the outside world as coming from the South is most valuable." "You have graduated from South Carolina and you are living in a much clearer atmosphere in North Carolina," he goes on to say, "but I am still surrounded by all of the old fog of prejudice. I am sure that your approach to this whole subject would be extremely valuable." He remarks that "the old Klan spirit" was still active in Charleston and that he had received information that a petition was being circulated in parts of the state asking for his impeachment.

In this letter he also had occasion to speak his mind "in regard to Hodding Carter, [Ralph] McGill and others"--"For a time, I, too, thought they were doing good work. I have now come to the conclusion, however, that Hodding Carter and what he stands for is our great menace. The old line Dixiecrat intolerance as expressed by Ball of the Charleston News and Courier and Congressmen and others from this state can be beaten down by reasonable expositions. But the Hodding Carter gradualism and appeasement is dangerous. It has so much sweet reason to it. You should read a recent address delivered by Aubrey Williams of Montgomery...on `gradualism' in which he points out unerringly the dangers of this half-loaf method....To my mind, the most important goal to which we should strive is the abolition of legal segregation."

In a letter to Wright of 7 April 1950, Waring congratulates him "most heartily on signing one of the briefs in the Sweatt case" and says that the Supreme Court "has the great issue of segregation put squarely before it, and I believe that these decisions will either forward or retard the course of history many decades." He also refers to "the epitaph on the [James Louis] Pettigru tomb" and calls his attention to the fact that "it was not an inscription devised by Pettigru's opponents in Charleston, but was placed there by his daughter who left here and lived in Italy as a result of his and her persecution. It is true that they do honor and boast of him now. I do not dare to compare myself with him in any way, but it is amusing to see that the politicians including Congressman Rivers say now that they have no complaint with my decisions giving the Negroes the right to vote. And I have newspaper clippings showing their outcries when these decisions were filed."

By 28 April Wright had completed a first draft of the article and had sent it to Judge Waring. Although he had had to omit much that he wanted to include, he felt that he had "chosen with fair discretion to advance the general purpose" he had in mind--"The presentation of the human interest side of your personality; the delineation of the drama into which your decisions have forced you; the making ridiculous the Dixiecrat and News and Courier crowd and the bringing home to South Carolinians the fact that they, too, have been ostracized in that world opinion leaves them tragically alone." "I have not mentioned Mr. [W.W.] Ball's name since I do not wish to advertise him and feel his ego may thrive on the publicity which his sorry role has brought to him," he continued.

Wright next heard from Mrs. [Elizabeth Avery] Waring, who, in a letter of 2 May, wrote saying that the "warm personal and dramatic appeal" of his article had come as "a most thrilling surprise" and expressing to him "not only my admiration, but my deep appreciation for the human quality of your creative as well as accurate recording pen." She also had some editorial changes to suggest, especially with regard to his "portion about the evening with the Judge's daughter and son-in-law which is particularly lovely and sensitive as to the effect that they have on him as well as the joy and relaxation he always displays when in his intimate home life with me." However, she felt that Wright's reference to the Judge's rare imbibing of a scotch-and-soda did not truly interpret his "ways or life nor the essence and quality you here describe of a transformed person in a `warm and pleasant, if not a gay and witty companion'." She went on to say--"Truthfully, the Judge is not a scotch-and-soda drinker, he really has no preference in whiskey and is not even a drinker of any kind to sufficient extent to even mention it. While he is not a W.C.T.U., still he has some cautious fear of liquor, perhaps from the long life of observation of the many alcoholics in Charleston. We believe that home scene would not only be more honest and real without the reference to the scotch-and-soda, but also undermines the real reason for his transformation when he sets his foot into our home. I have written in instead of the scotch-and-soda, `but certainly dear ones around him had mellowed his usual reserve.'"

On 8 May, Judge Waring wrote to suggest that, in circulating the article to prospective publishers, Wright "stress the fact that you are a South Carolina lawyer. I think that is of enormous interest and value." A month later, in a letter relating to Wright's submission of the article to Town & Country and The Reader's Digest, Mrs. Waring went on to remark--"As for the politicians blasting at `THE WARINGS' they started off with ravings against us but after the first day seemingly stopped--why we do not know. However we are told that they are not being quoted in our censored press when they damn the Negroes and the Warings. Occasionally Thurmond refers to the `TURNCOAT JUDGE'--he did in his speech the other night over the Radio but very hurriedly, almost as though he did not wish it to be noticed but that it had to be said." "Of course," she concluded, "I have been cutting out as usual all newspaper items and there is a great deal of importance at your service at any time. I do get outside of the IRON CURTAIN news reports too."

In his final letter to Wright in this collection, written 21 November 1950, Waring summarizes his view of the scene regarding racial desegregation--"I do believe that the only way we shall ever get any relief is by having the matter fully aired. You and I know how racial prejudice has been kept under cover in South Carolina for many decades. Now we are having outbreaks. We have had the troubles in your old county; the Moses Winns killing in Summerville; and the affairs in Charleston. Then, that has been followed up by Hamilton, the head of the Klan, making public statements attacking various liberal organizations and now getting into a controversy with Governor-elect Byrnes. The dissension in the ranks of the `white supremacists' due to their wishing to have different methods of enforcement of their rule will open up the insides of this state to national and international scrutiny. I say international advisedly because I continue to get letters almost every day. Yesterday, two came from Australia, and last week, one from Germany. I have gotten others from various other parts of the world. Indeed the world is interested in racial matters, and unless America wakes up and cleans up its own house in this part of the country, we are not going to much longer be able to claim to be leaders of freedom and democracy."

Wright's article, which circulated under the title "Dixie Vendetta," was turned down for publication by both The Reader's Digest and Town & Country, as well as by The New York Times. In a letter of 6 July 1950, Henry B. Sell wrote--"As the Editor of Town & Country magazine I have no interest one way or the other in the subject or the current controversy. As Henry Sell I hold that the Judge and Mrs. Waring are a remarkably dedicated couple. I love them for it. I certainly do not have enough information to justify a personal stand other than to `go along' with the Warings, as cheering section!"

Included in the collection is a printed copy of "The Failure of Gradualism," the talk presented by Aubrey Williams in Atlanta on 28 December 1949; and a Fabian Bachrach photographic portrait of Waring in his judge's robes, inscribed "To my Friend Marion Wright."

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