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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Evaluating Truman's 1948 presidential candidacy

Marc Ray "Foots" Clement was the only Alabama politico who believed that Harry Truman had a chance of reelection in 1948. LeMaistre remembers Truman as a good candidate, but thinks that he got a lot of undeserved credit running against Thomas Dewey, who was a poor campaigner.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Well, there were a great many people who thought the poll tax was just wrong and particularly the cumulative poll tax. As I told you, this Alabama Policy Committee back in the thirties wrote this model constitution. One of the things, the first things we wrote was a provision outlawing the poll tax.
ALLEN J. GOING:
That was the one that Dixon was—
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yeh, —
ALLEN J. GOING:
Trying to get support on.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yeh, and Simpson. We had all the Republican-leaning Democrats on our side and it was not a—that was not a subject that was the property of the Southern Conference of Human Welfare.
ALLEN J. GOING:
No.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
But they grabbed on to it, and I think it was smart of them to do it. It gave them sort of an air of propriety to their whole organization which it really didn't deserve.
ALLEN J. GOING:
But, in that connection, it was along about then that the Boswell Amendment passed, that was in November of '46, and I guess that was an attempt to thwart what looked like might be an increase in black voting.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
It was. I've forgotten what county Boswell was representing. [Geneva]
ALLEN J. GOING:
I don't know either.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
One of the Black Belt counties as I recall it, but I'm not sure
ALLEN J. GOING:
But—I'm sure—I imagine it was. But Folsom had already been elected, I think.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yes, Folsom went in right after—[the war]
ALLEN J. GOING:
And he tried to oppose it but didn't succeed. It passed both the legislature and then the voters but I think at the time wasn't it generally understood that it wouldn't stand up in the courts?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
That's right. But it was a gesture in that everybody could get on board and be recognized as being on the right side of this thing. Actually there's been so much posturing and posing on the subject of civil rights, you never really did get to know what anybody thought about it. I get tickled by that reference to the bill always as the so-called civil rights act.
ALLEN J. GOING:
It got into the emotional — But now, coming on up to the '48 convention, you didn't go to that?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
No, that was in Philadelphia and . . .
ALLEN J. GOING:
Did Clement go to the convention?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Clement, I think, may have gone. Not as a delegate.
ALLEN J. GOING:
What was happening prior to the Philadelphia convention?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Well,
ALLEN J. GOING:
The delegation was obviously splitting on this.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
But you must remember that Truman had come through the end of the war, setting up the United Nations, all these various things that took him sort of up to a peak, and then he was going down very fast. When Harry Truman was renominated, there was, or, I guess he was at a lower ebb than Jimmy Carter, and everybody just wrote him off. And in this state particularly where he wasn't on the ballot, his electors weren't on the ballot, nobody gave him a chance of being reelected. And not many people expressed any admiration for the fight he was making for it. All of them now talk about how they admire the scrappy little Truman and how he took that train and went through the country, dared the Republicans to come out and fight, you know, and all that sort of thing., But in those days they did not give him credit for anything. And I think I've told you before that the only human being that I know of in this state who insisted that Harry Truman had a good chance to be elected was Marc Ray Clement
ALLEN J. GOING:
And he was convinced of that.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
He was convinced he was going to be elected because he was attacking the people that could do something about the problems and when they got in there to vote they realized well if they do what Truman's asking them to do, we can get this thing solved and so they voted for him. Course I think Truman, while I think he was a great president, I think that he was an excellent candidate, I think he gets a lot of credit that he really doesn't deserve just because he had such a lousy candidate against him. Tom Dewey couldn't really sell hot coals to the Eskimos.
ALLEN J. GOING:
And Henry Wallace was tarred with the Communist taint. But the states rights resentment against Truman largely stems from the racial issue.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Almost 100%