Ralph McGill Red-baits West
Ralph McGill, the so-called progressive editor of the <cite>Atlanta Constitution</cite>, mercilessly Red-baited West. West blames McGill for the destruction of his home, because McGill listed West's address in his newspaper. McGill's columns also pressured a Unitarian church to withdraw from an agreement than gave West land he used as a work camp.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. 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
That was the period when everybody was quiet. And it was following all
that, the burning and all, that Eastland subpeonaed me over to Memphis
for investigation. Ralph McGill had been attacking me all through that
period. Even after I left Georgia he was attacking me.
- JACQUELYN HALL:
When did he first start doing that?
- DON WEST:
It must have been in the 'forties, early
- JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he attack you for?
- DON WEST:
Well, he quoted one of my poems. I have a poem in Clods of Southern
Earth: Listen, I'm an agitator. They call me red, the color
of blood and bolshevik. And so on. And he would quote this and say
"Look, he admits it." All of it was red-baiting. Some
of them got burned, but I clipped all these things, keeping them for my
grandkids to read. These things of his attack, you know. Because he was
known—so many times I've been in New York and
heard people refer to that progressive editor, Ralph McGill. I was
emceeing a dinner for Julian Bond in the Roosevelt Hotel several years
ago, for SCEF. And while we were sitting there Julian leaned over and
says "Don, does anybody ever ask you about that progressive
Ralph McGill in Atlanta?" I said yes, indeed they do. He says
"I get so tired of that." McGill was not a
progressive. He red-baited other people thinking it would clear his
skirts, I think. Anyway, he made it rough. He was the one that I credit
with being responsible for our houses being burned. Because he
would write about me and say
"He's out on the Chattahoochee River on Rt 166. We
don't know what he's doing." For two
summers I directed work camps for the Unitarian church, Unitarian
Service Committee. Had one camp up in north Georgia. We have a place up
there—which we still have. And had another one out at
Douglassville, Georgia, on the river. McGill said
"He's got a bunch of young people out there. We
don't know what he's doing." But the
implication was that it was a sinister sort of plot going on out there.
Like we were going to revolutionize Georgia out on that farm. I had a
five year agreement with the Unitarians for this camp. When the camp was
being held at Douglass county, on the river, there were two officials
from their national office there when the Atlanta Constitution had front
page headlines attacking me. And he had his editorials in addition. This
just scared the Unitarians to death and they withdrew their agreement.
So, as I've often said, I've always liked the way
Unitarians talk, not always the way they act.