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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

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 'forties.
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.