Operation Lone Star and the Reverse Freedom Riders

The Governor of Texas is currently sending busloads of immigrants to New York City and Washington, DC, and dumping them there. This brought to mind a flash from the past: the Reverse Freedom Riders. In 1962, while the real Freedom Riders were testing segregation of interstate bus facilities, the Reverse group were totally opposed to integration.

The idea was to give bus tickets to black families and send them North. Send them to Hyannis Port, the Kennedy hangout, see how they like it. “They have been crying the sing song on behalf of the Negroes throughout the nation. And of course now when it comes time for them to put up or shut up, they have shut up.” Owning the Libs was a sport even sixty years ago.

Lela Mae Williams and her children were told by a White Citizens’ Council lawyer that the Kennedy family really wanted to help them to find a better life. He drove them 150 miles north to Little Rock, Arkansas and put them on a bus for the three-day journey to Hyannis, Massachusetts. Of course, the Kennedys had never heard of Lela Mae Williams and there was no job waiting for her. What a joke on the liberals!

Helping Lela Mae Williams’ family, June 1962. [Frank C. Curtin/AP]

Altogether, a little over 200 people believed the lies they were told and went north. 96 people showed up in Hyannis, looking for the job and better life promised them. Locals worked to help these displaced people, finding them a place to stay and food to eat. Americans generally were disgusted by the cruelty inflicted on these folks and raised funds to help them.

Right now the cities of New York and Washington are trying to cope with the sudden arrival of more than 5000 people. This was a concept mentioned by ex-President Donald Trump in 2019: “They want more people in the sanctuary cites. Well, we’ll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply,” Trump declared at a news conference. “And let’s see if they’re so happy. They’re always saying, ‘We have open arms.’ Let’s see if they have open arms.” Which, of course, was the same gag pulled by White Supremacists sixty years ago.

New York Mayor Eric Adams: “It is unimaginable what the governor of Texas has done, when you think about this country, a country that has always been open to those who were fleeing persecution… We’ve always welcomed them. And this governor is not doing that in Texas. But we are going to set the right tone of being here for these families.”

So far, Texas Governor Abbott has not cooperated with any state or city agency to schedule these busloads. People are just dumped. Abbott claims President Biden created the problem. He does, however, now acknowledge that he is, indeed, sending busloads of people to New York. Previously he denied it. Maybe he was just a teeny tiny bit ashamed. Maybe?

Here’s another bus, another flash from the past:

George Lincoln Rockwell’s answer to the Freedom Riders: the Hate Bus! [Joe Sherschel/Life]

Tory Leadership Games

I just can’t look away from this horrific spectacle. Soon it will be over, though, and it appears Rishi Sunak and someone else will be chosen to campaign for the Fall vote.

Ben Jennings in The Guardian, July 17. There were five then, now they are four.

So what’s wrong with Rishi? Well, for one thing, he’s not a British resident, or at least he wasn’t when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a permanent resident of the US, something he didn’t give up until last year, along with his Green Card. (And Sunak’s wife held non-domiciled status in the UK — India being her residency — as a tax dodge. A £20M tax dodge.) It says something about your national commitment when you toss your country for cash.

So who is going to run against him? Right now, it looks like either Liz Truss (who is slipping) or Penny Mordaunt (who is rising). Kemi Badenoch is so far to the Right that she frightens everyone, but she’s hanging in. These three have been competing to see who will be crowned Most Vicious. Badenoch loves to be called the Anti-Woke candidate, and the other two have been attacking Trans and Gays, and each other for not being anti-Gay/Trans enough, hard as they can.

…the most toxic prime ministerial contest ever. A Johnsonite blasts Rishi Sunak as a “rat” and “sly assassin”. Penny Mordaunt takes even heavier incoming fire over incompetence from David Frost, the incompetent who signed the EU treaty only to renege on it. Mainly she’s under fire from Kemi Bandenoch’s anti-woke ferocity over trans issues, a subject that is a planet away from election-winning turf. But “wokeism” is where many in this deranged party choose to fight. Labour has often been riven by splits, but never reaching this public toxicity. Its schisms are over profound differences in political direction, but this poison springs from a lack of substance: all personal vendettas, ambition and malice with scant serious content.

Penny Toynbee, commenting on the Leadership debates, The Guardian, July 17

The thing is, nobody in England cares about social issues right now, they’re looking ahead to this Winter, when they will be unable to afford to heat their homes. Sure, it’s a massive heatwave right now, but this Climate Change weather is unpredictable.

Lewis Goodall, BBC reporter, after attending a Tory focus group:

What was striking is how flat ‘culture war’ issues were, how removed so much of the SW1 conversation which dominates politics and a fair bit of the media really is, despite fact it’s often done in name of ‘real people’. Any clip where a candidate talked about those issues tanked.  And that’s because people felt these are convos they just can’t afford to have. They spoke of gas/elec projected bills of £3500+. Deep foreboding about the winter ahead and economic catastrophe. Having to take on second jobs. The gap between public & Westminster never felt wider. 

on Threadreader. Original here.

So the public watches to see who will run the show for the next two years. For a brief moment they were excited by Tom Tugendhat, who pretty much rejected all of Boris Johnson’s governance, but the Tories don’t care about the public — this contest is in-house to see who will rule. Anyhow, Tugendhat (the only candidate not to serve in Johnson’s Cabinet) was dumped.

Soon it will be time to leave this disaster and take a look at the US mid-terms. The horror continues.

This just in: Bandenoch is out. Sunak still leads the pack. Those loyal to Johnson claim Sunak is a weasel who stabbed Boris in the back. Those promoting Sunak say Boris himself is spreading those nasty tales. Others say both these things are probably true.

The Bloodbath Begins

I admit to taking perverse pleasure in watching Tories in whatever country fight each other. Everyone has a ready knife and is watching for an unguarded back. Canada has its Brown affair, but you can’t beat the Brits for Nastiness. Boris Johnson once described Conservative politics as “Darwinian” which is a euphemism for “they all hate each other”. The bloodletting has begun.
First to announce his candidacy for Conservative Leader was Rishi Sunak. Sunak had a “slick” (every Brit newspaper uses that word to describe it) video that must have been put together some while before Sunak actually resigned. (Apparently, he had a campaign website set up last December.) Boris regards him as disloyal and has already dumped on him publicly, even though Boris had promised to stay out of the election. (Boris deserves credit for keeping his word almost a full day!)
BoJo hates Sunak for the resigning thing and he also dislikes Nadhim Zahawi, who declared his candidacy and, an hour or so later, it was leaked that he was under investigation for financial misdeeds. Coincidence?
But all the would-be Prime Ministers are under the gun now. Nadine Dorries wants to keep Boris Johnson’s “flame alive”. Also, she has attacked Penny Mordaunt for supporting Trans rights. Brexiteers are after Liz Truss, who they claim hasn’t read her own North Ireland Bill, and anyway, was soft on Brexit. And Penny Mordaunt who is running on a new-broom-sweeps-clean platform, is being examined closely for any peccadilloes. Two separate (unnamed) candidates have sent their dirt dossiers on the others to Labour and there are rumors of some really wild sexual stuff. Mind you, to damage a Tory with their sexual history is a tough slog. Everyone is pretty jaded now.
Anyway, this story will continue for the rest of the summer and it will only get better.

Covid Politics: Will He Stay or Will He Go?

At this moment it is 6:24 AM in the United Kingdom. Soon Boris Johnson will have to decide whether to resign or wait another day. Forty-three of his ministers have resigned (and he fired one — not a biggie, Gove was also fired by each of the two preceding PMs. He’s used to it.) Boris just squeaked through a Conservative leadership review recently and, in theory, the Tories have to wait eleven months before trying it again. Maybe they’ll go whole hog and go for an election thus forcing an earlier review date. Anyway, they hope that BoJo will do the honourable thing. Ha, ha. As if he weren’t a Tory. Anyway, this is the Prime Minister’s response:

That’s telling ’em, BJ!

Boris has always been a bit shifty… Let me re-phrase. Boris has always been a lying fraud but the British people were sort of used to him. After all, the main objection to Opposition Leader Keir Starmer is that he’s boring and dull. Well, there’s always something doing with BoJo. Maybe he’s tearing up an agreement he signed months ago; maybe he’ll re-start the Irish Civil War; maybe he’s abandoning another child he’s fathered; maybe he’s promoting a sex offender to Cabinet; but whatever else is going on, you can bet Boris is having a good time. Take the pandemic years, for instance, when people couldn’t travel, couldn’t get together to socialize, could not even attend funeral of a loved one. But the Government threw lots of parties at Christmas, a time when many families were unable to celebrate together. Boris lied, of course, several times about a number of things, but everyone saw the videos. He survived, barely, because he promised to be good and because his loyal minions were not yet ready to fight it out. Now, apparently, they are.

[This just in: Boris has agreed to resign… after the Autumn election of a new leader. Now, remember what I said before, about BoJo’s honesty? So, we’ll see if he’s really gone or not, in September.]

But it was Johnson’s mishandling of Covid that brought him down. His administration had shown itself to be both inept and disorganized in dealing with the pandemic. In addition, many Ministers showed a callous indifference to the problems that the common folk were having. Partygate was not the first time Government Ministers flouted the laws they had made and enforced. Even though he’s being forced out by the Pincher affair, it was Covid that ended this phase of Boris Johnson’s career.

So what other politicians lost because of their Covid actions/inactions? These guys have worked out an interesting bunch of graphs that look cool to me. Basically, what it boils down to is that places where the virus spread the most had the lowest government approval. Let’s see, the US lost about 20% in approval and Donald Trump lost the election. He never really recovered from that Bleach Injection press conference.

Japan comes right after the US in loss of approval. Prime Minister Yoshide Suga was forced out of office after just over a year because of his handling of Covid.

The UK and Brazil are on the list of governments losing approval during this period and they may see new leaders before long, but also there is Hungary. There, Viktor Orban has used the pandemic as a pretext for expanding power. Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has also used the pandemic to strengthen his dictatorial hand, reportedly even exposing dissidents to Covid-19, then leaving them without care.

Then there is Tunisia (remember the Arab Spring?) where Covid was a problem too big for the fledgling government. The health system collapsed and now a dictatorship is forming.

I wish I could say something funny now, but Covid was a bitch. But it is useful to examine your local response and how well those in charge handled things. Here’s another link on politics and Covid.

John Kasper, The Intruder: Part 3, Afterwards

[Part 1 ; Part 2]

Kasper spent a lot of 1957 in court. When he was out on bail or appeal, Kasper would travel and give speeches at segregationist events. On March 22, for instance, he spent the night in a Knoxville jail and appeared in court the next day. Two locals posted bond and Kasper promised the Court to not create any more “inconveniences”. Then two followers drove him and Admiral Crommelin to Clinton, where they spoke to a crowd. “Crommelin opened up on the jews,” Kasper wrote Pound, “The crowd went wild. Last Aug. when I first went to Clinton they didn’t know what a kike was. I’m very proud of that educational feat.” [Marsh, pp. 189-191]

Kasper might testify in his own defense and deliver long lectures to the judge and/or jury. Many of Ezra Pound’s words came out of his mouth, “local control of local issues” for instance. He might include a plea to release Pound. And he would quote John Quincy Adams or Louis Agassiz or Thomas Hart Benton. Admiral Crommelin appeared as character witness from time to time. At one trial he said that, someday, a statue of Kasper would stand in the courthouse square. Kasper had a number of different lawyers. On one occasion he was defended by Ross Barnett, who would become Governor of Mississippi in 1960 and try to keep James Meredith from enrolling at Ole Miss. Barnett told the jury that Mississippi Senator James Eastland wanted them to know that “874 public-school children in Washington. D.C. ‘have loathsome and contagious diseases, and 97% among them are colored.'”

Kasper continually denied that he had anything to do with violence, but no one believed him. In February, Kasper addressed a group in Alabama that was supporting several men accused of dynamite bombing. This was now a common occurrence in Birmingham, nicknamed “Bombingham“, and Atlanta, where synagogues were attacked. Every time a bomb went off, Kasper was a suspect.

Kasper’s name began to be linked to that of J.B. Stoner, Georgia lawyer and active segregationist. Stoner was a virulent anti-Semite, who said that being Jewish should be a capital offense. He also said that blacks were not fully human, but “somewhere between the white man and the ape”. Stoner was suspected of more than a dozen bombings, mostly synagogues and churches, but not convicted of any until 1980. Stoner was connected with Edward Fields, who was connected with the KKK. Kasper, Stoner, Fields, and Kasper’s old comrade Asa Carter were on an FBI watch list. Whenever a bomb went off, local agents had to ascertain their whereabouts.

Asa Carter was never charged with any bombings. After his North Alabama Citizens Council folded, Carter founded The Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy, a para-military outfit. In 1957, members abducted a black man (“We just wanted some nigger at random”), castrated him, poured turpentine on his wounds, and left him bleeding. Six men, one of whom was involved in the Nat King Cole attack, were charged. Two turned State’s evidence and got five years in prison, the other four got twenty years. But, in 1963, George Wallace’s government commuted these sentences and restored full civil rights to the four serving twenty years. The other two served their full sentences and their criminal record was not expunged.

In Knoxville, February 28, 1957, someone set off a stick of dynamite next to an auditorium where Louis Armstrong was performing. Armstrong quieted the crowd. “It’s okay, folks. It was just my telephone ringing.” Five days before, a huge blast in Clinton had injured a black woman and her baby.

These bombings did not sit well with many White Citizens Councils. The WCC had claimed that they would prevent violence, not commit it. And there was a certain amount of class snobbery; the WCC was basically middle-class. Members liked to point to “rednecks” and “poor white trash” as troublemakers, even as they privately applauded the trouble they made. The main Tennessee segregationist group, the Tennessee Federation for Constitutional Government, was headed by Donald Davidson, one of the Fugitive poets, now a Vanderbilt professor. Davidson distrusted and avoided Kasper. The TFCG provided a legal fund for accused Clinton segregationists, but not Kasper. Kasper never bothered to make allies of any of these more genteel groups, he wanted an Attack unit.

In January, 1957, Kasper began a speaking tour of Florida. The next month, a huge cache of explosives was discovered near Miami. Four of Kasper’s followers were charged after a cross-burning. The State government decided to neutralize Kasper and subpoenaed him to testify before a legislative committee. There, Kasper was questioned about explosives and so on, but the questioning soon switched to Kasper’s relationship to black people. Kasper was asked about stories that had been printed in New York papers describing his socializing with blacks, even dating black women. He had to admit that the stories were true. Particularly damaging was the statement by a male dance instructor that he and Kasper had slept in the same bed. There may have been no sexual activity but the hint of homosexuality spiced the entire story. Asa Carter remarked, “This will about fix it for Kasper in the South.” [Webb, Rabble Rousers, p.70]

A Nashville Klan leader, Emmett Carr, told a reporter that “one or all three of these things about him is true: He’s an integrationist working backward, a government agent, or he hasn’t got all his marbles.” The rumor that Kasper was an agent provocateur was widespread. After the Florida hearings, a KKK local cancelled Kasper’s speaking engagement. In May, Kasper was thrown out of a KKK meeting in Clinton. (Kasper was never a Klan member, although various sites on-line identify him as such.)

Kasper needed to restore his reputation as a die-hard segregationist. He managed to get an article in the University of Virginia Spectator titled “Segregation or Death” which ran alongside of William Faulkner’s “Letter to the North” and Sarah Patton Boyle’s “Why I Believe in Integration”. [all linked here toward bottom of the page] The University of Virginia has a rather checkered history around civil rights. Kasper’s article is full of Poundian notions about race. Pound sent a copy to Dallam Simpson, a Texan who had published Four Pages, a poetry magazine, at Pound’s direction.

dearD/m Too bad the KKK is illiterate and keeps on with clichés re/ fascism, and
Mus and Adolf/ WHEN JK ventures on ideology as per enc. nowt is said of it in
the chew press/ I doubt if ANY of his audience has faintest idea of meaning of
the marked pp/

Pound to Simpson, quoted Marsh, p. 195

The Jim Crow issue of UVa’s Virginia Spectator. Contents linked here at bottom.

During his time in Clinton, Kasper made excursions into Kentucky (where the National Guard was called out) and Tennessee cities. An organizing effort in Louisville failed, as did attempts to organize in North Carolina. Kasper was unable to get any support in Oak Ridge. Florida didn’t want him and the deep South didn’t need him. And he was losing the competition for Pound’s approval with Dave Horton. While on trial in Tennessee, broke and unable to make bail, Kasper received a registered letter from Horton demanding he repay money owed the Cadmus bookstore.

In July, 1957 Kasper and six others were found guilty of contempt of court for refusing to obey an injunction in Clinton. A reporter from the Washington Afro American wrote:

. . .he was a pathetic sight. No longer was he a mere rabble rouser from the North, seeking to roll back integration in the South. He was a lonely, desperate prisoner of the Klan. The people around him neither respected nor trusted him. They only used him. When the all white jury returned the guilty verdict against Kasper and his six codefendants, his co-conspirators turned their fury upon him. Their bitter expressions said he was the cause of their involvement.

Samuel Hoskins, “Reporter’s Row. The Last Time I Saw Frederick John Kasper.” Washington Afro American, October
22, 1957, quoted in Marsh p.200.

Kasper became more desperate in his attempts to rouse the public. At the end of a day’s testimony, he would attend a rally and make speeches, not caring what impression he was giving to the Court. Kasper’s rhetoric became more and more violent.

The Nashville Campaign

General Kasper plans the Nashville Campaign. [Photo: Jack Corn, Nashville Tennessean]

Nashville was the largest Southern city to begin desegregation in 1957. In August, Kasper began creating turmoil there.

Frederick John Kasper, 27, the tall, hawk-faced agitator from Camden, N.J., began to whip up the crowd. “The Constitution of the U.S. gives you the right to carry arms,” he said. “If one of these niggers pulls a razor or a gun on us, we’ll give it to ’em . . . When they fool with the white race they’re fooling with the strongest race in the world, the most bloodthirsty race in the world.” Hot-eyed Rabble-rouser John Kasper mentioned the name of one of Nashville’s Negro civic leaders and dramatically held up a rope, then talked hazily about dynamite.

“The Battle of Nashville”, Time, Sept. 23, 1957.

In August, Kasper visited schools that were preparing to de-segregate, trying to mobilize parents and the community at large. He found an ally in Fred Stroud, a Bible Presbyterian minister. Kasper maintained contact with his family’s church throughout his life. He seldom discussed this in his letters to Pound, who thought Christianity was tainted through its Jewish ancestry. Stroud believed that God created black people as a servant race for whites. Advocating racial equality was to defy the Lord’s Will.

Fred Stroud [photo: copyright Nashville Public Library]

On September 8, Kasper gave the speech quoted in Time above, and a crowd formed around the Fehr School. 500 people mobbed up and began breaking windows and burned crosses near black-owned homes. The police came out in force and stopped the rioters. It was rumored that the Fehr School would be dynamited and police beefed up their presence there. At 12:33 that night, the Hattie Cotton school was dynamited. No one had thought this elementary school was a segregationist target. One black child had entered the first grade there and few paid attention. Maybe it was the bomber’s second choice.

Police quickly rousted Kasper from his bed in a rented room and took him in. Meanwhile, an informant said that Kasper had shown him dynamite and tried to get him involved in a bombing. Police searched, but the dynamite had disappeared. Another informant claimed Kasper had talked to him about dynamiting. But there was not enough evidence for an indictment. This was the closest Kasper came to being charged for bombing. He was charged with vagrancy, released from jail and immediately re-arrested on illegal parking charges, released again, and a few hours later charged a third time, this time for incitement to riot.

Just as in Clinton, the community turned against Kasper:

. . .when you start dynamiting schools, well, you are hitting the white folks’ pocketbooks. Schools were built with tax funds. And we’re not going to let some dumb son of a bitch like John Kasper come down from the north. In fact, Kasper probably did more to desegregate Nashville than any one person, just by being such a jerk.

Will Campbell interviewed 2003. Campbell was a white minister and civil rights worker in Nashville.

The violence over de-segregation caused Congress to consider measures that would make it a Federal offense to defy a Federal Court injunction, thus making it possible to bring in the FBI. There was a debate about making bombings, especially school dynamitings, Federal crimes. President Eisenhower had proposed a Civil Rights Bill earlier in 1957 to protect black voting rights. The bill was attacked in committee by Mississippi Senator Eastland and was the target of the longest filibuster in Senate history led by South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, ex-Dixiecrat candidate for President. The bill finally became law, September 9, the first Civil Rights law to pass Congress since Reconstruction. The law would be strengthened in 1960 and again in 1964.

Meantime, on September 4, Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas, called out the National Guard to stop the de-segregation of Little Rock’s Central High School. President Eisenhower removed the National Guard and brought in the 101st Airborne to enforce de-segregation. The Little Rock event took the spotlight away from Tennessee. (Faubus, incidentally, tried to keep Kasper out of Arkansas.)

Kasper claimed that his convictions showed that there was no “freedom of speech”. His appeals were running out. Kasper had followed Bryant Bowles’ path and suffered the same fate: he had become irrelevant and unwanted. Kasper returned to his mentor, Ezra Pound.

The Wheat In Bread Party

When a new acolyte appeared at St. Elizabeths, Pound would assign them a task. Pound told visitors that if they hung out around him, he was liable to put them to work. Now Pound assigned Kasper the task of forming a new political party and also assigned a new member of the Kindergarten to assist him.

David Wang (aka David Hsin-fu Wand) had left China when Mao triumphed in 1949. Wang was then 18. He frequented Kasper’s New York bookstore and wrote to Pound in 1955, visiting him in 1956. Wang wanted to be a great poet, but became distracted by extreme politics after writing Pound. Wang admired John Kasper and wanted to found his own version of a White Citizens’ Council. Wayne Dynes: “When I asked how a non-Caucasian person could fulfill this role, he said that he was only acting as a place saver until some real white person came along to take his place.” Wang vehemently denied being a white supremacist. He did admit to being against race-mixing, though that did not stop him from proposing marriage to several young “muses” who hung out at St. Elizabeths.

The political party that Kasper and Wang were to organize was a very Poundian creation. The “Wheat In Bread Party” (= WHIB) got its name from an English controversy about bread flour. Various substances were used to whiten wheat flour all over Europe. Governments had tried to persuade their populations that whole wheat flour was more nutritious than the adulterated stuff, but people refused to buy it. Customers wanted snow-white bread. Enriching wheat flour with vitamins further confused the matter. (This is still an issue in the UK.)

Pound wrote to Wang:

reproduced in Hugh Witemeyer, “The Strange Progress of David Hsin-fu Wand”,
Paideuma: Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics
Vol. 15, No. 2/3 (Fall & Winter 1986), pp. 191-210

For a little serious conversation re/points not covered during Wang’s visit.
O.K. eugenics/ very necessary /
endocrinology not kikietry.
spot distractions /
WHIB. Wheat in bread party.
a concept the incult should agree on/from poetry to politics
Unfortunate that J. K[asper]. shd/ be on local line, not on universal slogan /
What they get diverted FROM is issue of money.
& tax SYSTEM.
both of which need INTELLIGENCE on the part of anyone who is generating resistance.
ergo there are items for aristos.
all the mutt can object to is the AMOUNT of the taxes. [EP to Wang, Jan. 1957 ]

The notion of “local” as opposed to “universal” politics had been Pound’s main criticism of Kasper’s activities early on. Now Pound wanted him to form a political party presumably dedicated to the universal, as symbolized by Bread. According to Wang:
“The Whibs aim to restore the Constitution to the republic so that it has the same relationship wheat has to bread.” (Oct., 1957, Marsh, p. 206)

Kasper and Wang made plans to run WHIB candidates in Tennessee, one for governor, one for Senate. They ran on a segregation ticket and lost, but by then Kasper was in prison. On November 21, 1957, appeals exhausted, he walked into the Federal prison in Tallahassee, flashing a copy of Mein Kampf at the reporters around him.

While Kasper was incarcerated, WHIB became, briefly, North American Citizens for the Constitution, which, in turn, was absorbed by the National States Rights Party. The NSRP was more or less the Right-wing organization that Furniss had spoken of creating. It’s founder was Edward Fields and its leader was J.B.Stoner, whose mantra was “We don’t believe in Tolerance.” Stoner was later James Earl Ray‘s defense attorney. One of the NSRP’s founding meetings was attended by an FBI informant who reported that Admiral Crommelin addressed the meeting, saying that Crommelin disagreed with the notion that violence was needed to advance their cause. Someone in the audience asked “if he did not think that acts of violence had helped to hold back integration, and he replied he did not think so.” The same report mentions that Crommelin was attended by Matt Koehl, young neo-Nazi companion of Eustace Mullins.

Goodbye Grampaw

Many of the people who wanted to free Ezra Pound from St.Elizabeths thought that John Kasper’s notoriety was a barrier to the poet’s release. Now, with Kasper in jail, the friends, poets, and family all made a push for the Attorney-General to noll pros, decline to prosecute, the charges against Pound. The problem is, there were so many of them, split into various factions, that no one could agree on anything. Robert Furniss took on the task of coordinating the negotiations for Pound’s release. He succeeded and, in April, 1958, the US government ended the prosecution of Ezra Pound — provided, of course, that he didn’t regain his sanity. Pound was delivered into his wife’s custody. They spent a few weeks in America — Pound stayed at St. Elizabeths long enough to get his teeth fixed — then Dave Horton drove them to visit William Carlos Williams for two days, then on to New York, where Pound sailed to Italy. Upon arrival, he gave the fascist salute.

The Kindergarten fell apart. Sheri Martinelli was upset when Pound chose another honey-pot girl, Marcella Booth, to travel with him as secretary, or assistant, or something. Martinelli wrote some angry screeds and then travelled west to join the Beats.

David Wang began looking to William Carlos Williams for guidance. Williams was Pound’s oldest friend. Many of Pound’s friends had left him over the years, some because of his politics, most because of his irascible personality. Williams was one of the few who stayed and told Pound, repeatedly, that he was full of shit. He hated the anti-Semitism and the fascism, and let Pound know that he thought his ideas were bunk. Pound replied in kind. Wang responded to Williams the same way he had to Pound: utter devotion. His ideas turned 180 degrees. In one letter (30 June 1959), Wang expressed contempt for Dave Horton, referring to him as still ‘‘promoting the elimination of Jews, Negroes, and other ‘inferior’ people’’. (letter from Wang to Williams)

This kind of shift in thinking demonstrates, I think, just how malleable these young people were, how desperately they clutched at anything that might give them direction in life. Marsh points out that Pound could have gotten Kasper to stop his activities at any time. Noel Stock, an Australian who published many of Pound’s writings under pseudonyms, said that he was completely under Pound’s spell when he was 24.

. . .the rubbish which we, his correspondents, fed to him, or the rubbish which he in turn fed to
us. . . . a good number of us, because we believed in him and (not least) sought
his praise, helped to confirm him in the belief that he alone possessed a coherent
view of the truth.

Stock quoted in Marsh, p.4

Marsh suggests that this was not good for Pound, that being worshiped brought out his bad qualities. But Pound was the adult; he set the agenda and made the rules. Socrates was sentenced to death for the crime of corrupting Athens’ youth. Pound was never charged with that offense.

It strikes me sometimes that Pound meant to annoy the US government. He liked to see himself as a Trickster figure. He hated not being able to testify against the treason charge. He hated even more being called insane. Maybe he thought, All right then! You want treason? How about young home-grown fascists who want to destroy the Constitution? I’ll show you treason! Well, that’s far-fetched, I guess, comes from too much reading of conspiracy theories. But I do think, the town of Clinton, Tennessee could have been spared a whole lot of pain and terror, if Ezra Pound had gone to trial as he wished.

Kasper Goes to Jail

One after another of Kasper’s convictions ran out of appeals and he began serving consecutive sentences. He complained about being attacked by a black inmate in the Tallahassee Federal prison. In early 1960, Kasper was free on bail for a few weeks waiting for the results of his Supreme Court appeal. He lost and was consigned to the Davidson County Workhouse in Nashville where he remained until July, 1960.

In April, Kasper asked to see an FBI agent. So, two agents went to interview Kasper. He particularly wanted them to understand that he he knew some Nazis, but that he himself was not a Nazi. Kasper complained that his mail was being opened and that workhouse conditions were medieval. When he uttered these complaints before a judge, Kasper was told that he had a bed, clothes, food, what more did he want? Then he was sent back to break rocks with a sledgehammer. More interesting to the agents was that Kasper said that he would tell them anything they wanted to know. They sensed that this man wanted to be an informer. To demonstrate his willingness to cooperate, Kasper told of marijuana coming into the workhouse. He said he was offered a “stick” for twenty cents by a black inmate.

Kasper was finally released from jail in July, 1960. He travelled to N.J. and visited with his mother, then back to Nashville where he was staying at the house of Grace Dawson, a retired court clerk. On several occasions over the next month, Kasper contacted the FBI and indicated he would be willing to help them any way he could. On September 7, he showed up at the Philadelphia Office of the FBI. There he said “he has decided to have no further connection or association with segregation movements. He indicated that because of the recent Federal legislation dealing with this problem and the fact that his name has become so controversial, he could be of no further use to this sort of movement.”

The National States’ Rights Party nominated Orval Faubus as its 1960 Presidential candidate and offered Admiral Crommelin for Vice-President. Faubus had no real interest in running; he was Governor of Arkansas and meant to continue being Governor. Still, he allowed his name to be used. [Reed, Faubus, p.265]

Whatever Kasper meant, when he said he was done with segregation movements, he certainly wasn’t done with the issue. What Kasper now said was that separate white schools should be set up. Although he didn’t say that public funds be used to establish a segregated private school system, that became the standard playbook for most of the Southern states in the late ’60s, when the final legal arguments of Massive Resistance collapsed. Then Segregation Academies flourished in America.

The 1960 movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial, Inherit the Wind, was embarrassing to some Tennesseans and there was a move to repeal the 1925 statute that made the teaching of evolution illegal. Kasper was opposed. He had digested a lot of Louis Agassiz for Ezra Pound and put out a Square Dollar book of his writings. Agassiz had been anti-Darwin and convinced that black and white humans were separate species. Now Kasper printed up a leaflet on the “Permanence of Type”, Agassiz’ term, meaning: there is no change, no evolution; the species is permanent. There were rumors that Kasper might attend a State Legislative Education Committee meeting, but the Committee chairman remarked that if Kasper showed up, he wouldn’t call the police, he would grab him by the ear and personally throw him out. Kasper also put out some economic leaflets, quoting Ezra Pound and Thomas Hart Benton.

So Kasper was developing a new group, a non-violent group, but it all fell apart when he had an affair with the wife of a group member. That person “put John Kasper on the road” and John Kasper’s organizing ended.

A month or so after the scandal, Kasper married a young Norwegian woman he had met in Tennessee. Back in Nashville, the couple lived at Grace Dawson’s for a time. Ms. Kasper was allergic to cats and Grace had a few, so the Kaspers found a new place to live.

Kasper worked a temporary job at the Sunbeam bakery, making holiday fruitcakes. After Christmas he began selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. He still talked about running for office and writing a book, but did neither. The FBI quit watching him in late Summer, 1962. That’s when Kasper decided to visit Pound in Europe.

A few months after Pound landed in Italy, Dorothy Pound managed to ship honey-pot Marcella Spann back to the US. Ezra Pound had been a blazing source of energy to all those around him, but he drew that energy from his admirers and followers. With his audience gone, Pound lost purpose and lapsed into depression. In 1960, Dorothy had him committed for a while and he seemed to improve a little. He probably had electro-shock treatments then. In 1961, Pound developed a urinary tract infection and was hospitalized again. Now Olga and daughter Mary became principal caretakers.

When Kasper tried to contact Pound, Olga intervened. Eventually Kasper and his wife had lunch with Dorothy, but he never got to see Grampaw. Dorothy had her own medical problems and returned to England (and son Omar), leaving her husband to his mistress. Kasper wrote Pound a letter wishing him good health and sent Dorothy a card.

Back in Tennessee, Kasper was quiet until 1964, when the National States’ Rights Party nominated him for President in the upcoming election. His running mate, J.B.Stoner, was suspected of many bombings, particularly of Atlanta-area synagogues. The FBI sent some agents to have a chat. Kasper told them that he was not interested in running but that the NSRP nominated him anyway, as they had done with Faubus. The NSRP, “America’s Largest Third Party”, entered only two presidential races, each time with candidates who refused to run. Kasper said he would vote for Goldwater. There was no more talk of Kasper becoming an FBI informant.

Kasper was now running the “Volkswagen Service Center” and had a reputation as a decent mechanic. But Volkswagen had not authorized use of their name and brought legal charges against Kasper. Eventually he changed the name of his business to “Import Service Center”.

Earlier in the year, Kasper’s young wife was in hospital after throat surgery for an asthmatic condition, when Kasper was charged with “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor” for making sexual overtures to a 13-year-old black girl. The charges were later dropped — an FBI report claims that Kasper was somewhere else when the incident took place.

The FBI decided that Kasper was no longer an active threat, but they did interview him whenever a bombing took place anywhere near him. As late as 1967, Kasper was interviewed about a bombing. He was then living in Toledo, Ohio working for a cosmetics company. Over the years he lived in New Jersey and Florida as well, shifting his first name to “Fred” rather than “John”, possibly to avoid recognition as the fire-eating segregationist of the 1950s.

Afterwards

Asa Carter’s Confederate Ku Klux Klan collapsed after Carter shot two members in a quarrel over finances. He moved on to work for George Wallace. Wallace was accused of being a “moderate” on racial matters by a political opponent who defeated him in 1958. Wallace swore he would never be “out-niggered” again. So Carter was brought in. He was disdained by others on Wallace’s team and it was never publicized that he was around. They kept Carter hidden in the Capitol basement and got him worked up to write racist material. “We fed him raw meat”, said Wallace’s finance director. Carter wrote Wallace’s “Segregation forever!” speech which helped elect him governor in 1962. Later, when Wallace became a national figure and needed to soften his rhetoric, Carter was dumped. He took it hard and actually ran against Wallace in 1970 and picketed his inauguration as Governor. Finally, Carter left Alabama and began a new life as “Forrest Carter”.

Forrest Carter wrote two successful books. First was The Outlaw Josey Wales, which was made into the Clint Eastwood movie. In 1976, with a second book about to appear, Forrest Carter was interviewed by Barbara Walters. By this time, Carter was claiming to be Cherokee, but many reporters recognized him. Forrest Carter denied being Asa Carter, even after he was outed, and continued with the deception for the rest of his life. The Education of Little Tree was Carter’s “memoir” of growing up Cherokee. Eventually it was revealed as a hoax, but by then Carter was dead. He was a heavy drinker who became angry and belligerent when drunk. In 1979, at his son’s house, he got into a fistfight with family members, fell and hit his head on a counter, and asphyxiated on his own vomit.

The National States’ Rights Party faded in the ’70s as Stoner dabbled in politics and Edward Fields became more attuned to the KKK. In 1976, the FBI quit its surveillance of the NSRP. After Stoner’s 1980 conviction for bombing, the group disappeared.

Admiral Crommelin kept running for office and losing. He became discouraged with the electoral process, which he thought was rigged by Jewish Communists, and began talking of militant action. He was a suspect in a synagogue bombing in 1958 and, in 1962, when James Meredith was trying to enter the University of Mississippi, was with a group that tried to bring a carload of weapons to the ensuing riot. (Webb, Rabble Rousers, pp. 127-28) When Crommelin and the National States’ Rights Party wanted to use violence during the integration of the University of Alabama, it was Asa Carter, now working for Governor Wallace, who dissuaded them. But in 1963, Carter aided Crommelin in forming the paramilitary Volunteers for Alabama and Wallace.

General Del Valle had only run once, unsuccessfully, and that was enough for him. Del Valle proposed forming “a powerful, armed resistance force” that would bring a “return to Constitutional government”. Crommelin agreed. The two attempted several times to organize a military unit they could command. The Sons of Liberty was one such, but neither Crommelin nor Del Valle could get many men to volunteer. (Webb, p.140) In 1964, George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, informed the FBI that Crommelin was plotting to overthrow the government.

General Pedro Del Valle died in 1978. What was left of the Defenders of the American Constitution went with him.

Crommelin’s speeches became more erratic as time went by. He said integration was “a Jewish directed scheme to mongrelize the White Race, so that the almighty Jew can sit upon a throne to rule a world populated by a mass of mulatto like zombies.” (Wexler, America’s Secret Jihad, Chapter 2) Admiral Crommelin died in 1996. His life was celebrated by the State of Alabama, which remembered him as one of the “Dixie Demons”, heroes of World War II. There was little mention of his political beliefs.

The citizens of Clinton

Those who had lived through the Clinton events were scarred by it. Reverend Paul Turner struggled in his life. A friend: “…his spirit was broken. The fire that had carried him through Clinton was just a candle glow… Gone was the trust in God to protect him in doing what was right even when it was hard and dangerous.” In 1980, he lost a position as professor at Golden Gate Theological Seminary in California. In December that year, he killed himself.

School principal D.J.Brittain was also hurt by the reaction of other Clinton residents to his stand. He became bitter and cynical, though his professional life in New Jersey was successful. Brittain retired back to Tennessee. In January, 1988, his beloved wife died of cancer. A month later, Brittain shot himself. He requested that all of his papers having to do with Clinton be destroyed. [from interviews cited in Rachel Martin, Out of the Silence: Remembering the Desegregation of Clinton, Tennessee, High School, (unpublished PhD dissertation)]

But it was the kids going to school who were the front-line troops during the de-segregation struggle.

Bobby Cain is still a little bitter. Months of walking to school, running the gauntlet, always looking over your shoulder, fearing for your life, not showing a light after dark because it might attract gunshots, the sudden blast of dynamite — this, I think, is the kind of thing that leaves someone with PTSD. To survive the experience with only a little anger is a victory of sorts.

After a year at Clinton, Regina Turner Smith was asked by white teacher Margaret Anderson if it had been worth it. Smith said, “I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot. The only thing I know is maybe it will make it easier for someone else.” She began to cry. [Anderson, Children of the South, p.64]

The Kindergarten

Pound’s Kindergarten aged. David Wang became David Hsin-fu Wand. He worked with William Carlos Williams, wrote some good poetry, and pursued an academic career. In 1977 Wand attended a meeting of the Commission on Minority Groups in New York and fell, jumped, or was pushed to his death from a hotel window.

Eustace Mullins moved to his mother’s house in Staunton, Virginia, where he continued to write racist and anti-Semitic books and articles, including a bio of Ezra Pound. He travelled and gave speeches about the International Banking Conspiracy to Right-wing groups. He was speaking in Ohio when he suffered a stroke and died in 2010.

Mullins’ companion, Matt Koehl, joined the American Nazi Party. He swiftly rose in the ranks and became leader of the party after George Lincoln Rockwell was murdered. The party splintered in the late 70s and early 80s. Koehl led an esoteric faction and appears to have apprehended Nazism as religion. He died in 2014.

Dave Horton established a Nevada law practice. He was involved in the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s, a battle over grazing rights and other Federal land-use issues, which has continued into the present century . He also attempted a scheme to mint money locally. Land-use and money are definitely Poundian targets. Horton was the “steady” one, still working on Ezra’s program.

Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge lived together until his death in 1972. Dorothy was notified in England and she sent instructions for a Protestant funeral, but by the time Omar arrived in Venice, three days later, Olga had already interred Pound on the island cemetery of San Michelle. She reserved the gravesite next to his and was buried beside him when she died at the age of 100, thus claiming final victory in the long battle with Dorothy.

Retired auditor Frederick John Kasper was fishing when his boat capsized and he drowned near Osteen, Florida in 1998.

NOTES:

Alec Marsh, Ezra Pound and John Kasper, Saving the Republic
Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers: the American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era
FBI reports on Kasper.
Asa Carter FBI Report
Ernie Lazar FOIA Collection: Extreme Right Groups
Michael Newton, The National States Rights Party: A History
The FBI created a monograph on the NSRP in 1966, updated 1970. You can read it, with update, here for free or you can buy it in a number of editions.
There is also an FBI monograph on the American Nazi Party.
Stuart Wexler, America’s Secret Jihad: The Hidden History of Religious Terrorism in the United States (History of the Christian Identity movement and its friends and off-shoots. Several people in this post are mentioned, including Crommelin, Fred Stroud, and Carl McIntire .)

Margaret Anderson, The Children of the South.

David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet. Volume III, The Tragic Years: 1939 – 1972
Daniel Swift, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound
There are many accounts of visits to Pound at St. Elizabeths. A bunch can be found at Jstor.org (free registration). Use key words in the Search.

Roy Reed, Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal

John Kasper, The Intruder: Part 2, Kasper Goes to Tennessee

[See here for Part 1: Ezra Pound’s Kindergarten]

Why Tennessee? Possibly because of the widely-publicized integration of several schools there in 1955. The atomic city of Oak Ridge integrated under federal rules and there were no problems. Some small communities also moved to integrate early. These were rural districts that had a split schedule to allow students to work on their family farms during harvest. Generally, these districts would save money by integrating, rather than having to pay for separate black/white schooling. It is worth noting that Governor Frank Clement vetoed bills meant to stop de-segregation, and that Senators Kefauver and Gore both had refused to sign the Southern Manifesto.

Arkansas also integrated some rural districts in 1955. Everything went smoothly except in Hoxie, which was the subject of a Life Magazine photo essay. A local group, White America, Inc, formed to oppose integration. The courts upheld the school district in 1956, but the threat of violence remained. Governor Orval Faubus refused to help the local district — a critical point of difference between Arkansas and Tennessee. Many pupils, white and black, stayed out of school. The district won in court, but the school lost.

So school desegregation could be interrupted, perhaps stopped, with the proper tactics.

A model for Kasper’s Southern incursion was Bryant Bowles, founder of a National Association for the Advancement of White People. There was at least one other such organization — the concept was too obvious not to be used — but probably the groups did not know of one another in 1954. Bowles was a small-time contractor from Florida who had various petty crimes on his sheet. Some have accused him of starting the NAAWP as just another scam, but Bowles was also a true believer in segregation.

School segregation was written into the Delaware State Constitution but people weren’t too excited about it. One of the cases rolled into Brown vs. Board was that of a Delaware school that had integrated after a state order. The State Supreme Court had upheld the order, and of course, so did the Federal Supreme Court in the Brown decision. So Delaware started to desegregate in 1954, a year before the Supreme Court’s implementation order. This went fairly smoothly except in Milford, a town of five thousand. People were upset there for various reasons, but everyone thought things would settle down. Still, the Lakeview Avenue High School, where eleven black children were attending, had to cancel a dance for fear of race-mixing.

Comes now Bryant Bowles who had amassed six thousand dollars to fund his battle against race-mixing. He appears to have been aided by Conde McGinley, publisher of Common Sense, which printed articles by people like Eustace Mullins. Bowles hired airplanes with loudspeakers to fly over Milford announcing a public meeting at a nearby airfield. Three thousand people, including many from Virginia and Maryland, showed up.

Bowles made an impassioned speech defending segregation. He urged parents to boycott integrated schools, keep their children home and not to worry about truancy laws, the NAAWP would provide lawyers. He held his three-year-old daughter up to the crowd and said:

Do you think this little girl will go to school with Negroes? Not while there is breath in my body and gunpowder burns!

from Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers, p.19
Bryant Bowles and daughter, September, 1954 in Milford. Photo: Edward Clark, Life Magazine

The next day, less than a third of the Lakeview Avenue School students showed up. One of the eleven black students dropped out and registered at the William Henry School in Dover, nineteen miles away but the only black high school in Delaware. The boycott spread to other towns in the area that had “sympathy strikes”, while Bowles travelled the state, stirring things up. His speeches always contained references to violence, though Bowles was careful in his wording. Eventually all black students were removed from Lakeview Avenue School. This area of Delaware did not desegregate until after 1959.

So, Bowles won in Milford, but when he attempted similar tactics in Baltimore, he was shut down right away by local authorities. As he was also in Washington, D.C. The mayor of Philadelphia warned Bowles he would be arrested if he entered the city. Segregationists in other places froze Bowles out of the actions they were taking — he smelled like violence waiting to happen and people didn’t want him in their town. He was, after all, an outsider — an accusation Bowles had constantly to answer. And his past was catching up to him: reporters uncovered Bowles’ convictions for forgery, fraud, and stiffing his employees. He moved to Milford but there was nothing for him to do there because Lakeview School was now segregated. Florida authorities were after him for forgery and there were other crimes to answer for and the IRS was asking about taxes, so Bowles decamped to Texas. In 1957, he picketed the Harry Belafonte movie, Island in the Sun. A year later, he went to prison for murder.

But Bryant Bowles won — for a little while — and he created a model scenario that John Kasper was to imitate. Bowles created it, or perhaps somebody else did. Bowles’ lawyer was none other than Robert Furniss, sometime attorney for Ezra Pound and Cadmus Books, who had sent John Kasper to Alabama to campaign for Admiral Crommelin. [see Part 1]

Kasper in Clinton

Clinton, Tennessee, had a population of around four thousand in 1956. The high school also served the rural area around Clinton. The principal, D. J. Brittain, had begun preparing the school for integration during the previous Spring term. Papers on integration, the Constitution, and US history were assigned and discussed. The Mayor, the town Board, and the school board had worked out a plan. On August 20, eight hundred twenty students, including twelve African-Americans, were peacefully registered at the school. Classes were to begin a week later.

On August 25, Kasper burned a cross in Charlottesville, then drove all night in his battered white convertible to Clinton. There he went house-to-house, handing out leaflets. That evening, Kasper addressed a crowd of about fifty people. He said that the Supreme Court decision was not “the will of the people”, that parents should keep their children out of school, and that principal Brittain should be fired. Kasper slept in his car that night and the next day, Sunday the 26th, was arrested for vagrancy and inciting to riot.

Kasper posing in Clinton [Photo: Robert Kelley, Life Magazine Sept 10, 1956]

On Monday, Kasper was in jail when the high school opened. Some people did show up with signs to demonstrate, but everything went smoothly in the school.

On Tuesday, Kasper’s charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Immediately on his release, Kasper went to Clinton High and confronted Brittain, demanding that he re-segregate or resign. Brittain refused.

By the time school let out, a crowd had formed that booed the black students as they left for home. That night, Kasper addressed several hundred students and adults at the courthouse. Nora Devereaux, Seaboard White Citizens’ Council member and manager of Cadmus Books, excitedly wrote to Ezra Pound that five thousand people showed up to hear Kasper, that Asa Carter was on his way up from Alabama after the legislature there passed some anti-integration measures, and that Admiral Crommelin had offered to make bond if Kasper was arrested again. It was true that Carter was coming to Clinton.

On Wednesday, the 29th, a crowd of five hundred had formed and some black students were roughed up. An hour before school closing time, the sheriff of Anderson County removed all twelve black students for their own safety. That night, the sheriff attended a meeting held by black families and offered to personally drive students to school each day. The offer was declined. At any rate, he had not been re-elected and his term would end that weekend.

Meanwhile, Brittain petitioned a federal judge for an injunction against those hindering integration. That night, Kasper was haranguing a crowd of around a thousand people, when US Marshals served him with a restraining order that demanded his appearance in a Knoxville courthouse. Kasper told the crowd that the order was meaningless, just like that of the Supreme Court. The crowd yelled for the marshals to be killed and burned a black man in effigy.

The next day, black students were brought into the high school via a side door. A mob of around two hundred was circulating in the area, and when school let out, began screaming and throwing rocks at the black students walking home.

Kasper busted! Again. [Photo: Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock]

Kasper appeared in court in Knoxville. He was immediately charged with violating the injunction by continuing to speak the night before and thrown in jail, awaiting a hearing in a week. Then a Federal judge found him in violation of a State court order and sentenced him to a year in prison. Kasper could not make the $10000 bond and stayed in jail during the events of the next few days.

The Clinton situation hit the news and people began converging on the community. Among them was Kasper’s old comrade-in-arms from Admiral Crommelin’s Senatorial campaign, Asa Carter. Carter whipped up the crowd, but did so with words that carefully skirted the terms of the injunction.

US Highway 25 was Clinton’s main street as well as the link to other places. The crowd began assaulting cars that contained blacks, some heading from other states, just driving through. Another group surrounded the mayor’s house, threating to dynamite it. Eventually, early Saturday morning, the crowds dispersed. A Clinton resident:

If you can imagine the courthouse, it was so thick with people that cars couldn’t move. Now, this was before any interstate, so the main route going south was coming through Clinton, right through Main Street. And, cars were being stopped, cars were being jostled. The people coming through were terrified. A gang of ruffians had taken over.

. . .

It was on a Friday night. Can you imagine driving through a little-bitty, sleepy town, and, all of a sudden, being surrounded by people stopping your car and shaking your car and threatening to turn it over? And, pulling the people out of it? Well, that was what was going on. That’s why they needed the extra policemen.

John G. Moore, Jim Crow History
Clinton, 1956 [Photo: Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock]

Because of the recent election, the Anderson County sheriff’s office changed hands at midnight and was unable to mobilize what few officers it had. Clinton had a six-man police force. The Chief was in hospital, so only five were available. They made no arrests because they lacked the personnel even to take prisoners to jail. The acting police chief, Joe Wilson, called together those he could find willing to bolster his force. Forty-seven men, most of them veterans armed with their own weapons or with billy clubs, were sworn in. A few of the ex-sheriff’s force signed on. Saturday night, this small force was called to face a mob of more than two thousand.

Auxiliary police in Clinton [Photo: Robert Kelley, Life Magazine, Sept.17,1956]

One volunteer auxiliary recalled:

We didn’t want a lot of people from outside the town, even outside the State. We had cars with every tag in the South you can imagine there. We were prepared for integration, and we didn’t think these people should come in and stop what we had decided. This [integration] was going to happen. It woulda been completely smooth, completely smooth, if we had not had the outside interference. But, it was the most terrifying experience of my life. Never seen such hatred…. They would have kicked us, killed us, anything. It wouldn’t have mattered to them.

John G. Moore, Jim Crow History

Saturday the first, Mayor Buford Lewallen and the Clinton Board of Aldermen declared a state of emergency and begged Governor Frank Clement for help. A mob began forming that would build to over 2000. The auxiliary police force kept people moving but by 8 PM, the crowd began to storm the courthouse. The police used tear gas and repelled the attack. The mob formed for another assault and then the cavalry arrived in the form of a hundred State troopers dispatched by Clement. The State Police managed to secure the peace. The next day, six hundred Tennessee National Guardsmen with M-41 tanks arrived in Clinton. This was the first time that the National Guard was activated over school de-segregation in the South.

Although mob action was discouraged, there were still problems. On Sunday, a crowd was dispersed by Guardsmen wielding bayonets. During the week, things were quiet enough so that some of the troops were removed. Others had to be dispatched to Oliver Springs, twenty miles away, to put down a riot there. And more than half the Clinton students failed to attend school.

National Guard in Clinton. Photo: Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Across the border, in Sturgis, Kentucky, a mob halted the enrollment of a black child. Governor “Happy” Chandler, with the Clinton example before him, immediately sent the Guard into Sturgis. Soldiers escorted the child and her family to school to be registered. Then Sturgis and nearby Clay County segregationists adopted boycotts as a tactic. White parents kept their children out of school.

Kasper was in and out of jail, but between court appearances, he stirred up all the trouble he could. That was his stated purpose:

The people of Clinton needed a leader. I’m a rabble-rouser, a
trouble-maker. I’m not through up there. We want trouble. We want it now.
We need lots of rabble-rousers. Some of us may die and I may die too. It may
mean going back to jail, but I’m going back to fight. We went as far as we could
have gone legally. Now is the time to fight, even if it involves bloodshed.

from a speech in Birmingham, September 13, 1956, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.171.

Kasper reminded his listeners that outsiders sneered at them, mocked them as incestuous hillbillies. One national story has this about them:

Poverty, isolation, inbreeding, ignorance, the cumulative effects of their traditional cornpone and fatback diet—all are reflected in their gaunt faces, their toothless gums, their gnarled and stunted bodies.

James Rorty, “Hate-Monger with Literary Trimmings: From Avant-Garde Poetry to Rear-Guard Politics”, Commentary, Dec.1956

Dehumanizing people is a racist mechanism, and doesn’t look any nicer when it is used to stigmatize poverty. (Do I need to point that out?) People in Clinton were aware of disdainful outside opinion and became defensive about living where they did. Kasper tried to mobilize these feelings but failed. He failed because he himself was an outsider, an Ivy-League educated Yankee with an agenda.

Kasper made incendiary speeches in Birmingham, Knoxville, and Battle, Alabama where he shared the stage with Asa Carter and one of the men who had attacked Nat King Cole. By late October, he was back in Washington, DC. He sent Pound birthday greetings (October 30):

Illustrious Prince:
Glorious, deathless of many names; Grampaw aye seeing all things, seer of
the inborn qualities of nature, of laws piloting all things.
Yr mighty Ldshp, please accept this bookshop on this 70th birthday and
please may the gods bless Grampaw always.
Also, Magnificent Capitan, our Treasured Lord, we ask the gods to help guide
us ever to you, O great light, brave Genral.
ARRIBA GRAMPAW, GOD BLESS GRAMPAW.

letter from JK to Pound, Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.173. Pound actually turned 71 in 1956.

The first dynamite bombing in Clinton took place September 26. It was meant to intimidate blacks from going to school. It was not the only method of intimidation used by the segregationists. Cars full of hooded Klansmen drove in cavalcade through black neighborhoods. Slowly. There were threats. Windows were smashed. Lights were shot out. Nasty phone calls. Petty vandalism. Businesses run by anti-segregationists were boycotted. The Mayor’s son was attacked. There were more bombings. Principal Brittain and his wife began going to hotels in other towns where they could get a night’s sleep. The Brittains were unable to have children and now Principal Brittain wondered, if he did have children, how could he protect them?

Meanwhile, the Clinton 12 continued to attend school and do their work as they were yelled at and spat on. Their leader was Bobby Cain, a Senior who would rather have traveled the seventeen miles to Knoxville each day and graduate with his friends. Every day now, he walked through crowds of jeering whites. At night, when he got home, he would sit and tremble. “I had to rush home, eat really fast and do my homework before it got dark. . .The lights were out in the neighborhood from being shot out or turned off and our lights were out too.” He wanted to quit, but his mother asked, “Where are your brothers and sisters going to school if you don’t stick?” So he stuck. But he told his parents, if I go, I won’t be the same Bobby Cain. He thought, if someone shoved him, he’d shove back. He says now, “I went to war.” One day a picketing woman called him a nigger and he turned away from her. She hit him across the back with a stick. Other members of the crowd moved in to attack Bobby and he pulled out a pocketknife. He was arrested right away. But that was the experience that changed him:

“After that day,” he says, “I found a little courage of my own. I won’t say I wasn’t afraid after that. But it came to me for the first time that I had a right to go to school. I realized that it was those other people who were breaking the law, not me. That night I determined to stick it out for Bobby Cain, and not for anybody else.”

George McMillan, “The Ordeal of Bobby Cain”, originally appeared in Collier’s, November 25, 1956
Bobby Cain leads black students through the gauntlet. [Photo: Thomas J. O’Halloran, Library of Congress]

Streetlights or no, the black community had its own warning system, should a mob swarm up the hill, and the community was armed.

Kasper organized a teen-age auxiliary to the Seaboard White Citizens’ Council, The Tennessee Youth Council. They were instructed to harass the black students and paid to beat them up. Things were not as bad in school as the walk there and back where attacks occurred. White citizens began to walk groups of black students to the school to protect them.

Kasper had been indicted on charges of sedition — essentially, for inciting the riot of August 31 — in September, a few days before the first bombing. In mid-November, he was found Not Guilty, since he had been in jail the night of the 31st and, so, it was reasoned, could not have been responsible. Pound wrote:

Kasper acquitted of sedition/public cheers. . .None of the kikecution witnesses stood up under Xexam. At least got a little publicity for the NAACP being run by kikes not by coons.

letter to Olivia Agresti, Anglo-Italian facist sympathizer, November 1956.

Through the last week of November and into early December, Kasper led crowds who yelled and catcalled at the black students as they went to school. Some black families had enough and decided to boycott the school. But the court order sending these students to Clinton High meant that they could not enroll somewhere else. Boycotts meant losing the opportunity for an education.

Reverend Paul Turner, a Baptist minister, talked to black families about ending the boycott. There seemed no options if their children were to be educated. On December 4, Turner and other white men escorted some black students to Clinton High. After seeing the students safely inside, they split up. Turner was walking to his church when he was seized by a crowd who began to beat him. But Turner fought back, charging into the mob, until he was thrown against a parked car. “His head was being bounced against the fender of the car,” said a witness. A white woman tried to help him and had her face clawed by a woman who was with the segregationists. The police finally intervened and Turner was taken to hospital. That Sunday, face battered, he was back in the pulpit, “There is no color line at the cross of Jesus,” he preached.

December 4, 1956. Turner is in the black overcoat in back. [Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images]

Arrests were made on December 4, and a man charged with assault. The SWCC paid his bail right away, then gave complimentary KKK stickers to the arresting officers. Also on the 4th: some of the crowd that beat Turner tried to invade the high school; the wife of Principal Brittain was threatened when she tried to stop them; the High School was closed down and students sent home; the Klan drove a slow cavalcade through black neighborhoods; a black-owned business was dynamited. And John Kasper was arrested — not in Clinton, but hundreds of miles away on the highway headed to Washington where he was charged with speeding. Possibly he wanted not to be in Clinton when trouble happened. Some noticed that Kasper was always somewhere else when there was a bombing.

The beating of Rev. Turner seemed a kind of turning point in Clinton. Fourteen people were arrested for the crime, six were convicted. The same day Turner was attacked, there was a local election. Several segregationists ran for office; none were elected. Whether for or against segregation, most people were opposed to violence. A massive dynamite bomb exploded on February 15, 1957, damaging thirty homes and injuring many people. This was the eighth bombing since September. Now even segregationists wanted Kasper to stay away.

Kasper Becomes Famous

On January 30, 1957, the New York Herald Tribune began a four-part series on Kasper by Robert Bird that focused on his time in New York:

Kasper, a carpetbagger from Camden, N. J., and the cold-water-flats of bohemia lower Greenwich Village, is executive secretary of the Seaboard White Citizens Council of Washington. Former social intimate and confidante of Negro literary aspirants in Greenwich Village, he became overnight in Clinton, Tenn., September one of the most reckless and dangerous segregationist rabble-rousers in the South.

His racist propaganda is shot through with Ezra Pound’s ideology of race hatred.

Robert S. Bird, “Segregationist Kasper Is Ezra Pound Disciple”, NY Herald-Tribune, Jan 30, 1957

In the second article of the series (“How John Kasper Fights Integration”), Bird quotes “Virginians On Guard”, the flyer Kasper printed for his Charlottesville campaign. Bird spots the Poundian prose and notes that “whole phrases come from the Cantos”. Pound is referred to as “the insane poet and indicted traitor”. All this was very troubling to those working for Pound’s release.

Also troubled were Kasper’s black friends. The third installment of Bird’s series “Kasper: High-Brow To Rabble Rouser”, has the sub-head “Former Negro Friends in Village Can’t Understand His Turnabout”. Quoted in the article was one black man who had shared a Greek dictionary with Kasper: “I was very shocked when I found out what he was. I can’t understand it.” Readers of the black New Amsterdam News and the Pittsburgh Courier read interviews with people who had known Kasper, who were all astonished and hurt by his revealed racism.

In several accounts of the beliefs of Ezra Pound and his followers, there is an attitude that might be summed up as, “He wasn’t racist. Anti-semitic, yes, but not racist.” That’s nonsense. This kind of hatred is not a single-target matter. It’s easy enough for an anti-Semite to add blacks, browns, gays, Masons, or any other human division you can name to the Hate List. The haters need targets for their own anger and disturbed feelings. There is nothing peculiar about Pound, Kasper, and their ilk adding blacks to their other hatreds.

Kasper had actually tried to get people to join the NAACP in September of 1955, according to Bird and the FBI Reports. He said that, if he were black, he would join. But he refused to do so as a white man because the organization was run by Jews. Two months later he opened his Washington bookstore. There he met Robert Furniss, who would send him to Alabama campaigning for Admiral Crommelin. That is when, Kasper said later, he became a segregationist, in the months between September 1955 and the summer of 1956. Marsh tries to understand this as an intellectual shift brought on by reading Pound’s standbys, Louis Agassiz and Leo Frobenius. I think this is misguided. Kasper was trying to develop his personal destiny.

When Kasper apologized to Babette Deutsch (see Part 1) he said that he had once been drawn to Nietzsche, Machiavelli, and the “political” Ezra Pound; that he had once believed “That the weak have no justification for living except service in the weak. What is a little cruelty to the innocuous when it is expedient for the strong ones who have the right to alter the laws of life and death before their natural limit?” But, Kasper said, he had become aware through the “living example of another that the myth of Fascism is ‘a clear and present danger'”. Deutsch politely said this was “insincere”. I say it’s open mockery.

Kasper wants to be a political force, a rabble-rouser. He wants to be Important. “[Kasper] declared that, as for himself, he was prepared to go to any extreme to make his name known to history, and was convinced that sooner or later his chance would come.” He is a “strong one” above the laws meant for the weak. Kasper is shaping a personal variant of the lone hero fulfilling an intense destiny beyond good and evil. Kasper stated how he meant to achieve that goal in a letter to Ezra Pound: “We are aiming for a people’s grass-roots, actionist, nationalist, ATTACK organization. . .” [quoted Marsh, p.144, caps in original] (“Action” was a common term used by fascists. In his writings, Kasper usually couples it with “Attack”.)

That’s my take and it was also that of Charles Beaumont, whose novel, The Intruder, is based on Kasper in Clinton.

Charles Beaumont and Roger Corman Tackle “The Intruder”

Charles Beaumont wrote fiction, and film and TV scripts. Some classic Twilight Zone episodes are probably his best known work. The Intruder was published 1958, but the manuscript was likely finished sometime in 1957. The title was probably suggested by Arthur Gordon’s article “Intruder in the South”, Look Magazine, Feb. 19, 1957. And I think the black student character is based on Bobby Cain from the article quoted above. Other characters are based on locals, white and black. Beaumont himself played a part in the movie.

D.J.Brittain, principal Clinton High School. [from See It Now: Clinton and the Law]; Charles Beaumont, high school principal in The Intruder.

The Intruder tells of Adam Cramer who visits a Southern town and stirs up racial antagonism there. Why? Because Cramer has a vision of himself as “the man on horseback”, the dictator who will clean up after messy democracy collapses (from Georges Boulanger, the original “man on horseback”). He is the decisive figure who brings order from chaos. In one scene, Cramer compares himself to Hannibal. He writes his old academic mentor and asks if he wants a role in the New Order he is creating. This is very much like the letters between Kasper and Ezra Pound. Pound even joked about being Kasper’s Aristotle — Aristotle having tutored Alexander the Great. [letter to Bo Setterlind, cited in Marsh, p.157; also see here]

Cramer’s mentor is Max Blake, a college professor who runs a “nursery for dictators”. Blake’s strategy: seize “upon an area of unrest” and “gain the support of the sheep who would not yet consciously understand the concept of single authority”. The masses are kept in a state of flux while the would-be dictator consolidates his power. “Play upon their ignorance; underline and reflect their prejudices; make them afraid.”

Cramer is presented as a man who desperately needs some kind of self-validating success, so he follows Blake’s plan. Pound was not so simple as Max Blake, and perhaps his concepts of political organizing were not as sharply defined, but Kasper’s desire for Pound’s approval is very much like that of Cramer’s for Blake.

In the novel, Max Blake visits Cramer and tells him that the theories he espoused were just conversation fodder, not to be taken seriously, only a bit of contrarian irony ha-ha. He tries to persuade Cramer to quit rabble-rousing and leave town, but Cramer realizes that his old mentor is just a second-rate professor who is frightened about losing his job and cuts himself loose from Blake.

There are elements of the relationship that hint at Blake being gay. Sublimated homosexuality is one of two common psychiatric tropes used in the 1950s. The other is: “It’s all the Mother’s fault.” Beaumont uses that one, too. Neither seem particularly useful in understanding Kasper, but the man did wish to live up to some kind of ideal that would please his father who died in 1954. Kasper wrote about him several times to Pound.

Max Blake does not appear at all in the movie version of The Intruder and viewers may find themselves wondering what motivates Cramer. Otherwise, Beaumont’s script follows the novel. Cramer, played by William Shatner, arrives in a small town and begins stirring up mischief. He makes incendiary speeches and creates an organization. But Cramer has a problem: he is somewhat confused about sex. He comes on to teen-aged girls, but never consummates the relationship — the novel suggests this is something he may not be able to do, even though he beds older, less chaste women. I’m not certain what Beaumont is after here; some kind of virgin/whore thing, I suppose.

There is a curious note in Kasper’s FBI files that he was fired from Household Finance for “peculiar” remarks he made around a fifteen-year-old girl. But it should be noted that this part of the FBI files includes a bunch of reports jammed together that are often questionable. (For instance, Kasper’s bookstore was hardly a hangout for “liberals” as one report has it.) Investigators tried very hard to discover some warped sexual motivation for Kasper, but came up with nothing substantial.

Anyway, in The Intruder, a sexual encounter eventually brings Cramer down in an unconvincing dramatic climax. Before that, a church is bombed and the black minister killed. The white editor of the local paper is attacked and hospitalized. And Cramer threatens a high-school girl into accusing a black student of rape.

Beaumont attempts to portray some of the pain that the Kasper/Cramer incident caused black people in 1956, and the centuries-long suffering that preceded these events. He also has white characters, decent white characters who have failed to change things:

It’s us, the nice people, the intelligent, sophisticated people — we’re the ones to blame for this, not the ignorant hillbillies and the cheap neurotics! They have no power to act; we have, and always have had. But we didn’t act. The guilt is ours. . .

Charles Beaumont, The Intruder, Ch. 18
William Shatner as Adam Cramer in The Intruder.

Maybe Adam Cramer is just into villainy for its own sake. Shatner plays him as a mysterious presence, a man battling inner demons as he seeks to create chaos. He wears shades and sweats a lot. Kasper was image-conscious. He wore a white stetson hat that added to his 6’4″ height. Both Kasper and Shatner wore white linen suits.

Kasper in his big white hat addressing a crowd in Nashville, September, 1957. [Nashville Public Library, reprinted Southern Cultures, Winter, 2014]

Roger Corman wanted to make a film that said something important. He and his brother, Gene, managed to produce the movie, then couldn’t get it distributed. It was the only movie Corman ever made that lost money.

The Intruder was filmed in Missouri and the movie people felt that they were outsiders who were in danger. Shatner pranked the crew once, by pretending that a mob was moving on the motel where they were staying. The last shots were taken while the crew was literally on the run, chased out of town.

Graduation

May 17, 1957, Bobby Cain became the first black graduate from Clinton High School. He went to the gym to turn in his cap and gown, when the lights suddenly went out and he was attacked by a group of white kids. In the dark, they hit each other as much as they did Cain. The light snapped on and off, the fighting went on until some adults walked in. Bobby Cain went home and grabbed a shotgun. He meant, he said, to walk down the hill and shoot everyone who “didn’t look like him”. His family stopped him. In the Fall, Cain went on to Tennessee Tech.

October 5, 1958, Clinton High School was destroyed by a dynamite blast. The town of Oak Ridge opened up some buildings that were used as Clinton’s high school for the next two years. Students were bussed in and greeted by the Oak Ridge High School band who played the Clinton Alma Mater. No one was ever charged with the bombing.

After the destruction of the high school, Billy Graham used Clinton as a site for his crusade. Kasper attacked him, but did not win any support doing so. Graham said it was time for white people to take the lead in integration. Perhaps he changed some minds.

At the beginning of 1957, Kasper was famous and as important as he ever would be in his life; by the Fall of 1958, he was a spent force. Part 3 is about Kasper’s end — and that of Pound’s kindergarten, as well.

Statues of the Clinton 12 outside the Green-McAdoo Cultural Center, Clinton, Tennessee. The Twelve: Maurice Soles, Anna Theresser Caswell, Alfred Williams, Regina Turner Smith, William R. Latham, Gail Ann Epps Upton, Ronald Gordon “Poochie” Hayden, JoAnn Crozier Allen Boyce, Robert Thacker, Bobby Cain, Minnie Ann Dickey Jones, Alvah McSwain [Photo: Jeaneane Payne, Knoxville Sun, February 1, 2022]

Notes:

Alec Marsh, Ezra Pound and John Kasper, Saving the Republic
Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers: the American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era has a chapter on Bryant Bowles as well as one on Kasper.
FBI reports on Kasper.
FBI reports on Asa Carter
Ernie Lazar FOIA Collection: Extreme Right Groups

David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet. Volume III, The Tragic Years: 1939 – 1972.

The entire Clinton incident was covered one year later on Edward Murrow’s See It Now: Clinton and the Law. Well worth watching. Includes video of Kasper orating.
The Clinton 12 are the subject of a documentary
Jeaneane Payne, “Black History: The Clinton 12”
George McMillan, “The Ordeal of Bobby Cain”, also Cain in a 2022 interview.
Memoir of an auxiliary officer during the Clinton riot.
Margaret Anderson, The Children of the South. Anderson was a teacher and guidance counselor at Clinton HS.
Holden et al, Clinton, Tennessee: A Tentative Description and Analysis of the School Desegregation Crisis (Field Reports on Desegregation, published by Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith)

Charles Beaumont, The Intruder

The Intruder is on both YouTube and the Internet Archive.
Roger Corman, How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime
Documentary about Charles Beaumont and The Intruder.

Marie-Noëlle Little, The Knight and the Troubadour – Dag Hammarskjöld and Ezra Pound (free on-line)

John Kasper, The Intruder: Part 1, Ezra Pound’s Kindergarten

In August of 1956, the town of Clinton, Tennessee prepared to follow the US Supreme Court directive to de-segregate their public schools. Everything was proceeding peacefully until John Kasper came to Clinton with the avowed purpose of stopping “race mixing”. Within days there were threats, assaults, and attempts to intimidate those in charge of the process, culminating in the destruction of the school by a bomb in 1958. Kasper was an acolyte of poet Ezra Pound, who fostered a group of neo-fascists from the mental hospital where he was confined. Kasper and Clinton attracted national attention and inspired a novel, The Intruder, by Charles Beaumont, which Roger Corman made into a movie starring William Shatner. Here’s the story.

John Kasper

Born in 1929, Frederick John Kasper grew up in New Jersey. His father was very Right-wing, an America Firster, and young John attended Carl McIntire’s Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingwood, N.J., which was expelled from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1937, as conservative Presbyterian factions splintered. McIntire later toured the country, preaching that the Civil Rights movement was Communist-inspired. (details here.) McIntire was a central figure in the politicizing of American religion.

Kasper attended Columbia College and became interested in poetry. This, in turn, led to correspondence with Ezra Pound, who was confined in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane in Washington, DC. Pound was an energetic letter-writer and soon drew Kasper into his group of admiring followers. They came for the poetry; they received the politics — Pound had unorthodox economic views and was very anti-Semitic.

John Kasper

Kasper wrote a paper on Pound and Nietzsche. His instructor at Columbia, Babette Deutsch, remarked that one could admire Pound as a poet while dismissing his politics. Kasper took exception and there was some heated back-and-forth in the classroom. Afterward, Kasper wrote a letter of apology to Deutsch:

Strange, but I always thought myself free from insidious falsehood. I was the one who childishly railed at superstition and malicious teaching. And yet I fell into the pit like any other subnormal inhuman beast of an uncivilized age. I thrilled at Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche, and the political Ezra Pound. … I know now by the living example of another, that the myth of fascism is “a clear and present danger”…

[NY Herald Tribune, Jan. 30, 1957. Part two of a four-part series on Kasper by Robert Bird. see Sources below.]

Deutsch later concluded that his apology was “insincere”.

In June, 1951, 21-year-old John Kasper graduated from Columbia and, after two years of correspondence, travelled to Washington and met his guru face-to-face.

Ezra Pound

Born in Idaho, raised in Pennsylvania and New York, based in Europe after 1908, Pound was a force in the literary dynamics of his day. Besides his own poetry, Pound’s importance lies in the way he nurtured great Modernist talents.

Pound aided Hemingway with the publication of In Our Time, he published Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, and edited T.S.Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. These are only a few of the young writers he helped. Many artists felt a debt to Pound and tried to aid him later.

While in England, Pound met “Major” C.H. Douglas, whose concept of Social Credit Pound adopted as an economic panacea that would end the Jewish Banking Conspiracy. (another analysis of Pound’s Social Credit thinking, here’s another). He also was attracted to the thinking of Silvio Gesell, who promoted notions of “free money” and public ownership of land. Whether Pound developed his anti-Semitism in Europe or the US, it permeates his writing after 1910. All this was cobbled into Pound’s own political vision, an interpretation of which which you can read for yourself here, or here, or here, if you are so inclined.

Pound put everything on an economic basis. The real problem was usury, usura, as Pound termed it in his poetry, calling it a sin and a cancer. The solution was a just and autocratic government, and a new economic system based on Social Credit and the ending of banks and Jewish financial power. Scholars explicate and debate Pound’s ideas as though they add up to a coherent political philosophy; I don’t think so, but that’s just me.

Pound’s forceful energy wore out his welcome in England, and he and Dorothy moved to the continent, finally settling in Italy. He became an admirer of Mussolini and an adherent to fascism. He maintained a connection with Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and published in their magazines. In 1933, when Pound finally met Mussolini, he tried to persuade Il Duce that Social Credit was a proper economic partner to fascism. Mussolini was not convinced, but Pound admired him anyway, comparing him to Thomas Jefferson.

Fascism is notoriously difficult to define, but: “…the writer of these pages has already defined Fascism as an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy.” [Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932)]

So there you have it: fascism = authoritarian democracy. Of course, the individual is subordinate to the State, and the State is run by emotion, not reason. “Believe — Obey — Fight!” was the fascist mantra. Sometimes Pound said he wasn’t a fascist: “I have at all times opposed certain “gray” zones of the Fascist opportunism by defining Fascism in a way to make it fit my own views.” And Pound had very idiosyncratic views. (Pound’s fascism.)

When World War II began, Pound offered himself to the Italian government as a propaganda instrument and, once they determined that he was Aryan and friendly to fascism, he began a series of broadcasts extolling Mussolini, attacking Jews, and demanding that the Allies abandon the War. Hundreds of these radio broadcasts were made. In 1943, Pound was charged by the US government in absentia with treason. Pound was returned to the US to stand trial at the end of the War. People were understandably a bit raw after the years of destruction and the revelation of the death camps. William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, was hanged two weeks before Pound arrived at St. Elizabeths. Trials of other Lords Haw-Haw, Tokyo Roses, Axis Sallys, and the like were taking place, but there was no real plan by any of the Allies on how to handle these people and punishments varied. Pound’s friends seized on an insanity plea as something that could save him from a firing squad.

Examination by sympathetic doctors returned a diagnosis of “undifferentiated psychosis”, meaning that Pound was unable to stand trial for treason because he could not understand the charges against him. He was confined in St. Elizabeths, while his many well-wishers tried to get him released. He was allowed visitors and a fair amount of freedom. Soon Pound began corresponding with everyone who had any interest in him or his politics. Kasper was not the first to visit.

Pound in his lawn chair at St. Elizabeths. Photo by Eustace Mullins, who cropped the head, rotated it ninety degrees, and came up with Pound’s favorite portrait. This taken from Yale’s Beinecke Collection.

John Kasper and Grampaw

When Kasper graduated in 1951, he opened a bookstore in Greenwich Village called Make It New, after a line in Pound’s Confucius poems/translations. His business partner was Lina Lett, five years older, then breaking up with her husband, who invested some of a legacy that came her way. The store was dedicated to promoting Pound’s poetry and anti-Semitism. Kasper decorated the windows with Pound’s writings, including some letters, and the store sold mostly Pound-approved material. Kasper offered some non-approved works as “muck”, intended for informed readers to learn about the enemy. Pound was not pleased and ordered Kasper to clean out the “Jew-rot” and, also, remove his letters from the windows. Kasper was very apologetic:

I’m damn sorry NOT TO HAVE CONSULTED about windows. I AM
trying to stand on own 2 feet, but thought someone here in the heart of the
“red ghetto” ought to do something GOOD (what Kasper though wuz good),
“unfortunately.”
However, be that as it may, the windows are changed and everything is now quiet.

Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.41

Before his visit to St. Elizabeths, Kasper always addressed the poet as “Mr. Pound”; after meeting him, Kasper referred to Pound as “Grampaw” or “Master”. Other visitors included T. David Horton, a law student who worked with the Defenders of the American Constitution, a group whose leadership consisted of retired military officers. Horton edited the DAC magazine, Task Force. Pound got Horton and Kasper to run the Square Dollar Press, dedicated to reprinting out-of-copyright works that Pound thought important. In theory, there was an advisory board (that included Marshall McLuhan), but that was window-dressing. Kasper worked up a volume of Louis Agassiz’ 19th Century writings opposing Darwinism and other Square Dollar books were reprinted from photostats of the original publications so as to save money on typesetting.

Eustace Mullins

Eustace Mullins, a member of the Aryan League and the neo-Nazi National Renaissance Party, had gone to Pound for advice on his writing. In 1951, Pound gave him $10 a week to research banking and Mullins produced the book that would later be titled Secrets of the Federal Reserve. In its original form, as Mullins on the Federal Reserve, the work had far less direct anti-Semitic content than later editions. Mullins also wrote for various newsletters such as Common Sense and did research for defenders of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. During the early 1950s, his roommate and partner was Matt Koehl, later to lead the American Nazi Party.

Mullins was invited to St. Elizabeths by Pound’s wife Dorothy Shakespear, who met him in Washington. Meanwhile, Pound had a long-term mistress, Olga Rudge, who visited St. Elizabeths twice, but did not become part of the coterie there. Dorothy and Olga despised one another. Both were from privileged families and used to getting what they wanted. Olga and Dorothy had been competing for Pound’s affection since 1922, even engaging in dueling pregnancies to get it. Now they were separately working on obtaining his release from St. Elizabeths. They were joined by established poets and writers, many of whom felt some debt to Pound.

Dorothy Shakespear, 1919 passport photo; Olga Rudge, 1918 passport photo

There were other women — young “muses” — who also hung out with Pound: Sheri Martinelli, later to move West and become the “Queen of the Beats”, and Marcella Spann, an earnest young teacher who wanted to collaborate with the Master. “The honey-pot girls” as Dorothy called them.

Kasper’s anti-Semitic bookstore attracted both black and white customers. After the Clinton riot, the FBI looked into Kasper’s past and one informer told the FBI that the store was frequented by “Negro and Chinese homosexuals”. (From the FBI Kasper files ) The FBI also was told that Kasper was funded by various women he was accommodating. There is a kernel of truth in this. Kasper did have liasons with various women who helped him and others like him with a few bucks here and there.

Ezra Pound suggested in a letter that Kasper look up poet Louis Dudek. Kasper did so and became acquainted with Stephanie Dudek, eight years older, whose marriage to Louis was disintegrating. She described the 6’4″ gangly Kasper as “a gentle and likable boy”. Kasper persuaded Stephanie Dudek to give Mullins $3000 to publish his book on the Federal Reserve.

Kasper hit on Diane Di Prima, later a well-known poet and activist, but she resisted his advances — she was somewhat younger — calling him in her memoirs a “really unpleasant fascist”. In revenge, Kasper wrote her parents and others accusing Di Prima of being gay. He wrote to Pound:

Diane di Prima & Co. no use. I stand by J.K. who sd. banishment yr
& ½ ago. Lessies may be o.k. in their circle but they corrupt otherwise

JK letter to Pound May, 1955, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.61. “J.K.” is John Kasper, who often referred to himself in the third person.

One problem with having youthful supporters was that they were all so “YOUNG”, as Pound wrote. Others referred to his “kindergarten”. He appreciated the adults who visited, poets, of course, and politicos like Pedro del Valle, retired Marine Corps general, who had been an observer during the Italian campaign against Ethiopia. Del Valle admired Mussolini and hated Communists. In 1953, he joined with other military men in forming the Defenders of the American Constitution (DAC), the group that employed Dave Horton, who brought Del Valle to St. Elizabeths. Del Valle had political ambitions — he was almost Governor of Puerto Rico — and ran for the Maryland Republican Gubernatorial nomination in 1954. Some of his campaign rhetoric might have come from Pound. Del Valle lost the election.

General Pedro del Valle [USMC photo, Wikimedia Commons]

From New York to Washington

Kasper’s Make It New bookstore was not doing all that well and his letters to Pound through 1954 reflect his depression and desire to leave New York. In order to keep the store going, Kasper worked outside jobs, including six months as an agent at Household Finance Company. It was too much. Kasper located a Washington, DC site and rented Cadmus Books in November, 1955. By December, he had cleaned out the New York store and left town. Lina Lett claimed afterward that he owed her money. Kasper denied it.

One person that came to Washington with Kasper was Florette Henry, a dedicated worker at Kasper’s bookstore. Kasper took her to meet Grampaw who found her good company. Florette wrote Pound a polite thank-you letter after the visit. Florette Henry was black. After the Clinton incident in 1956, Henry and other African-American artists and poets who had hung out with Kasper expressed their astonishment at his contradictory behavior. What happened to him, to change him so? Unless, of course, this was the real Kasper, and the man they had once known, a fraud.

Robert Furniss, a lawyer that helped Kasper close the deal on his bookstore, had been recommended by Ezra Pound. It’s possible that Eustace Mullins brought the poet to the lawyer’s attention. Mullins had some articles in publications overseen by Furniss, who first wrote Ezra Pound in March, 1955. Very soon they were penpal buddies. Furniss knew both Dave Horton and General Del Valle. Furniss and Horton are named as co-owners with Kasper of Cadmus Books in the newsletter Right [FBI Reports]

It was through Furniss that Kasper met Admiral John Crommelin, a famous Navy pilot. Crommelin was one of the Admirals who opposed the re-structuring of American armed forces after World War II. He was urged out of the service and retired in 1950 to his farm in Alabama. There he took up Right-wing causes and ran for office.

In 1954, Crommelin and Del Valle were both part of the “Ten Million Americans for Justice” campaign, which defended Senator Joseph McCarthy when he was threatened with censure. Crommelin addressed a crowd of 13000 in Madison Square Garden, where he warned of “the HIDDEN FORCE in government” that McCarthy had exposed.

It may be that Kasper heard of Crommelin when he was in New York, though he apparently did not meet him then. Kasper had approached some Congressional committees friendly to McCarthy, such as the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate Committee on Government Operations, to send any printed material they put out to his bookstore, where he gave it away. Kasper made friends in Congress. When he put together a catalogue of books available at Cadmus, he mimeographed it on machines in the House of Representatives basement. Possibly he was helped by a female assistant to Rep. Usher Burdick that he seduced. The assistant was somewhat older than Kasper and, under his direction, got her boss to make references to Pound’s plight in the Congressional Record.

Kasper brought Crommelin to St. Elizabeths. Pound approved of him:

…Kasp/ come up with a good admiral
last Thurs./ a few words of wisdom from bloke as had been wrigglin round
dodging jap crash-bombers / BUT adults are still rare…

quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.116.

Furniss wrote Pound of a meeting at the house of Del Valle’s aide, Colonel Pomeroy. Both Kasper and Horton were there and Furniss volunteered them to work toward consolidating the various Right-wing organizations that had come into existence since the end of the War. Furniss had established his own group, “We the People” (later to be folded into the Liberty Lobby) and wanted to organize “a Right-wing, national, political action group”.

The groups Furniss hoped to bring together were anti-Communist, segregationist, and anti-Semitic. And they brought other issues into the mix, such as the Alaska Mental Health Bill, or fluoridation (which Crommelin believed was being used to turn people into “zombies”), or banning rock and roll music. Some were more one thing than another — more anti-black than anti-Jew, for instance — but they were brought together under this notion: Jew Communists were forcing white and black together because race-mixing would weaken America. Race mixing = “mongrelization”. Pound agreed that race-mixing was a bad idea — he had a liking for thoroughbreds. From #39 of the wartime broadcasts:

As to the Hitler program, it was (what we ALL knew, and did nothing about, namely) that the breedin’ of human beings deserves MORE care and attention than the breedin’ of horses and wiffetts, or even the breedin’ of sheep, goat, and the larger livestock. That is point ONE of the NAZI program. Breed GOOD, and preserve the race. Breed thorough, that is for thoroughbreds, conserve the BEST of the race. Conserve the best elements. That means EUGENICS: as opposed to race suicide. And it did not and does NOT please the Talmudic Jews who want to kill off ALL the other races whom they can not subjugate…

May 18, 1942 Ezra Pound Speaking
I think “wiffetts” = “whippets”, fancy pets of thoroughbred aristocrats. Or something.

Many of Pound’s friends worried that these political activities would upset the authorities and delay his release. One wrote to Pound that he’d been having bad dreams after meeting Horton and Kasper at St.Elizabeths. He reminded Pound that he now lived in “the backyard of the gov’t” and an incident could endanger his release. [letter from G.Giovaninni Oct. 8, 1955, quoted in Marsh, p.98]

Pound ignored this advice. In fact, he seldom spoke of being released. Some of his friends began to suspect that he didn’t want to leave St.Elizabeths. “Of course, we want out of this place,” said Dorothy, but Ezra changed the subject. After all, he had the love and attention of devoted followers; he had the time and space to write; and his days were scheduled so that he was never exhausted, only invigorated, by bustle and fuss during limited visiting hours. He oversaw the production of a half-dozen or so literary magazines, he wrote articles about economics and politics under pseudonyms, he gave interviews to scholars researching Modernism, he wrote hundreds of letters to poets and politicians, he worked on his Confucian translations, he worked on the Cantos. Since first being confined, Pound’s surroundings had gradually improved. He used the hallway outside his room as as a reception area for visitors, who were offered food sent to him by admirers. He loved ice cream and ate a lot of it. He played tennis. In the summer, Pound moved outside and presided over gatherings on the St. Elizabeths lawn. In winter, sometimes a group would drive Pound up to “the Point”, where they sipped wine, “the whole of Washington, D.C. in panorama below”. Pound had enormous energy and it was exciting to be around him, to work with him, to try to change the world. It was a lively scene at St.Elizabeths:

Contrast the delightful afternoon/miracle of five intelligent people visitors and one highschool article in course of getting educated by Horton/whether it wd/be possible to duplicate such a gathering in the Jewnutted States OUTSIDE a bughouse I don’t know.

Pound, November 1956 letter to Olivia Rossetti Agresti, an Anglo-Italian fascist sympathizer.

So, Kasper was to go to Alabama to work for Crommelin’s Senate run, and Horton was working with Del Valle and the DAC, as well as producing a radio show. But first, Pound’s crew testified before a Congressional committee on the Alaska Mental Health Bill. Alaska was not yet a state and mental patients had to be sent to the lower Forty-eight for hospitalization. The bill would allow for treatment in Alaska. But Pound’s team was concerned that a concentration camp was being planned. This camp would incarcerate those the government thought subversive — like Pound, perhaps.

Kasper’s testimony before the Committee soon became a plea to release “political prisoner” Ezra Pound, then an attack on Jews, who ran psychiatry as well as the banks, “almost 100 percent of psychiatric therapy is Jewish…” and “…there is tremendous tension between Jew and Gentile. . . Jews historically have not always been assimilated. . .” The Committee members took issue with these statements but allowed Kasper to ramble on about the Bank of the United States. The next witness made a point of dissociating himself from Kasper’s remarks. With Sen. Barry Goldwater’s help, the bill became law in July, 1956.

The Alabama Campaign

“Am now leaving to make Admiral Crommelin dictator”, Kasper wrote Pound. He continued to send dispatches from the campaign and Pound responded with bullet-point lists of key positions:

DON’T fight from a teeter-board. Don’t fight from confused principles.
Fight from the original declaration of the Rights of Man.
Droits de L’homme.
Droit de faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas aux autres.
To do anything that harms not others.
Nothing is more damnably harmful to everyone, white AND black than
miscegenation, bastardization and mongrelization of EVERYTHING.
Less sense in breeding humans (eugenics) than is used for cattle and sheep.
Also the ruin of neighborhoods for the speculations of real estate sharks now
down, now up, now out, now building projects.
Blood banks an infamy also.
Get onto that Beria program. I think [Hollis] Framp[ton] may reprint some, etc.
Local self govt. well, admit NO immigrants to registration who don’t swear
loyalty to state constitution/work back toward QUALIFIED suffrage, IMPOSE
educational qualification, to get in less experienced votes/ fight the 18 year old
vote/ if necessary, but not to put in program and print, give circus tickets for
poll-tax receipts.
dont confuse ingenuity with proclamations.
[. . .]
leave local option in principle, but make it unbearable in fact. metaphor and
tradition: refusal of water and fire. ostracize ‘em. Surro[u]nd ‘em, cut ‘em off,
but don’t MIX principles for an immediate advantage.

Letter from Pound to Kasper, April, 1956, cited Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.124. [Hollis Frampton]

Federal courts had struck down a lot of Jim Crow laws since 1945. For instance, courts ruled that it was illegal to bar blacks from voting in Democratic Party primaries, so they could now cast a meaningful ballot in the South. But that was only one of a number of legal decisions that were changing the way things operated. Nationally, Truman integrated the Armed Forces and that upset many professional officers, especially in the Navy where every captain had his black messboy. Southern politicians and big planters saw that their system was about to collapse. In 1948, at the National Democratic Convention, many Southern delegates walked out after the Democratic Party added civil rights to the platform. These Dixiecrats ran their own candidate, hoping to throw the election into Congress where they could bargain, as they did in 1876. Truman didn’t even appear on the Alabama ballot, but he won the election without those electoral votes and the court cases continued, culminating in the Brown decision of 1954 that ordered an end to segregated schools, and the follow-up implementation order a year later.

Crommelin’s opponent was Lister Hill, a long-serving Democrat. In March, Hill signed the Southern Manifesto — a pledge to fight integration through “massive resistance”. But Crommelin still thought he was soft on racial issues:

Crommelin charged that the campaign against segregation in the South was led by “Felix Frankfurter. A Jew, [and] Senator Lehman [D-NY], a Marxist Jew. Don’t you know it’s their kind of people who are
behind this whole mess?”

Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.120

Kasper was very optimistic about Crommelin’s chances and wrote Pound enthusiastically that a boycott was successful in hurting the businesses of those opposing segregation. He did not say how that indicated success for Crommelin over Hill, though. And he complained that the newspapers ignored Crommelin, but they were all run by Jews. Even so, Crommelin was sending out the message, exposing “the kike behind the nigger”. Pound added Crommelin and Del Valle to Canto 105, promoting them as warriors — “With a Crommelyn at the breech-block/ or a del Valle,/ This is what the swine haven’t got…” Kasper said Crommelin appreciated the gesture.

Kasper’s fellow organizer in Alabama was Asa “Ace” Carter, a radio host who had been fired for expressing extreme views on-air. Now he was leader of the North Alabama Citizens’ Committee, which he formed after being kicked out of the Alabama White Citizens’ Council for refusing to tone down his anti-Semitism. (Jews were Council members in some areas of the state). Carter hated rock-and-roll, claiming the NAACP used it to subvert white teenagers, so rock and roll should be banned! “Be-bop promotes Communism.”

Asa Carter in Tennessee, 1956 [Photo: Robert Kelley, Life]

George Lincoln Rockwell, later to form the American Nazi Party, but now a paid organizer for Americans for Constitutional Action, paid the campaign a visit:

Rockwell flew down here last week. He was very disheartened at C’s rejection
of his work and flew back next day. The enclosed cartoon is his work and he
turned out 10,000 on the offset press in Georgetown. The Admiral, however put
his foot down and refused to let it circulate on the grounds that white people as
well as the Nigra would say he hated the Nigras, which he doesn’t. That is a very
delicate matter here and the races have lived with separate but equal facilities
in harmony for 85 years. The Jews (NAACP) are trying to drive a wedge in the
south and what has taken years to build is being destroyed in 2 or 3.

Letter from Kasper to Pound, April, 1956, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.122

By April, it must have been obvious — at least to Carter — that Crommelin would not win. Hill was so unconcerned about him that he left Alabama to campaign for other Democratic Senators. Kasper was still confident of victory. Pound wrote:

Kasp/whooping perhaps with too great elation re/ his nobl/ Admiral down in Florida.
Tomorrow the primaries, and leZ keep fingers crossed, cause it wd/ be TOO
bloody glorious to git a real admiral into our decrepit senate

quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.133. “Florida”, Alabama, it’s all the same to Grampaw.

Meanwhile, Carter’s North Alabama Citizens’ Council had decided on some direct action. Nat King Cole was to perform in Birmingham backed by Ted Heath’s English band. It was illegal in Alabama to have a mixed white and black audience, so Cole was to perform for whites, then give a second concert for African-Americans. On April 10, when Cole took the stage in Birmingham, Carter’s gang was in the audience.

Carter’s group had been publicizing their action, saying that more than a thousand segregationists would show up and end the concert. Police took this seriously and there were many officers at the Birmingham auditorium. When five Citizens’ Council members rushed the stage and attacked Cole, the police arrested them right away. But Cole had been knocked down, hit in the back by a microphone. During the confusion someone yelled for the band to play the National Anthem. Ted Heath’s group struck up “God Save the Queen”.

After the arrests, Cole reappeared, said that his back hurt and that he would not continue. Then he went to play the concert for blacks. Six members of the North Alabama Citizens’ Council were charged and convicted: four men got six months in jail, two others received suspended sentences. Carter, who had been in the audience, but did not charge the stage, defended their actions. He said it was  “a short step … from the sly, nightclub technique vulgarity of Cole, to the openly animalistic obscenity of the horde of Negro rock ‘n’ rollers.” Carter was unsuccessful in raising a defense fund and the NACC ceased to exist. Later in 1956, he ran for Birmingham Police Commissioner. He was defeated by Bull Connor.

On May 1, the primary results had Hill out-polling Crommelin two-to-one. Kasper returned to Washington where Pound gave him some advice:

AN intellectual movement/
may be ONE man, 50 years ahead of his time. a POLITICAL party, in a republic
with democratic suffrage must be something that can get 85 million votes out
of 160 million or at least 80.000.001 . . . must contain people of VIOLENTLY
opposed views on MANY points, probably on all save one or two points.

…[A ]Politically (effective) formula must not be FALSE BUT it must NOT go into details re/which the 85 million disagree.

You can NOT say: Nationalist. You can not put segregation as BASIC[.] You
cannot say, Douglas (C. H.) or Social Credit or Gesell. You must use a formula
which allows you to plug for what is correct in all three. You can say local control of local
affairs. …You can not SAY local control of local pur [chasing]
/pow[er] which is the only way to GET loc[al]. Cont[rol]. Loc[al]. af[fairs]…

(“Noone is accused of antikikismo until they monkey with question of monetary issue”)…

quoted from Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.133

Something that stands out here is that Pound is serious. There are no goofy Ezratic puns and nonsense; Pound wants Kasper to understand. But Kasper wants action. He is competing for Pound’s affection with Dave Horton and needs to accomplish something.

Horton had a radio show where he interviewed Members of Congress. He operated in the DC area and had frequent access to Pound. He was often the person called upon to pick up visitors and drive them to St. Elizabeths and back to train station or hotel. Pound thought well of him and Kasper was jealous, often squabbling with Horton. Pound admonished him, but fed the competition between his acolytes:

Score: Dave got del V[alle] / Yu got Crommelin… If you don’t have VIOLENT oppositions IN the centre, there will be VAST blocks of people shut out.

…when I want to depress yr/adored confrere D.H. I remind him
that a democracy is a place where ole VYoleR [his old friend Viola Baxter Jordan
who was obsessed with astrology] has a vote. Just as much VOTE as he has (I
never added the second part of that statement. Reserve it for moments of stress).

letter from Pound to Kasper, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.135

He assessed his youthful proteges to another correspondent: “mullins flighty, Kasp impulsive Horton solid. several others YOUNG.”

In November, 1953, when Kasper was still commuting from New York, he showed up at St. Elizabeths at the same time as aspiring poet Frederick Seidel. Seidel had no time for non-poets. He told Pound that he would not share his time with Kasper. Pound then ordered Kasper out and Seidel did not see him any more, though he spent the weekend visiting with Pound. [Swift, The Bughouse, Chap.6] Pound kept his followers in line by giving or withholding his approval, so of course they were willing to undergo small humiliations in order to receive it.

Kasper was emotionally needy and his worship of Pound was intense. He wrote:

O Sidgismundo, Your army’s gathering every day, please, we need you for the
offense and the “charge.” There’s nothing they can do, NO NUTHIN they can’t
take it away from you, not a damn thing can they take way, from thee THOU
GREATEST GIVER, KNOWER, SEER, SAGE, WATER, GRAIN, RAIN, and
SUN.
[signed] Yours, John Kasper, Cap’n, 34th Brigade 16th Cuirassiers Regiment of the Line

[and in another letter:]

Granpaw, Granpaw, I love you, love you.

letter Oct. 1952, quoted Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.6. Sigismondo Malatesta was a 15th C. condottiero admired by Pound.

The Cadmus Bookstore was limping along — various Poundian disciples looked after the store while Kasper was away; for a time, his mother even came down from New Jersey to work there. But Kasper had too much to do. On June 4, he announced the formation of the Seaboard White Citizens’ Council. Motto of the SWCC: “Honor, pride, fight, SAVE THE WHITE!” In July he transferred the store to Nora Devereaux, secretary-treasurer of the SWCC. Then Kasper mobilized his troops. His targets were those identified with the Jewish mongrelization plot: Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and Chief Justice Earl Warren, architects of the Brown decision; US Solicitor-General Simon Sobeloff, who had overseen Brown II, the 1955 implementation order; Senator Herbert Lehman; and Mrs. Douglas King, chair of a Maryland NAACP chapter. On July 14, crosses were burned in front of their homes.

The FBI tagged the SWCC as probable perpetrators right away, but Ronald Eugene Rowley, a student at the University of Virginia, confessed to the cross-burnings. He said he was protesting July 12 court rulings that Charlottesville schools had to integrate, and refused to name his accomplices. Rowley was released on bail which he later forfeited after failing to show up in court.

The Virginia Excursion

Charlottesville was Kasper’s next target. On July 28, Kasper sniffed out the territory. He spoke to city officials who shined him on. Then on August 4, four members of the SWCC accompanied Kasper on the drive from Washington, DC. to distribute leaflets and SWCC membership forms. They handed out a mimeographed leaflet, Virginians On Guard!, which included photographs of the crosses burning on July 14. The four were arrested right away for violating city ordnances, and released pending their court appearance a week later. But Kasper had another problem: Grampaw did not like the broadside.

Pound had a hand in writing the bulk of Virginians On Guard! which had a list of “proposals” including a new Constitution for the United States. There are discussions of economic fixes, including a Poundian screed on usury. The new Constitution also included an anti-fluoridation clause and banned rock and roll, but racial integration was the main topic. Not only are schools to be segregated but blacks are not to be allowed to attend college without passing a rigorous exam. It would be unlawful to even suggest that integration was a good idea. (But Pound’s essay on press freedom was also included in the leaflet.) And there were photos to spice up the mix: black men embracing white women and so on. The problem, for Pound, was the cover which included bits of his poetry.

“petrefaction/putrefaction” is from Canto XV; “Ben” (Franklin) from a spurious source cited in Canto LII.

Pound wrote Kasper that the broadside looked too much like Blast, the 1914 Vorticist manifesto put out by Wyndham Lewis. Kasper was puzzled and replied that he had never seen Blast. More likely, Pound was upset about his poetry being used this way. (Compare Blast here.)

Gramps, mebbe I’m wrong but I figure I’m working REAL POLITIK instead of
“practical politics.” The REAL has to master, in the end.
If I’m doing wrong, going down the wrong road, getting corrupt in character,
acting unConfucian, am in a rut or stupid, please so say. I would quit Citizens
Councils today if you asked me to. I will do anything you ask me to. Sire, you’re
my real Grampop sure.
You’re tops.
[. . .] our aim is NOT educationalist, defensive maneuvering, discussion-debate,
security- conscious, or ivory tower [. . .] We are aiming for a people’s
grass-roots, actionist, nationalist, ATTACK organization, UNCONTROLLED
BY THE POLITICIAN or the JEW or FINANCIER.

Kasper to Pound, Aug. 8, 1956, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.144

I am also a bit puzzled by Pound’s reaction. After all, he actually added lines to a poem to glorify Crommelin and del Valle, so what is the complaint here? Anyway, Pound praised Kasper’s actions to others, at least later, after the Tennessee campaigns.

The Seaboard White Citizens Council accused returned to Charlottesville for trial on August 11 — one member deciding to forfeit bond rather than appear — and there were no convictions due to lack of evidence. The SWCC had their picture taken as they stood before the Confederate Monument in front of the Albemarle County courthouse. Kasper’s chum, Asa Carter, sent a congratulatory telegram comparing them to Confederate raiders Mosby and Forrest.

Immediately the group began leafletting again. Now they had a new broadside: Charlottesville Attack, an “Open Letter To The White Citizens of Charlottesville”.

Kasper wrote about meeting the city officials of Charlottesville — “…scoundrels who have let your city be put under attack by the reds, NAACP, pinks, race-haters and mongrelizers.” and warned “White citizens of Charlottesville!! …your children will go to school with niggers…”

First the sacred schoolhouse.
Then restaurants, picture-shows, DANCES, home, then marriage-bed. Now fight.

NOW. FIGHT! There’s nowhere to run

Meanwhile, pro-integration forces were organizing. A chapter of the Virginia Council on Human Relations formed in late-July. At its inaugural meeting a month later, Kasper and the SWCC invaded the room. Kasper seized the podium and yelled that the VCHR would be “run out of town”.

Kathleen Murphy Dierenfield. “One ‘Desegregated Heart’: Sarah Patton Boyle and the Crusade for Civil Rights in Virginia.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 104, no. 2 (1996): 251–84. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4249566.

An SWCC mass meeting was poorly attended. The group continued to leaflet and burned some crosses, but then Virginia Governor Harry Byrd’s Massive Resistance strategy became policy. The court order to de-segregate Charlottesville schools was stayed because of new state legislation. A new round of legal maneuvers began, but the schools remained segregated. There was nothing left for the SWCC to do in Charlottesville. Kasper chose a new target: Clinton, Tennessee, and began to organize the foray that would attract national attention.

One thing that Kasper may not have understood was that many people saw the potential violence in his activities. The established segregationists in Charlottesville never wanted anything to do with him. Wanting to ban rock and roll seems so silly that it’s funny, but no one laughed about the assault on Nat King Cole. Worse was to come.

That’s enough for today. Part 2 will be about Kasper in Tennessee.

NOTES:

Alec Marsh, John Kasper and Ezra Pound, Saving the Republic is a major source for this post.

The standard bio of Pound now is David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet. The third volume covers the years 1939 – 1972.
Daniel Swift, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound
Matthew Feldman, “Ezra Pound’s Political Faith from First to Second Generation; or, “It is 1956 Fascism””, article that details Pound’s fascist beliefs and his activities after he was confined in St. Elizabeths. The title quote is from Kasper, but aside from the Kindergarten, Pound was involved with the British Union of Fascists and writing for their magazine, The European, until he was released in 1958.

Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers: the American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era has chapters on Kasper and Crommelin

Robert Byrd, NY Herald-Tribune, Four part series on Kasper Jan.30 – Feb. 4, 1957.

FBI reports on Kasper and others mentioned here are on-line at Archive.org as well as
publications of Eustace Mullins.
Crommelin FBI reports.
Carl McIntire publications
House Committee on UnAmerican Activities report on National Renaissance Party
Ernie Lazar FOIA Collection: Extreme Right Groups

Eustace Mullins, “My Struggle Against the Jews”

Greg Barnhisel, “‘Hitch Your Wagon to a Star’: The Square Dollar Series and Ezra Pound.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 92, no. 3 (1998): 273–95.

Jeremy Gray, “The night Nat King Cole was beaten on a Birmingham stage”

 

 

Splashing Toward the Apocalypse

It’s raining. It rained yesterday. It rained the day before. Ever since it quit snowing, it’s rained. Long-term weather forecasts say this area is becoming a rain forest. Not a warm tropical type forest — it gets cold here when it clouds over, the air is warm but the ground is cold — nor an ocean-tempered Haida Gwaii sort of place, but a rain forest liable to have cataclysmic weather breaks — bitter cold spells with heavy snow, brutally hot dry spells with great forest fires.

Last year I began to notice these strange commercials. I heard rain. Oh, Jesus, I thought, Is the basement full of water? But it was on the TV. Rain noise, billed as “thirty seconds of Calm”. Calm! Yeah, I’ll think about that while we’re hooking up the shop vac to pump out the basement, or repairing the roof damage where ice ripped off the gutters. Calm, my ass! Apparently though, millions of sick people do spend money to listen to rain. (Cue sub-rant on the Emptiness of Bourgeois Existence.)

During Covid, I re-read The Drowned World, J.G.Ballard’s Water book from the Elements tetralogy — Earth, Air, Fire, Water. The Drowned World was published in 1962, before global warming was a thing. Ballard’s cataclysm is some kind of solar event. Earth is heating up — the equator is a death zone. The climate generally is hot Paleozoic Era. Lizards and giant insects swarm the remnants of cities sticking up from the water. Ballard’s main character decides to travel south into the heat, seeking apotheosis of some sort, but probably finding death.

Whatever he discovers will be a new mode of being. He may adapt or die or revert to some primordial form… Ballard said the book was about Time. His characters have Devonian nightmares. I don’t. I have terrible thoughts about the future. I will not revert; I opt to Adapt.

So that is what I am doing. Adapting. My toes aren’t webbed yet, but I’m waiting. Calmly.

Events of the Recent Past

Toward the end of 2020, I wanted to hear about something (anything!) other than Coronavirus or Donald Trump, but the news was clogged like a public toilet with items on those two newsmakers. But there were other stories, interesting items that didn’t get enough play. Here’s some:

1: War At the Top of the World
The border between India and China is disputed. Over the years, numerous border incidents have occurred including serious conflicts in the1960s. Diplomatic efforts to reduce the chance of all-out war have created a set of rules that China and India test regularly. Perhaps 2% have been reported in the news. Since 2014 there have been a number of meetings between Xi and Modi on this matter.

Galwan Valley. Google Earth. The red line designates the unofficial Ladakh border, the Line of Actual Control.

Both India and China beefed up their military around Galwan and came to blows May 4, 2020, and again in mid-June. Patrols up in the disputed area are unarmed by agreement, so the battle was fought with fists, rocks, and snowballs. Soldiers were pushed off the high mountainsides and fell to their death or drowned in a river. China admitted to losing four soldiers; outside analysts say at least nine times that. India lost thirty, with another ten captured by China.

Video by an Indian soldier showing troops wrestling and shoving [screen cap from this Al-Jazeera report]

This could get serious in the long run; both countries want to establish themselves in this uninhabitable spot. But for now, just consider the picture of two groups of men battling with naked fists over a patch of unusable frozen rock. This is a metaphor waiting to be applied.

2: The Mauritius Disaster

Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. At one time it was home to the dodo which became extinct after human beings reached the island, not so much because Dutch sailors killed the birds and ate them, but because they brought rats and other problems. Anyway, centuries later, Mauritius has a population of a million and a quarter and, before 2020, was relatively prosperous.

On July 25, an empty Japanese freighter, the Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef off the south-east coast of Mauritius. A crew member was having a birthday party and the Wakashio sailed closer to improve its wi-fi signal, winding up on the reef. Efforts were made to pump oil from the ship, but it broke up in August and 1000 or so tonnes of oil were released directly into the Blue Bay marine park that is a Ramsar-designated important wetland area. Mauritius needs tourist dollars for its economy and the park was a major destination. The spill and its economic impact set off demonstrations and demands for the government to resign.

The broken Wakashio and oil slick. [photo: imo.un, Wikimedia Commons]

So is this a case of restoring cosmic balance? Environmental karma? Curse of the dodo? (Probably not.)

3: Stuck Ships

March 23, 2021, a very large container vessel, the Ever Given, belonging to Evergreen Marine Corporation, got stuck in the Suez Canal. For a week it blocked traffic, holding up billions of dollars worth of trade. Finally, moved on the 29th, the Ever Given was held for months until a settlement with the Canal authority was reached.

The Ever Forward being refloated in Chesapeake Bay. [Photo: Vesselfinder]

But, in March, 2022, another Evergreen ship, the Ever Forward, got stuck in Chesapeake Bay. This time, it took a month to free the vessel.

These are huge ships. Some are talking about crewless, AI-navigated versions. I got reservations about that. Next March, I’ll be looking to see if the Ever Ready or the Every Man or the Ever After is being refloated.

4: Kardashian and the Artist Formerly Known As Kanye

I don’t follow the Kardashian saga generally, but this was just so… Anyway, Ye (as I think he is now known) was married to Kim Kardashian. But he had some mental health issues and began (he says) talking divorce in the summer of 2020, when he was also running for President. In January, 2021, Kim and Ye were openly considering divorce but Ye decided he wanted to stay with her, so sent her a present. And it is this present that pulled me into this dysfunctional saga.

Ye (still Kanye then) gave Kim a hologram of her father (who died in 2003) that spoke to his daughter and told her what a great guy Kanye was. Now I think this is creepy, but Kim cried and said “Thank you so much, Kanye, for this memory that will last a lifetime.” So, I guess it’s just me.

Robert Kardashian (doesn’t look a whole lot like OJ’s lawyer that I recall) [ET on YouTube]

Anyway, since then, Kim has taken up with Pete Davidson, which caused Ye to release a video showing him beheading Davidson. Davidson baited Ye on social media, and the two went back and forth at each other. This is not cool. Nor is it smart. Davidson must know it’s a bad idea to tease the mentally unstable. But, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I just don’t understand these people.

5: Still Growing

So how tall is the world’s highest mountain? 8848.86m as of now, which is .86m higher than previously calculated. Experts are divided on whether or not a 2015 earthquake caused this growth. Everest grows anyway, as tectonic plates collide and push upward, but that adds maybe 50cm a century, so this recent growth is unexpected. Or this may mean that measurement of this object is difficult and may have to be revised yet again.

Mt.Everest with Rongbuk Monastery in foreground. [Photo: Csearl, Wikimedia Commons]

Anyway, this is a reminder that the World Wags On, no matter the foolishness of its denizens.