Eleanor Roosevelt to Dorothy Tilly

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dorothy Tilly

31 July 1947 [Campobello Island, Canada]

Dear Mrs. Tilly:

I was very glad to get your letter but horrified by the material which you enclosed. It seems to me dreadful that in our country we should have any people going through such experiences. We can not look down too much on the Nazis or the Communists, when somewhere in our land things like these can happen.

That 13th Chapter of Corinthians you noticed was my husband's favorite Chapter as well as my own.

I am glad that Doris Fleeson was a success. I am very fond of her but I do not always agree with what she says or even believes. I should be glad to know, if you have the time, what it was with which your disagreed.16

With every good wish, I am,

                                     Very cordially yours,


1. Dorothy Rogers Tilly (1883–1970) became a member of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching in 1931 and went on to play a significant role in the civil rights movement. She investigated lynchings in Georgia and—on behalf of the Southern Regional Council—the race riot in Columbia, Tennessee, that ER also investigated (see Document 102). In 1945, Truman appointed Tilly to the President's Committee on Civil Rights, which would issue its report, To Secure These Rights, in October 1947 (NAWMP).

2. NAWMP; MD, 26 July 1944; MD, 29 July 1944.

3. Malvina Thompson.

4. Tilly refers to the title of a book by Rev. William L. Stidger. See n6.

5. First Corinthians, Chapter 13 reads:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Cor. 13.1-13 KLV).

6. Rev. William L. Stidger (1885–1949), a Methodist minister and educator, and nationally known radio preacher, led the radio campaign for Roosevelt's reelection in 1936, and often attended informal White House dinners. He also wrote Those Amazing Roosevelts (1944) ("Dr. WL. Stidger, 64, Minister, Author," NYT, 8 August 1949, 15; Jack Hyland, "How I Came to Write This Book," www.stidger.com/about.jsp, accessed 10 November 2005).

7. FDR established the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in 1927 as a nonprofit, rehabilitation center to assist those like himself, to recover from and manage the debilitating effects of polio. He invested a good part of his fortune in the enterprise. After he became governor of New York and, then, president, he continued to visit Warm Springs regularly for rest and relaxation (FDRE).

8. James Westbrook Pegler (1894–1969), a nationally syndicated antilabor and anti-Communist columnist, frequently attacked FDR's New Deal programs and members of the Roosevelt family personally. "I want to know more about the whole lot of them," he wrote, "and I want to run up the whole vile record of treachery which I know there to be had and chisel it on a rock as a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt." ER refrained from responding publicly to Pegler's attacks, referring to him once as "such a little gnat on the horizon." Neither Pegler nor ER retained a copy of Pegler's column on FDR and the Warm Springs Foundation (DAB; n9 Document 255; Lash, Years, 155-56; IYAM, LHJ, January 1949).

9. George W. Norris (1861–1944), a progressive Republican from Nebraska, supported FDR early in his first campaign for the presidency. The two worked together during the New Deal for the goals they shared, particularly the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Norris pushed the TVA bill through Congress. The TVA, which developed the Tennessee River Valley for multiple uses under public ownership, became a model for large-scale river development projects elsewhere in the world (FDRE).

10. Tilly refers most likely to David Boynton Roosevelt (1942–), son of Elliott and his second wife, Ruth Googins, and Scoop Emerson, the son of Elliott's third wife, Faye Emerson.

11. In April 1944, in Smith v. Allwright, the US Supreme Court declared state laws barring African Americans from voting in primaries unconstitutional. In response, legislators in South Carolina quickly organized a new plan to effect the original intent. The state legislature repealed all laws relating to primary elections, leaving the conduct of primary elections up to the political parties. As a "private club" a political party could prohibit whomever they chose from the process. The South Carolina "white primary" plan then inspired white supremacists in other southern states to follow this model. Georgia took the lead. However, in 1947, a federal district invalidated the South Carolina plan in Elmore v. Rice. The Supreme Court would uphold the district court decision April 1949 (Klarman, 200-201; "Negro Vote Stands in South Georgia," NYT, 20 April 1948, 1; John N. Popham, "White Voting Law Worries Georgia," NYT, 25 February 1947, 30).

12. Tilly is referring to Governor M. E. Thompson ("Our Governor") and to the politics of Eugene Talmadge and his son, Herman. Eugene Talmadge (1884–1946) dominated Georgia politics for the better part of three decades, championing white supremacy and rural farmers. Georgians elected him to the state senate five times and the governor's office four times. His stance on race made him a hero for southern Democrats who would eventually make up the Dixiecrats. Talmadge unexpectedly died after his successful gubernatorial bid in 1946, but before he assumed office. Following his death, Talmadge forces managed to install his son, Herman Talmadge (1913–2002) as governor, but after two months, the State Supreme Court declared that under Georgia's Constitution Talmadge's lieutenant governor-elect, M. E. Thompson (1903–1980) must succeed him. The Talmadge forces, however, continued to exercise strong influence in the state. Earlier that year, ER noted the rhetoric of both Talmadges, writing that "neither the late Governor-elect Eugene Talmadge's speeches nor his son's, with their emphasis on white supremacy, sound much like the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, under which we are supposed to be running our republic" ("Melvin Thompson, 77, Once Georgia Governor," NYT, 5 October 1980, 44; MD, 18 January 1947; "Talmadge Is Dead at 62 in Georgia," NYT, 22 December 1946, 1).

13. ER either did not retain this clipping or passed it on to other interested parties as no copy of it was found in her files.

14. The stories Tilly enclosed to ER cover the case of Mr. Davidson, an African American man from Harris County, Georgia, who disappeared after killing a white man. Law enforcement officers then imprisoned his family members, including small children, who were beaten until they revealed information regarding Davidson's disappearance. The police then jailed Henry Gilbert on the unfounded charge of abetting Davidson's escape. Before a trial could be arranged, Gilbert was killed in jail. The authorities then turned to Gilbert's wife May and charged her with abetting Davidson's escape. The account Tilly enclosed charged: "This case and all of its ramifications is a glaring example of how local law is impotent to protect the rights of the negro population in the face of rising public feeling." The report then concluded that federal oversight was essential for African Americans to be treated justly by local law enforcement officials ("Negro Children in Jail in Georgia," unsigned TS enclosure with Dorothy Tilly to ER, 14 July 1947, AERP).

15. Doris Fleeson (1901–1970), a Washington-based syndicated columnist and advocate of women's rights, characterized herself as a nonpartisan liberal. A search by the editors did not locate a record of her remarks at the Junaluska conference ("Doris Fleeson, Columnist, Dies; Winner of Journalism Honors," NYT, 2 August 1970, 57).

16. If Tilly responded, ER did not preserve the letter.

The United Nations and the Marshall Plan

July 12, 1947, the foreign ministers of fifteen Western European nations,1 plus Turkey, met in Paris to answer Marshall's call to craft an "agreement among the countries of Europe as to the requirements of the situation and the part those countries themselves will take" in the rebuilding of Europe.2 As these preliminary discussions to implement the Marshall Plan occurred, ER wrote in My Day that while "it is quite evident to any nation that if the people of Europe are to get together and take stock of what their resources and their needs for rehabilitation are, they must look to the United States and Latin America for help." She still thought it "vital, however, that the U.N. be acquainted with every step that is taken, and that our actions must always be in accord with U.N. interests."3 Four days later she wrote Secretary Marshall to urge UN involvement in these early discussions.

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dorothy Tilly

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Dorothy Tilly