GLEN COVE, NY — James Jackson Kilpatrick, who died
in August at age 89, was a journalist, columnist, author, editor, and
television commentator. He loved and mastered the English language.
His genius was not limited to prose and included humorous poetry. His
description of American journalism in the first half of the 1950s is
The Lib’rals were in clover, they could feast upon the Nation,
Grave Harper’s and Atlantic sang in tintinnabulation;
Backwards came the gospel, in the prose of Henry Luce,
The verbs all running Timestyle, like a southward-bound cabuice,
James Wechsler kept the Posted on McCarthy’s many crimes,
And weekly came the final word, the Sunday New York Times.
Kilpatrick was broad minded. His second wife was a liberal columnist,
and he collaborated with Eugene McCarthy in writing a book. His coverage
of McCarthy’s presidential campaign disclosed an admiration for
the candidate’s refusal to be as banal as political convention
As a television commentator, Kilpatrick is remembered mainly for
his five-minute segments on 60 Minutes with Shana Alexander. Although
these were important in the history of television, Kilpatrick excelled
in his longer television appearances in which arguments could be developed
more fully. His televised debate with Martin Luther King on the issue
of segregation provided an excellent matchup of two masters of the
art of argumentation, pitting a brilliant conservative against a left-wing
radical tainted with communist connections.
David Susskind created a late-night television program called Open
End. This program offered a forum for the discussion of issues until
the topics were exhausted, without any fixed signoff time. It escaped
the time constraints that cripple so much of television journalism.
Kilpatrick excelled on this program.
Kilpatrick’s poetic description of the early National
Review might well have been a description of himself:
With arrows sharp, its shafts provoke a bloody howl,
Especially when they find a mark in Adam Clayton Powl
Down with the welfare state, it cries! Preserve an honest dollar;
Cleave to the Right, keep taxes low, and surely it will follar
That free men all will rally ‘round. Provide the final push
To topple tyrants from thie thrones, Fidel, Kadar, and Krush.
Many pundits denounced Kilpatrick’s views on race during much
of his career and viewed his evolution in thinking as a kind of conversion.
This view would taint a generation of his work. His views actually
did not change substantially.
As a journalist, he was a defender of the rights of individual black
victims of racism, long before Brown v. Board, whose defects he pointed
out effectively. Kilpatrick grew up in Oklahoma, where segregation
was assumed to be a fact of life. His initial reaction to integration
was that the federal government was interfering in Southern affairs
that it did not understand and that the unintended result could harm
many rural black people, among others. Although he was a critical voice
urging Virginia to resist integration, at the same time he expressed
admiration for young Southern black civil rights workers, an admiration
he never extended to outsider civil rights workers.
Kilpatrick logically came to realize that segregation by state governments
was wrong for the same reason that integration by the federal government
was wrong — both lacked a proper concern for the liberty of the individual.
History vindicated him because the integration of the South was eventually
arranged between Southern blacks and whites far more successfully than
by any possible federal government program.
Kilpatrick loved liberty and will be missed by all lovers
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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