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We still favor a living wage and fair working conditions. Forget politics now. Forget civil liberties and come back to the average merchant in any town big or small. First and foremost he wants to keep friends and make a living. If he refused to declare a display such a placard from the strikers he would make the sign of a man sore and many of these risk customers. If he put up that placard he would make other merchants and the farmers soar. And these were even more of his customers. So the town is businessman all of our advertisers were delighted when the governor a close friend of my father got out of the injunction prohibiting such placards. This took him off the hook. This way nobody could get sore This way everybody would continue to love them and business on Commercial Street could go on as usual.
But when my father on the absolute issue of civil liberties took the position that this injunction was illegal and put up a slight modification of this placard in the Gazette office inviting arrest the radix up and down Commercial Street among these advertisers Well he's gone crazy again. Of course he had supporters. The striking shop won but they were a small minority among the white collar people. A number of college professors who could think about abstract things such as civil liberties and a few preachers and a few of those thick and thin friends that most men have but respectable employer thought he was out of his mind. I know for I was there fighting with him covering that strike. Hearing the angry protest on Commercial Street. It was almost but not quite as bad next year when he ran for governor as an independent candidate against the Ku Klux Klan. This time we had this somewhat better
break with local public opinion opinion. More than half the town was with us. The morning after the election the eastern seaboard press that all of my father's liberal friends across the country where hailing them on white for having swept the Klan from Kansas. Back home we had another view in his race for governor he had run third in Emporia we had a Klan endorsed Mayor and a Klan endorsed sheriff. And my father had lost his own county. The deepest humiliation a politician can have. I forget what that morning we had for breakfast but I remember my mother telling him that he must walk to work as usual must gaily say hello to people on Commercial Street as though nothing had happened. Advice which he really didn't need for he was as resilient as he was bred. But regardless of the glowing glowing editorials written by liberals across the land we in the
family knew that it was going to a bone crunching defeat that in the state the county and the city all had been lost save honor and that as practical politicians it would take us several years of hard work to pick up the pieces of this noble victory and stick them back together again. One important part of my father's work which is lost to history is his comments on the passing scene. Usually picked up through because that editorials by the Associated Press and often spread across the nation they are lost because they have little meaning today. For they were shrewd comments on minor events now forgotten. But they mattered then and kept his name alive across the country. As a practical newspaper man he knew how to play the AP as skillfully as David oyster knows how to play the fiddle. He gave them exactly what he knew they could use. Working under him
on the Gazette's a toile page. If I had a complaint it was that he was over generous in his praise and too sparing in his criticism. Which I really wanted. Except on one point he would bring back a piece I had written and say Bill this is very good but it's too long. And I said well we have plenty of space tomorrow and he said that's not the point. It's almost a column and nobody will have room to reprint it. If you could cut it down to 300 words I think we could get it on the AP. And then I would say but I can't say what I was saying any less. Well it's your funeral. I'll be glad to attend it. One thing he taught me early. Was to use strong short words. It badly needed to be taught for I was fresh out of college and like all college kids had picked up from my
textbooks a ponderously Latinate vocabulary. The Ph.D.s who write these things may know their subjects but they know nothing about writing and the policy logic gobbledygook such wind bags use somehow rubs off on the kids. Time passed and in the middle 30s I left Emporia. Why. Somebody back east at the time asked me the question and my answer got to print. I said I felt employer was getting a little overcrowded with whites. My father didn't oppose my leaving but it was equally clear that he didn't want us to go that he felt that somehow he had failed and maybe also he was fearful that I would fail which he didn't want to happen for he was very fond of me. But I had the feeling that maybe I was pretty good except that so long as I stayed in Emporia How would anybody find it out. Well in a way
we were both right and we both were both wrong. A few years after I left he mailed me a book gotten up by some scholar who had come to Emporia to make a compilation of Gazette editorials with a book he wrote a note saying that he rather thought that some of the editorials in it had been written by me. Reading it through I found that in the period when I had been actively on the editorial page about two thirds of those editorials picked by this scholars that is at its best actually had been written by me. Now nobody was at fault here if there was a blame it was on me for not having left Emporia sooner. Yet that decade after college was a precious one for me. If I had contributed something I took away far more in knowledge and experience. But some rough years followed. I had no literary reputation of my own and yet editors particularly under sure are inexperienced ones
were eager to hire me on the theory that they were buying a slice of the sage of Emporia at a substantial cash discount. When I tried to tell them that I was an entirely different person with other talents than another viewpoint they would listen when I proved to be right. They felt I had swindled or betrayed them. The period was I think more painful for my father than it was for me for no one man wants his son to fail. And when the son of the sage of Emporia is floundering around this can hardly be kept a secret within the trade. But his worries and heartbreak I think ended in 1909. I sent off to Europe as a while correspondent of manner that you touched on here and I don't want to repeat it but I would was covering the Russell Finnish War and got myself one of those suddenly mushrooming television radio reputations in almost every living room in the nation five
nights a week. And he had won the top prize for the year for that broadcast against such tough competition of bills firing Admiral Eric Sevareid. I bring these things all in only because my father was now enormously proud of me and happy even telephone me from health telephoning me from Helsinki in Emporia. I liked it because intensely well-meaning people quit asking me if I thought I was a chip off of the old block. And if in the few years that followed I was working mostly in Europe but able to come back for a few months weeks or months dispelling on the Gazette. During this time he achieved what was probably his pinnacle of fame. For he became head of the Committee to Defend America by aiding the allies. Up to this point his reputation had been purely American. None of these books have been published abroad or in translation. But now he was known throughout the free world.
His committee of course locked horns with its with its opposite number the America First Committee. It was presently his own committee exploded in Iraq which ended with this being heaved out of leadership. Although this was more proper politely phrased books have been written about this which I shall not attempt to summarize here. The not have it was that my father had been picked to head this committee because as the sage of Emporia he spoke from the heart of the traditionally isolationist Middle West. Although the committee purported to favor helping the Allies short of entering the war a majority of its rank and file and probably of its directors thought we should get him eventually. But my father really believed what he said. He was strict as short a war man so on the showdown they roll it. I was in England during this noisy purge and let me confess that that
while I now believe he was right at the time I didn't agree with him. I was a victim of local itis in England we really believed we were wrong that there was danger of invasion and that only American entry could save the resolves from occupation. During the height of this rout in America the British Ministry of Information. Knowing how I felt got in touch with me to ask if I would care to give an interview setting forth this opinion. Of course I refused. I said anything in print now for me would only be a stab in the back to a father when he was in trouble. The one I got back to America there would be plenty of time. To set up my own news and magazine articles or a book. But in a way which could would not be insulting to him. They understood and were very decent about it. But word of my private disagreement with my father leaked out among the correspondents
and about a month later back home going over my clippings I found that one of these a crook employed by a leading Chicago newspaper had cabled what he said was an authorized interview with me. It correctly quoted what I thought but he dangled it as an attack on my father. I was very angry. I still am. I hope he never saw it. If he did he never mentioned it in my face. In his final years my father became in Emporia an almost universally revered institution. In my day there the reverence had been considerably short of universal. If an employee on on vacation writing is someone who who said all that's where my long white stem about half the time would have the Emporium would explode and inform the stranger that there were in Emporia a lot of people more substantial than that noisy fellow white. In the 1940s there were shifts.
His fame had reached the point that any state convention of bankers or barbers of morticians meeting in Emporia felt swindled. William Allen White did not briefly appear to say a few words because it would be like coming to Niagara without getting a glimpse of the falls. As a patriotic Emporium he was a mineral to this but as a lover of good food he hated and who of us does not. Hotel banquets A My mother told me at the conference that bit that he would not eat with them. But just before the main speaker he would be swiftly river from our house to the head table to say a few words so that the rhetorical returning delegates could tell their families they had heard Niagra roar. However briefly just following the lemon pie. So now for his deathbed we whites following his we all carefully do our father's
footsteps chips as we always are. Off the old block. Are a cancer family part of our proud heritage. So it was no surprise to any of us will 875. He ran into trouble. In the late fall of 1043 without using that frightening word all of us of course including him knew what it was before he went on the table for that exploratory operation that maimed us. But on the last evening before they went in again I marveled at how carefully a plan he planned things sitting there on the edge of the hospital bed. So he has toes and talking to us. He said he felt fine but just in case he didn't come out of the ether in Amman there were a few things we might go over his will we would find in the office safe. He owed nothing except current bills. His letters he had promised to the Library of Congress as if we would let them know they would come and
pick them up and then turning to me he said there it is by autobiography. I would find this in the library at home. Of course it was only a rough first draft he said and he got only a little beyond nine hundred twenty. It needed cutting particularly for repetition and the last thing he wanted to do was to impose on me. I had my own work to consider my own life to lead. If I was too busy to bother with it myself I could get one of those fellows working on a Ph.D. to take it over because he really thought the material was good and if he came out of the ether the next day he could do the work himself. He came out all right with an unofficial estimate of three more months. But the work he could never quite do. Although there were a few days when back home he could get dressed and go into his library to make a stab at it. Then during that
waiting period as the flame flickers lower and everybody tiptoes around but we whites will tell you there are worse ways to go. There was a time for us there was time for instance to read all those telegrams which came from all over the nation. When it had been announced he was going to Mayo's for everybody from the White House Down knew what this meant. TIME In fact from the answer of most of the time in fact for his only granddaughter our little daughter Barbara to come for a few days for Thanksgiving vacation. When he insisted on coming down to sit at the head of the table to carve the turkey as he always had he was very proud that he could bring that off for time for my mother to talk it over with me and half whispers in the up stairs library where the other biography lay. Call realists that she was and loving ever says she did. She said she thought on the
whole it was better this way because Father always so much love being a part of things in the center of them and she couldn't bear to think of them as an old man slowly getting feebler with all of his friends dying off and ignored by the young. Having always been so much in the center of national life this she knew he couldn't bear nor could she bear it for him. So it was better coming now. There is little else to tell you except the waiting boring of course to all of us but most of all the him who was so little accustomed to being bored and then suddenly at four o'clock in the morning it happened. The nurse running in to tell us that he was gone. At first she had thought he was only trying to hold his breath as he sometimes did she said to hasten it. But now he had really gone.
For days the UPN the AP had been discreetly calling would Bri promise to let them know. So a flash could be put on the main walk. So now being of a newspaper family a chip if you like off the old sage of Emporia block. I found myself hastening to the phone to call. Not the undertaker is in a same family would but the AP and the UPC both I knew had brought up to date there be a graphical sketches 04:00 would be just right to start getting them out on the main trunk wires so that the sage of employers last big story could get full dress treatment and page one play in the papers across the land. Only when I hung up to die remember the undertaker. Stupid is it. My father would have labs which
William Allen White
Producing Organization
University of Kansas
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Documentary-drama commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of journalist William Allen White.
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Producing Organization: KANU
Producing Organization: University of Kansas
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.5-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:19:40
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Chicago: “William Allen White,” 1968-11-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 21, 2022,
MLA: “William Allen White.” 1968-11-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 21, 2022. <>.
APA: William Allen White. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from