Saturday, March 28, 2009

Unsung Hero - T.R.M. Howard

In the fight against tyranny and injustice, there are scores of unsung heroes. I would like to introduce my readers to one of them, Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a doctor and entrepreneur who preceded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the struggle for civil rights in America. Hat tip to Damon W. Root and Reason magazine for reviewing his recently published biography, book cover at right. (I have not read the book, but I recommend you at least read the full review.) Unlike the communists who were infiltrating the civil rights movement of the era, Dr. Howard believed in economic empowerment and political equality as the way ahead for black Americans. After founding the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), he became nationally famous for his efforts to find the killers of a black man who allegedly had the temerity to whistle at a white women. After the discovery of Emmet Till's body, he promised there would be "hell to pay in Mississippi." From his Wikipedia entry:

Howard moved into the national limelight as never before after the murder of Emmett Till in August 1955 and the trial of his killers, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant in September. He was heavily involved in the search for evidence and gave over his home to be a “black command center” for witnesses and journalists.

Unfortunately, the white jury acquitted the killers, thinking that the black man. From the book:

Quite simply, [the jury] regarded killing a black male for insulting a white woman as not serious enough to merit the prescribed punishment.
But because of the publicity generated by Dr. Howard, the Till case helped launch the civil rights movement. Further, Dr. Howard understood the connection between economic rights and personal liberty.

In 1954, when segregationists started pressuring banks and retailers to freeze civil rights activists’ credit, Howard convinced the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as various black churches and other affected groups, to deposit their money in the black-owned Tri-State Bank of Memphis (where Howard was a board member), allowing African Americans to flex some of their growing economic muscle in the fight against Jim Crow.

Howard also understood the relationship between tyranny and gun control and kept his household protected from white supremacists with a submachine gun and a pistol in his waistband. The first gun control laws in America were actually imposed in the post-Reconstruction South, where they were tied to rolling back the rights that blacks had been granted as an outcome of the Civil War and the 14th and 15th amendments. (As an aside, many odious pieces of the liberal orthodoxy; gun control, prevailing wage laws and discriminatory policies towards private schools, for examples, have their origins in racist and bigoted motives.)

Finally I leave you with two of my favorite quotes from the good doctor:

He wished “one bomb could be fashioned that would blow every Communist in America right back to Russia where they belong.”
“There is not a thing wrong with Mississippi today that real Jeffersonian democracy and the religion of Jesus Christ cannot solve.”
And the country for that matter. Amen to that doctor.


  1. I didn't know anything about this fellow. Thanks for the information!

  2. Ditto. Way cool. Thanks for posting. Link forthcoming