The principle of segregation of the White and Negro races in the South is so well known that it requires no definition. Briefly and plainly stated, the object of this policy is to prevent the two races from meeting on terms of social equality. By established practice, each race maintains its own institutions and promotes its own social life.
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Theodore Gilmore Bilbo (October 13, 1877 – August 21, 1947) was an American politician who twice served as governor of Mississippi (1916–20, 1928–32) and later was elected a U.S. Senator (1935–47). A master of filibuster and scathing rhetoric, a rough-and-tumble fighter in debate, he made his name a synonym for white supremacy. Like many Southern Democrats of his era, Bilbo believed that black people were inferior; he defended segregation, and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Bilbo was educated in rural Hancock County (later Pearl River County). He attended Peabody Normal College in Nashville, Tennessee and Vanderbilt University Law School. After teaching school he attained admission to the bar in 1906, and practiced in Poplarville. He then served in the Mississippi State Senate for four years, 1908 to 1912.
Bilbo overcame accusations of accepting bribes and won election as lieutenant governor, a position he held from 1912 to 1916. In 1915, he was elected governor, and he served from 1916 to 1920. During this term he earned accolades for enacting Progressive measures such as compulsory school attendance, as well as increased spending on public works projects. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States House of Representatives in 1920.
Bilbo won election to the governorship again in 1927, and served from 1928 to 1932. During this term Bilbo caused controversy by attempting to move the University of Mississippi from Oxford to Jackson. In another controversy, he aided Democratic nominee Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election by spreading the story that Republican nominee Herbert Hoover had socialized with a black woman; Southern voters, considering whether to maintain their allegiance to the Democratic Party in light of Smith’s Catholicism and support for the repeal of Prohibition largely remained with Smith after Bilbo’s appeal to racism. In 1930, under Governor Bilbo, Mississippi introduced a sales tax – the first American state to do so.
In 1934 Bilbo won election to a seat in the United States Senate; he served from 1935 until his death. In the Senate, Bilbo maintained his support for segregation and white supremacy; he was also attracted to the ideas of the black separatist movement, considering it a potentially viable method of maintaining segregation. He died in a New Orleans hospital while undergoing treatment for cancer, and was buried at Juniper Grove Cemetery in Poplarville.
Bilbo was of short stature (5 ft 2 in or 1.57 m); he frequently wore bright, flashy clothing to draw attention to himself, and he was nicknamed “The Man” because he tended to refer to himself in the third person.
Bilbo was the author of a pro-segregation work, Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.
In 1934, Bilbo defeated Stephens to win a seat in the United States Senate. There he spoke against “farmer murderers,” “poor-folks haters,” “shooters of widows and orphans,” “international well-poisoners,” “charity hospital destroyers,” “spitters on our heroic veterans,” “rich enemies of our public schools,” “private bankers ‘who ought to come out in the open and let folks see what they’re doing’,” “European debt-cancelers,” “unemployment makers,” pacifists, Communists, munitions manufacturers, and “skunks who steal Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms.”