An excellent documentary with a glaring omission

Recently the Public Broadcasting System on its TV networks presented a very interesting and illuminating documentary on the life of Hubert H. Humphrey. The documentary depicted in extensive detail footage of his dramatic rise from a farm boy in South Dakota to one of the most influential political figures in America during one of this country’s most important eras — a period which was to solidify America as an international leader.
Foremost among his political achievements was the leadership role that he played in unwavering support of this nation’s civil rights legislation — legislation that was to change the entire face of America forever and have had significant influence worldwide.
I shall never forget a speech that Nelson Mandela made as guest speaker of a national convention of the NAACP shortly after South Africa had been liberated and he had been elected the first Black president of the country. He stated without equivocation that “without America’s successful Civil Rights Movement and its successful racial liberation in America, there would never have been freedom from apartheid in South Africa.” There can be little doubt today that civil rights in America have been worldwide in scope.
Although, as pointed out in the documentary, Humphrey never reached his ultimate goal of the presidency, but as vice president he was able to play an even larger role in enabling the ultimate passage of civil rights legislation. First of all, Humphrey had already established his credentials with the civil rights community when back in 1948 he defied other liberals by the great speech he made at the Democrat National Convention convincing delegates to support a major civil rights plank.
Further, President Lyndon Johnson, although mandated by his party to support the plank, being from a southern state he was not eager to assume a leadership role on the subject.
Humphrey, on the other hand, grabbed the responsibility with relish, although it led to a dismantling of the once-labeled “solid South” Democrat Party. It led to some erstwhile Southern Democrats becoming Republicans. And, some walked out of the convention and formed their own party, called the “Dixiecrats,” led by the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.
Nonetheless, Humphrey and the northern Democrats prevailed, and both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.
The TV documentary presented a realistic picture of Humphrey’s diligence in the successful legislative fight for civil rights legislation. However, what was left out was the part that was played in that drama by an African American leader and publisher of the Spokesman-Recorder newspapers—CECIL E. NEWMAN.
Mr. Newman’s newspaper had been the first publication of any sort to endorse Humphrey when he first ran for political office. Newman claimed that he knew that Humphrey had liberal instincts, and the two remained personal friends. Humphrey relied upon Mr. Newman’s advice regarding matters of civil rights.
Today’s column originates not from research, but is personal. Mr. Newman and I did many things together. One of the most memorable was the inauguration of Vice President Hubert Humphrey in Washington, D.C. Newman had asked me if I would be his quest to cover the event. He said that he would be busy taking care of other things for Humphrey.
I didn’t know at the time that he was talking about the official Minnesota delegation, consisting of all the state officers and spouses, plus a few very special VIP’s. We were granted the courtesy of the State’s National Guard plane. (Since I have often wondered what would have happened to the State, if something had happened to that plane.)
At any rate, I have been related with these papers in one capacity or the other every since.

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to mlittle@spokesman-recorder.com.