Thompson v. McCormicks

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Mayor William Hale ("Big Bill") Thompson of Chicago thrust his heavy hands last week into the tomb of the late Senator Joseph Medill McCormick of Illinois in search of old political bones with which to frighten the city's 75,000 Negro voters out of their Republican wits. What he ghoulishly drew forth was the wraith of Chicago's great race riot of July 27-Aug. 2, 1919. This he hurled anonymously at the Senator's widow, Mrs. Ruth Hanna McCormick, now the Republican nominee for the Senate against Democrat James Hamilton Lewis.

Mayor Thompson has long nursed a great hatred for the Chicago Tribune and its publisher, Col. Robert Rutherford McCormick, brother of Medill. In last April's Republican senatorial primary the Mayor supported Widow McCormick for the expedient purpose of eliminating Senator Charles Samuel Deneen's political grip on Chicago. But the Mayor was no man to support a McCormick for actual election. Therefore last week he prepared a leaflet designed to turn Negroes from Nominee McCormick to Nominee Lewis. Unwilling to sign his own name to the broadside, he first attempted to induce Negro Congressman Oscar De Priest to sign it. Congressman De Priest promptly declined. When other Negro leaders likewise declined to sign, Mayor Thompson had 100,000 unsigned copies of his message distributed in the Chicago "Black Belt."

The broadside was headed:

TO THE NEGROES OF ILLINOIS

Beneath was a Chicago Tribune cartoon of July 1919 showing white bathers at a beach shaking their fists at Negro bathers on the other side of a lifeline. The caption: "The color line has reached the North." Boxed at the right was a reprint of an interview Senator Medill McCormick was supposed to have given to the since defunct Chicago Journal on the race riots.

The Senator was quoted: "The entire matter is one of justification. Thousands of these colored boys came to Chicago from the South. . . . They had a kind of an idea they could sit in your lap or do anything they pleased."*

Excerpts from the main text of the Thompson leaflet:

"During the race riots ... 38 citizens, 16 white ... 22 colored, were killed. ... I believe hundreds more would have been killed ... if William Hale Thompson had not sat in the Mayor's office. . . . The Chicago Tribune printed the above cartoon and Senator Medill McCormick gave out the accompanying interview which I believe created greater race hatred and increased the number of murders. ... It is my duty to recall to you now [the cartoon and interview] so that you may be warned before voting . . . for Ruth Hanna McCormick, the widow and adviser of Medill McCormick. Those who vote for a member of the Chicago Tribune family . . . may jeopardize their lives, because a seat in the Senate would again give great political power to a McCormick and the Tribune to use against public peace and peaceful citizens."

In the corner was a section of a sample ballot with an "x" marked for Democrat Lewis.

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