Thursday, December 29, 2016

Glen H. Taylor: Civil Rights Cowboy

Glen Hearst Taylor earned a reputation as one of the most peace-loving people to serve in the Senate, but he could still exhibit sudden flashes of temper when provoked. So when he felt a man had insulted him on Election Day in 1946, Taylor responded by punching the offender in the face.

The election marked a downturn for the Democratic Party after many years of dominance in the nation's capital. Riding the wave of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's popularity, the party had gained control of both the House of Representatives and Senate in 1932 and maintained a majority in Congress ever since. With the end of World War II, and Harry Truman proving to be a less popular President that the late FDR, the Republicans won back both chambers in 1946.

The Democratic Party's state headquarters in Idaho were located near the Boise Hotel, where the GOP was celebrating a sweep of the congressional races. An incumbent Democratic congressman, Compton I. White, narrowly lost to Republican challenger Abe Goff. John C. Sanborn easily held the state's other House seat after Representative Henry C. Dworshak opted to run for the Senate instead. Dworshak defeated Democratic candidate George E. Donart in the Senate race, leaving Taylor as the only Democrat to represent Idaho in Congress.

Although not up for re-election, Taylor had vigorously advocated for Donant during the lead-up to the election. Somehow, Taylor crossed paths with Ray McKaig, a Republican leader and legislative committeeman for the Idaho Grange, in the lobby of the Boise Hotel. Both combatants gave wildly differing accounts of what happened next. Taylor said McKaig called him an obscene name in the presence of his wife. McKaig protested that he was only "twitting" Taylor, although he would also claim that he "never said a word."

Taylor admitted that he "instinctively" threw a punch at McKaig after being insulted, but pulled it before he could do any harm. McKaig then struck Taylor in the face, bloodying his nose. Taylor didn't pull his next punch, hitting McKaig hard enough to lay the GOP leader out on the hotel floor, breaking his jaw and causing his dentures to cut his lips.

In giving his version of the brawl, Taylor said McKaig had provoked him. "McKaig called me a foul name," he said. "I can take the Democratic defeat, but I couldn't take that." He also accused McKaig of breaking his nose after he pulled his first punch, after which he was "dancing excitedly in front of me, waving his arms and shouting, 'Come on!'"

 McKaig hospitalized with a broken jaw (Source)

McKaig, speaking to reporters with a plaster cast on his jaw about a week after the incident, said Taylor had blindsided him with the punch and kicked him while he was down. He accused the senator of making up the story about the broken nose after he "found out it was not popular to kick me in the face."

Taylor would never be criminally charged for assaulting McKaig, but the GOP leader would continue to hold a grudge for many years after. When Taylor lost the Democratic nomination for Senate in 1950, McKaig reportedly cabled him with the message, "You may have broken my jaw, but I just broke your back!"

When Taylor was arrested two years after the incident in Boise, he was thousands of miles away from Idaho and had been chosen as a vice presidential candidate for the year's election. He had also deliberately provoked the arrest to challenge racist policies in the South.

A theatrical youth

One of 13 children of an Oregon minister, Taylor was born in Portland on April 12, 1904. His father, John, preached in mining camps across the West. He usually incorporated the children into his services, having them do musical or theatrical performances to make the religious element more appealing. The family settled on a 160-acre homestead near Kooskia, Idaho, when Taylor was still a child.

The permanent home helped Taylor get a more formal education, but he only attended the public schools until he was 12. At that point, he left to seek employment and help supplement his father's meager income. For a time, he helped herd sheep to their summer pasture. A year later, he joined his brother E.K. Taylor to run two small movie theaters he owned in Kooskia as well as the nearby town of Stites. After his father fell ill during the influenza epidemic, Taylor took a job as a sheet metal worker's apprentice to again help support his family.

The theatrical elements of their youth had inspired at least some of Taylor's siblings to get into the performing arts, and at the age of 17 he joined his oldest brother, Ferris, to be part of his traveling vaudeville act. He again traveled the western United States, this time as part of the Taylor Players. Not long after, he briefly married and had a daughter. However, the relationship quickly fell apart due to Taylor's transitory nature. In 1945, while Taylor was a senator, his first wife charged him with desertion and tried to win back payments for the support of her and their child. The matter proved embarrassing to Taylor, but he turned the matter over to his attorneys and was absolved in court.

Vaudeville was a slowly dying form of entertainment, as movies became more popular among the population. When a fire destroyed the Taylor Players' tent and wardrobe, they had no opportunity to recover. The company disbanded, with each member going their own way. Taylor worked odd jobs before finding permanent employment with the Slade Musical Comedy Company. During a performance in Montana, he fell in love with an usher named Dora Pike; the two were married in 1928.

The couple formed their own vaudeville company, dubbing it The Glendora Players as a portmanteau of their names. They used a similar trick when naming their first child, a son born in 1935, simply spelling the name of the boy's mother backwards to make Arod.

The company struggled under the dual challenges of the declining popularity of vaudeville and the financial hardships of the Great Depression. Income was variable, since admission to see The Glendora Players was whatever audiences were able and willing to pay. In some cases, they accepted donations of vegetables and live chickens.

The Glendora Players, with Glen, Arod, and Dora in the front row (Source)

Taylor may have continued this hardscrabble life had it not been for a chance encounter with politics. While going to a theater in Driggs, Idaho, to see the manager about booking the venue for a performance, he discovered that Governor C. Ben Ross was giving a speech. Taylor observed that he shared several qualities with "Cowboy Ben," then running for a Senate seat as a Democrat. Ross was a good speaker, had excellent comedic timing, and easily made friends with people he met. Taylor figured it wouldn't be too hard to put his performing skills to use to try to earn a place in Washington.

Once he became more committed to the idea of running for office, Taylor began to study politics and economics. He was particularly interested in how the Great Depression had happened and how to prevent a similar economic crash in the future. He took most of his inspiration from The People's Corporation, written by razor magnate King Camp Gillette with assistance from prominent Socialist Upton Sinclair, as well as Stuart Chase's A New Deal, which helped inspire FDR's economic relief programs.

Taylor tried to organize farmer-laborer parties in Nevada and Montana in 1935, but without success. He also contemplated whether the Socialist or Communist parties were a good fit for his economic views, but finally decided that FDR and the Democrats were the best way to move the country forward. Since Taylor had little chance of qualifying for public office as a nomadic showman, he settled with his family in Pocatello, Idaho.

"Wholly uneducated and wholly unfitted"

When Taylor launched his first national campaign in 1938, he employed an unorthodox campaign strategy. He had learned to play the guitar and banjo, and incorporated country-Western tunes into his performances. He now used this image to appeal to the voters of Idaho, crooning ditties on his campaign stops and in radio appearances. He also presented the full cowboy image, wearing a ten-gallon hat and riding a horse. Taylor ran for the House of Representatives in an open Democratic primary, but was a relatively unknown figure and finished fourth.

In 1940, Taylor got an early opportunity to run in the year's election. Senator William E. Borah, a Republican who had represented Idaho in Washington for more than three decades, suddenly died in his sleep on January 19 at the age of 74. The Republican governor, Clarence A. Bottolfsen, appointed former GOP senator John W. Thomas to fill the vacancy pending a general election.

Governor Bottolfsen in his office (Source)

Using the same tactics he had employed in the 1938 race, Taylor won an unexpected upset in the Democratic primary. The party had underestimated his populist appeal, considering him to be little more than a joke. But when the ballots were counted, Taylor had bested George Donart and judge James R. Bothwell to be the party's candidate for the Senate. Angered by Taylor's victory, the Democratic Party offered little in the way of support or financing for the November campaign.

Opponents also found Taylor to be an easy target. He held very liberal views, expressing criticisms of the profit system and arguing that companies should be trying to ensure a comfortable life for their workers rather than earning excessive profits that would only benefit those at the top. The Republicans promptly accused him of harboring Socialist or Communist views. Others suggested that the cowboy candidate was an unsuitable choice to fill the vacancy left by so distinguished a figure as William E. Borah. The Idaho Pioneer described Taylor as a "sweet singer, wholly uneducated and wholly unfitted."

Taylor's appeal in the primary didn't extend to Idaho's populace as a whole. Thomas won by about 14,000 votes, winning over about 53 percent of the electorate.

After the loss at the polls, Taylor decided to pursue work in military preparedness. The nation had been moving to gird itself for defense as war raged in Europe and the Pacific, and there was a naval ordnance plant in Pocatello. But when Taylor submitted an application there, the personnel director quickly rejected him after finding out he was the far-left Senate candidate. Taylor subsequently traveled to California to begin working at a munitions factory.

In 1942, with the United States now at war with the Axis powers, Taylor again ran for Senate in Idaho. This time he traveled between campaign stops on horseback, saying this alternative to the automobile helped save rubber and gas for the war effort. He defeated four other candidates for the Democratic nomination and worked to make amends with the party. He attended regular campaigns with other candidates, leaving his horse and cowboy outfit at home.

But Taylor still faced accusations that he was a Socialist, Communist, or buffoon. He again lost to Thomas, who was elected to a full term in his own right after completing the remaining years of Borah's term. However, Taylor succeeded in narrowing the gap between the two to less than 5,000 votes.

Taylor once again traveled to California, this time finding employment as a steel worker at a shipyard. He installed kitchens on destroyers while quietly preparing for his next Senate run. Realizing that his populist arguments worked well for the Democratic primary but fell short among the full electorate, Taylor received some economic tutelage from Idaho secretary of state George Curtis. When the 1944 race rolled around, Taylor resumed his familiar criticisms of Wall Street and the banking industry, but reframed them to appeal to a larger audience.

This was also the first race where Taylor benefited from a full head of artificial hair. He had started going bald in his 20s, with this physical trait making him look considerably older than he was. This became apparent during the 1942 campaign when a service station clerk mistook his wife for his daughter. Working to give himself a more youthful appearance, Taylor made himself a custom toupee out of a pie plate, felt, and human hair.

In the Democratic primary, Taylor went up against incumbent Senator D. Worth Clark as well as two Boise lawyers. He narrowly earned the party's nomination for the third Senate race in a row, getting only about one-third of the vote but eking out victory by a mere 216 ballots. The Democratic Party would prove more supportive this time around; the state chairman who had opposed Taylor resigned and was replaced by an official who immediately assured Taylor that the Democrats would back their candidate.

In the lead-up to the general election, Taylor offered a more detailed platform than his previous bids for office. He called for full employment legislation after the war, protections for small business owners against monopolies and trusts, more farm and business cooperatives, and efforts to preserve the postwar peace. The Democrats were the party that worked for the protection and well-being of the people, he argued, while the Republicans strove for the protection and well-being of private property. He strongly endorsed FDR, hoping to ride into office on the popular President's appeal.

There were continuing accusations that Taylor was a Communist and ill-prepared to serve as a senator. The Republicans were further able to accuse him of being an opportunist, saying he was a de facto California resident who only came back to Idaho when he wanted to run for office. Taylor, responding to the labeling of his ideas as Communist, fired back that the Republicans used the label to try to discredit every single proposed liberal measure. He called it a "straight steal from Hitler, who cried 'Bolshevist' at everybody who opposed him."

Taylor's third attempt at the Senate proved successful. On Election Day, he earned 107,096 votes. It was a narrow majority, but it was enough to defeat Bottolfsen, the Republican candidate, who had received 102,373 votes.

An advocate for peace

Although Taylor had largely abandoned his image as an entertainer as he became a more skilled politician, he quickly revived the singing cowboy character after arriving in Washington, D.C. There was an acute housing shortage because of the war, and the newly elected senator was having trouble finding a home for his family. In January 1945, he invited the press to see him play a song on the steps of the Capitol Building.

Taylor sings on the steps of the Capitol as his family looks on (Source)

To the tune of "Home on the Range," Taylor sang, "Oh give me a home, near the Capitol dome, with a yard where little children can play / Just one room or two, any old thing will do / Oh we can't find a pla-a-a-ce to stay!" The stunt no doubt embarrassed some Democratic leaders, but it proved effective. A real estate agent contacted Taylor and set him up with a suitable residence.

On October 23, Taylor introduced his first resolution before the Senate. He hoped that the United States and other nations could work toward the creation of a world republic designed to prevent bloody conflicts such as the one that had formally ended just one month earlier. He called for the abolition of military training and conscription, a prohibition on the manufacture of atomic weapons, and an eventual end to the production of armaments. Taylor was disappointed that this ambitious plan received little attention, complaining that the press had dedicated plenty of coverage to his musical appeal for housing and written next to nothing on his suggestions for world peace.

Taylor's liberal views often put him at odds with Truman, since he thought the President's postwar stances were creating too many tensions with the Soviet Union. He opposed both the Truman Doctrine, which provided aid to Greece and Turkey to shore up the countries against Communist influence, and the European Recovery Program, or Marshall Plan, which was designed to rebuild the Western European countries devastated by World War II. Taylor said he wasn't opposed to supporting nations in need, but thought American aid should be administered through the United Nations.

Perhaps cognizant of how his unusual behavior had gained attention when he first came to Washington, Taylor launched a cross-country tour in the autumn of 1947 to try to raise awareness of his concerns with U.S. foreign policy. He intended to visit several states, riding two horses named Nugget and Chuck for much of the way and traveling with his brother by automobile for the rest, with the horses coming along in a trailer. Taylor expected that the "Paul Revere" ride would be able to make stops in every state before culminating in the nation's capital.

During the stops, Taylor resumed his practice of weaving guitar playing and songs into his public appearances. He said he did not think that the United States was deliberately trying to provoke the Soviet Union with its actions overseas, but that certain policies might appear threatening. It would be far better, he opined, for the United Nations to oversee foreign aid than to go about it unilaterally.

"In other words, how would we feel if the Russians suddenly began dredging the harbors of Mexico, building hard surface roads to the borders of California and Texas, and otherwise making military preparations for an unannounced purpose?" he asked at one stop. "I think we should be plenty upset. That is exactly what the United States has been doing in Turkey and, to some extent, in Greece."

Taylor stops in Arizona during his horseback ride for peace (Source)

Taylor had to cut the trip short in November, just one month after starting it, when Truman called Congress back into session. He decided to end the tour with one last spectacle, riding Nugget up the Capitol steps before joining the other senators.

For the rest of his term, Taylor would be one of the most outspoken voices for peace and international understanding. He was the only Democrat opposed to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and in 1949 he unsuccessfully proposed an end to peacetime conscription.
Following rumors that an alien spacecraft had crashed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, Taylor was asked for his opinion on UFOs. He replied that he hoped they were real, considering that any alien race that had mastered interplanetary travel might also be able to inspire better global cooperation.

"They could end our petty arguments on Earth," he said. "Even if it is only a psychological phenomenon, it is a sign of what the world is coming to. If we don't ease the tensions, the whole world will be full of psychological cases and eventually turn into a global nuthouse."

Statements like these made Taylor a very polarizing figure. Some people thought the senator was guided by the simple idea that people could live together in harmony. On at least one occasion, he was compared to the aloof but admirable character played by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Both Taylor and the film character were rookie senators from the West who were guided by their faith in American institutions and the idea that most people were good at heart.

Others considered Taylor to be little more than an unrealistic idealist. In 1950, Time mockingly described him as a "banjo-twanging playboy of the Senate and an easy mark for far-left propaganda."

A voice for labor and civil rights

In addition to his crusade for world peace, Taylor became a strong supporter of organized labor and civil rights activists. Both stances were a result of his ideology more than an effort to pander for votes; unions weren't particularly prevalent in Idaho, and there were fewer than 500 black residents in the state when Taylor represented it.

He kept up his commitment to full employment for American workers, along with rent controls to make housing more affordable. He opposed the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which placed some restrictions on the powers of labor unions. When Truman refused to approve the bill, Taylor was one of four senators who contributed to an unsuccessful filibuster to try to keep Congress from overriding the veto.

Late in 1946, Taylor periodically gained the floor to speak as Southern senators filibustered an effort to give permanent status to the Fair Employment Practices Committee, which had worked to enforce FDR's executive order to bar discrimination in defense and government hiring during World War II. Taylor said he was willing to support all-night sessions and any other measures necessary to break the filibuster and force a vote.

"This is not democracy, this is rule by a small minority," he declared. "I hope that those who really believe in democracy will stand by their guns and not yield to this legislative blackmail."

Taylor's support of civil rights made him an enemy of the Southern delegation in general, but Senator Theodore Bilbo in particular. The Democratic senator from Mississippi was perhaps the most openly racist and hateful person in the entire Senate, at one point even praising the Nazi regime's appreciation of "the importance of race values" while proposing the deportation of all black Americans to Liberia. 

Theodore Bilbo during his 1946 campaign for Senate (Source)

On one occasion, Bilbo opposed the nomination of Aubrey Williams to be administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration and noted how Williams had been endorsed by a black Republican newspaper in Philadelphia. Taylor interrupted Bilbo, demanding to know what effect the endorsement could possibly have on Williams' qualifications. "I certainly object to having brought up on the floor of the Senate the question of whether a man is red, black, or white," he stated. Bilbo was dismissive, asking, "What do they know about Negroes in Idaho?"

A more dramatic confrontation between Taylor and Bilbo occurred early in 1947. Bilbo won re-election in the 1946 general election, but his victory was tainted by violence and voter intimidation at the polls. Before the Special Committee to Investigate Senatorial Campaign Expenditures, Bilbo openly admitted that he had called on "every red-blooded American who believes in the superiority and integrity of the white race to get out and see that no nigger votes" in the Mississippi race. Despite the clear incitements to voter suppression, the committee opined that Bilbo was entitled to his seat since most of his hateful language had been aimed at "outside agitators" who were allegedly trying to stir up trouble in the election.

The excuse didn't sit well with the more liberal members of the Senate, especially since Bilbo was also under investigation for illegally accepting gifts from war contractors. At a conference of Republican senators, Homer Ferguson of Michigan was chosen to issue a resolution asking the Senate to deny Bilbo his seat. But as the roll call was made at the beginning of the session, Taylor managed to jump in first to issue his own call for barring the Mississippi senator from the chamber.

Taylor charged that Bilbo had violated the civil rights of black residents in his state, incited violence against them, violated the Constitution, and allowed himself to be influenced by gifts from war contractors. He asked that his colleague be denied his seat until after an investigation had been completed. He focused most of his attention on the voting rights issue, quoting examples of some of Bilbo's most racist language. He admitted that race relations were a complex issue, but stressed that it was important to strive for progress rather than division. Bilbo, he accused, had been "stirring up racial hatred, inciting white to hate black and causing black to hate white."

"What a hypocritical and blasphemous gesture we would witness today if Mr. Bilbo were to stand in our midst and place his hand on the Holy Bible and swear fealty to democratic institutions, to free elections, to the rights of citizens," Taylor declared.

Taylor pushed the speech to its conclusion, even as Bilbo sauntered over and sat down at his elbow, glowering up at the man who sought to unseat him. Some other senators from the South, enraged at Taylor's resolution, vowed to filibuster any attempt to assemble the newly elected Senate unless Bilbo was allowed to take office. Alben Barkley, the Senate's Democratic leader, defused the issue by announcing that Bilbo needed to return to Mississippi for emergency surgery and would not insist on being seated until he returned.

Bilbo laughed off the resolution, mockingly declaring that "a cowboy named Taylor stole the whole Republican show." Later, he commented, "Taylor ain't got no sense. He's just a nut. He goes around playing a fiddle with a hillbilly band."

Although the Republicans were irked that Taylor had stolen their thunder, they grudgingly complimented Taylor's speech. Harold Ickes, who had served as Secretary of the Interior under FDR and gone on to become a syndicated columnist, hailed Taylor's address as "one that will reverberate throughout the country for a long time." The Southern Negro Youth Congress distributed copies of his speech, which helped accelerate the migration of black support from the Republicans to the Democrats.

The Senate would never take a vote on Taylor's resolution. Bilbo solved the thorny issue of whether or not he should be seated by dying, in August 1947, of complications from multiple surgeries for mouth cancer.

Vice presidential candidate and arrest in Birmingham

As the 1948 presidential election approached, the Democrats were facing a challenge from a liberal splinter group as well as the Republicans. Henry A. Wallace, who had served as vice president for much of FDR's time in office, formed the Progressive Party in 1947 to make a bid for the White House. The party sought to improve the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union, enhance cooperation with the United Nations, and pursue arms reduction. It also advocated for an accelerated improvement of civil rights at home, including measures to outlaw lynching and poll taxes.

Naturally, Taylor was a perfect fit for the party. When Wallace asked him to be the vice presidential candidate on the Progressive ticket, he readily accepted.

The Progressives would be dogged by accusations that the party was influenced by Communism, in part because the Communist Party opted to endorse Wallace instead of fielding its own candidate. Taylor, long familiar with such rhetoric, said the decision to join the Progressive ticket had not been made lightly. "I knew I would probably kill my chances of being re-elected in 1950 if I threw in with Henry," he said. "I'm not a lawyer. I've been in show business all my life, living hand to mouth, often in debt. I can't leave the Senate and practice law, like most of these fellows do. It was a tough decision." He explained that he had backed the more liberal party because he believed the "question of peace or war is more important than any other consideration."

Wallace and Taylor were under no illusions that their platform would be warmly greeted in the South, where several states would list segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond on their ballots as the Democratic candidate instead of Truman. The duo organized campaign appearances in the region before integrated audiences, and were often greeted by segregationists who hurled insults and rubbish at the candidates.

On May 1, 1948, Taylor arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, at the invitation of the Southern Negro Youth Congress. The organization had asked Taylor to deliver the keynote address at their annual convention. Although he initially refused due to a city ordinance requiring public gatherings to be segregated, the SNYC convinced Taylor to attend anyway and make a statement about why he could not address the integrated group. The convention was the target of several forms of harassment, including bomb threats and hotels canceling the reservations of white delegates. Although several places declined to host the group for fear of violence, the Alliance Gospel Tabernacle church finally provided a venue for the gathering.

The local police had no intention of letting the meeting proceed quietly. Eugene "Bull" Connor, the city's commissioner of public safety, threatened that the Birmingham police would arrest anyone who committed even the smallest of provocations, such as black attendees trying to talk to white ones. Connor would later become infamous for refusing to protect civil rights advocates from racist attacks and for siccing police dogs and high pressure fire hoses on peaceful demonstrators. Upon arriving in Birmingham, Taylor referred to Connor as "a spokesman for a small and fast dying clique."

Taylor meets with the SNYC in 1947 (Source)

Upon arriving at the Alliance Gospel Tabernacle church, Taylor found that it was the scene of blatant intimidation. Looking to avoid a confrontation with Connor, the SNYC had erected temporary partitions and labeled separate entrances to ensure that the church was in compliance with the segregation ordinance. Nevertheless, the meeting site was surrounded by police officers as well as some demonstrating Klansmen.

Instead of going to the door reserved for white attendees, Taylor decided to enter through the "colored" entrance. He was confronted at the door by a police officer who told him to use the other entrance. "I'm not particular about these things," Taylor replied. He tried to force his way past the officer, at which point the cop sent him sprawling to the ground before shoving him up against a wire fence, leaving him with several scratches.

Some accounts accused Taylor of angrily sparring with the Birmingham police during the confrontation. They said the vice presidential candidate announced that he couldn't be arrested due to his status as a senator, swung his fists at officers, and called them "vile names." Along with several other visitors to the SNYC conference, Taylor was arrested and taken to jail.

The arrest provoked outrage across the United States, as many observers saw it as a heavy-handed response to a minor violation of an unjust law. Wallace declared that no one could claim to be a liberal while supporting the Jim Crow laws. "Glen was not violating any law," he said. "He was upholding the basic law of the land, the Constitution of the United States." Taylor later offered his own rationale, saying defiance of an unconstitutional measure was no vice. "If they passed a law saying you had to spit in the face of any Negro you passed on the sidewalk, I would disobey it," he said.

Taylor received less sympathy in the South. Connor stood by the actions of the police, saying the segregation ordinance applied to "First Ladies of the United States, U.S. senators, and the Constitution of the United States." Alabama newspapers denounced the vice presidential candidate's action as nothing more than a political stunt. The Huntsville Times said the action was "solely to use as political propaganda in the Wallace campaign," while the Shreveport Journal suggested that "Mr. Taylor's reason for his offensive gesture was to attract Negro support of the Wallace ticket." The Alabama Journal commented that it was sad to see a U.S. senator "deliberately defy laws, abuse policemen, play with dynamite."

Senator John J. Sparkman, an Alabama Democrat who was considered one of the less conservative members of the Southern delegation, also criticized Taylor. Unlike most of the Southern "Dixiecrats," Sparkman had refused to desert Truman in favor of Thurmond's segregationist third party bid, despite his opposition to the President's civil rights measures. After the incident in Birmingham, Sparkman praised Connor and accused Taylor of deliberately provoking his arrest "in order to get the publicity out of it."

Three days after his arrest, Taylor was brought before a police court on a charge of disorderly conduct. He was quickly convicted, fined $50, and given a fully suspended sentence of 180 days in jail. Taylor immediately appealed the verdict, hoping that in doing so he would be able to challenge the practice of segregation. In August 1948, he wrote to Arthur Shores, a black attorney who frequently represented the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to ask for a copy of the ordinance. Shores subsequently agreed to work as Taylor's attorney for the rest of the proceedings, and had a new trial scheduled for March 1949.

Despite high expectations for the Progressives, the party had a disappointing performance on Election Day. Although more than one million people cast their votes for Wallace and Taylor, this total represented just 2.37 percent of the popular vote and was roughly equal to the number of votes earned by Thurmond. And while the Progressives had failed to capture a single electoral vote, Thurmond had carried four Southern states. Truman defeated Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey in a surprise upset to earn a second term.

Taylor returned to Alabama the spring after the election to face a jury trial. The court had added the charges of interfering with a police officer and assault and battery to the existing count of disorderly conduct. He could have been charged with violation of the segregation ordinance, but the court declined to press this issue for fear that Taylor would appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, Shores and Taylor challenged the legitimacy of the segregation ordinance, saying it was a blatant violation of the First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly. The judge disagreed, stating, "If the defendant committed the acts charged at the entrance to an old ladies quilting party, is he more or less guilty?" Taylor had little chance of triumphing before an Alabaman all-white jury, which quickly found him guilty and upheld the original sentence.

Taylor again appealed the verdict, but the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the result in January 1950. He then tried to get a hearing before the Supreme Court, but in June the justices declined to take on the case. Connor added insult to injury after this decision by demanding that Taylor come to Alabama to face his sentence. Taylor replied that he had "no intention of turning myself over to that chain gang."

Connor made a formal request to C.A. Robins, the Republican governor of Idaho, to have Taylor extradited. Robins refused, saying it was a petty demand since Taylor had already paid the fine and had not been required to serve any jail time. The denial quietly ended the battle between the Idaho senator and Birmingham law enforcement.

Farewell to the Senate

After the 1948 race, the Progressive Party quickly disintegrated. Taylor left in 1949, and Wallace would depart a year later after breaking with the party by supporting the American involvement in the Korean War. Taylor returned to the Democrats and defended his temporary defection, saying, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me."

Nevertheless, Taylor faced a stiffer challenge in seeking the Senate nomination from a party he had briefly abandoned. He was also the target of a media attack campaign by Idaho Power, a utility company Taylor had previous criticized. Since 1947, Taylor had accused the company of opposing the Hells Canyon High Dam for the sole purpose of keeping its rates and profits high. During the 1950 election season, Idaho Power publicly accused Taylor of "vicious misrepresentations in every sense of the word, designed to mislead the people of this area." The company accused Taylor of trying to give control of Idaho's water to the federal government, and Taylor admitted that he preferred public rather than private control of water.

In the year's Democratic primary, Taylor lost to D. Worth Clark, the former senator whom he had defeated for the 1944 nomination. Clark would lose the general election to Republican candidate Herman E. Welker.

In 1954, Taylor returned for another bid at the Senate. Although he won the Democratic nomination, he lost to Republican incumbent Henry Dworshak, earning only about one-third of the vote in the general election.

Returning for the 1956 race, Taylor declared, "All I want is to be known as the senator who did the most for Idaho." He found himself in a neck-and-neck race with Frank Church, a Boise attorney who won the Democratic nomination by a mere 200 ballots out of more than 55,000 cast. Taylor charged that the primary had been affected by election irregularities, namely ballot counting procedures in the Mountain Home precinct. But the Idaho attorney general said he had no authority to order a recount, and the Senate subcommittee on elections declined his request for an investigation; the Idaho legislature subsequently passed legislation on recount procedures in their next session.

Taylor decided to run as a write-in candidate in the 1956 election, but earned less than 12,000 votes. Church defeated Welker in the general election, marking the start of a 24-year career in the Senate. Two years later, Taylor was still irritated with the primary results. He wrote to Church asking if the senator would be willing to take a lie detector test on whether he believed the 1956 election had been conducted honestly. If Church agreed, Taylor promised he would not run for governor of Idaho in the 1958 race or for Senate in 1962. Church's press secretary commented that the proposal was "not deserving of a reply."

Wigging out

After he left the Senate in 1950, Taylor became the president of the Coryell Construction Company. However, he was forced to resign two years later because the federal government considered him to be a security risk and said they would not award contracts to the company. Taylor began working menial construction jobs in order to maintain an income.

Eventually, Taylor moved to the San Francisco area and capitalized on his firsthand experience with toupees. In 1961, he founded a wig manufacturing company called Taylor Topper Inc. The company is still in existence today, although it is now known as Taylormade.

Taylor died of Alzheimer's disease in Millbrae, California, on April 28, 1984. He was 80 years old.


The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Taylor Croons Plea for Home" in the Spokesman-Review on Jan. 4 1945, "Senator Packs Election Punch" in the Pittsburgh Press on Nov. 6 1946, "Taylor Cracks Jaw of Political Rival" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Nov. 6 1946, "Sen. Taylor Tells of Battle of Boise Hotel" in the Deseret News on Nov. 8 1946, "Jaw in Plaster, McKaig Says Taylor 'Kicked Me in the Face'" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Nov. 14 1946, "Washington Calling" in the Daytona Beach Morning Herald on Jan. 7 1947, "Taylor Begins Cross-Nation 'Peace' Ride" in the Toledo Blade on Oct. 27 1947, "Horse-Born Solon Decides Nag's No Good" in the Tuscaloosa News on Oct. 30 1947, "Segregation Law Tested at Trial" in the Owosso Argus-Press on Mar. 31 1949, "Sen. Taylor Glad of Fine, Sentence" in the Free Lance-Star on Apr. 1 1949, "Why the Senator Rides a Horse Across the Nation" in the St. Petersburg Times on Nov. 9 1949, "Gem State Solon Hopefuls Sound Last-Ditch Appeals" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Aug. 11 1956, "Church Still Leads Taylor with Canvases Completed" in the Lewiston Morning Tribune on Aug. 22 1956, "Glen Taylor May Head New Splinter Party" in the Sarasota Journal on Oct. 8 1956, "Idaho Balloting Nearly Ties Record" in the Lewiston Morning Tribune on Nov. 8 1956, "Church Rejects Plan by Ex-Senator Taylor" in the Spokesman-Review on Mar. 7 1958, "Political Maverick Glen Taylor Dies" in the Spokane Chronicle on May 4 1984, "Glen H. Taylor of Idaho Dies; Wallace Running Mate in '48" in the New York Times on May 5 1984, "An Idaho Maverick" in the Coeur d'Alene Press on Feb. 22 2015, Prophet Without Honor: Glen H. Taylor and the Fight for American Liberalism by F. Ross Peterson, Public Power, Private Dams: The Hells Canyon High Dam Controversy by Karl Boyd Brooks, The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour by Andrei Cherny, Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South 1932-1968 by Kari Frederickson, The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election by Zachary Karabell, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter, The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill: The Untold Story of Arthur Shores and His Family's Fight for Civil Rights by Helen Shores Lee and Barbara S. Shores with Denise George, 1950, Crossroads of American Religious Life by Robert S. Ellwood, Taylor v. City of Birmingham

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