Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Enterprise-Journal on the legacy of Charles Evers:
Three civil rights icons — Charles Evers, John Lewis and C.T. Vivian — all died last week, and of the three, Evers’ passing received the least national publicity.
Or, at least, that’s the way it seemed to me.
Lewis, the veteran U.S. congressman from Georgia who in 1965 was severely beaten as he marched for civil rights in Selma, Ala., was the most celebrated.
That’s understandable. Lewis, nicknamed the “conscience of Congress,” never wavered from his non-violent commitment to equal justice from his youth to age 80. His words and actions checked all the boxes of what it takes to be a liberal legend.
Evers, who died at age 97 in his native Mississippi, was from a different mold than Lewis, but he made his mark just the same.
A World War II veteran, Charles Evers had spent most of his early adult life as a “businessman,” much of it illegally dealing in vice in Chicago.
He returned to Mississippi in 1963 after the assassination of his younger brother, Medgar, to take up the mantle of leading the state NAACP.
Charles and Medgar were opposites — Medgar gentle and diplomatic; Charles not so much.
To paraphrase the popular song performed by both Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, Charles “did it my way.”
As mayor of Fayette, he was among what soon became a large number of Black elected officials in Mississippi. He ran, unsuccessfully, for other offices, but, as an Independent candidate, he took enough votes away from Democrat nominee Maurice Dantin to elect Republican Thad Cochran to the U.S. Senate in 1978 — ushering in the trend toward eventual Republican control of the Mississippi congressional delegation.
Unlike the majority of Black civil rights activists, Evers often identified with Republicans, supporting both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.
Reflecting on Evers’ death brings to mind an oft-told story about the Evers brothers, when they were teenagers, attending a political rally for one of history’s most race-baiting politicians, Theodore G. Bilbo.
Perhaps the tale has been embellished over the years, as these kind of things often are as time goes by. But it’s still a good story.
One account is related in a 2017 doctoral dissertation at the University of Missouri-Columbia by Kristin R. Henze.
She wrote that Medgar and Charles Evers “began attending Bilbo’s campaign speeches near the Newton County Courthouse in Decatur. While most blacks avoided Bilbo’s political rallies, Charles and Medgar attended them for entertainment.
“After occupying seats with good sight lines to watch the speaker on the platform and the reactions of the crowd, Charles noted that Bilbo would ‘start out high-toned, but soon he’d be waving and sweating at the forehead, rearing and stomping, waving his arms.’
“During one speech, Bilbo noticed the two brothers sitting on the courthouse steps and specifically pointed his finger at them, stating, ’If we fail to hold high the wall of separation between the races, we will live to see the day when those two nigger boys there will be asking for everything that is ours by right.
“‘If you don’t keep them in their place,’ he bellowed, ‘then someday they’ll be in Washington trying to represent you.’
“In response, Medgar leaned over and whispered, ‘Ain’t a bad idea,’ while Charles aimed a wide smile at Bilbo, prompting the senator to squawk, ‘He’s even got the nerve to grin at me!’ ”
It’s ironic how prophetic some of those wild political speeches turned out to be.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on the pace of COVID-19 testing in the U.S.:
There is no single most important element for effectively reducing the spread of COVID-19 and mitigating the damage it is doing to the public’s health and the nation’s economy.
As both national and Mississippi officials have repeatedly emphasized, some steps may be more important than others, but none of them will work very well in isolation.
Nevertheless, ranking right up near the top of importance has to be testing — not just plentiful in number but quick in turnaround.
Although the country has made great progress, after a slow start, on improving the quantity of COVID-19 tests, the labs apparently are not able to keep up with the increased volume during the recent surge in cases, even after expanding their capacities.
Because the most definitive COVID-19 tests started taking as long as two weeks to get results, people began gravitating toward the much quicker, if less accurate, tests, which provide an answer in an hour or so. The demand, however, for these “rapid response” tests has been so great that providers are running low on them. One nearby facility that has them, Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital in Winona, last week had to change its policy and say that it will offer them only to people who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.
When people who have been exposed but are asymptomatic can’t access testing, or when those who have symptoms have to wait many days to find out whether it’s COVID-19 or a more benign virus, it not only inconveniences those who might unnecessarily go into quarantine. It also increases the chances that those who are infected will pass it on to someone else.
A quick turnaround on tests is essential to doing the contract tracing that allows health care workers to identify who is infected, find out with whom the person has been in close contact recently, and track down those individuals so that they can be ordered into quarantine and tested.
The longer it takes to get test results, the less beneficial contract tracing will be, as every day’s delay increases the number of people to whom one infected person may have transmitted the virus.
Although President Trump brags how well the nation’s testing is going, the reality is something else. Even as we get the volume near where it needs to be, a lot of the effort will be wasted if the results come back too slowly.
The Daily Journal on appointments to Mississippi's flag commission:
At last, a commission that will select and propose a new state flag design can boast a full roster of members.
Late on the afternoon of July 24, Gov. Tate Reeves finally complied with a state law requiring him to appoint three members to the flag commission, joining three appointments made by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and three by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.
Reeves appointed retired public school teacher and Union County resident Betsey Hamilton, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben and insurance executive Frank Bordeaux.
The governor’s appointments appear to be fine selections. We applaud the presence of Hamilton, a Northeast Mississippi resident. She will join Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill as the voices of our region. We also applaud the selection of a Native American leader as a significant acknowledgement of those who first called our state home.
However, we do regret that the governor delayed so much in offering his selection. The law applies equally to everyone in our society. Or at least that’s the way it is supposed to work. But for nine days, Reeves ignored a law, which he signed into place, and required him to offer his appointments by July 15. It would have been preferable for the state’s highest executive officer to signal the fullest respect for the law. Instead, the flag commission was forced to hold its first meeting last week with three vacancies.
These regrets aside, it’s time now for the commission to put these issues in the rear-view mirror and perform the task at hand to give our state a banner that can be welcomed by all.
Under the historic legislation that retired our former flag, the nine-member commission will ultimately select a flag design and its recommendation, and that design will go on the ballot in November. Voters will then have a chance to accept or reject the new design. If they reject it, the commission will go back to work and select another design.
We would hope that a design can be approved by voters so as to avoid any delay in the codification of a new banner. The commission therefore has a weighty task. In 2001, even many supporters of a new flag design did not particularly regard an alternative placed on the ballot as very attractive.
No flag will please everyone. No matter what design is chosen, there will be naysayers. But we would hope for a design that can achieve broad consensus as relatively attractive, unique and recognizable. To that end, we applaud the decision by the commission to seek the input of experts in the art of flag design. We believe a flag that agrees with sound principles of design will earn greater affection over time as the battle to retire the former flag recedes.
This is a unique opportunity for the state, and hopefully one that will not need to be repeated. Let’s get it right.