Commentary on the passing of James K. Vardaman

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JAS. K. VARDAMAN

   Memories of the past are revived in the news of the death of Jas. K. Vardaman. He was a vital and vigorous part of the world that went out of existence with the hectic days of the World War.

   With defeat and retirement, broken in health, Vardaman passed from the stage of political activity but left behind s record unexcelled for personal leadership and ability to rally the masses behind his standard.

   He came into notice as editor of a weekly newspaper at Greenwood. He wielded a trenchant pen. He appealed to the emotions of his readers through poetry and the imagery and fire of his well-rounded sentences.

   His first candidacy for governor was not taken seriously, but he came so near winning the nomination that he was the inevitable choice the next time. He had no organization. He had no faculty for organizing groups or delegating authority to lieutenants.

   His strength lay in the power of personality, his convincing oratory and his pen. Defeat for the Senate before the Legislature was turned to victory when he carried the issue direct to the people.

   Washington anticipated a firebrand. It expected a fanatical agitator who spend most of his time advocating repeal of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. It expected that the leader of the common people would effect the appearance of being more common than his followers. Instead, he was one of the dignified members of the Senate and one of the most conservative in manner and speech His faultless dress and flowing black hair, which gave him the name of the "White Chief" in Mississippi, made him one of the spectacular persons in Washington.

   Throughout his political career he blazed new paths and created new issues upon whose crest he rode to victory. Therefore it could not have been expected that he would follow traditions in the Senate He voted his own opinions. He voiced his own sentiments. He was one of "the little group of willful men" denounced by President Wilson. It was his break with Wilson and disagreement with his country on the question of war that proved his undoing.

   He was honest, and without physical or moral fear. He was unique in manner and methods. Few men have dominated a state as completely as he did in the fullness of his strength. Devotion to friends and bitterness toward enemies created a factionalism that gave rise to the descriptive term of "Vardamanism."

   Politics in Mississippi was Vardaman or Anti Vardaman. He made himself the issue and capitalized it. He was the greatest single-handed politician Mississippi ever had.

 

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