WHO'S WHO - AND WHY
Serious and Frivolous Facts About the Great and the Near Great

The Saturday Evening Post   August 9, 1913

Editor's Note: Clearly the writer of this article did not like Senator Vardaman's politics, which is perfectly understandable. However the writer is very condescending toward the Senator and the people of Mississippi in general.

The condescension aside, this article is one of the funniest this editor has seen and the tone is taken with a grain of salt. Phrases like "he certainly is a beautiful thing" are classic.

 

 

EVERY time the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the revered Constitution are mentioned in the presence of James K. Vardaman that elaborately tailored person casts a glance at the creases in his trousers, sees that his coat is unwrinkled, adjusts his wool hat, pats his flowing tie, fixes his eagle eyes on the future, and throws a tragedious fit. Hate, as you might say, is a feeble word when used to designate the emotion J. K. Vardaman entertains for these amendments to our immortal organic law. J. K. Vardaman loathes 'em, despises 'em, abominates 'em and execrates 'em-and as an execrator J. K. Vardaman has almost any other abhorrer of the present day looking like an official greeter who goes to the station to meet and welcome the visiting firemen. He recoils from these amendments in such a manner as to make it practically certain he isn't equipped with shock absorbers, and his language in the circumstances plays variations on the chromatic scale of denunciation, until you think he is a piccolo performer doing some cadenzas on that caustic and condemnatory carol Down Where the Maledictions Grow.
   It is well within the bounds of conservatism to announce that J. K. Vardaman thinks these amendments should be repealed. And it is violating no pledge of secrecy to state that he will, one of these days, promulgate that proposition in the United States Senate, and perform while promulgating. That speech will be worth going miles to see. Ordinarily, of course, one goes to hear a speech, but not the speeches of J. K. Vardaman, albeit his utterances fall like languorous music on the fainting ear, as the hire man said when the cry of "Dinner's ready!" came across the fields. One is a spectator of the oratory of J. K. Vardaman, not an auditor, and, if I may be so bold, he certainly is a beautiful thing.
   No person had to tell the senator of his pulchritude. J. K. found that out himself. And so successfully has he elaborated it that James Hamilton Lewis has been obliged to friz his whiskers instead of waving them and to wear his gayest waistcoats in order to be in the running at all. When Vardaman gets astride his favorite coal-black charger wearing his pure white suit he presents a picture that will make the fortune of the first movie man who captures it on a film. Rarely have we had a statesman who set such store by his looks He certainly takes a heap of pains with his embellishments and adornments. But for all that he is the child of the people and he loves them. Also he has

been very successful in inducing them to keep him on the payroll. To hear Vardaman attacking the plutocracy of power and wealth is to hear the sublimation of the art of keeping on terms with the toiling masses. He is ferocious when he goes out against the classes, and the hillbillies of Mississippi fairly worship him and carry him away in triumph on their shoulders after he has told them he is one of them, and that the combination is mighty and must prevail, because Vardaman and the people are the only ones left who "love God and eat fried chicken."

Gilding Lilies and Painting Hollyhocks

VARDAMAN stands in. He knows where the votes are. You never find him consorting with the criminal rich. No, indeed! He cultivates the masses--a simple, sartorial soul with no desire to do anything except conserve the interests of the toilers, and such incidental interests of his own as may happen along. He has a passion for poetry as well as for white clothes, and he constantly quotes from the classic authors, which helps a lot in the hills. So far as his oratory is concerned he isn't quite the prose poet that Morris Sheppard is, but soars into the sunlight quite a bit at that Sheppard's prose poems give evidences of careful composition, but Vardaman speaks with the purple passion of the moment. He gilds a lily or a dome with the same effulgence of language, lacking Sheppard's sense of discrimination, for when Vardaman gets out his oratorical paint brushes he uses the same colors to depict a holocaust or a hollyhock. And the boys in Mississippi eat it up. He knows whereof and where for he paints, for he is the most popular man in Mississippi, and it is doubtful if there ever was another in the state with greater strength among the common folks.
   Vardaman is a lawyer and an editor. In 1894 he was running a weekly paper and advocating the repeal of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, which relate to the right of the colored brother to vote and enjoy other Caucasian privileges. He had been in the legislature two terms before this and had aspired to the speakership. He went back in 1894 and was made speaker. He had begun being a

 

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regular orator at that time, and he certainly had a pointed editorial pen. He was as success as speaker and sought higher things. So in 1896 he became a candidate for governor. The older politicians of the state would not have him, and as it was a delegated convention of the real bossed style Vardaman didn't have a look in.
   There was a primary election for the gubernatorial nomination in 1899 and Vardaman went in again. Meantime the Spanish War had happened along and Vardaman had become a soldier, but not without trouble. He had been elected captain of a company organized at Water Valley; his old home, but Governor McLaurin, about whom Vardaman had said mean things in his paper, refused to commission him. This made the company quite peevish and they threatened to quit. Vardaman, in one of the most passionate of his many impassioned speeches, besought the embryo heroes, with the tremolo stops all working and the sunlight of a golden and glorious liberty about to shine on sore-stricken Cuby-besought the soldiers who wanted I him' to captain them to do their duty and remain true to the fl-a-a-a-a-g--and they done it. Then he withdrew. A few days later he was offered the senior captaincy of the Fifth United States Volunteers, organized at Columbus, Mississippi. He accepted that and went to Santiago de Cuba, where he remained soldiering to his heart's content and getting to be major-and a nifty major he was.
   Vardaman came back in 1899 and stumped a portion of the state. He was defeated again, but not disheartened-nothing like that, for at the neat primary for governor he was gayly in the fray, and this time-after a fight that makes the Mississippi politicians chatter when they talk about it-this time he won. Before Vardaman's term had expired Senator Money announced he would not be a candidate for reelection and Vardaman tried for the senatorship. John Sharp Williams ran against him, and John Sharp won. Then came the senatorial vacancy caused by the death of Senator McLaurin. Vardaman tried once more. This time Le Roy Percy was elected. It was a fierce fight, and it brought out the secret-caucus issue which two years later, when Senator Percy sought reelection for a full term, Vardaman used with such effect that he carried

seventy-four out of the seventy-nine counties in the state. And now he is in Washington, and the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments tremble every time they think of him.
   In his role of friend of the people Vardaman has been consistent and courageous. When he was governor he gave the voters the benefit of every official doubt. He vetoed a bill legalizing the consolidation of three big railroads on the ground it was against public interest, and he also vetoed a bill making ten millions instead of two millions the minimum value of property a corporation might hold his state. In spite of pronounced views on the race question, he enforced the law in criminal cases where his indifference might have brought about mob results had he not prevented reflection of his own positive views. It was his boast as governor he would give even a negro criminal the protection of the law, when as a private citizen he would lead a mob to avenge certain crimes. Pretty soon he is likely to break loose in Senate, and then there will be fireworks
   Note: This is positively the only consideration of James K. Vardaman yet printed without reference to his hair. The hair, so far as this page is concerned, speaks for its long and flowing self.


 

 

Original Article