WHO'S WHO - AND WHY
The Saturday Evening Post August 9, 1913
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
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
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.
| 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
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.