Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” - A.J. Liebling
My father Bob Wilson took this to heart, and bought one and started his own newspaper, the Prairie Post of Maroa, Illinois in 1958, and ran it until he died in 1972. It never had a circulation of more than 2500 or so, but every week, he would fire off editorials at everyone and everything from local events to the actions of the nations of the world.
He may have been a Quaker peace activist in a Republican district, but his love and support of the farming communities garnered him enough respect that he eventually ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962, though he lost. (He might have tried again, had he not died of an accident while only 49.) Many of his views ring true today. And he might have been willing to change the ones that fell behind the times. Although raised in the casual racism of the 1920s and 1930s, at the age of 15 he took stock of what he was being taught and discarded much of it as being wrong, and lived his life with respect for all.
I decided to transcribe his old editorials (I may make a book for some of my relatives) and every once in a while I will repost one here, as a view of how the world has changed wildly, or remained stubbornly the same.
February 1, 1962
A GENERAL NUISANCE
Life continues to astonish us. Any day, we may see signs of hope where formerly we thought there were none.
We remark a signal improvement in that great newspaper, the Daily Pantagraph at Bloomington. On news and feature coverage of the farms and villages of Central Illinois, there has never been a publication to match it. The page layouts are handsome, dignified, and balanced.
It fell short in but one department; the editorial page. We seem to recall having found things on the editorial page of the Pantagraph that approached the stone-age political ethic of the Illinois State Journal and Register, or even the paranoid ravings of The Chicago Tribune.
Lately we perceive in Pantagraph editorials a new turn toward reason and decency. As one example, on Friday, January 26 they examine the new witch-hunt now shaping up in the Senate on the pretext of an investigation of “muzzling” military men.
“A thorough, judicious inquiry would clear the air” writes the Pantagraph, “There is no certainty that this is what we will get.... Some people would accuse one of being pro-Communist if he agreed with the Kremlin that favorable weather is required to grow crops. Others would side with the Communists against anyone who had acquired the reputation of being on the 'radical right'.”
We commend the Pantagraph for their fair and open view of the case.
It is our personal view that Senator Strom Thurmond and Gen. Edwin Walker are racing their friend Robert Welch of the John Birch Society to see who will become the “Man on a White Horse” to “Save America from herself”. The Senate will thus be used as a megaphone for Thurmond's ridiculous charges against Senator Fulbright, President John F. Kennedy, and the entire General Staff that they are “Agents of the Communist conspiracy”.
Gen. Walker was not censured for exhorting his troops against Communism. Any general is welcome to do that. Walker was censured (twice) and finally shifted to a comfortable assignment in Hawaii, for two reasons. First, he had told men in uniform that prominent Americans whom he named – including an ex-president – were Communists. Second, he refused to answer questions from his superior officers about his activities!
This was flat insubordination of a military officer on active duty. No other real issue is involved.
February 15, 1962
THE RIGHT TO KNOW?
Does anyone read this in St. Louis? Does it appear strange to you that neither daily newspaper in that great city has yet printed a line about a $300,000 lawsuit filed September 27 in United States District Court in St. Louis?
The libel suit, against the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, was brought by Dr. Linus Pauling, the Nobel prize-winning chemist.
Dr. Pauling was one of the first great scientists in atomic fallout, and has been fearless in his attempts to rally public opinion to demand an end to the testing of nuclear devices in the atmosphere.
On October 10, 1960, the Globe-Democrat accused Dr. Pauling editorially of “contemptuously refused to testify and was cited for contempt of Congress.”
This was flatly untrue, and on October 24, 1960, this was admitted in a letter published by the same newspaper.
The suit against the Newhouse-owned Globe-Democrat has never been considered worthy of mention as a news item.
You can safely bet your last shirt, however, that if you get a traffic ticket on your next visit to St. Louis, your name will appear in print. The public (remember?) has a right to know the facts!
February 22, 1962
WE'RE PROUD OF THESE!
“Six... Five... Four... Three... Two... One... Zero...” Fire belched from the tower, and the giant booster rocket rose from the pad. Up, up, riding on flame, carrying [a] human being on his way to orbit the earth, possibly for the first time in history.
Utter silence..... Finally the announcer breathed into the microphone, “Go Baby, Go!”
Even had it gone badly, no-one could accuse NASA of risking a man's life on slipshod preparations just to win a propaganda victory.
As to Astronaut Glenn, his composure was unbelievable. It may not be so hard to give one's life for a great cause – if it can be done quickly. (Information on the subject is scanty, as those who succeed, do not report back.)
To be dangled above the abyss, however, like a human yo-yo..... Few are ever called on to develop the capacities required for such a mission.
Since marriage means sharing everything, the strain on his wife must have been equal.
We salute two people of iron courage – Mr. and Mrs. John H. Glenn!