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2002-12-16

The Second-Highest Ranking Senate Republican Calls for a Meeting to Consider Trent Lott’s Ouster; in Mississippi, African Americans Protest the Segregationist Republican

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Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma has become the first Republican Senator to ask his colleagues to consider replacing Trent Lott as the party’s leader.

Nickles is the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, behind Trent Lott, and according to the New York Times, has long had designs on Lott’s job.

Lott sparked an outcry last week after he said the US would be in a better place if Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948 when he ran behind the slogan "Segregation Forever."

Under Senate Republican rules, Nickles would need the support of four other senators to convene a meeting to consider Lott’s fate. Over the weekend, Republican supporters of Lott tried to assure Lott’s survival as Senate Republican Leader. They dispatched allies to TV and radio talk shows and planned appearances for Lott before African-American groups.

But the conservative New York Post called for Lott to step down, and the Sunday New York Times ran an in-depth story on Lott’s segregationist career.

Lott was head of his fraternity at the University of Mississippi. He made the cheerleading squad and became known for carrying the school banner, the Confederate battle flag, onto the field at football games.

Lott fiercely opposed integration at his university, known as 'Ole Miss.' Lott’s mother wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper who was denouncing racial violence and anti-integration efforts. She wrote: "you are truly an integrationist and I hope you not only get a hole through your office door but through your stupid head." Trent Lott also helped lead the Southern opposition to the integration of his fraternity, Sigma Nu.

After graduation, Lott worked for Mississippi Congressman William Colmer, one of Washington’s staunchest supporters of segregation and opponents of civil rights. Lott’s duties included responded to mail. In July 1969, Justeen Strange wrote, "Mississippi is no more, thanks to our politicians, we are slaves to the gorilla race, our proud white race is now in servitude to the NAACP jews and negroes." Lott politely replied he was "not insulted" by the letter, but added, "I was just disappointed that you were not more appreciative of my efforts in behalf of sound government and against the things you complained of."

Guest:

  • Stephanie Parker Weaver, executive secretary of the Mississippi Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

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