Senator Furnifold Simmons

John M. Feeney

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Sep 20, 2000
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For those of you who haven't seen it, and who are also interested in Titanic historical *sidelights*, American public television (PBS) is currently running a documentary series called "Jim Crow: Fighting Back" about the 100-year, "separate but equal", racial apartheid practiced in this country.

Episode 2, which I caught last night, features a small segment on the late 19th Century activities of one Furnifold Simmons of North Carolina -- the later "bail-out" Senator at the U.S. Titanic Inquiry. It's not a pretty story (in general), but it does lend some fascinating insights into one of the "players" involved at the U.S. Hearings.

On a broader scale, Episode 3 (from 1900 to ...) should provide some excellent insights into the American social background circa 1912.

Cheers,
John
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Do tell John. I'm not up on Simmons and I spend so much time with my nose buried in tech stuff that I rarely have time to deal with anything on the telly. Whatever the story is, I can't say as it's a shock that it's pretty. Nothing about the history of racism is.

BTW, did you see that thing on The Learning Channel about the Kursk? They trotted out that "Unsinkable" thing again! (Lawd ha' mercy!)
 

John M. Feeney

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Sep 20, 2000
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Hi, Mike:

Missed the Kursk special -- never did get cable installed.

I steered you slightly wrong, though. The name of that series is actually "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow." ("Fighting Back" may be the name of that particular episode, which *did* cover the turn of the century to World War 1.)

Yes, Simmons and cronies apparently re-claimed their lost political dominance partly by proposing that Negroes who showed up at the polling place in 1898 should be told to go home -- or if they refused, be shot! (Nice guy, huh?) The scheme didn't work anyway, so the ballot boxes were ultimately "stuffed" to insure that victory went to the "right" people. Yeesh!

Anyway, that segment certainly sheds a great deal of light on the antagonism between Senator Smith -- virtually a Progressive in all but name -- and the radically white supremacist Senator Simmons. Obviously those were different times, but still ...

Cheers,
John
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,590
380
283
Easley South Carolina
Stuffing ballot boxes? Shoot people who didn't go home when told to do so? Sheesh...Saddam Hussein would have loved this guy!

A pity you don't have cable. The tired old "unsinkable" claim notwithstanding, it wasn't all that bad. The proposed leak of high test peroxide (Yes, the Russians still use that stuff!) from a torpedo would explain a lot.
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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Sounds very Interesting I will have to keep an eye out for it. I love history, espeically the Civil War through World War 2.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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It's sad, but there's more material about Simmons on the Internet than there is about Smith.

Simmons refused to cooperate with Smith and took no part in the inquiry, other than attending the committee's first Washington meeting. That was the only time the full committee met. Simmons said Smith was mis-using the hearings for his own purposes. That was just an excuse. Simmons simply hated the sight of Smith.
 

John M. Feeney

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Sep 20, 2000
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Hi, Dave: Thanks for that link. Some interesting history there, even in that short blurb: built in 1890, same year as the Wilmington riots? Hmmm. ;^)

I've gotta admit, it looks like a lovely place -- very nice wrap-around porch, if my evolving "old age" eyes don't deceive me. They sure knew how to build them back then!

Cheers,
John
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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The New York Times, 1 May 1940

SIMMONS, SENATOR FOR 30 YEARS, DIES
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Dominated Democratic Party of North Carolina for Four Eventful Decades
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FOE OF ALFRED E. SMITH
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Carried Out Threat to Quit National Committee if New Yorker Headed Ticket
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Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES
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NEW BERN, N. C., April 30---Former Senator Furnifold McLendel Simmons, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for thirty years, a longer time than any other North Carolinian, and who headed the important Senate Finance Committee during the Wilson Administration, died this afternoon at the home of a daughter, Mrs. Wade Meadows, near this city, at the age of 86. He had been in failing health for years.

Surviving, besides Mrs. Meadows, are a son, James H. Simmons of Jones County, and two other daughters, Mrs. L. A. Mahler of Raleigh and Mrs. J. F. Patterson of New Bern.

Fight Against Alfred E. Smith

Mr. Simmons dominated the Democratic party in North Carolina for more than forty eventful years. A short, slim man, he was noted for his determination and energy, especially during the thirty years he spent as a member of the United States Senate.

Mr. Simmons attracted national attention in 1928. That was the year when former Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York sought the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

A strict prohibitionist, Mr. Simmons warned the party before it held its convention at Houston, Texas, that he would not accept the candidacy of the New Yorker, who already was advocating the repeat of the Eighteenth Amendment and its enabling statute, the Volstead Act.

In the ensuing campaign, which reached almost unprecedented depths of bitterness in the South, Mr. Simmons made it clear that he would not vote for Mr. Smith. He made it clear, on the other hand, that he would not vote for Herbert Hoover, the Republican candidate. North Carolina, however, went Republican on a national issue for the first time since Grant carried it in 1872.

When, two years later, Mr. Simmons begged the North Carolina Democrats to nominate him again for the Senate---it would have been the sixth time---Josiah William Bailey fought him at the primary on the issue of his desertion of Mr. Smith and defeated "the Little Giant," as Simmons was called, by 60,000 votes.

Misfortunes Finally Came

Mr. Simmons retired to "the home in which I was born, the home of my ancestors," and, refraining from politics, became a farmer. Ill health, bankruptcy, and other misfortunes dogged him, but he told his friends he was happier than he had ever been before, until the death, in 1938, of Mrs. Simmons, his constant companion for 52 years.

Mr. Simmons was born in Jones County, N. C., on Jan. 20, 1854. He attended Wake Forest College and Trinity College (later Duke University), being graduated from Trinity in 1873. Two years later he was admitted to the bar.

In 1886 Mr. Simmons was elected to the Fiftieth Congress, from the Second North Carolina district, and at the expiration of that term returned to the practice of law. During the second administration of President Grover Cleveland he was Collector of Internal Revenue for the Eastern district of North Carolina.

In 1894 the Democrats of his State turned to him for help. He was then practicing law at New Bern. He was chosen chairman of the State committee, and built an organization which won a striking victory in the 1898 campaign. This returned the State government to Democratic control after its rout because of the strong sweep of the Populist movement in 1894, which had swept Republicans into office, many of them Negroes.

His Record in the Senate

Mr. Simmons was sent to the Senate for the first of his five consecutive terms in 1901. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which he headed from 1913 to 1919, Senator Simmons was co-author with Oscar W. Underwood, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the House, of the tariff act bearing their names. He also sponsored the various revenue measures to finance the participation of the United States in the World War.

What he regarded as among his noteworthy achievements in the Senate was his work in behalf of good roads.

In 1875 Senator Simmons married Miss Eliza Hill Humphrey. They had three children. Mrs. Simmons died in 1883, and on July 29, 1886, the Senator married Miss Belle Gibbs, who died in 1938. Two children were born of his second marriage.

-30-
 

Mark Baber

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Congressional Directory, 62d Congress, 3d Session, December 1912

F. M. SIMMONS, Democrat, of Newbern, was born January 20, 1854, in the
county of Jones, N. C.; graduated at Trinity College, that State, with
the degree of A. B., in June, 1873; was admitted to the bar in 1875, and
has practiced the profession of law since then; in 1886 was elected a
member of the Fiftieth Congress from the second congressional district
of North Carolina; in 1893 was appointed collector of internal revenue
for the fourth collection district of North Carolina, and served in that
office during the term of Mr. Cleveland; in the campaigns of 1892, 1898,
1900, 1902, 1904, and 1906 was chairman of the Democratic executive
committee of the State; received the degree of LL. D. from Trinity
College, North Carolina, June, 1901; was elected to the United States
Senate to succeed Hon. Marion Butler, Populist, for the term beginning
March 4, 1901, and reelected in 1907, His term of service will expire
March 3, 1913.