Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 11, 2013

Pat vs. the muckraker

By Pat Smith Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — I shouldn’t write while so angry but here goes.

Dr. Calvin Davis shared an article published online by the George Mason University’s History News Network, titled “Mitch Daniels: Friend or Foe to Academic Freedom?” He had nothing good to say about Daniels or anyone except himself.

He wrote that the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, impressed with his research and writing about ‘sundown towns’ had coordinated three additional events - later canceled because he had written an article titled, ‘Honda’s All American Sundown Town,’ posted on the History News Network. It noted that Honda had chosen Greensburg as the site for its new factory. “Like many towns in Indiana, Greensburg was a sundown town. …A majority of all towns in the state were sundown towns…”

What the article stated about Greensburg was something that no real journalist would write without proof. “Sundown towns, are communities that for decades were (and some still are) all-white on purpose… In 1906, Greensburg’s white residents drove out most of its black population. By 1960, the entire county, which had 164 African American residents in 1890, was down to three, all female.”… “While Honda was choosing its site, its executives had to have noticed the racial composition of Greensburg and Decatur County.”

He told of the Bloomington Herald Times asking Mayor Manus if Greensburg was a sundown town. Manus replied, “Well, I’ve heard it was, but I’ve also heard there’s an Easter bunny.” He went on to use the term “colored people,” which angered the publisher of the GDN who has a black son and wrote an editorial about it. “His antiquated terminology, typical of sundown towns, caused the Bloomington paper to make his sentence a “quote of the week.”

Why go after the mayor? Did the writer of this article and the publisher of the paper not know that the word “colored” is still part of the name of a highly respected organization, the NAACP that has done so much for Black Americans?

The article stated that a long time resident commented, “People are complaining about Frank using the term ‘Colored People’?! At least he didn’t make the comment about what the signs on the outskirts of town said because I do believe the first word was the ‘N’ word. ‘N, don’t let the sun set on your back in Decatur County!’ and it even had a picture of the sun setting! I can remember seeing it with my own two eyes.”

The article didn’t include the name of the person quoted. After hearing that story for years I tried to prove it true or untrue. All I needed was a picture proving that it was on a road as one entered Greensburg. No one has ever supplied one. Pictures would certainly have been taken of that sign. The man the writer quoted said he had seen it. I talked with L. Wayne Miers years ago who admitted to being in the Klan but said the sign never existed.

A real historian would want proof of what happened when “Greensburg’s white residents drove out most of its black population?” I wrote about that incident years ago and got proof from court records. It’s evident that that the writer didn’t care about the truth. Russell Wilhoit and I wonder if this is the man that came to Greensburg a few years ago and wanted to know about that incident. I told him how I had proven that what he’d heard wasn’t true, as did Russell, but he wasn’t interested.

Davis, history professor at the U of Denver and at Duke University until 1999 grew up in Decatur County and returned to this county constantly during the years, but had never heard that story until he returned to live full time in Greensburg 14 years ago. He’s checked files, records and failed to find anything to support the story.

The story published by the George Mason University discredits those who worked on the Underground Railroad and the Decatur County men and their families who gave so much during the Civil War. At least 194 of our young men died fighting for the North and many more returned without limbs or had other severe injuries.

Until recent years, many had a low opinion of Warren G. Harding but they should appreciate his remark that after listening to someone who insisted there never was a Paul Revere and told what he “knew” really happened, Harding said, “I love the story of Paul Revere, whether he rode or not.”

And I love the people of the real Greensburg and Decatur County, not what some muckraker says we are. I’ll rerun the story of what happened in 1907 soon.