Letters of the Law

Wonderful Article About Ida Wells; Consider a Statue of Her

Wonderful article about Ida Wells (“Ida B. Well: Fearless Journalist from Memphis Who Changed the World,” by David L. Hudson Jr., August 2018). As a postscript, Ms. Wells was “run out” of Memphis and her newspaper office burned to the ground, fueled by the racial hatred of Edward Ward Carmack, editor of the, then, Memphis Commercial. His paper demanded retaliation against “the black wench” for her denunciation of the lynchings.

Carmack, an attorney, became a United States Senator and later editor of The Tennessean newspaper. Carmack then railed against those opposing prohibition and insulted Colonel Duncan Cooper — a “wet” in the press. On Nov. 8, 1908, the men were involved in a gun duel near the site of the Hermitage Hotel, which was under renovation at the time. The pistol, this time, was mightier than the pen and Carmack was killed. Cooper was later pardoned by the governor.

The prohibitionists erected a statue to Carmack which I can see from my office window. It is located on the grounds of the state capitol and overlooks the site of the shooting. Ironically, Carmack’s statute also sits above a tunnel named for Lem Motlow of Jack Daniels.
I will leave to others to debate if we should remove the statute of Carmack — a virulent racist and bigot of the first order. But, perhaps, Tennessee should consider erecting a monument to Ida Wells who campaigned against our national sin of lynching people because of the color of their skin.
— David Louis Raybin, Nashville


Wells Article Is ‘Anti-Trump Propaganda Message’

Why is it that the left has to ruin everything? In this case I’m referring to David L. Hudson Jr.’s article about Ida B. Wells in the August 2018 Tennessee Bar Journal. The article looked very interesting, but after reading the second headline and the first paragraph I realized that Mr. Hudson’s telling of Ms. Wells’ courageous life story was being used as a pretext for delivery of his anti-Trump propaganda message to readers of the Journal.


The headline reads: “Unlike today, there was a time when journalists were admired for their fearless pursuit of the truth.” What basis does Mr. Hudson have for concluding that journalists today are not admired for their fearless pursuit of the truth? Whenever they pursue truth, they’re admired. It’s only when they attempt to disguise editorializing or commentary as news reporting that the public and the subjects of their attacks turn against them. When instead of reporting information, which might challenge the veracity of a public figure’s statements or actions, they publish their opinions of what s/he has said or done, they’re editorializing without calling it that. In other words, they’re misrepresenting themselves to their readers, and no one appreciates being deceived.    


Then we read in the first paragraph that “[t]oday’s climate features hostility toward freedom of the press and negative attitudes toward journalists.” What hostility has there been under the Trump administration toward  freedom of the press? Hostility toward many in the so-called press, because of their bias, yes, but that’s not new. Remember President Obama’s remarks about Fox News?  But give me an example of the Trump administration’s hostility against press  freedom. They’re free to behave as they wish, but since when does that mean that he or those who work for him must remain silent? President Obama was the one who was hostile to press freedom. I don’t recall many journalists who opposed him, but it was his Justice Department that investigated members of the Associated Press and a Fox News reporter, and his IRS that discriminated against conservative groups exercising their first amendment rights.

And what about “[p]ublic perception of the press as the public’s watchdog and the protective fourth estate …vanishing”?  If that’s happening, they have only themselves to blame. The majority of us correctly view the bulk of the fourth estate as protecting only itself and its favored candidates and officeholders. And while Mr. Hudson decries what he claims are assaults on reporters for their reporting in the United States, inspired, of course, by President Trump, other Republicans and their supporters, he appears to be blind to the political affiliation of most, if not all, of those who attacked Ms. Wells and reporters like her. Why didn’t he mention that?  Following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, virtually all state and local governments in the South returned to Democratic control. It was Democrats who condoned lynching of and other discrimination against African-Americans and refused to pass anti-lynching laws. If Mr. Hudson had not used his article primarily as a vehicle to interject his anti-Trump bias into the Journal, I would not have believed it necessary to allude to either political party in a story highlighting Ms. Wells’ courageous work, but having done so, he owed it to his readers to inform them that in the case of Ms. Wells, hostility toward freedom of the press was decidedly more serious in her era than name-calling at rallies and in tweets in ours.
— Douglas W. Buchanan, Knoxville



Wells’ Birthplace Correction

The article in [the August] TBJ erroneously states that Ida B. Wells was born in Holley, Mississippi. The historical sources I am aware of state that Ms. Wells, by all accounts an important figure in American as well as Tennessee history, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. You may wish to correct this error. Thank you.
Paul A. Matthews, Memphis
 
Editor’s note: The article has been updated in our online version. Please read it at www.tba.org/journal/ida-b-wells.



How Legal Aid Society Is Working to Support Homeless Veterans


Veterans make up just 7 percent of the U.S. population. So it’s safe to say that for large swaths of our country, the realities of military service are somewhat removed from our daily lives and sphere of understanding.
Though the sacrifices made by veterans are brought to our attention on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the emotional or physical wounds that some vets carry are a constant, daily struggle. Some experience a spiraling effect on their personal relationships and ability to manage basic life responsibilities.


According to a 2017 HUD report on homelessness, 9 percent of the U.S. homeless population is made up of veterans (40,056 veterans). It’s a tragedy when any person experiences homelessness, but especially so when their service to our country has played a role in them being in that situation.


These men and women often face a variety of legal needs. In fact, a survey released in May by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that four of the top 10 unmet needs for homeless veterans result from a lack of legal assistance. They are:
● Legal assistance for child support issues (No. 5 for males, No. 5 for females);
● Legal assistance to help restore a driver’s license (No. 8 for males, No. 8 for females);
● Legal assistance for outstanding warrants and fines (No. 9 for males, No. 10 for females);
● Legal assistance to prevent eviction and foreclosure (No. 10 for males).

These unresolved legal issues often contribute to the cycle of poverty that keeps these veterans in a homeless situation. Wrongful eviction or foreclosure can force residents from their homes, robbing them of a stability that we all depend on. Outstanding warrants and fines can pile up beyond a person’s ability to pay, possibly leading to jail time. The ability to bring in money through a job can be hampered by the lack of a fixed address, and without a driver’s license, commuting to a job by other means can be a struggle.


All of these issues feed into one another, and the effect can be overwhelming. But there is help available. At Legal Aid Society, we provide free legal services for veterans and other low-income Tennesseans throughout our 48-county Middle Tennessee and Cumberland Plateau service area.

We recently partnered with several other local groups to launch The Veterans Project, a program that offers legal assistance to veterans. We take direct referrals from the Metro Homelessness Commission and the Veterans Court, and coordinate the staffing of Attorney for a Day events held each Wednesday at Operation Stand Down Tennessee, where veterans from across Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau can meet with one of our volunteer attorneys from several local law firms. Although the program’s main focus is veterans who are homeless or facing homelessness, assistance is also available for a range of civil legal issues, including child support, debt, bankruptcy, car purchase/repair, family law, expungement and reinstatement of driver’s licenses.

Our veterans have fought and sacrificed for our country, and we must do our part by fighting for them in return. Helping them confront their legal troubles is one way of bringing much-needed stability into their lives.
To schedule an appointment at Operation Stand Down’s Tennessee office, call 615-248-1981. You can also learn more about our free legal services by visiting https://las.org/find-help/self-help-resource-center/legal-help-booklets.
— DarKenya Waller, executive director, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands
 

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