Mr. Justice Hugo L. Black, in the historic nationwide radio broadcast last night, told the American people just what he wanted to tell them and nothing more; he carefully avoided all mention of the point they wanted discussed most fully.
After his summation of the arguments, current sincethe revocation of the Edict of Nantes and before, in favor, of religious freedom, and the statement that he too favored religious freedom, the Alabama Senator said "I did join the Ku Klux Klan; I later resigned; I never re-joined," and that was all. He did not even hint at what was in his mind when he did join. He did not give the reasons which impelled him to leave the Invisible Empire. He said that he did not know what was on the records of the Klan or what is on them now. But the American people demand to know, why Mr. Justice Black joined the K. K. K., and they have a right to be answered. Did he seriously believe that the Klan, as has been suggested, was a sort of Rotary International to which every good Southerner should belong? Or did he take the oaths because he thought it would help elect him Senator? Or did he really believe in the tenets of the group?
The new Justice says he resigned. The public knew that; what the public wanted to hear tonight was whether his resignation was sincere, or whether it was the type of resignation for purposes of political expediency of which Klan members were allowed to avail themselves. Further the American people are entitled to know why their new Supreme Court Justice seems to know so little about the records of the Empire of which he was once a member. Did he deliver those speeches photostatic copies of which were printed throughout the country? If not, why did he not make as categorical a denial of them as he did of the intolerance charged to him, by his reference to the beautiful relationships he has had with all groups opposed by the Klan Surely there was no chance of the press garbling his remarks last night. In short the American people know nothing more about their new Justice than they did before.
However the question of Klan affiliation, despite its importance, and despite all the discussion if it is really a secondary consideration. The primary pressing question that has been completely dismissed by both the new Justice and President Roosevelt who appointed him, is whether a man of such obviously injudicial temperment, and of such palpable intellectual dishonesty as to dodge slyly away from the only things that the public should have heard last night, is to don the black robe and ascend the highest tribunal in the country and there to sit in judgement with the while robe of his unanswered past fluttering behind him.
If this man is allowed to take a place upon the Supreme Bench of the land, after admitting by a silence that all his adroitness could not conceal last night, the worst of the charges levied against him, there will be an ineffaceable stain upon the Supreme Court and upon the country. And the President of the United States will be totally responsible for that stain.