Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Happens When Republicans Lose Power

 Peter Binzen with Jonathan Bizen. Richardson Dilworth: Last of the Barek-Knuckled Aristocrats. Philadelphia Pa.: Camino Books, Inc., 2014.

Richard Dilworth was described by his 1955 Republican opponent for Mayor of Philadelphia as “the last of the bare knuckled aristocrats”. The election’s debate was described by the Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper as “the wildest, most vicious political debate in the city’s recent history.”

Diworth did not have a press secretary or issue press releases. He stated what he wanted to say. He was often blunt. He called restrictive suburban zoning as a “white noose”. He proposed tearing down Philadelphia’s ornate (and world largest) CIty Hall. While he was District Attorney, he attacked Senator Joseph McCarthy as a dangerous man and confronted him on national television.

Dilworth fought in World War I and was wounded. At age 43, he fought in World War II, leaving behind eight children, and was awarded a Silver Star.

Dilworth was an alcoholic, which almost ruined his career.

Dilworth was known for attracting talented people into public service and inspiring them to work at their best. He hired Black and women into an office that seldom had seen either.

Richardson’s great grandfather, William Dilworth, was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1834. William sought to reform politics. He found the major manufacturing executives and corrupt politicians were too strong to defeat with “good government” proposals.

The Dilworth family was involved in manufacturing railroad spikes and supplies. The company was fading away when Richard Dilworth inherited it and sold it for about $150,000. He would reinvest that and lose most of its in the stock market crash.

Richard Dilworth was born in 1898. He joined the Marine Corps in 1914 when it had 10,000 men. The Marines would grow to 70,000 men by the end of 1918. Dilworth fought at Bellevu Wood in France. Of the 8,000 Marines there, 5,200 were killed or wounded. At the battle of Soissons, where there were 12,000 U.S. casualties, Dilworth was wounded with part of the bone in his arm blown away. Infection and several operations hospitalized him for two months.

Dilworth returned to Yale, where he had left to fight in the war. One of his History Professors, Charles Seymour, a former advisor to President Woodrow Wilson, strongly influenced Dilworth. Dilworth became a Democrat.

Dilworth played football at Yale. This is noteworthy as he had only one good arm.

Dilwroty attended and graduated from Yale Law School. As an attorney, he worked on an investigation conducted by the Philadelphia Bar Association into corrupt lawyers. He worked with Henry Drinker. They discovered a ring of corruption that included lawyers making payoffs to police, ambulance drivers and emergency room employees paid for tips on victims who might need lawyers, and a corrupt judge who shared in verdict awards.

Dilworth defended about 100 independent coal miners battling a lawsuit from a coal mining company with strong local Republican political ties. The Republican leader of Northumberland County perjured himself. When Dilworth got the leader to repeat the perjury, the coal mining company dropped all the injunctions they had made against the independent miners.

Dilworth defended the Wilkes Barre Sunday Independent newspaper against a $100,000 libel suit filed by Nanticoke Mayor Anthony Drier. Dilworth had a police officer testify he paid Drier $50 to become an officer, a secretary testify Drier made her falsify records, and had the workmen who did work on Drier’s private house yet were paid with city funds in the courtroom when Drier testified that did not happen. He also had the former police chief in the courtroom when Drier denied that the two of them split funds from holding fake trials of drunks. Drier dropped his lawsuit.

Joseph Clark ran for City Council but lost in 1933. Dilworth was Clark’s campaign manager. Democrats presented signs of resurgence against the decades of one party Republican rule of Philadelphia by getting Democrats elected as City Controller and City Treasurer.

Dillworth was a part of a group called the Warriors which sought to bring the Democratic  Party out of Republican control (the Republicans were so powerful they controlled the minority seats awarded to Democrats). This group included businessmen such as John Kelly, Albert Greenfield, and Matthew McClosky as well as newspaper published David Stern whose paper the Philadelphia Record supported Democrats. Clark and Dilworth that Kelly and McCloskey, self-made business leaders who were both Irish Catholics, were resentful of inherited wealthy Protestants such as Clark and Dilworth. Dilworth observed Kelly and McCloskey would sometimes double cross them.

Dilworth ran for the State Senate in 1934 against incumbent Senator George Woodward, one of the few Republicans independent of the Republican machine at McCloskey’s request. Clark was Dilworth’s campaign manager. McCloskey then stated Dilworth had to contribute $2,500 to the Democratic Party in order to be slated as the nominee. Dilworth refused. The Democrats slated Izzy Finkelstein to run for State Senator instead. Dilworth then decided to run against the party and he challenged Finkelstein in a primary. Dilworth still found that ward leaders who supported him expected political contributions. Dilworth contributed to the 42nd Ward whose leader was Herb McGlinchey. Dilworth received the fewest votes from McGlinche’s ward. McGlinchey told Dilworth “That’s your first political lesson. Never trust a ward leader.” Finkelstein received about 11,000 votes to Dilworth’s 1,000 votes. Woodward then defeated Finkelstein.

Dilworth worked in the John Kelly 1935 campaign for Mayor. When he was sent to a voting district in a Polish neighborhood near the docks because of a dispute between Democratic and Republican poll workers, his wearing a coonskin coat, a symbol of privilege, did not go over well in the working class neighborhood. He was thrown through a plate glass window.

Kelly lost to S. David Wilson yet lost by a narrow 53% to 47%, the best Democratic showing for Mayor in decades.

Moses Annenberg purchased the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1936 where it became known as the “Bible of the Republican Party”. Annenberg immediately ended the joint distribution deal with the Philadelphia Record. Annenberg had left Chicago where circulation wars involved organized crime and led to several men and boys killed. The Record responded with negative front page stories about Annenberg, claiming he was a secret ally of William Randolph Hearst. Annenberg had been Heart’s circulation director.

Dilworth became Moe Annenberg’s attorney, although Dilworth was not his first choice. Several other attorneys turned down representing Annenberg. Dilworty surprised even himself in winning the case for Annenberg which denied David Stern’s attempt at an injunction to prevent separate distribution of both papers.

Annenberg hired Dilworth to be the Inquirer’s General Counsel at $50,000 a year.

Annenberg’s Inquirer attacked Albert Greenfield, claiming a routine transfer of notes Greenfield had made prior to the banking collapse was Greenfield looking out for himself and not for the interests of others.

Annenberg owed back taxes. Dilworth knew Annenberg was guilty et believed it was an effort of the Franklin Roosevelt Administraiton to attack Annenberg. When Moe Annenberg went to prison, his son Walter took over the operations of the Inquirer.

Walter Annenberg’s Inquirer was able to criticize Republicans. The Inquirer has a series on corruption in Mayor Bernard Samuel’s administration. The Inquirer, though, remained slanted pro-Republican.

John Kelly told Dilworth that the Democrats wanted Dilworth to run for District Attorney in 1939. Kelly later decided to create a fusion ticket with a Republican, Lewis Stevens, running for District Attorney. The fusion ticket lost but came closer to winning than Democrats had in several decades.

Dilworth rejoined the Marines in 1942 as a Captain. He experienced jungle rot on his arms and legs while fighting.

In 1947, the new Democratic City Chairman. U.S. Rep.. Michael Bradley, found the party had $186 with $1,000 rent due and a monthly $2,500 payroll due. Dilworth and the party Treasurer, Bill Feely, used their personal funds to keep the party functioning, Dilworth sought to run for Mayor. The Democratic Policy Committee was tied at seven votes for Dilworth and seven votes for Joseph Sharfson. Bradley broke the tie by voting for Dilworth. Bradley later stated “that was the best vote I ever cast in my life.”

At Walter Phillips recommendation, Dilworth went through neighborhoods campaigning. Dilworth attacked incumbent Mayor Bernard Samuel for being corrupt. Dilworth accused Republican Sheriff Austin Meehan of operating illegal gambling.

Several Democratic leaders and candidates made deal with the Republican Party if they cut Dilworth. Dilworth lost 56% to 44%. Clark and Dilworth were surprised to see the volunteers were jubilant after the polls closed. Dilworth notes “the election was lost, but they were seeing the future...they pointed out that they’d done a hell of a job in many wards, and the fight was just beginning.”

Mayor Samuel pledged during the campaign to give city workers a pay raise. He agreed to keep his promise yet he created a panel, known as the Committee of 15, to find a way to pay for the increased costs. Samuel expected the panel to recommend a tax increase. The panel hired Robert Sawyer as its Executive Director. Sawyer and the panel suggested, instead of a tax increase, of saving money by ending improper and inefficient practices. The panel uncovered graft in the Supplies and Purchases Department. The Deputy Director was arrested yet was only fined $1,500.

The panel found the city wasn’t collecting all its taxes. The Amusement Tax Division Chief committed suicide and left a note telling how he and seven others stole some tax monies.

At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Dilworth was a supporter of Hubert Humphrey’s anti-communist liberal group the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Humphrey and aDA support a civil rights plank being in the Democratic Party platform. Dilworth’s work with ADA brought him association with some high status people in Philadelphia society who had previously shunned him for being a divorced man.

In 1949, Dilworth ran for City Treasurer while Joe Clark ran for City Controller. William Meade, the city’s Republican Party leader called Clark and Dilworth “Community Party liners” and that the ADA was “infiltrated with communists”. Dilworth demanded Meade name a single Communist in ADA. Meade never did respond.

The Inquirer and the Bulletin newspapers defended Dilworth. The Daily News responded “we do not believe that Richardson Dilworth is a Communist, but we do believe he will take the aid of any Communist who wants to vote for him.”

Dilworth and Clark won. Democrats also won races for Coroner and Register of Wills, winning all citywide races.

The Committee of 15 continued its work. The Water Department’s Superisor admitted water collection fees had been skimmed for 17 years. He and a Plumbing Inspector both committed suicide.

A federal grand jury investigation police involvement with rackets led to the suicides of a Police Inspector and two other police officers.

In 1950, Pittsburgh Mayor David Lawrence convinced Dilworth to run for Governor. Lawrence did not want Pittsburgh Judge Michael Musmanno slated. Larence convinced Musmanno to run for Lieutenant Governor instead. Dilworth was worred about running with the “Red-baiter” Musmanno. Lawrence convinced Dilworth it would not be a problem.

The Republican nominee for Governor was John Fine, the Republican leader of Luzerne County. Dilworth charged Fine with protecting rackets. Dilworth knew about this from when he handled the libel suit against the Wilkes Barre Sunday Independent. He knew teachers had to kickback a half year’s salary to the Republican Party in order to become teachers.

Fine won the 15th consecutive victory for Republicans in the Pennsylvania Governor’s race. Fine won by only two percentage points. Dilworth carried Philadelphia.

Although Dilworth did well in Philadelphia in the race for Governor, he stuck by his pledge to support Joe Clark for Mayor in 1951. Dilworth ran for District Attorney. Party leaders wanted Dilworth to run for Mayor and Clark for District Attorney. Clark had declined to run for District Attorney four years prior as he had no criminal law experience. Clark went to a meeting of leaders and informed him that he had earlier told the press he was running for Mayor with or without their support. Dilworth stated at the meeting he supported Clark. The leaders, who had hoped the meeting would lead to Dilworth running for Mayor, found they could not do anything different.

Clark and Dilworth received 58% of the vote in their races in defeating Republicans Rev. Daniel Poling for Mayor and Michael Foley for District Attorney.

Clark filled city positions with professionals instead of party workers. Patronage was sharply reduced.

Dilworth studied the death penalty issue He observed that “history makes it clear that cruel punishments are self-defeating”. Many people facing murder charges waited in jail for two years for their trials.

Dilworth insisted that if someone’s right were violated that his office inform the courts. He did this in a death penalty case when a defendant wasn’t properly determined if he was competent to stand trial.

Dilworth was upset at the degree to which organized crime, the police, and politicians worked together. Police did little to stop the “numbers racket” of an illegal lottery.

Dilworth refused to take a loyalty oath and stated it was “some cockeyed, unknown standard of behavior with the knowledge that if they deviate from it in some way, they’re going to get whacked.” He argued against “Red baiters” noting “if we ever resort to such tactics, we should very soon lose our war against Communism, for our strength lies in our integrity and in the courage to maintain our democratic processes.”

Dilworth encouraged Henry Sawyer, an attorney who defended people accused of Communist ties, to run for City Council in 1955, Sawyer ran and won.

Joe Clark was indecisive of whether to run for reelection in 1955 He wanted to run for U.S. Senator in 1956, yet hat would be a tough race against an incumbent Sen. James Duff with Eisenhower running for re-election. Running for Mayor would be an easier race to win. The Democratic Policy Committee was reportedly moving to replace Clark with Judge John Davis. Dilworth decided to run for Mayor and got the Democratic Party Chairman U.S. Rep. William Green, John Kelly, ad Albert Greenfield to back him. Clark decided not to seek reelection.

Dilworth debated his Republican opponent Thacher Longstreth 18 tmes. Longstreth admitted he was “clobbered” in the early debates Longstreth hired Penn Professor Edward Shils who spent 100 hours tutoring Longstreth on policies. Longstreth improved in the debates.

Dilworth lost his temper at Republican District Attorney candidate William Knauer calling Knauer a “mean, nasty stinking littler wretch” who had sold “rotten meat to Philadelphia General Hospital. This allegation has never been made before and wasn’t substantiated. Dilworth then continued to accuse Knauer of being “guilty of manslaughter by automobile” and having the “records destroyed”. Knauer called this a lie and told how he was driving when his car hit a snowplow and his passenger was killed and that the records were intact. Knauer sued Dilworth. Dilworth admitted he was wrong on one of his charges. Knauer withdrew the suit.

Dilworth defeated Longsteth 59% to 41%. Democrat Victor Blanc defeated Knauer.

Longstreth stated Dliworth later told him some of Dilworth’s “famous rages” were planned as they was an asset. DIlworth told him “In politics, politeness is weakness. Anything is OK to get elected. You never win by playing the Queensburg rules.”

Clark for Senator in 1956. Greenfield opposed his running and wanted a different candidate. Dilworth defended Clark. Clark ran and narrowly defeated Jim Duff.

Dilworth stated in his augural address as Mayor “We must never forget that good government is our strength...We must demonstrate our belief in it by deeds, not just by words.”

Under Dilworth, much building continued that Clark began The Dock Street open air market that smelled and was rat infested was closed Penn Center buildings were constructed. The Recreation Commission was professionalized. Dilworth refused to offer patronage yet Democratic leaders got him to allow 500 of 27,000 city jobs to be patronage. City Solicitor David Berger noted Dilworth wanted reform yet he was also pragmatic. Dilworth defended a new charter by allowing political bosses to have a few jobs.

Dilworth appointed Albert Greenfield as City Planning Commission Chairman. Some criticized this as Greenfield was a developer. The Executive Director Edmund Bacon found Greenfield involved with “vested interests” and that Greenfield “messed with the detailed zoning cases”. Greenfield did not interfere with the comprehensive plan and supported the long term physical development plans. Dilworth felt he needed Greenfield because Greenfield, and not Dilworth, could deal with Democratic Party Chairman Bill Green and his key leaders Matthew McCloskey and Jim Clark. Mayor Joe Clark had not faced this problem as Jim Finnegan was Democratic Party City Chairman while Clark was Mayor and Finnegan supported Clark and his charter change efforts.

Dilworth ade Sam Regalbuto the Public Property Commissioner. Dilworth heard a Regalbuto staffer attempted to extract $10,000 from an architect. Dilworth demanded the staffer be fired and that there be no more shakedowns. Dilworth later stated “I’m sure he continued to do some shakedowns. But we never got another complaint.”

Dilworth, unlike Clark, reached out to work with City Council. They met frequently. Councilman Paul D’Ortona stated Dilworth “would compromise. He would respect your views. And if he made a mistake, he was the first to apologize.”

Dilworth appointed his former law firm as Bond Counsel, stating “the firm made it possible for me to be in politics...I think I have the right to stick by them.”

Dilworth and his wife were on the ship Andrea Doria when it collided with an ocean liner. 46 of the 1,1345 passengers died.

Dilworth responded to most articles written about him or his administration. Sometimes he would send a personal letter to the author. Other times he would send a letter for editorial publication.

Dilworth criticized District Attorney Victor Blanc for banning a Brigitte Bardot filmed from being show in Philadelphia. Dilworth stated Blanc shouldn’t decide what movies Philadelphians could see.

Dilworth proposed a $40 per year parking license for residential parking. This was met with angry crowds that threw rocks and shattered glass that cut Councilman Tom Foglietta. Dilworth ignored the protested and walked through them.

Diworth took time to respond to the letters he received, even ones that were critical or had extreme ideas.

Blacks were 26% of Philadelphia population when Dilworth was Mayor. Dilworth saw new race problems that were national in scope. Dilworth declared there was a “white noose” of suburban white communities surrounding Philadelphia where Blacks could not leave the city for the suburbs because of prejudice. Housing costs were kept high to make them unaffordable for Blacks. Some communities outright excluded Blacks.

30% of city employees were Black. Dilworth had good relations with Black community leaders. Dilworth wanted Blacks to be able to purchase homes, something he saw as “virtually impossible” for many. He noticed “non-Negro” housing was being constructed that placed high prices so Blacks could not afford to live there.

Dilworth stated there were Blacks spread throughout Philadelphia. He noted white Protestants who were “apt to be your most prosperous person” were leaving Philadelphia He also noted there was more crime in Polish-American and ItalianAmerican neighborhoods than in the Black neighborhoods.

Dilworth was against banning housing discrimination just in Philadelphia as that would lead to more whites leaving Philadelphia. He wanted it banned statewide.

Dilworth supported mass transit. He unsuccessfully proposed there be free bus service within a 400 block area. Dilworth, in 1963, agreed to a request by President John Kennedy to lead the Eastern Railroad Authority which worked on high speed rail between Washington and Boston. This work was ignored by President Lyndon Johnson.

City Planning Commission Executive Director Ed Bacon and Dilworth guided reviving Society Hill. City Council barely approved the proposals allowing this. Dilworth was influential in getting City Council to pass this.

Dilworth was the choice of most Pennsylvania Democratic leaders to run again for Governor in 1954. Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Bill Green was against this as he was upset that Dilworth had taken away his patronage jobs. He also did not like that Dilworth was against Victor Blanc being reelected District Attorney. Dilworth believe Blanc was undoing many of the reforms he had brought to the District Attorney’s office. Dilworth decided in 1954 that it was not worth fighting Green. He did not run for Governor. Blanc was reelected.

In 1958, Governor George Leader wanted Dilworth to succeed him. Mayor David Lawrence, who backed Dilworth in 1950 and 1954, backed Dilworth again in 1958. Former Senator William Benton of Connecticut urged for Dilworth’s elected as Governor as a stepping stone for the Presidency in 1960.

Dilworth spoke in favor of admitting China to the United Nations. Democratic State Chairman Joseph Barr and Mayor Lawrence publicly stated those remarks made him unacceptable to be nominated for Governor. Lawrence was nominated and elected over Republican Arthur McGonigle.

City Council President James Tate was close to Bill Green. He held up approving funds for projects that Dilworth wanted.

Dilworth was renominated for Mayor, despite internal Democratic Party bickering, unanimously by the Democratic Policy Committee. Republicans nominated former Minnesota Governor and former University of Pennsylvania President Harold Stassen. Dilworth won with 66% of the vote to Stassen’s 34%.

It was disclosed the firm building the Frankford Elevated rail line defrauded the city of millions of dollars. Republican leaders called for a grand jury to look into all of City Hall. Dilworth opposed this and presented the courts with evidence of quality performances in every city department. The state Supreme Court agreed that a grand jury was not necessary. Dilworth later stated he knew if there were a grand jory that City Council would halt most of his programs. Council members, Dilworth claimed, received payoffs of $1,500 to %2,500 from gasoline stations for zoning variances. Dilworth wanted the oil company executives to testify about this yet they refused, stating it would hurt them in the eleven cities that demanded payoffs.

Dilworth supported John Kennedy for President in 1960. ADA supported Adlai Stevenson. Kennedy campaigned with Dilworth and Green which helped bridge communications between them.

Dilworth ran for Governor in 1962. Green supported former Lt. Gov. John Morgan Davis for Governor as Dilworth turned down his requests for state patronage jobs. Green declared “All we want is an understanding from the Mayor that the people who elect him aren’t going to be replaced by his ADA friends.”

Republicans nominated U.S. Rep, WIlliam Scranton, who supported civil rights, increasing the minimum wage, and creating the Peace Corps. Scranton attacked Dilworth’s ties to the Democratic Party machine politics and for preventing the grand jury from being created to look into Philadelphia city government corruption. Scranton declared that Dilworth Administration was a “nest of squalor and corruption”.

Dilworth was expected to debate an empty chair on television as Scranton had not responded to the debate invitation Scranton arrived in time for the debate Dilworth had agreed not to use props yet since Scranton hadn’t agreed to the rules, he brought a bucket of whitewash and a brush to illustrate his intention to wash Pennsylvania of corruption. A Dilworth aide, William Klenk, stated later he believes that after the debate Dilworth tried to invoke Scranton to hit him in press view. Dilworth declared to Scranton “if you shake that effeminate finger at me one more time, I’ll separate you from your skinny ass”. Scranton didn’t take the bait and remained cool.

President John Kennedy had to cancel campaigning with Dilworth due to the Cuban missile crisis.

Scranton won with 55% of the vote to Dilworth’s 45%. Joe Clark was reelected Senator.

In 1965, Mayor James Tate appointed Dilworth as President of the Board of Education. The School Board hired 15 administrators with strong backgrounds in liberal arts with an average age of 35. Among those hired was Graham Finney, who in turn hired W. Wilson Goode. Goode would later become Philadelphia Mayor.

Finney proposed a new integrated high school in a nearly all white neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia. 2,000 people protested yet Dilworth stood in support of Finney.

John Patterson of the School Board proposed and helped created magnet schools that would attract an integrated study body from across the city.

Dilworth and aides created the Parkway Program that held classes in libraries, museums, and other institutions.

Black students protested for more Black principals, Black teachers, and Black Studies classes. Police Commissioner Fran Rizzo had about 200 police officers get into military formation and use their night sticks to disperse the crowd. 18 were injured. Dilworth declared the children protesting were not to be blamed, Mayor Tate responded that Dilworth had no right to comment on police matters.

Dilworth believed Rizzo know about racketeering and looked the other way. Rizzo led raids on coffeehouses that were not breaking the law yet residents feared were turning their neighborhoods into “another Greenwich Village”. Dilworth’s Managing Director Donald Wagner defended the police arguing they had sufficient cause to crack down on places where young people gathered.

As Mayor, Dilworth created the nation’s first civilian Police Advisory Board (PAB) to look into wrongful police actions. The Fraternal Order of Police claimed the PAB was a “communist plot to undermine law enforcement”. DIlworth originally expected the PAB to control graft. It became a place where many raised issues of police brutality. The PAB received about 1,000 cases in the 1960s.

Frank Rizzo was elected Mayor in 1971 with 53% of the vote to Republican Thacher Longstreth’s 46%. Dilworth retired as School Board President before Rizzo became Mayor.


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