Monday, February 08, 2016

A Democrat grew in Pittsburgh

Thomas J. Donaghy. Keystone Democrat: David Lawrence Remembered. New York, N.Y.: Vintage Press, 1986.

David Lawrence was a political activist who in 1926 was appointed Allegheny County Democratic Chairman. This was a time when a small percent of voters there were Democrats. Lawrence supported giving women the right to vote, which helped the Democratic Party when women began voting.

Lawrence attended the 1924 Democratic National Convention where he joined in the unsuccessful fight to condemn the Ku Klux Klan.

Lawrence in 1931 ran for County Commissioner, He los yet received 120,000 votes in a race where Democratic nominees previously received 10,000 votes.

Lawrence was elected Pittsburgh Mayor, taking office in 1946. He convinced electric company employees not to strike during winter through being involved in long negotiating sessions. Numerous strieks did occur in Pittsburgh, which made Lawrence an experienced labor negotiator. Many strikes looked to Lawrence as a mediator. He assisted in negotiation a national steel workers disagreement.

Lawrence used patronage to build his political operations. He avoided probably by allowing qualified public health professionals to be hired over patronage seekers.

Mayor Lawrence helped create a city wage tax. He saw that the public saw visible building projects resulting from these revenues.

Lawrence knew to share credit with City Council to maintain a good working relationship with them. Lawrence’s support of a smoke control policy was politically divisive as it increased the price of coal. Labor split with the CIO supporting Lawrence and the AFL supporting Lawrence;s unsuccessful primary opponent.

Attorney General Morgiotti argued corruption existed in the administration of Governor Earle. When Morgiotti refused to show Earle what evidence he had, Earle fired Morgiottii. Morgiotti then worked with the Republican District Attorney on a grand jury. Many including Lawrence were indicted for blackmail, conspiracy, and election law violations. Many felt these indictments were politically motivated. Lawrence was acquitted.

Lawrence pledged to support Estes Kefauver for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination in 1956, He kept his word even and helped keep Pennsylvania delegates united for Kefauver over John Kennedy.

Richardson Dilworth was favored to succeed George Leader as Governor Controversy erupted when Dilworth stated he thought the People’s Republic of China should be admitted to the United Nations. Dilworth lost support. Lawrence entered the race and was elected.

Some Philadelphia Democratic leaders wanted Governor Lawrence to remove Robert Meyers as Banking Secretary. Lawrence kept Meyers and told Meyers to act fairly and in doing so Lawrence would defer to Meyer’s judgement.

As Governor, the gas tax was raised by two cents, betting on harness racing was approved, churches became exempt from real estate taxes, new school building were constructed, and a $171 million deficit was overcome with his administration ending with a $10 million surplus.

Lawrence helped create the Keystone Shortway, a highway across norther Pennsylvania. He began the Project 70 of $70 million in purchasing open space near urban areas as well as another $20 million for parklands within cities.

Governor Lawrence led Pennsylvania in becoming the first state to pass fair housing. He saw his highway safety measures as what he personally felt best about.

After being Governor, President Kennedy appointed Lawrence to chair the President’s Commission on Equal Opportunity in Housing.

Lawrence negotiated a compromise at the 1964 Democratic National Convention when the Freedom Democratic Party sought Mississippi delegate representation. Lawrence had the convention put tow Freedom Democrats as at large delegates. He correctly suspected the white Mississippi regular delegation would refuse to attend/ along with the two Black delegates from the Freedom Democrats. When the Mississippi regular Democrats walked out, the Freedom Democrats were appointed in their place.