Theodore G. Bilbo

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Senator Theodore Gilmore Bilbo

Theodore Gilmore Bilbo (October 13, 1877August 21, 1947) was an American politician who twice served as governor of Mississippi (1916–20, 1928–32) and later was elected a U.S. Senator (1935–47). A lifelong Democrat, he was a filibusterer whose name was synonymous with white supremacy—like many Southern Democrats of his era, Bilbo believed that black people were inferior; he defended segregation, and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.



  • I am utterly powerless. The State has no troops, and if the civil authorities at Ellisville are helpless, the States are equally so. Furthermore, excitement is at such a high pitch throughout South Mississippi that any armed attempt to interfere would doubtless result in the deaths of hundreds of persons. The negro has confessed, says he is ready to die, and nobody can keep the inevitable from happening.
  • This is a white man's country, with a white man's civilization and any dream on the part of the Negro race to share social and political equality will be shattered in the end.
    • In a statement arguing that would have been practically impossible to prevent Hartfield's lynching [citation needed]


  • When once the flat-nosed Ethiopian, like the camel, gets his proboscis under the tent, he will overthrow the established order of our Saxon civilization.
  • If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon white Southern men will not tolerate...It is essential to the perpetuation of our Anglo-Saxon civilization that white supremacy be maintained, and to maintain our civilization there is only one solution, and that is either by segregation within the United States or by deportation of the entire Negro race to its native heath, Africa.
  • It is the height of folly to assume that environment, discipline, education, and all other external devices can affect the blood, smooth down inequalities between individuals of the same breed, much less between different breeds, or transmute racial qualities. The Germans appreciate the importance of race values. They understand that racial improvement is the greatest asset that any country can have...They know, as few other nations have realized, that the impoverishment of race values contributes more to the impairment and destruction of a civilization than any other agency.”
    • In a May 24, 1938 speech proposing legislation to return US blacks to Africa [citation needed]
  • It is further a plan of the almighty that the Negroes may be transferred back to the land of their forefathers.


  • When this war is over and more than two million Negro soldiers, whose minds have been filled and poisoned with political and social equality stuff, return and ‘hell breaks out’ all over the country, I think I’ll get more help in settling the Negroes in Africa.
    • In a speech to the Mississippi State legislature on March 22, 1944 [citation needed]
  • There are five million Jews in the United States and the majority of them are fine public citizens, but if Jews of your type don’t quit sponsoring and fraternizing with the Negro race you are going to arouse so much opposition that they will get a very strong invitation to pack up and resettle in Palestine, the homeland of the Jews, just as we propose to provide for the voluntary resettlement of the American Negro in West Africa their fatherland. Now do not pop-off and say I am in favor of sending the Jews to Palestine. What I am trying to say to you is that there are just a few of you New York ‘kikes’ that are fraternizing and socializing with the Negroes for selfish and political reasons and if you keep it up you will arouse the opposition of the better class of your race.
    • To Leonard Golditch, executive secretary of the National Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism in 1945 [citation needed]
  • Its purpose is to plant the seeds of devilment and trouble-breeding in the days to come in the mind and heart of every American Negro ... It is the dirtiest, filthiest, lousiest, most obscene piece of writing that I have ever seen in print. I would hate to have a son or daughter of mine permitted to read it; it is so filthy and so dirty. But it comes from a Negro, and you cannot expect any better from a person of his type.
  • I am ready to wage the most strenuous fight of my life to defeat the Fair Employment Practices Commission, the anti-poll tax bill, the anti-lynching bill, and the $4 billion loan to England...If you draft Negro boys into the army, give them three good meals a day, a good uniform and let them shoot craps and drink liquor around the barracks for a year, they won’t be worth a tinker’s damn thereafter.
  • I call on every red-blooded white man to use any means to keep the niggers away from the polls[;] if you don’t understand what that means you are just plain dumb. I’m calling on every red-blooded American who believes in the superiority and integrity of the white race to get out and see that no nigger votes...and the best time to do that is the night before!”
    • In a speech to his white supporters during his successful re-election campaign in June of 1946 [citation needed]
  • No man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux.
    • On the radio program “Meet the Press.”
  • I deny that I exhorted, agitated, and made any inflammatory appeals to the passions and prejudices of the white population to foster, stimulate, inspire, create and intensify a state of acute and aggravated tension between the white and Negro races in the state of Mississippi... I want to say right here off the record that the Negroes of Mississippi have never had a better friend.
    • United States Senate, 79th Congress, 2nd session, Hearings Before the Special Committee to Investigate Senatorial Campaign Expenditures
  • I am honestly against the social intermingling of Negroes and Whites but I hold nothing personal against the Negroes as a race. They should be proud of their God-given heritage just as I am proud of mine. I believe Negroes should have the right [to indiscriminate use of the ballot], and in Mississippi too—when their main purpose is not to put me out of office and when they won't try to besmirch the reputation of my state.
    • Deathbed statement made to Leon Louis, the editor of the black newspaper Negro South [citation needed]

Take Your Choice, Separation or Mongrelization (1946)[edit]

  • The principle of segregation of the White and Negro races in the South is so well known that it requires no definition. Briefly and plainly stated, the object of this policy is to prevent the two races from meeting on terms of social equality. By established practice, each race maintains its own institutions and promotes its own social life.
    • Chapter Four: Southern Segregation and the Color Line.
  • What is the real issue at stake? Why this determination on the part of the South to maintain the color line and to fight back with all her strength against the combined efforts of certain groups in our Nation, white and black, to break down segregation and to destroy Southern ideals and customs? The answer is simple. The South stands for blood, for the preservation of the blood of the white race. To preserve her blood, the white South must absolutely deny social equality to the Negro regardless of what his individual accomplishments might be. This is the premise - openly and frankly stated - upon which Southern policy is based. This position is so thoroughly justified in the minds of white Southerners that it is sometimes difficult for them to comprehend the reasoning of those who seriously dispute it.
    • Chapter Four: Southern Segregation and the Color Line.
  • If we sit with Negroes at our tables, if we attend social functions with them as our social equals, if we disregard segregation in all other relations, is it then possible that we maintain it fixedly in the marriage of the South's Saxon sons and daughters? The answer must be "No." By the absolute denial of social equality to the Negro, the barriers between the races are firm and strong. But if the middle wall of the social partition should be broken down, then the mingling of the tides of life would surely begin. It would be a slow process, but the result would be the same. And though the process be gradual, it would be none the less irresistible and inevitable. The lower strata of the white population would probably feel the first effects, and within the foreseeable future the middle and upper classes would be invaded. Then, the Southern White race, the Southern Caucasian, would be irretrievably doomed.
    • Chapter Four: Southern Segregation and the Color Line.

Quotes about Bilbo[edit]

  • Stripped to his shirtsleeves, wearing a flaming red necktie with a diamond stickpin, he campaigned with a contagious passion, whipping crowds into frenzied excitement with his denunciations of ‘Wall Streeters,’ entrenched political interest groups, corporate monopolies and the establishment press.
    • Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 219.
  • Hypnotic in his power, a master of invective, and making astute use of his familiarity with the Bible, he swayed the white tenants, small planters and the bankrupt with his assaults on Wall Street...Like Huey Long of Louisiana, his stronghold is the rural sections. There he is hailed as a courageous and unfailing defender, and his public appearances have the flavor of revival meetings.
    • New York Times, September 30, 1934.
  • He was out of office for three years, then won election to the Senate. There he has seldom spoken on national affairs.
    • New York Times, April 25, 1939. The Times did not mention Bilbo’s militant defense of white supremacy or the repatriation bill.
  • Furthermore, Bilbo’s racism did not seem to bother his fellow Democrats. Following his primary victory in 1940, he stumped for his party brethren in fifteen states during the fall campaign. Bilbo gave the keynote address to the Young Democrats of New York. Senator Joseph Guffey of Pennsylvania, noting that Bilbo’s speeches were well received in the Keystone State, called him tops among Southern statesman as a campaigner...Between the spring of 1944 and the summer of 1946, changing perceptions of racism and nativism transformed Theodore Bilbo from an unremarkable southern senator to a national, and indeed, international symbol of bigotry. His anti-black rhetoric, which had changed little since the late 1920s, became an outrage outside of the South as white elites became more conscious of the contradiction between American ideals and American practice.
    • Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938-1947
  • Dr. Goebbels himself could not have hewed more faithfully to Nazi racial doctrines...Is there any possible reason then for keeping at the head of the District of Columbia a man who is using Hitlerian doctrine to disrupt national unity and sow seeds of discord and make our democracy appear ridiculous before the world?... So long as Mississippi wishes this kind of representation in the Senate the preponderant majority of citizens who believe in democracy and tolerance, live and let live, will have to endure it.
    • Washington Post, March 23, 1944.
  • The Senator is as much surprised as anybody over the notoriety achieved by his proposal to send Negroes to Africa. For that scheme had become a cold potato until revived by the furor among his excited critics when he mentioned it recently. He proposed it as a Senate bill in 1939 and it died a very natural death. He did not even bother to reintroduce it in subsequent sessions. But now it is given the dignity of controversy—something it never possessed before. The same sort of thing applies to the Senator’s recent speech before the Mississippi legislature. He undoubtedly has been making the same speech, off and on for years. The feverish reception accorded it here in the District must be the source of profound gratification to Senator Bilbo...Senator Bilbo is a duly constituted representative of the voters of Mississippi and they have supported him rather faithfully for over three decades. It is a waste of effort to quarrel with Senator Bilbo over his views or with the fact that he is here.
    • Washington Star, March 25, 1944.
  • Senator Bilbo’s exhibition last Thursday made it appear that at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives we had destroyed Hitler’s racial obscenity in Europe only to have it parade in all its shameless arrogance at the very center of our democracy...Perhaps we should warn the other nations that Bilbo is an atavistic survival and not an effective symbol of American democracy...the challenge is nothing less than to extirpate from American public life all the evil intolerance that Bilbo and [Representative John] Rankin personify.”
    • The Nation, July 7, 1945, p. 2.
  • Bilbo is a one-man chamber of horrors, an unanswerable argument in favor of elimination of an obscene evil from a free society of men.
    • The Nation, August 4, 1945, p. 101.
  • I am one of those unfortunates whose kids did not come back [from the war], and there were thousands of them, Catholic, Protestant and Jews, Negro and white, who died to keep this sweet land free. I hate and despise those bigots, like the nefarious Senator Bilbo of Mississippi.
    • New York state senator Lazarus Joseph, August 17, 1945.
  • I would gladly give Bilbo and Rankin to the other side. Speaking personally, I’d be glad to see them both out of public life altogether.
    • Jimmy Roosevelt, March 1, 1946.
  • Senator Bilbo died a martyr to southern traditions, and his name will long be remembered when those of his most bitter critics will be forgotten before they are cold in their graves.
    • Senator Allen Ellender, August 23, 1947.
  • News of Senator-Elect Theodore G. Bilbo’s death in New Orleans brought on unparalleled rejoicing throughout civilized America...bartenders throughout the country [are] giving free drinks with which to toast the end of four decades of racial hatred.
    • Richmond Afro-American, August 30, 1947
  • Bilbo’s ejection was the official repudiation of the rotten southern political system based on racial hatred, the system that had kept southern congressmen in Washington for decades. Bilbo was a symbol of the past.
    • Truman Defeats Dewey (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), p.104, by Gary Donaldson

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