5 April 2019
Theodore Bilbo is perfectly dubbed “redneck liberal” in this book because of his “rustic” personality and liberal political views, especially during the New Deal period. His extravagant personality and over-the-top style produced almost immediate negative or positive perceptions, without knowing the details about him. Bilbo was a tremendous supporter of the farmers and poor whites and became a vital promoter of the New Deal in order to get them the relief that they needed. After transitioning from a progressive platform to a liberal based one, he used these politics to connect with the poor southerners and gain their trust.
Bilbo accomplished numerous goals in his lifetime. Despite being poor growing up, he attended Peabody College and the University of Nashville and then later law school at Vanderbilt University yet never graduated. In 1907, Bilbo won a seat in the Mississippi state senate. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1911 and then became governor of Mississippi in 1916 until 1920. He was elected again for governor, due to his tremendous accomplishments, from 1927 until 1932. Then, in 1934, Bilbo gained a seat in the U.S. Senate. He remained there for almost the rest of his life. He used this position to vocalize his disapproval of trying to improve racial injustice. He was a very outspoken racist yet did everything he could to help the poor southern farmers and rednecks.
The term redneck was derived when those in politics needed a derogatory nickname for the “country people” who challenged the political spectrum within Mississippi at the time. Chester describes the redneck as “violent, uneducated, common, crud, vulgar, and visceral.” (Chester 2) On the other hand, Virginius Dabney describes the southern liberal as one who wants to see “a distinct improvement in the status of the average man”, someone who supported laws “for the economic and social welfare of the masses” as “regulation of the trusts, improvement of working conditions in industry, better educational facilities, improved health regulations, and so on.” (Chester 3) With this outline of what the typical southern liberal looks like, Bilbo would count as one of the most liberal southern senators of the New Deal period. Bilbo’s support for President Roosevelt and his administration went above and beyond any regular interest.
Theodore’s first governorship had been one of substantial achievements and one historian said it “marked the climax of the progressive era in Mississippi.” He managed to persuade lawmakers into passing a legislative program that remains, to this day, unsurpassed. Some of Bilbo’s outstanding achievements during his term consisted of a creation of a state tax commission and equalization of tax assessments throughout the state. This allowed for an extremely efficient revenue system in Mississippi, one in which they have not had in years. When his term came to the year 1918, Mississippi’s st...