An experiment, if you will: The following is a news release from the state Republican Party. It, plus the extended remarks which follow, appear exactly as written by the Republican officials. Not a word has been altered, added, or subtracted. We make no attempt to characterize the statement. All spelling and syntax are exactly according to the original.
State GOP chairman Robin Smith and party spokesperson Bill Hobbs, both of Nashville, journeyed to Memphis to the site of the National Civil Rights Museum, where Smith read the prepared statement directly under the wreath that marks the site of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968:
"MEMPHIS, TN — The Republican Party's historical contribution to ending slavery and advancing civil rights for minorities in America should not be forgotten as Tennessee and America celebrate Black History Month.
"In remarks Monday at a press conference outside the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Robin Smith, a member of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, recounted many of those historical facts."
[The prepared statement follows.]
"The Tennessee Republican Party salutes the memory of those who have sacrificed, those who lost their lives in their commitment to civil rights and those who continue to remind the citizens of our nation of the need to stand for that which is good, decent and humane in the fight for the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: 'to be judged by the content of your character, not the color of your skin.'
"History reflects a strong foundation and relationship with African Americans and the Republican Party to pursue freedom, equality and civil rights.
"The founding of the Republican Party as a third political party resulted in the divide over the issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln asked the opinions of his closest advisors and counsel and stood against the political advice of the day to steer away from the abolition of slavery.
"During the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Republican-led Congress added Constitutional Amendments that declared the rights of freed slaves to be citizens, own property, vote and enjoy equal treatment. Not one single Democrat supported the Constitutional Amendments declaring civil rights.
"Democrats fought through hate to intimidate African Americans to abstain from their voting rights and to undo legislation passed by Republicans to prevent equal access and dignity. To circumvent the U.S. Constitution, Democrats employed poll taxes, literacy tests and gerrymandering districts, holding African Americans from exercising their right to vote.
"The targets of the Ku Klux Klan, founded in Tennessee by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard, were blacks pursuing their rights and white Republicans who led efforts to protect their fellow citizens' rights. From 1882 to 1964, it is estimated that 3446 African Americans and 1297 white Americans died from lynching.
"President Theodore Roosevelt received created a furor due to the counsel he sought from Booker T. Washington and having entertained him as the first African American to dine in the White House.
"Until 1935, every African American federal legislator was a Republican with the first African American Air Force and Army four-star generals appointed by Republicans.
"The founding of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded on February 12, 1909. February 12: The shared date of Abraham Lincoln's birth.
"Republican President Dwight Eisenhower mobilized the 82nd Airborne to allow children of color to attend public school in Little Rock, Arkansas in the face of hateful resistance from the Democrat Governor.
"In 1957, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Eisenhower following a filibuster conducted by 18 Democrats in the U.S. Senate that lasted five days and five hours attempting to kill the legislation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed by Democrat President Lyndon Johnson following KKK member and Democrat Senator Robert Byrd's filibuster of 14 hours. Klansman Byrd, who remains a Democrat Senator today, was joined by 22 other Democrats voting against this humane legislation. Tennessee's Democrat Senator Al Gore, Sr. joined Byrd and others in voting against the Civil Rights Act.
"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was memorialized by President Ronald Reagan in declaring a national holiday in his honor.
"President George H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court as a Justice.
"President George W. Bush appointed the Colin Powell to serve as Secretary of State, the first African American to do so with Condoleeza Rice appointed to the post as the first African American woman to lead internationally.
"During the last eight years, home ownership and small business ownership among African Americans has reached historical records.
"This is not an exhaustive list. Yet, the history of the Party of Lincoln vividly and concretely displays the nature of the Republican Party: to believe in the people rather than the government; to share values that are good and decent and inspire individuals to pursue their God-given rights and success; and to commit to partisanship with a purpose rather than for power.
"The Civil Rights Museum exists due to the hard work of many, especially Dr. Benjamin Hooks, who was just a few weeks ago awarded the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor by President Bush.
"Without question and argument, there remains the need to be vigilant and vocal for that which is right regarding the equal treatment regardless of skin color. Let February's designation as Black History Month provide a time to revisit the historical record to celebrate the achievements and victories but acknowledge the possibility of the human heart to stray from truth to that which is politically expedient.
"President Roosevelt paints the picture that bests captures the desire, priority and vision of the Tennessee Republican Party: 'Above all we must stand shoulder to shoulder, not asking as to the ancestry or creed of our comrades, but only demanding that they be in very truth Americans, and that we all work together, heart, hand, and head, for the honor and the greatness of our common country.'"
Responses to the above, official or unofficial, from Democrats, Republicans, or others are invited — ideally, as letters to the editor.
• When it was all said and done, the only real issue in the appointment of Paul Mattila as interim Shelby County trustee on Monday was whether the party line would hold. It did: All seven Democrats on the Shelby County Commission voted for Mattila, and that was enough to elevate Mattila, who had long served as the late trustee Bob Patterson's legislative aide.
Finishing second with five votes was Debra Gates, who was supported by the body's Republicans (with one key exception) and had been serving as interim trustee since Patterson's death last month. She will now presumably revert to her previous role as CAO — a position that Mattila said Monday was hers to return to.
Much advance speculation had focused on what GOP commissioner George Flinn, who was considered close to Mattila, might do. What he did was to nominate another Republican in good standing, John Wilkerson, who would earn one vote, Flinn's.
At the close of voting, Flinn moved to make the appointment of Mattila unanimous. That motion failed when Republican Wyatt Bunker refused to go along.
Voting on the appointment of an interim trustee was postponed for some time when Democrat Del Gill, in his role as chairman of the party's primary board, made an elaborate presentation of his view that no vacancy technically existed and that therefore no appointment could be made. Deputy parliamentarian Danny Presley excused himself from the meeting long enough to consult various statutes, as well as state Election Commissioner Brook Thompson, and returned later to authorize the vote.
Mattila has indicated he will seek the Democratic nomination for the special election for trustee to be held on the August countywide ballot. The Republicans also will nominate a candidate for that ballot.
• As expected, last week's county primaries resulted in the nominations of Democrat Otis Jackson and Republican incumbent Chris Turner for General Sessions clerk and Democrat Cheyenne Johnson and Republican Bill Giannini for assessor.