Yerger book gives insight into Mississippi politics of the 1950s

In his new book, A Courageous Cause, Wirt Yerger details the history of this 50-year-old battle. Northsider Joe Maxwell, co-author, does a masterful job of illuminating the passion of the day. It is fascinating reading for those interested in politics. The book is full of new insights into Mississippi’s tumultuous 1950s. It is a significant contribution to our state’s history.

The reader is quickly drawn into the monopolistic cronyism of a one-party state, where the Democratic Party ruled with an iron fist and fought tooth and nail to stymie the development of two-party competition. Yerger’s disgust is manifested from the beginning of the book where Yerger states, “We founded the modern Republican Party in Mississippi – the ultimate break with old-line, racist Southern Democrats who didn’t know whether they wanted to be liberal or conservative, but were vocally committed to keeping long-held, highly corrupted power.”

The 1950s time period was the decade Mississippi finally had to face its racist past. Yerger lambasts the Democrats as old-school racists while ardently defending the upstart Republicans as more racially progressive.

Indeed, anyone who knows Wirt Yerger knows ideology is everything and race is nothing. He is one of the least racist persons I have ever known while being one of the most ardent conservatives I have known.

Even today, the left-wing tries to pin the racist label on conservatives. The desire for limited government, low taxes and free enterprise has nothing to do with race. Period.

It is this dynamic that makes Yerger’s battle such interesting reading. Here was Yerger, in his 20s, enormously idealistic, trying to found a progressive Republican Party while the only issue that anyone seemed to care about was race.

Wyatt Emmerich
Clarksdale Press Register
1/31/11