U.S. House of Representatives (1945-1953)


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Case’s first speech on the floor of the U. S. House of Representatives, June 12, 1945 reprinted from the Congressional Record.
In 1945 Case won a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives.  His first speech challenged the attacks by segregationist Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi on the character of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.  Case’s defense of Frankfurter rested on his profound concern for the rights of minorities and exemplified his lifelong commitment to fighting racism.

Legislation proposed by Case to make lynching a federal crime, May 15, 1947.
Despite their crucial contributions to Allied victory in World War II, African Americans remained second-class citizens in the post-war United States.  Mob violence directed against African American veterans perpetuated the abominable tradition of lynching, which the federal government had done little to stop since Reconstruction.  The Federal Anti-Lynching Act proposed by Case provided for the direct involvement of the U. S. Attorney General in investigations of mob violence and lynching, along with imprisonment and civil penalties for perpetrators.  Case’s bill was the last major effort to make lynching a federal crime before the enactment of landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s.  Although passed in the House of Representatives, the bill died in the Senate due to opposition from Southern senators and their allies.

Mary McLeod Bethune to Clifford P. Case, December 6, 1947.
In this letter, civil rights advocate and educator Mary McLeod Bethune describes the appalling record of federal indifference to mob violence against African Americans. Bethune points out the contradictions between American ideals and the persistence of racial discrimination in the United States.  With the defeat of the bill in the Senate, the threat of violence against African Americans remained a potent weapon of segregationists and racists until the direct intervention of the federal government in the 1960s.

W. Averell Harriman to Congressman Case, May 29, 1953  Fund for the Republic Archives. Public Policy Papers Division. Princeton University Library.
Following his withdrawal from the Republican primary campaign for governor of New Jersey in March 1953, Case was approached by the newly formed Fund for the Republic to serve as its first president.  The Fund was impressed with Case’s strong record on defending civil liberties and his willingness to take a public stand in defense of constitutional rights, as this letter from diplomat and future governor of New York Averell Harriman illustrates.