Badger Club Columbia Basin in honor of Easter, Art Fletcher of Washington State

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Arthur Allen Fletcher was the most important civil rights leader you’ve probably never heard of.

The first black player, the Baltimore Colts, the father of positive action and an adviser to four presidents, came up with the motto of the United Negro College Foundation: “Mind is a terrible thing to spend.” Elected to Pasca City Council in 1967 after leading an initiative to fight poverty in East Pasca, the following year he lost a tough race for the post of lieutenant governor, but won the Republican primaries in each constituency.

His life is a triumph, a tragedy and a mystery of the post-war black Republican. In 1946, when he returned home to Kansas after World War II, the Republican Party was the Lincoln Party. Its 1960 presidential platform was stronger in civil rights than the Democrats ’platform. But Nixon’s southern strategy steadily alienated black voters, even as candidates like Ronald Reagan used coded racist language to appeal to white Southerners and the northern white working class. While Fletcher was able to triumphantly take positive action during the early Nixon administration, his ability to advance civil rights policy was tragically understood in the following decades.

Today, African-Americans, who are center-right on issues other than racial relations, face difficulties: supporting Democrats with whom they negotiate civil rights, or adhering to the Republican Party from which they alienated themselves. As a smart, principled Republican with civil rights, Fletcher’s story represents a great “opportunity” of the Great Old Party.

As an assistant labor minister in the Nixon administration, Fletcher implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first national positive action initiative. He later served as chairman of the Civil Rights Commission in the first Bush administration.

The story of his life read as the result of major events of the second half of the century: He was wounded during World War II in Europe and advised the legal panel on the Brown v. Education Council. He had a fierce race for the post of Lieutenant-Governor of Washington on the Dan Evans Action Team. He later shouted at the Soviet representative to the United Nations; adopted Marion Barry in the first open election of the Mayor of Washington, DC; and led the federal response to the Rodney King Rebellion.

Notably, his most important achievements came after he was expelled from Kansas politics in 1958 and after the suicide of his first wife. Although Arthur Fletcher was overwhelmed by tragedy, he lived an inspired life.

As part of the celebration of Black History Month, the Colombian Badger Club is proud to present the Art Fletcher: Father of Positive Action forum on February 17 at noon via Zoom. Speakers will David Hamilton Holland, Fletcher’s biographer; Sam Reed, former Secretary of State of Washington; and Nat Jackson, who continued the work of Pasca’s self-help action group started by Fletcher.

Participants can write questions to the speakers during the Zoom session and talk to them directly in a half-hour session with an open microphone at the Table Talk Club for those viewing the forum. Members of the Badger Club are not charged. Non-members pay $ 5. Sign up for www.columbiabasinbadgers.com.

David Hamilton Holland is a professor of history at the Governor’s State University in the suburbs of Chicago and the author of several books, including “The Scary Thing to Spend: Art Fletcher and the Mystery of the Black Republican Party.” He is the editor of Arthur Fletcher’s articles at the University of Washburn. In 2014, a 250,000-strong collection of personal and organizational documents of the father of the applicable measures was digitized.

This story was originally published February 14, 2022 5:18 p.m.

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