Posted on 2 Comments

Benson on Civil Rights & Communism (Part 10 of 13)

Ezra Taft Benson was a sharp critic of the civil rights movement and called it a communist conspiracy.  Why was that?  Dr. Matt Harris details the red scare, and why Benson was so opposed to both communism and civil rights.

Matt:  Elder Benson thinks that Martin Luther King–this is the Birch view, of course, but Elder Benson, following the Birch line thinking that Dr King is a communist agent. That somehow if you push for racial equality, you also want economic equality and that makes you a socialist and a communist. So Elder Benson is furious with Hugh B. Brown’s general conference talk, where the Church is on record as supporting civil rights. Now keep in mind what that means. Brown never said that we favor the civil rights stuff going on in Congress right now. Nor do we favor particular legislation in the State of Utah. There was nothing specific about it. He would write that too, to other Latter-day Saints who wrote him letters. “Does that mean we support the Civil Rights Act of 1963, that John F Kennedy is pushing through?” He’d write back, “We don’t support any particular policy. I just want you to know that we do support civil rights as a general principle.” So clearly, there’s some hedging with him.

We will also talk about his European Mission.

Matt:  …after the whole Harding speech on the floor of the Congress, it created a buzz storm. And the brethren and President McKay [decide] “We’ve got to get Benson out of the country. We’ve got to purify his blood.” That’s what Joseph Fielding Smith says in a private letter. We’ve got to get him out of the country and purify his blood. What he meant by that is purify his blood of politics, of Birch. In 1963, ironically enough, the same month that Hugh B. Brown is giving that civil rights statement in conference, Elder Benson’s going to get summoned into the First Presidency’s office to be told that he’s going to be sent to Germany to preside over the European mission.

Check out our conversation….

Dr Matt Harris explains why Ezra Taft Benson tied the civil rights movement to communism.
Dr Matt Harris explains why Ezra Taft Benson tied the civil rights movement to communism.

Don’t forget our other conversations about Benson!

251: Benson and John Birch Society (Harris)

250: How Ezra Taft Benson Joined Eisenhower (Harris)

Posted on 1 Comment

Benson & the John Birch Society (Part 9 of 13)

If you were born after 1975, you may not have heard of the John Birch Society.  Dr. Matt Harris tells us more about this group, and President Benson’s allegiance to this anti-communist group.  Check out our conversation….

Matt:   He meets a man named Robert Welch who founds this very controversial anticommunist organization called the John Birch Society, named after a fallen GI in World War II, John Birch. Welch organizes the Birch Society in 1958. He writes an extremely controversial book that will get him pilloried in the national press. It’s called The Politician. He writes it in ’58, but it’s not published until ’63.

So it’s this big long manuscript that he shares privately with some friends and Benson will get a copy of this manuscript before it’s published in book form. In the manuscript, it says that Eisenhower and members of his cabinet are communists. He also said that Milton Eisenhower, the president’s brother and close advisor, is also commie. He spells out several people. He says that the CIA director, John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State–they’re all commies. He gives several reasons why. Eisenhower doesn’t curtail the New Deal policies. This is liberal new deal. Of course, a lot of conservatives at the time thought that liberalism equated to socialism and communism. Well, one of the things that President Eisenhower doesn’t do is drastically roll back the New Deal and that leaves him open for criticism among people like Robert Welch. There’s some other things. Welch criticizes some decisions that President Eisenhower had made, General Eisenhower had made during World War II and somehow that equates to communism. I mean, really, it’s far reaching here.

I guess what surprises me is how Benson turns on Eisenhower, after the two had been such good friends!

Henry D. Moyle is in the First Presidency when this letter is sent out. He’s a Democrat and Hugh B. Brown’s a Democrat, too, the other counselor at the time. You can imagine they’re just mortified over this. Here’s a moderate Republican now getting accused of being a commie–a five-star general who spent his entire adult life fighting communism and now his erstwhile cabinet secretary accuses him of being a commie.

Moyle calls him in. He calls him Taft. Moyle called Taft in and one participant, or one witness said, “He ripped Taft, ripped him.” One of the things he said was, “How could you be disloyal to President Eisenhower like this?” You can imagine that as he’s sending this around, his son, in the meantime joins the Birch Society and becomes a high ranking official in the Birch Society. He’s the National Communications Director, I think, is one of his titles. And he’s going around giving speeches to Birch audiences, both in Utah, Idaho, actually one here in Denver, Colorado. He calls President Eisenhower a commie, out in the open–the news media is there.

GT: Reed Benson?

Matt:  Reed Benson, yeah. Ezra is a little more circumspect. President–Elder Benson at that point knew that it probably wasn’t good karma to give speeches, you know, so his son would do that. But Elder Benson did get himself into trouble in 1963.

Check out our conversation, as well as our first conversation about how Benson joined the Eisenhower cabinet.

Ezra Taft Benson, and his son Reed, were big supporters of the John Birch Society
Ezra Taft Benson, and his son Reed, were big supporters of the John Birch Society

 

Posted on Leave a comment

How Ezra Taft Benson Joined Eisenhower (Part 8 of 13)

Ezra Taft Benson joined Eisenhower to be his Agriculture Secretary in 1952.  Benson didn’t even vote for Eisenhower!  But President McKay allowed apostle Benson to serve for eight years in the Eisenhower administration.  Dr. Matt Harris tells more about the relationship between Ike and ETB.

Dwight Eisenhower has never met Benson before, but yet he wants a churchman into his cabinet because he thinks that will help with religious people for one and for two, he also wanted somebody in the Midwest. Even though, I guess, technically Utah’s not in the Midwest, he thought that that would help him with the Midwest vote. So he calls Benson and Benson says, “Are you sure you want me? I didn’t even vote for you.”

GT:  Oh, really?

Matt:  “I didn’t even vote for you.” So anyway, I won’t go into all the details, but he gets the blessing from President McKay. He gets the green light to take a leave of absence from his apostolic duties to go to Washington. What’s interesting is when he’s going to Washington, this is the era of McCarthyism

We’ll dig deep into Benson’s relationship with President Eisenhower, so you won’t want to miss it.  Please note this is the second half of our conversation with Dr. Matt Harris.  If you haven’t seen our previous interviews on the temple and priesthood ban, please check those out.  But here’s the next conversation with Dr. Matt Harris. Check out our conversation….

President Eisenhower looks on while Ezra Taft Benson is sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture by Supreme Court Justice Fred M. Vinson.
President Eisenhower looks on while Ezra Taft Benson is sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture by Supreme Court Justice Fred M. Vinson.

Check out our previous conversations with Dr. Harris!

161: Bruce R. McConkie Wrote Official Declaration 2! (Harris)

160: How Kimball Persuaded Apostles to Agree on Lifting Ban (Harris)

159: Almost Famous!  1969 Black Ordination Nixed by Lee (Harris)

158: Hugh B. Brown’s Attempt to End Ban in 1962! (Harris)

157: Did Pres. McKay Try to Rescind Ban in 1955? (Harris)

156: When, Where, & Why Did the One-Drop Rule Originate? (Harris)

155: Before 1978:  How LDS Leaders Handled Bi-racial Families in Brazil and South Africa (Harris)