Francis James Westbrook Pegler (
August 2, 1894– June 24, 1969) [http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=peglers&id=I06160] was an American journalist and writer. Known early in his career as a fierce opponent of both fascism and communism, he was later attacked as fascist, pro-Nazi, and antisemitic. Pegler, a Roman Catholic, was married to Julia Harpman Pegler, a onetime New York Daily Newscrime reporter who came from a Jewish family in Tennessee. [Finis Farr, "Fair Enough: The Life of Westbrook Pegler". 1975, New Rochelle NY: Arlington House.]
Pegler was born in
Minneapolis, Minnesota; his father, Arthur James Pegler, was a prominent editor. While working for United Press, young Pegler was the youngest American war correspondent in World War I. After the war, Pegler started off as a sports columnist, but later wrote general interest articles. In 1925 he moved to the " Chicago Tribune". In 1933 he moved to the Scripps Howardsyndicate, where he worked closely with his friend Roy Howard. In 1942 he was named one of the nation's "best adult columnists." His columns went out six days a week to 174 newspapers that reached about 10 million subscribers. He moved his syndicated column to the Hearst syndicate in 1944.Pegler's career ended 30 years later under the auspices of a sect of neo-Nazis and professional racists from the White Citizens Counciland the Rev. Billy James Hargis' Christian Crusade. The White Citizens' Council launched a campaign against "bop and Negro music" and opposed the implementation of the Brown decision.
He initially supported President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but after seeing the rise of fascismin Europehe warned against the dangers of dictatorshipin America. He was one of the Roosevelt administration's sharpest critics over what he saw as its abuse of power. He rarely missed an opportunity to criticize Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, or Vice President Henry A. Wallace. Pegler was accused of openly wishing for the assassination of FDR. The New York Times stated, in his obituary, that Pegler lamented that a would-be assassin "hit the wrong man" when gunning for Franklin Roosevelt. [http://www.wsj.com/article/SB122100226859616967.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_today] His views, generally in colorful language, became more conservative. Pegler was outraged by the New Deal's support for powerful labor unions which he considered morally and politically corrupt.
for an article by Pegler which was found to be libelous. [http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/U.S.-Merchant-Marine ]
At his peak in the 1930s and 1940s, Pegler was a leading figure in the movement against
the New Dealand the labor unions which it supported. This anti-Roosevelt front included many of the country's major industrialists, the Chicago Tribune, Jeffersonian Democratssuch as Al Smithand John W. Davisand Congressman Martin Dies, chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Pegler became a supporter of the campaign to portray the New Deal as an internationalist Communist plot. Pegler compared union advocates of the closed shop to Hitler's "goose-steppers." In his view, the greatest threat to the country was the corrupt labor boss. By the 1950s, Pegler was showing some nostalgia for fascism. His proposal for "smashing" the AFL and CIO was for the state to take them over. "Yes, that would be fascism," he wrote. "But I, who detest fascism, see advantages in such fascism."
In the 1950s and 1960s, as his conservative views became more extreme and his writing increasingly shrill, he earned the tag of "the stuck whistle of journalism." [The Press and America, Edwin Emery, Prentice-Hall, 1962 page 569] He denounced the civil rights movement, embraced antisemitism, and in the early 1960s wrote for the
John Birch Society, until he was invited to leave because of his extreme views.
His assertion in November 1963 (at the height of the civil rights movement) that it is "clearly the bounden duty of all intelligent Americans to proclaim and practice bigotry";fact his embrace of the label "racist,"fact "a common but false synonym for Nazi, used by the bigots of New York";fact or his habit of calling Jews "geese,"fact because, "they hiss when they talk, gulp down everything before them, and foul everything in their wake,"fact characterized his beliefs in the latter portion of his life.fact
Pegler criticized every president from
Herbert Hooverto John F. Kennedy. He also criticized the Supreme Court, the tax system, and labor unions. His attack on writer Quentin Reynoldsled to a costly libel suit against him and his publishers, as a jury awarded Reynolds $175,000 in damages. In 1962, he lost his contract with King Features Syndicate, owned by Hearst, after he criticized Hearst executives. His late writing appeared sporadically in various publications, including the John Birch Society's "American Opinion".
In 1965, referring to Robert F. Kennedy, Pegler wished that:“some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.” ( [ Frank and Mulcahey, Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy, W.W. Norton & Co., 2003 page 358 ISBN 978039057775 ] Pegler died of
stomach cancerin Tucson, Arizonaand is interred in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heavenin Hawthorne, New York.
Pegler's distinctive writing style was often the subject of parody.
Wolcott Gibbsof The New Yorkeronce imagined a Peglerian tirade to a little girl asking whether there was a Santa Claus. [Parody of the Virginia O'Hanlon/Francis P. Church exchange in the "New York Sun", 1897.] In the Gibbs/Pegler version, "Santa Claus" was one of several aliases used by an old Bolshevik with a history of union racketeering. "Yes, Virginia, you bet there's a Santa Claus. He is Comrade Jelly Belly." [Collected in "More in Sorrow", Wolcott Gibbs, 1958. New York: Henry Holt.]
Interest in Pegler was revived when a line originally written by him appeared in Republican Vice-Presidential nominee
Sarah Palin's acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. "We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity", she said, attributing it to "a writer." [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122100226859616967.html?mod=googlenews_wsj] The speech was written by Matthew Scully, a senior speech writer for George W. Bush. [http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1838808,00.html]
Pegler published three volumes of his collected writings:
*"The Dissenting Opinions of Mr. Westbrook Pegler"
*"George Spelvin, American and Fireside Chats"
* Oliver Pilat (1973), [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=77838521 "Pegler, Angry Man of the Press"] ,
* David Witwer (2005), [http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/92.2/witwer.html "Westbrook Pegler and the Anti-union Movement"] , "
Journal of American History" 92.2.
* Diane McWhorter (2004), [http://www.slate.com/id/2096673/ "Dangerous Minds, William F. Buckley soft-pedals the legacy of journalist Westbrook Pegler in The New Yorker."] ,
* Oliver Pilat, "Westbrook Pegler: Over the Edge," ADL Bulletin, 21 (Jan. 1964), 4–5
* "Pegler Again Man without a Publisher," Kansas City Star, April 9, 1964
* folder: Communism—Opponents of, John Birch Society, 1960–1966, box 21, (James) Westbrook Pegler Papers (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa)
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=800 Westbrook Pegler's Photo & Gravesite]
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