Last week I told you how Lyndon Johnson waged the 1948 Texas Democratic senatorial primary election and how his conduct and that of his supporters was always beyond outrageous. I told you how even after stealing tens of thousands of votes he was behind and six days after the election stole 200 more votes to put his vote total ahead of Coke Stevenson’s.
Stevenson decided to challenge the vote, but first sent a team of investigators into the Valley counties to examine the election results. They were run out at gunpoint.
With that Stevenson decided to go to the Valley himself, along with a number of supporters, including law enforcement and legal personnel. Stevenson went into the office of Tom Donald, the secretary of Jim Wells County’s Democratic Executive Committee and demanded to see the tally sheet and poll list. Donald, who worked at the bank owned by the political boss of the county, refused to allow Stevenson to do so. Finally, Donald relented and allowed the sheet and list to be viewed by Stevenson and two attorneys, but when they started to make notes, Donald took them back.
The attorneys had enough time to look at the list to determine the last 201 names (200 of whom were listed as voting for Johnson) were added to the list in alphabetical order, but more importantly the list showed that the original total had been 765 votes, but had been changed to 965 by changing the 7 to a 9. The attorneys also remembered names and checked with the man who appeared to be the last voter before the 201 names were added and that man was certain he was the last voter. Other names on the list of 201 were contacted and said they did not vote. A number of the people listed were dead for years.
Armed with this evidence Stevenson attempted to get the county Democratic committee to make a new certification, showing that Johnson had not received those last 200 votes, Johnson got a judge from 200 miles away to issue a restraining order keeping the local officials from doing so.
A meeting of the state Democratic committee was scheduled for a few days later and the plan was to stall the certification long enough that the state committee did not have the true results to vote on. That part of the plan worked, but was not the only reason Johnson forces prevailed at the state meeting.
The Johnson people made a deal with supporters of Harry Truman, who was running for reelection that year. The Truman people wanted their representatives to hold certain committee seats, instead of the people who had actually won those seats in the primary. The Johnson supporters agreed to vote to seat the Truman committee members if the Truman forces would vote with them to deny Stevenson’s challenge of the Jim Wells County vote. The Johnson-Truman forces prevailed.
Stevenson did not give up. His next move was to file suit in federal court, alleging his civil rights and those of people who voted for him had been denied by Johnson’s misconduct. The first hearing on the case was Sept. 21. The Johnson team went into court extremely confident that the judge, T. Whitfield Davidson, would rule that there was no jurisdiction and would not intervene in the case. By lunch the Johnson lawyers were stunned to have the judge suggest to Stevenson and Johnson that they arrange to have the Democratic state committee put both men’s names on the November ballot and let the voters decide the issue. Stevenson agreed immediately, but Johnson said, “No comment.”
When shortly thereafter Johnson met with his legal team, which unanimously urged him to accept the judge’s advice, he went into a rage. “This is a free country,” Johnson said. “I won it fair and square, and you want me to trade it away.” Author Robert Caro, in his book “Means of Ascent,” refers to Johnson’s “utter inability to comprehend the questions of morality or ethics raised by his actions…”
The next day 13 witnesses testified as to how the poll list had been changed and the 201 names added and people who were dead or out of town that day were listed as having voted. Later in the day the judge made a statement that shook Johnson and his attorneys even more. If Stevenson’s “allegations be true, then the complainant has been wronged,” the judge said. “He has had a seat in the Senate of the United States taken away from him…[If] enough ballots were stuffed to have changed the result…manifestly, that is a wrong.”
The judge went on to comment that Johnson had not presented “one word of evidence,” and had prevented anyone else from presenting it because of the injunction in state court. He went on to add: “Whenever I steal, whenever I misappropriate, whenever I stuff a ballot box, we are taking from a man that which is his. We are not only taking from him that which is his, but we are depriving other voters of their right to choose, by offsetting the vote they cast.”
At the end of the day the judge ruled that the case on the facts would proceed, but he did give the Johnson team the right to appeal his decision, while the underlying case would move forward. This turned out to be crucial.
Johnson’s huge team of Texas lawyers could not decide what course of action to take. Johnson called in Abe Fortas, the famous Washington, D.C., attorney, who in 1965 was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Johnson. Fortas suggested a quick appeal so that the case would end up before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. Johnson followed Fortas’ advice.
On Tuesday, Sept. 28, Judge Davidson was taking evidence in his Texas courtroom, while Justice Black was hearing the arguments of the attorneys for Johnson and Stevenson. Johnson’s attorneys were stalling in the Texas case so that Black could rule in their favor before Judge Davidson got to the infamous ballot box from Jim Wells County.
Unfortunately for Coke Stevenson and unfortunately for the concepts of justice and fair play, Hugo Black ruled for Johnson, stopped the trial in front of Judge Davidson and sent Johnson on his way to the Senate. The Jim Wells ballot box was never opened in court.
Remember that liberals love to gripe about the full U.S. Supreme Court stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore. In that case, seven of nine justices found that the recount in Florida was unconstitutional. I challenge you to find in any history textbook any mention of one Supreme Court judge making Lyndon Johnson the winner of an election that everyone—including his own brain trust—admits that he stole.