Last week, I was driving south from Hattiesburg to Biloxi on my way to spend a couple of days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I decided to take a different route than my usual trek south on US Highway 49. Instead, I took Interstate 59 to MS Highway 53. About a mile or two after taking the exit, I came upon Juniper Grove Road. It led me to Juniper Grove Baptist Church, which sits in front of a graveyard where my cousin Theodore Gilmore Bilbo is buried. I decided to pull over and visit his gravesite, given that I had never been and that Bilbo is my most infamous relative. As I approached the church, I saw a sign that read, “Life has many choices. Eternity has 2. What is yours? Heaven or hell?”
As soon as I got out of my car, I was flooded with the sight of familiar names. The cemetery was full of Resters, Ladners, and Bilbos – all from my mother’s side of the family. I immediately saw the grave of Annie Bilbo Rester - my great, great, great, grandmother who died in 1915. She was the aunt of Theodore Bilbo, which makes him my fifth cousin. Off in the distance I saw his marble tomb, which towered above all the other grave markers in the cemetery.
As I made my way over to cousin Theodore’s grave I could see that his accomplishments were etched on the side of the giant tomb that stood as a monument to the notorious racist Democrat. The side of the tomb reminded us that Bilbo served as Lt. Governor, then Governor, and then United States Senator. But below those obvious accomplishments was listed another, “Author of ‘Take Your Choice,’ 1946,” which happened to be the year he left the Senate. That was the year the Republicans had refused to seat him after a committee found he had accepted bribes. He then went home to seek medical treatment for oral cancer. He died the next year.
His tomb does not say it, but the full title of Bilbo’s 1946 book was, “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.” In the book, Bilbo argued that the survival of our nation hinged upon whether we would be able to prevent the large scale mixing of the races. He feared that a breakdown of racial barriers would result in racial intermarrying, which, in turn, would produce a nation that was no longer black and white – but instead a nation of “mongrels.” He considered this to be a threat to the integrity of the white race. He also argued that it was a threat to the integrity of the black race.
You’ve probably heard such calls for racial purity before. Muhammad Ali would echo them years later – and would be given a pass by a fawning media willing to forgive anything he said after he refused service in the Vietnam War. But coming from Bilbo it was more dangerous. Bilbo was not a semi-literate boxer. He had an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt and a law degree from Michigan. He was also a U.S. Senator who could craft bills meant to advance his notions of racial separatism. And so he did.
Senator Bilbo used that power to craft an amendment (to the 1938 work relief bill), which would have relocated 12 million American blacks to Africa. The amendment failed, but Bilbo would defend it for the rest of his life. And he would do so in the name of God. His ideas of white supremacy and racial separatism were both advanced by making extensive biblical references. He really seemed to think he had God on his side.
It can be argued that this is what the Bible means by taking the Lord’s name in vain, not when someone says “Oh my God” or even “God Damn it!” As Dennis Prager points out, God’s name is not “God.” So taking the Lord’s name in vain must mean something else. There is good reason to believe that it refers to the practice of doing evil in the name of God. And there is also good reason to believe that this is what the Bible is referring to when it declares blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to be the unforgivable sin.
I certainly believe in hell. And so did Senator Bilbo. We know that because he talked about it a lot. For example, when he was a participant in the filibuster of the anti-lynching bill before the Senate in 1938, he said the following:
“If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousand fold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon white Southern men will not tolerate.”
Senator Bilbo was never content to justify white supremacy by relying on grim predictions of the future or on interpretations of the decline of past cultures. He had to bring God into the picture and use the Lord’s name to justify evil. That’s why he is probably rotting in hell as we speak.
Cousin Theodore is no doubt tormented by the fact that hell is not racially segregated. Its doors were opened for the white man who tried to advance white supremacy in the name of God. And its doors will be opened for a black abortion doctor who justifies dismemberment of innocent babies in the name of Christian compassion.
That abortion doctor is still alive and kicking. He recently advanced his evil ideology on one of Mississippi’s public university campuses. In the process, he defended an industry that has murdered far more blacks than Bilbo’s KKK.
Dr. Willie Parker will be the subject of the next installment.
… To be continued.