‘Cotton Ed’ Smith dies suddenly at 80 (11-17-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (November 17, 1944)

‘Cotton Ed’ Smith dies suddenly

Recently set record for Senate service

Ellison D. Smith

Lynchburg, South Carolina (UP) –
Senator Ellison DuRant “Cotton Ed” Smith, tobacco-chewing New Deal-hating conservative Democrat from the Old South, died today at his Tanglewood Plantation home, less than four months after he had set an all-time record for continuous Senate service.

Mr. Smith had served 35 years and eight months in the Senate. But the voters called an end to his political career this year and he would have left the Senate Jan. 3.

Dies of heart attack

The aged Senator died of a heart attack. He visited his family doctor two days ago, according to his son, Farley, and had been pronounced “in good physical condition.”

Mr. Smith arose as usual this morning and appeared cheerful. Death came about 10 o’clock in his bedroom.

Mr. Smith celebrated his 80th birthday anniversary Aug. 1, a month after he was defeated for renomination in the South Carolina primary by Senator-elect Olin D. Johnston.

Known as ‘Cotton Ed’

Known throughout the country as “Cotton Ed,” Mr. Smith’s death ended one of the most colorful political careers of his generation. He fought for the principles he upheld, often screaming his Congressional speeches on his favorite issues: White supremacy, state’s rights and “King Cotton.”

By contrast, death came to him quietly. None of his family was at the bedside, although his wife, son and daughter-in-law were in the house.

Funeral services will be held Sunday at the plantation house where Mr. Smith had lived since childhood, in an atmosphere of the Old South which he chose never to forget himself or to allow his colleagues in the Senate to forget.

Wanted ‘normalcy’

Mr. Smith’s son said his father a few days before his death expressed the hope that one day the “nation would return to normalcy” and that South Carolina and the South in general would “become more conservative.”

That was the final political utterance from the South Carolinian who through nearly 40 years of public life blasted repeatedly at bureaucracy and roared at what he believed was the steady, encroachment of the federal government on the rights of states.

Mr. Smith was a bristling, bombastic man – a legendary figure who wore a huge handlebar mustache, wavy sandy hair and whose mischievous dynamic eyes could change in a nonce from kindliness to flashing coals when he became angry or excited – which was frequent.

Shunned ‘machines’

A man who never depended on a political machine to gain office, Mr. Smith relied instead on his gift for drama, oratory and innate genius to hold his political career intact.

He usually managed to keep some cotton investigation boiling and most of his bills were to promote the welfare of the southern farmer.

The nickname “Cotton Ed” was affixed to him, so the story goes, in the summer of 1908 when he was campaigning in a small Southern town. He reportedly rode down the main drag in a springboard pulled by a span of mules. Atop the wagon was a big bale of cotton and in his lapel, he wore a cotton boll.

‘My sweetheart*

As he drew near the crowd of villagers, he rose with native Southern dignity, it was said, and, stroking the cotton boll in his lapel, said:

My sweetheart, my sweetheart, others may forget you. But you will always be my sweetheart.

Elected to the Senate in 1908, Mr. Smith became in time one of the country’s best-known lawmakers on six counts:

  • His frequent oratorical flights on behalf of Southern womanhood which he esteemed.

  • His almost equally passionate championship of cotton, which he espoused on all possible occasions.

  • His thoroughgoing dislike of the New Deal, which he once called “this contemptible thing.”

  • His flair for colorful language and, when the occasion seemed to warrant, ripe and rich profanity.

  • His zealous belief in white supremacy, which once caused him to walk out on the 1936 Democratic National Convention because the prayer was offered by a Negro minister.

  • His love and constant use of chewing tobacco. He always had a “wad” in his cheek, and didn’t mind when it stained his walrus mustache.

Interested in farming

Mr. Smith was sincerely and devotedly interested in the welfare of agriculture. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee for 14 years, he toiled unceasingly for legislation which he thought would help farmers.

He fostered measures for soil conservation during the Wilson administration and helped to set up the present system of federal aid for agricultural extension work. He also sponsored legislation for regulation of cotton exchanges. But he didn’t like many of the New Deal’s ideas on aid to farmers.

Mr. Smith was born Aug. 1, 1864, on a 3,000-acre plantation, the son of a Methodist minister. He grew up in the Reconstruction period after the Civil War and learned to hate Carpetbaggers and everything he associated with them.

Elected to legislature

After graduation from Wofford College, he entered politics in 1896 and was elected to the State Legislature. For a time, he was an organizer for the Southern Cotton Association and traveled all over the South.

He was a bred-in-the-bone states’ rights, tariff-for-revenue-only Southern Democrat. As chairman of the Agriculture Committee, he fought the New Deal at every opportunity. He became so bitter on this score that on last Feb. 4, he said:

I am actually getting to the point where I turn to the Republicans instinctively when I want the real fundamental constitutional laws of this country adhered to.

Opposed women’s suffrage

Mr. Smith gave expression to his high regard for Southern womanhood on all possible occasions. But when women’s suffrage was an issue, he was against it.

He complained:

I don’t know why women want any more power than they already have. They run everything now.

Mr. Smith loved fishing, hunting and reading. His reading favorites were the Bible, novels and detective stories. He called detective yarns “red hot trash” and read all he could find.

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Very based‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎.


Love his tie, classy.


I really wish cotton ed was alive right now so he could lynch you.

Does this forum have anything else to do than to praise far right segregationists? No?

No, if they’re making jokes or praising something else other than the man himself, they’re not extremists.

Yeah, the anti-women suffrage thing was a ‘joke’ and not an otherwise unironic belief being disguised as a joke.

The former, some do take as a joke, especially in its relative absurdity (something like, “women do vote now, so it seems absurd to reverse it, amirite”). The latter isn’t an unironic belief. Liking a tie does not make you an extremist. Stop it.


Would you praise the tie of adolf hitler?

Anyone’s tie, yes. That doesn’t mean Hitler’s good all of a sudden.


Seek‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎ therapy. ‎‎‎‎‎Not a joke. Actually seek therapy.

Nailed it.


The Pittsburgh Press (November 18, 1944)

Stokes: A symbol passes

By Thomas L. Stokes

Washington –
In the passing of Senator “Cotton Ed” Smith of South Carolina was the passing of a tradition.

That is, symbolically, for the Smith tradition still lives here and there in the South.

It is the tradition of the rampant individualist, the rebel against too much government. “Cotton Ed” was that except occasionally as in the case of cotton. He was the champion, in his younger career of the sharecropper and tenant farmer, the way to political power, but in his later years he scorned help for such low-income groups from a paternalistic government.

It was not so many years ago, during a New Deal fight, that he dropped a remark about 50 cents a day being enough wages in South Carolina.

Demagogue type

In him was the development into almost the epitome of a type of demagoguery seen most often in the South, though not peculiar to it. This is the demagogue for the predominant economic and financial interests, who is able to sell his doctrine to enough of the masses by a picturesque personality, a gift for the homely simile and story, and with a slug here and there of prejudice, usually at the expense of the “Yankee” or the “Nigger.” The last was laid on more heavily if he was pressed hard politically.

There were few figures so engaging to watch in action as the belligerent “Cotton Ed” with his mustaches bristling.

There was a counterpart for some years in Georgia’s Gene Talmadge of the red galluses, who was taken care of by the people a couple of years ago, though it is too much to predict or hope that he won’t come back.

“Cotton Ed” was finally toppled from his throne in South Carolina in the primaries this year, after 35 years in the Senate. The people of a newer generation finally caught up with him. It must have been a great disappointment – his defeat – for a man so long in harness. But he was full of years. He celebrated his 80th birthday Aug. 1.

Middle class family

He died in the old house where he was born at Lynchburg, in the South Carolina midlands, where the Smith family had lived for over 150 years. He came from the substantial yeomanry of the upcountry, the backbone of the South, though less advertised than the aristocratic icing, with its legends of big white houses and honeysuckle, its mint juleps and pickaninnies, racing about to do “Old Marster’s” bidding, or the masses at the other end, satirized in Jeeter Lester and his breed.

Ellison D., who was “Cotton Ed,” was born a few days after Gen. Sherman burned Atlanta. He was a child in the stormy Reconstruction days and grew up with the memory of Wade Hampton and his “Red Shirts” who took over the state government from the Carpetbaggers. Wade Hampton was one of “Cotton Ed’s” heroes. The Senator donned a red shirt in the celebration after his victory in 1938 when President Roosevelt tried to “purge” him. He was jubilant that night.

Characteristic of the Senator, and the meaning of his kind in the South, was a scene that took place in front of his home described to me a couple of years ago by a traveling companion on a train rolling across Georgia.

My companion, who happened to be in the neighborhood of the Smith home on business, was taken by a friend to meet the Senator. They found him in the front yard, in his shirt sleeves, a pine branch in his hand which he was lazily swinging back and forth across his shoulders to keep off the mosquitoes.

The visitor asked him where the mosquitoes came from. The Senator pointed across the road where he said there was a swamp. He was asked why he didn’t drain the swamp.

“Oh, it’s been there since my grandfather’s time, and it might as well stay,” the Senator replied.

There’s “Cotton Ed” and there was the South which he represented. Fortunately, that’s passing.

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The Pittsburgh Press (November 19, 1944)

‘Cotton Ed’s’ funeral will be held today

Lynchburg, South Carolina (UP) – (Nov. 18)
Funeral services will be held tomorrow for Senator Ellison D. “Cotton Ed” Smith, South Carolina’s vitriolic dean of the Senate, who died yesterday of a heart attack at his plantation.

The body of the 80-year-old Senator, whose fanatical devotion to anything representing cotton earned him his nickname, will be buried in the family plot of St. Luke’s Methodist Church following services at 3:30 p.m. EWT.

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No it’s not absurd for me to believe that a random guy on a forum is far right bigot given how indian society seems to be becoming more and more far-right.