Family and friends,
The e-mail below, sent to me by my sister Lynda, contains the text of a letter written by Carl Elliott to his sister Martha Jean Williams less than a year after Elliott's 1966 Alabama gubernatorial defeat by Wallace (who ran under the name of his wife Lurleen because he was prevented by the Alabama Constitution from serving another term).
Carl Elliott had, two years earlier, been defeated in the 1964 Congressional election after serving eight terms in the House of Representatives (1948-1964) as a liberal Democrat from Alabama.
Of course, Uncle Carl's principled stands favoring education for everyone -- even the working class and the poor; for tolerance, respect, fairness and the rule of law; and his brave battle against the forces of ignorance and prejudice (represented by Wallace with his race-baiting and lowest-common denominator approach) -- these stands had just the year before cost Uncle Carl not only his political career, but also his Congressional pension.
This letter shows Uncle Carl's great facility with the language. It also shows how he still held onto his ideals, his dignity, and his integrity, even in the face of adversity and privation.
He remained unbowed and steadfast.
Here is a potent illustration of this great man's enduring sense of purpose, his concern for family members, and his unflagging generosity of spirit.
We'd all do well to carry some of that around inside us...
Dearest Martha Jean,
I was sorry to note your own depression, tucked between the lines of your letter to me dated April 10th. I suppose things are never quite as good or as bad as they seem. ³God¹s in his heaven² you know, ³and all¹s right with the world.² The immortal Shakespeare reminded us that ³It is (really) an ill wind that blows nobody good.²
Martha, I know what it is to be down and out even hungry. (However, when you look at me now, you can tell its been a long time since I¹ve been hungry.)
I know what it is to plan a career from childhood and see it suddenly snatched away.
I know what it is to pour all your energy, imagination, creativity and strength into trying to improve the lot of the poor and unfortunate and then see those very people apparently repudiate all you stood for
I know what it is to see the heartless hand of hate reach up out of the darkness and seize men¹s minds and halt their ability to think clearly and reasonably
I know what it is to lay all one's earthly possessions, all one's credit, all one's strength, all one's spirit right on the line for an ideal and then see it all swept away by the turn of the wheel of fortune
I know what it is to see friends, and associates and neighbors, ³abandon ship² when the seas were rough and the tide of fate turned the other way
I know what it is to grope through the lonesome valley of despair when the sun refuses to shine and the moon and stars hide their face
In short, I know what it is to lose everything in search of an ideal that at best is as elusive as the changes in men¹s minds and which always slips through one's fingers as do the sands of time
Yes, my dear Martha, I know about all these things but I know also that:
³out of the night that covers me black as a pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever Gods there may be, for my unconquerable soul.²
You will be interested to know that my own determination to somehow or other rise above the difficulties that beset me has already helped me to find some new blessings:
1. A new sense of humility, or at least a better understanding of the uncertain course of life.
2. A new appreciation of ³the short and simple annals of the poor."
3. A few new friends who have taught me more than I ever knew before about the kind of unselfish loyalty that will always be so rare in a material world.
4. New clients (most of them this year) who will gradually enable me to level the mountain of debt that I can reach out and touch.
5. New strength and challenge to serve those clients with whatever abilities I have, and
6. A new determination to build a new life structure on the ashes of the old.
One of our great philosophers adjured us to ³make no small plans² because, he said, ³small plans do not possess the power to stir men's blood².
My blood is stirring, as is yours, and I am so proud that you have decided to finish your education.
CARL ELLIOTT BOOKS
PO Box 3522 Jasper, AL
Lenora Elliott Cannon, Owner