Robert Lathan, Jr.
Robert Lathan, Jr. was editor of the Charleston News and Courier (1910-1927) and later of the Asheville, NC, Daily Citizen (1927-37). In1925, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial, "The Plight of the South", published in the Charleston News and Courier on November 5, 1924. In 1979, the South Carolina Press Association named him to the Press Hall of Fame. Scroll down for transcription of editorials (2).
Pulitzer Prize Editorial
by Robert Lathan
published in,
The News and Courier,
Charleston, S.C.
November 5, 1924
Copyright ©The News Courier, November 5, 1924. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
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The Plight Of The South

This article is being written on election day but before the result of the voting can possibly be known. No matter. The suggestions it contains will still be pertinent whatever the story told by the first page this morning. It makes very little difference what any of us think about the outcome of yesterday's balloting. It makes a considerable difference whether or not the people of the South realize the precarious situation which this section has come to occupy politically.

As yet we doubt if very many of them do realize this; and yet it is, we think, the outstanding political development of the time so far as we are concerned. Look at the facts. They are not pleasant to contemplate but they cannot be ignored longer. We are in a sad fix politically in this part of the country and if we are to find a remedy for our troubles we must first of all determine what they are. That will take considerable discussion and all we can hope to do now is to help start the ball of this discussion rolling. If that can be accomplished we may achieve the new program and the new leadership which we so much need.

For at the root of the South's present plight lies the fact that it has today virtually no national program and virtually no national leadership. Is it strange that it should be treated by the rest of the country as such a negligible factor? What is it contributing today in the way of political thought? What political leaders has it who possess weight or authority beyond their own States? What constructive policies are its people ready to fight for with the brains and zeal that made them a power in the old days?

The plight of the South in these respects would be perilous at any time. In a period when political currents are deeper and swifter than ever before, with more violent whirlpools, more dangerous rocks and shoals, ours is truly a perilous position. Changes which used to be decades in the making now sweep over us almost before we know they are in contemplation. It is true everywhere. In all the countries of Europe the pendulum is swinging now far to the left, now far to the right. Center parties have lost their power. They are in a very bad way. And the South has belonged to the school politically which sought as a rule the middle of the road, eschewing ultra-conservatism on the one hand and radicalism on the other. With Labor organized and militant, with radicalism organized and in deadly earnest, with conservatism organized and drawing the lines sharply, what is the South to do, what course shall she take, where do her interests lie, what is due to happen to her?

These are questions which already begin to press for answers. Who is to speak for the South? How many of her citizens are prepared to help formulate her replies?

Copyright ©The News Courier, November 5, 1924. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
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Notes by William C. Lathan, Jr.: This is quite an indictment of the political atmosphere in the South at the time it was written. However, the most interesting portion to me is in the fourth paragraph. He mentions the political upheavals in Europe. It seems he had a very clear view of Europe's problems as well as the South's problems. He may have been seeing the events of the late 1930s and 1940s coming down the road at Europe and the United States. Where was everyone else's vision.

A Christmas Day Editorial
by Robert Lathan
published: The Asheville Citizen
Asheville, N.C.
December 25, 1931
Copyright © The Asheville Citizen, December 25, 1931. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission
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Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

There was no room for them in the inn. So the carpenter and his espoused wife, who had come up to the city of David to be taxed, had taken up their lodgings in the stable; and there Mary, when she had brought forth her first born son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Deny if you will the divine inspiration of this story. Match it if you can in all literature, sacred or profane.

A modern philosopher, searching devastatingly for some key to the meaning of history, admonishes his readers at the last that "It is hopeless to ask the purpose of humanity and its existence---as hopeless as to ask the purpose of Sirius, the Milky Way, or the comets."

"We must cease," he says, "to regard humanity from the point of view of eternity. It dwindles else before our eyes to an almost invisible speck, without performance, significance, or aim, the contemplation of which leaves us utterly humiliated, broken and dispirited."

"But," he asks finally, "is there one out of all the ideals to which the noblest and ablest of men have aspired which can stand the cold examination of knowledge?" And he answers: "Only one--the ideal of goodness and of selfless love. To add no inevitable touch of cruelty to the inexorable evils with which nature scourges man, but, within the limits of their strength, to lessen the sum of human suffering--this is the ideal towards which the most perfect men our species has known have aspired, which they have tried to realize, which they have felt to be noble and high enough to inspire and recompense them. It is an ideal that is still far from being realized. It may suffice us for a long time to come. It can yet make life worth living to many, and those the best among us."

The book in which a Russian student and writer embodied these sentiments was published in this country early in 1914. And then came the war of wars!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Peace on earth, good will toward men.

We look about us today, at this Christmas season, and what do we see?

A world in arms. A world at war. No peace anywhere. Good will seemingly a mockery.

A world in arms. Impoverished, but armed to the teeth. Bankrupt, yet spending billions on military establishments. So weighted down with debt from the last great conflict that its credit has been destroyed and the whole machinery of civilization thrown out of gear, yet still feverishly intent upon perfection of its agencies of destruction in preparation for other possible wars.

Schools may close for lack of funds, but we must have guns. Factories may shut down because no one has the money to buy their output, but the building of warships must go on. Farm produce may rot in the field, for want of buyers, while millions go hungry, but the armies and navies of the nations must be maintained.

Security, we are told, imperative. We must have security.

Security from what?

From attack by some potential enemy? Look about you. Look first at our own country. Have we been saved from attack? Here we live in a land free of invasion this long time past by any armed and hostile force. It is a land of plenty. But millions of its people today are without means to buy the things that are so abundant, the things they so eagerly want, the things which in too many instances they need to support life itself.

Security for what?

Have our fighting men been able to secure the worker in his job, the rich man in the value of his stocks and bonds and lands, old age in its comforts, youth in its pleasures?

No. Invisible forces more destructive than any army have wrought havoc on every hand. All the soldiers and sailors in the world--millions of them--and all the guns and warships and fighting machines, though their cost has run into the billions, have been futile to stop this havoc.

We would not scoff at the gallant men who serve in our armies and navies. We honor and respect them. But today their helplessness to protect us, their helplessness to protect any nation, is apparent.

For there are wars and wars. Thirteen years have passed since the guns ceased to sound upon the Western Front. But war itself has not ceased. It still goes on. Its hates still survive. Its fears still flourish. Its costs still mount. Its sufferings still grow. Its ruin still spreads.

There is not now a part of the habitable globe, armed or unarmed, that has escaped its dreadful consequences.


The banker's vaults may be proof against the assaults of the burglar trying in vain to blast through their masonry and steel but of what avail is that when the values which those vaults incase vanish into nothingness?


The worker at the lathe may have sought it through training hand and eye until the product of his skill became his pride, his own support and that of those he loves. But what security is there for him when dust gathers upon the machine at which he was wont to earn his daily bread?


The farmer's acres may be broad and fertile, they may be far beyond the reach of any seen enemy, and the farmer's industry may match his knowledge of the times and seasons and methods which govern a wise husbandry--but heartsickness will still be his portion when the harvest comes and there is no market for the fruit of his labors.

Students of such matters tell us that here in our own State of North Carolina there are between fifteen thousand and twenty thousand tenant families who will not be needed next year on the lands upon which they have been living and to which alone they can look for subsistence. What is to become of them they do not know, no one knows.

Where is their security!

In Alabama, it is authoritatively stated, the farm labor supply is estimated to be double the requirements of 1932. Where is the security for those for whom no work is in sight? How are they and their families going to live? Can armies and navies help answer that?

Such illustrations might be multiplied indefinitely; might be extended to take in every State and most communities; and the word comes from other lands that by comparison we in this country are blest!

The whole world is sick, desperately sick, sick in every part. But is it sick beyond remedy? Is there any cure?

Only one. We have already given it. It was that which was hymned in the ears of the shepherds by the multitude of the heavenly host.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Ah, you say, but that begs the whole question. How can there be good will toward men in a world torn nigh unto death by passion and strife, by jealousies and ambitions, by greed and envy, by hates and fears?

It will not be easy. We grant you that. But neither is it impossible. And the compulsion is absolute. The alternative at the best will be a long continuance of the misery which has overtaken mankind. At the worst it will be unspeakable disaster.

We know, of course, how simple it is to sneer at good will as a solvent of the problems that menace the nations. Such sneering has long been common enough. But the world's mood today is a very sober mood. With nation after nation already financially upon the rocks it has had enough and more than enough to make it sober. And the world knows in its heart that there is no reliance to be placed upon force alone.

Victors and vanquished in the last great struggle are alike miserable and unhappy now.

How long, we ask you, how long can human beings go on living like this?

Why should they go living like this when to change the picture they have only to act upon the realization that to really live they must also let live?

There was a time, we are told, when a conquering nation could bestride the earth or such part of it as was then known, like a Colossus.

That time has passed. Civilization today is infinitely complex. Power today compels responsibility. Of those who are richest and strongest and greatest, strange to say, the largest measure of service is exacted.

The Glory of the victor as it was chanted in the ancient sagas has become a myth. The nation now that would be chief among its neighbors must become the servant of them all.

The law is inexorable. It is unescapable.

Those who thus serve may fix their hire if they will. But beneath the trappings of their armaments they will wear the yoke of servitude. And if they fix that hire unjustly their anxieties will be constant. Their griefs will be continuing. Their people will eat their hearts out in their longing for peace.

What is true of nations is true of individuals. Gone is the day when wealth might flaunt itself in safety in the face of sodden poverty. There is no freedom that attaches to wealth when distress is general or when discontents prevail.

The doctrine of private property is implanted deep in human nature; ineradicably so, we think. But its rights are sacred only as those who would assert and maintain them are ready to acknowledge that implicit in this doctrine is the right of others to live

Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" must ever be answered "Yes."

When millions of able-bodied men and women ask for work and can not find it there is no security for them, there is no security for any one.

Peace on earth there can never be while this condition continues. Its correction is imperative.

But how? By correcting the dislocations which have produced it. That does not lie in the power of any individual, or of any group of individuals. It does not lie in the power of any nation. It does lie in the power of the nations. It does lie in the power of the people of each nation to create the will that it shall be done.

Good will toward men.

It has been the want of such a will that has been and that still is at the root of all our troubles.

An intense, selfish, narrow, bitter nationalism is today as intolerable and as preposterous in the world as it now exists as an intense, narrow selfish, grinding plutocracy has become in any nation.

We have had over the past thirteen years an orgy of nationalism of this type. It has brought us to despair.

It cannot go on. The days when a robber chieftain might barricade himself in his castle and sally forth to prey upon his neighbors are over. The days when a nation can wax fat upon the spoils of its own strength are over.

We are all parts of one whole. In an atmosphere in which this is acknowledged the world can shake off the weights that cumber it, can revive the springs of credit--which is confidence, trust, good will--and can regain the equilibrium which it has lost. The machinery of civilization will then fall back into place. The fear that is stamping itself upon the hearts of men will lift. There will be work for him who would labor and a fair return for those who render honest service.

Thus, thus only, can contentment and good feeling be restored or, if you will, created, and made to walk the earth.

This is no dreamy idealism that we are talking. It is the sternest of all the stern realities in the world today. And if hope for the future burns in our heart, as it does, it is because of the multiplying evidences that more and more the leadership in almost every nation is awakening to the verities and seeking to adjust its attitude to these verities.

It is this matter of attitudes which is so vital and determining.

So much in life is beyond our control. So much seems to be governed by blind chance. But our attitudes toward life are what we make them. And life is shaped by the attitude we take regarding it.

It is our attitude toward Christmas which makes the Christmas season what it is; and it is because of the continuing manifestation of the influence of this season upon our thought and emotions that we are venturing today to write at such length on the direful effects which a wrong attitude among the nations and peoples has had upon every land and every people and of the urgent necessity for bringing about a right attitude among the nations and peoples as the only corrective of these evils.

If we can but do that increasingly over the coming critical year, weighted with so much that is momentous to the welfare of mankind, we shall have done all that is in the power of men to do to make next Christmas and the Christmases that follow happier and happier for the children of men.

We are not talking idealism today but we point now at the last to the ideal which the Russian skeptic whose words we have quoted declared to be that towards which "the noblest men our species has known have aspired, which they have tried to realize, which they have felt to be noble and high enough to inspire and recompense them." The ideal which he envisaged was the ideal which the multitude of the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds as they watched their flocks on the Galilean hills.

The man who said that refused to regard humanity from the point of view of eternity; but even so he felt that there was no other ideal worth the seeking except that which is embodied in the words we have made the refrain of this article--"on earth peace, good will toward men." There is no other; and when we seek it, whatever our discouragements, we have only to remember that we do not strive unaided. The mightiest of invisible forces work with us. We serve with the angels of the Christmas-tide. Their glorious music will refresh our spirits when they droop; and there is healing in their wings.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Copyright © The Asheville Citizen, December 25, 1931. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission. Visit their site by clicking here, The Asheville Citizen-Times

Source: Editorials-clippings held by William C. Lathan, Jr. and George Moore. Descendency-records of George Moore and Leila Welch