Wikipedia loses Sen. Arthur V. Watkins – can you help with the rescue?

May 30, 2010

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins on the cover of Time Magazine, 1954; copyright Time, Inc.

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins on the cover of Time Magazine, 1954 (copyright Time, Inc.) Can Wikipedia find enough information here to add to Watkins's biography? Are we really to believe a Time cover subject has disappeared from history?

Utah’s Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, a Republican, made the history books in 1954 when he chaired a special committee of the U.S. Senate that investigated actions by Wisconsin’s Sen. Joseph McCarthy with regard to hearings McCarthy conducted investigating communists in the U.S. Army.

This is all the biography at Wikipedia is, now, in May 2010:

Arthur Vivian Watkins (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican U.S. Senator from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating federal recognition of American Indian tribes.

[edit] References

  • Klingaman., William The Encyclopedia of the McCarthy Era, New York : Facts on File, 1996 ISBN 0816030979. Menominee Termination and Restoration [1]

[edit] External links

What is there is of little use.  It doesn’t even mention the work Watkins is most famous for, the brave action that brought him fame and electoral defeat, the censure of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare.  As a biography, it’s insultingly small, trivial, and misleading.

Here in Texas we have a school board that wishes to promote Joe McCarthy to hero status, to sweep under the rug the actual history of what he did, the inaccurate and vicious claims he made against dozens of people including his own colleagues in the U.S. Senate.  Good, readily available biographies of the people who stopped McCarthy, and good, readily available histories of the time can combat that drive for historical revisionism.

Wikipedia, in its extreme drive to prevent error, is preventing history in this case.  Wikipedia is no help.  For example, compare the article on Watkins with the article on Vermont Sen. Ralph Flanders, the man who introduced the resolution of censure against McCarthy. Flanders’s article is enormous by comparison, and no better documented. Why the snub to Watkins?

It’s odd.  Here I am providing a solid example of the evils of Wikipedia to warm the cockles of the heart of Douglas Groothuis, if he has a heart and cockles.   Facts and truth sometimes take us on strange journeys with strange traveling companions, even offensive companions.  Ultimately, I hope Wikipedia will wake up and choose to reinstate a useful and revealing biography of Watkins, to make Groothuis frostier than usual.

What to do?

Here is what follows, eventually below the fold:  I’ve copied one of the old biographies of Watkins from Wikipedia. Much of the stuff I recognize from various sources.  If there are inaccuracies, they are not intentional, nor are they done to impugn the reputation of any person (unlike the purging of Watkins’ biography, which unfortunately aides the dysfunctional history revisionism of Don McLeroy and the Texas State Soviet of Education).  I have provided some links to on-line sources that verify the claims.

Can you, Dear Reader, provide more and better links, and better accuracy?  Please do, in comments.  Help rescue the history around Sen. Watkins from the dustbin.

Will it spur Wikipedia to get its biographer act together and fix Watkins’s entry?  Who knows.

Here is the Wikipedia bio, complete with editing marks, and interspersed with some of my comments and other sources:

”’Arthur Vivian Watkins”’ (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican [[United States Senate|U.S. Senator]] from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating [[Federally recognized tribes|federal recognition]] of [[Native Americans in the United States|American Indian]] [[Indian tribe|tribes]] in order to allow them to have the rights of citizens of the United States.

Watkins’s life is available in basic outline form at a number of places on-line.  A good place to start is with the biographical directory of past members available from the U.S. Congress.  These sketches are embarrassingly short, but Watkins’s entry is four times the size of the Wikipedia entry, with about 20 times the information.  There is the Utah History Encyclopedia, with an article by Patricia L. Scott.  Her biography is copied by the Watkins Family History Society.

Watkins was born in [[Midway, Utah]]. He attended [[Brigham Young University]] (BYU) from 1903 to 1906, and [[New York University]] (NYU) from 1909 to 1910. He graduated from [[Columbia University Law School]] in 1912, and returned to Utah. There he was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in [[Vernal, Utah]].

He engaged in newspaper work in 1914 (”The Voice of Sharon”, which eventually became the ”Orem-Geneva Times”, a weekly newspaper in [[Utah County, Utah|Utah County]].) [Sharon is an area in what is now Orem, Utah; the local division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is called the Sharon Stake, where Watkins was a member. ]In 1914 Watkins was appointed assistant county attorney of [[Salt Lake County, Utah|Salt Lake County]]. He engaged in agricultural pursuits 1919-1925 with a <span style=”white-space:nowrap”>600&nbsp;acre&nbsp;(2.4&nbsp;km²)</span> [[ranch]] near [[Lehi, Utah | Lehi]].

Watkins served as district judge of the Fourth Judicial District of Utah 1928-1933, losing his position in the [[Franklin Delano Roosevelt|Roosevelt]] Democratic landslide in 1932. An unsuccessful candidate for the [[Republican Party (United States)|Republican]] nomination to the Seventy-fifth Congress in 1936, Watkins was elected as a Republican to the [[United States Senate]] in 1946, and reelected in 1952. He served from January 3, 1947, to January 3, 1959. An [[Elder (LDS Church)|elder]] in [[The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]], Watkins was widely respected in Utah. {{Fact|date=August 2007}}

In 1954, Watkins chaired the committee that investigated the actions of Wisconsin Senator [[Joseph McCarthy]] to determine whether his conduct as Senator merited censure. As Chairman, Watkins barred [[television]] cameras from the hearings, and insisted that McCarthy conform to Senate protocol. When McCarthy appeared before the Watkins committee in September 1954 and started to attack Watkins, the latter had McCarthy expelled from the room.

This material comes from an oft-repeated, probably cut-and-pasted story, such as this biography of Watkins at the alumni association of his old high school, the experimental Brigham Young High.  It is confirmed in a thousand places, and one wonders why Wikipedia thought it undocumented, or inaccurate.  See Time’s contemporary report, for example (with a co-starring turn from a young Sen. Sam Ervin, D-North Carolina — the man who would later chair the Senate’s Watergate hearings).

The committee recommended censure of Senator McCarthy. Initially, the committee proposed to censure McCarthy over his attack on General [[Ralph Zwicker]] and various Senators, but Watkins had the charge of censure for the attack on General Zwicker dropped. The censure charges related only to McCarthy’s attacks on other Senators, and excluded from criticism McCarthy’s attacks on those outside of the Senate.

Watkins’s appearance on the cover of Time was the October 4, 1954, edition, reporting McCarthy’s censure.  The story accompanying that cover is here.  The Senate Resolution censuring McCarthy is designated as one of the 100 most important documents in American history by the National Archives and Records Administration — see the document and more history, here.  See more at the Treasures of Congress exhibit’s on-line version.

McCarthy’s anti-communist rhetoric was popular with Utah’s electorate, however. Former [[Governor of Utah|Utah Governor]] [[J. Bracken Lee]] took the opportunity in 1958 to oppose Watkins for the nomination in the senatorial election. Though Watkins won the Republican [[primary election|primary]], Lee ran as an [[independent (politics)|independent]] in the [[general election]]. This caused a split in the Republican vote and allowed Democrat [[Frank E. Moss]] to win the seat. Lee went on to a long career as [[mayor]] of [[Salt Lake City, Utah|Salt Lake City]]. Moss served three terms in the Senate, losing to Republican [[Orrin Hatch]] in 1976.

I’m not sure why Wikipedia’s editors rejected that historical paragraph.  Most of the points can be confirmed on Wikipedia, just following who sat where in the Senate.  Time Magazine covered the election shenanigans of 1958, with an article, “Feud in the desert,” detailing the fight between Watkins and Lee — July 14, 1958.

Watkins served as chair of the [[United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs|Senate Interior Committee Subcommittee on Indian Affairs]]. He advocated [[Indian termination policy|termination]] of [[List of Native American Tribal Entities|Indian Tribal Entities]] in the belief that it was better for tribal members to be integrated into the rest of American life. He believed that they were ill-served by depending on the federal government for too many services.

Watkins called his policy the “freeing of the Indian from wardship status” and equated it with the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves during the Civil War. Watkins was the driving force behind termination. His position as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs gave him tremendous leverage to determine the direction of federal Indian policy. His most important achievement came in 1953 with passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 108, which stated that termination would be the federal government’s ongoing policy. Passage of the resolution did not in itself terminate any tribes.

That had to be accomplished one tribe at a time by specific legislation. The [[Bureau of Indian Affairs]] (BIA) began to assemble a list of tribes believed to have developed sufficient economic prosperity to sustain themselves after termination. The list was headed by the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin. One reason the BIA chose the Menominee was that the tribe had successful forestry and lumbering operations which the BIA believed could support the tribe economically. Congress passed an act in 1954 that officially called for the termination of the Menominee as a federally recognized Indian tribe.

Termination for the Menominee did not happen immediately. Instead, the 1954 act set in motion a process that would lead to termination. The Menominee were not comfortable with the idea, but they had recently won a case against the government for mismanagement of their forestry enterprises, and the $8.5 million award was tied to their proposed termination. Watkins personally visited the Menominee and said they would be terminated whether they liked it or not, and if they wanted to see their $8.5 million, they had to cooperate with the federal government{{Fact|date=February 2009}}. Given this high-handed and coercive threat{{POV assertion|date=June 2009}}, the tribal council reluctantly agreed.

To set an example, Watkins pushed for termination of Utah Indian groups, including the Shivwits, Kanosh, Koorsharem, and Indian Peaks Paiutes. Once a people able to travel over the land with freedom and impunity, they were forced to deal with a new set of unfamiliar laws and beliefs. He terminated them without their knowledge or consent.

After Watkins left the Senate, he served as a member of the U.S. Indian Claims Commission from 1959 to 1967. He retired to Salt Lake City, and in 1973, to Orem.

In 1969 Watkins published a book about his investigation of McCarthy, ”Enough Rope: The Inside Story of the Censure of Senator Joe McCarthy by his Colleagues: The Controversial Hearings that Signaled the End of a Turbulent Career and a Fearsome Era in American Public Life”, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969).

It’s astounding to me that mentions of Watkins’s book would be struck by Wikipedia, as if it were questionable that Watkins and the book ever existed.  Did the editor who cut that reference doubt sincerely?

Former Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, R-Utah, signing his book "Enough Rope" at Sam Weller's bookstore, Salt Lake City -- 1969?  Utah Historical Society

Caption from the Utah Historical Society: Arthur Watkins (seated, center), a United States Senator from Utah, is shown here at a book signing for his book, "Enough Rope" at Sam Weller's Bookstore."Enough Rope" was a book about Joe McCarthy and the red scare. Rights management Digital Image (c) 2004 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. (use here allowed by UHS, for education)

State and local historical groups curate remarkable collections of images, now digitized and available free, online.  The Utah Historical Society offers a wealth of images in their collection.  Among them, we find a 1969 photograph of former-Sen. Watkins at a book signing at Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, the Salt Lake City monument to bookophilia and still one of the best bookstores in the world.  (Mormons read a lot, but Weller’s is not an official outlet of Mormon ideas; the store is a bastion of learning in a learned culture that pushes the envelope by challenging that culture at many turns; Weller’s bookstore is a nightmare to people who wish to cover up history).  Watkins is the guy seated at the table signing books — the other two men are not identified.  What more proof would one need of the existence of the book?

The book is referenced at the U.S. Congress biographical guideYou can find it at Amazon.com, though you’d have to buy it used or remaindered (hey! Call Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore!)

A project of the [[United States Bureau of Reclamation|U.S. Bureau of Reclamation]], the Arthur V. Watkins Dam north of [[Ogden, Utah]], created Willard Bay off of the [[Great Salt Lake]]

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Christopher J. McCune, “The Weber Basin Project,” Historic Reclamation Projects Book; accessed May 29, 2010.  Scientific Commons lists Watkins’s papers, at Brigham Young University.  That listing can lead you to the Western Waters digital library, which contains an astonishing amount of information, including photos and newspaper clippings.   Watkins’s lifelong work in water and irrigation was the spur to name the BuRec dam after him.  (The Western Waters Digital Project is a good exemplar of the exquisite detail possible in a publicly-available, online archive.)

Watkins died in [[Orem, Utah]].

His son, Arthur R. Watkins, was a professor of German at [[Brigham Young University]] for more than 25 years.

I offered material to Wikipedia’s article on Watkins more than two years ago, when I discovered the article was little more than a repeat of the Congressional biography guide.  At the time I had a couple of inquiries from reporters and others watching elections in Utah, especially the reelection of Orrin Hatch, to the seat Watkins held (from 1946 to today, that seat has been held by just three people, Watkins, Ted Moss, and Hatch).  It was historical curiosity.

Recently in Texas we’ve seen that absence of good history can lead to distortions of history, especially distortions in the history to be taught in public schools.  It would serve the evil ends of the Texas Taliban were Arthur V. Watkins to be “disappeared” from history.  (See this astoundingly biased account from a guy named Wes Vernon; according to Vernon, McCarthy was improperly lynched.)

Let’s not let that happen, at least, not at Wikipedia.

_____________

Update: A reader more savvy than I in the ways of Wikipedia has restored most of the old biography.  Now it’s an effort to beef up references.

Wow.  Ask, and it’s done.  Good friends make things much better.

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