The Kennedys are an American institution. No, not the Massachusetts rabble, but the Louisiana Kennedys, James Ronald (of Mandeville) and Walter Donald (of Simsboro), self-described “Scotch-Irish crackers” and authors of The South Was Right! and Why Not Freedom! America’s Revolt Against Big Government, both available from Pelican Publishing in Gretna, Louisiana (phone number: 1-800-843-1724).
Born in 1948 in the piney-woods of Copiah County, Mississippi, the Kennedy twins grew up in a relatively poor, but stable. Christian family. As young children, they were taken to the grave of their great-grandfather, John Wesley Kennedy, and learned of his trials as a Confederate soldier serving in Company F of the 38th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry. This blood connection to the past was strengthened by an unreconstructed grade school teacher who would put down her books and tell them stories about The War for Southern Independence passed on by her own great grandmother.
As teenagers in the 1960’s, the Kennedys came to regard the defense of the South from its detractors as a “spiritual duty.” When the civil rights activists stepped up their attacks on Southern traditions, especially states’ rights, James and Walter volunteered to serve Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Ross Barnett and the “unpledged electors” movement. Both cast their first vote in a national election for Democratic presidential candidate George Wallace in 1968. But, as Walter explains, “We had no party commitment. Instead, we were committed to a philosophy of limited government. We considered ourselves Jeffersonian republicans, and had no sympathy for the ‘false republicanism’ of Abraham Lincoln and his party successors.
As Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights movement continued to dismantle the Constitution, the Kennedys contemplated a book project to defend the founding principles of the Old American Republic. Understanding that the ideas behind the founding were essentially Southern and that their Confederate ancestors had fought to preserve the legacy of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, they began researching The South Was Right! James remembers: “We both had jobs and neither one of us considered ourselves writers. This was a labor of passion.” For the next two decades, they read and studied Southern history, literature, and political thought. Along the way, both men became convinced that a state has the right to secede if its interests are best served by that course, an issue they believe was not settled at Appomattox. The tyranny of busing and quotas and the sacrifice of our men to imperial politics during the Vietnam War opened the Kennedys’ eyes to the fact that the United States government was an out-of-control criminal enterprise that could be stopped only by a reassertion of the principles of states’ rights, nullification, and even secession.
The South Was Right! (the second edition especially) has had a tremendous impact on its 40,000 or so buyers. Dr. Milburn Calhoun, head of Pelican Publishers, has tirelessly promoted the book, and the Kennedys themselves have spent countless hours at book-signings and on radio talk shows across the country. Walter notes that about “90 percent of callers agree with our positions.” He tells of a youthful naysayer who called into a Newport News, Virginia, station to announce that secession was unconstitutional because his college professors told him so. At that point, Mr. Kennedy wagered $1,000 that the unlettered young Unionist could not find the constitutional provision forbidding secession. After frantically thumbing through the founding document, the gentleman hung up the phone in despair—a typical reaction. As James says of those who cannot or will not face the truth about the rectitude of the Southern cause: “A hit dog hollers.”
The success of the Kennedys’ first book has contributed significantly to a renewed interest in the South’s cultural and political heritage. According to James, the most frequently asked question from their readers is, “Now that we know the lies and distortions spread about our Southern heritage, how can we organize to come to its defense?” By mid-1994, the Kennedys could give an answer. They both were instrumental in forming the Southern League, a rapidly growing organization dedicated to advancing the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of traditional Southerners. Reflecting on the ongoing campaign of cultural genocide against the South and America’s descent into Third World barbarism, Walter remarks: “If the Union can’t be saved, then we must and will save ourselves.”
If thousands of Southerners are now comfortable in defending their heritage and culture, much of the credit must go to James and Walter Kennedy. But they are tireless and will not stop here. Their second book. Why Not Freedom! America’s Revolt Against Big Government, published in late 1995, attempts to reach a much wider audience. Its message is that the South’s state sovereignty solution to the tyranny of “consolidated government” is usable by the people of all the states. Like growing numbers of Southerners and other Americans, the Kennedys are aware that the problem is not only “liberal Democrats,” but a Democrat-Republican ruling class—the Clinton-Dole axis—that is determined to destroy regional communities and replace them with a lifeless national (even global) uniformity based on mass “culture” and mass consumption.
That the Louisiana Kennedys fit comfortably into the Southern paleoconservative camp results from their ties to those they claim as intellectual heroes: Jefferson, Calhoun, Randolph of Roanoke, William Rawle, R.L. Dabney, Andrew N. Lytic, Donald Davidson, Richard M. Weaver, M.E. Bradford, Clyde Wilson, and Grady McWhiney, among others. They believe that if there is any hope of restoring ordered liberty and self-government, it will spring from this intellectual tradition. What seems to them equally evident is that the renewal of American civilization will not emerge from the Contract With America or from any half-measure cooked up inside the Beltway. Our forefathers knew that good government worked its way up from the household through local communities and churches, the states, and finally, and only as a last resort, to Washington, D.C. They also understand that when government ceases to serve households and the intermediate associations that shield them from centralized power, it is up to the people themselves to put things right. By helping to reopen the debate over the principles our imperial rulers hoped were long dead—states’ rights, nullification, and secession—James R. and Walter D. Kennedy have struck a decisive blow at the very heart of the American Empire. Doubtless it will not be the last from these gentlemen.