March 26, 2011 John Cashin Jr. Dies at 82; Campaigned for Civil RightsJohn L. Cashin Jr. during his bid for elective office in 1970.
By MARGALIT FOX
The New York Times
John L. Cashin Jr., a civil rights campaigner who was the first black candidate for governor of Alabama since Reconstruction, mounting an unsuccessful challenge in 1970 to the arch-segregationist George C. Wallace, died on Monday in Washington, where he lived in recent years. He was 82.
The cause was kidney failure, said his daughter, Sheryll Cashin.
A dentist, Dr. Cashin came from a family that had long fought for social justice. Their struggle was chronicled by Ms. Cashin in her recent book, “The Agitator’s Daughter,” published by PublicAffairs in 2008. The book also relates her father’s later troubles with the law.
In 2009, The Huntsville Times in Alabama called Dr. Cashin “one of the most ferocious civil rights lions in Alabama back in the day.”
Dr. Cashin founded the National Democratic Party of Alabama in 1968 and was its chairman until it disbanded in 1976. A predominantly black splinter party, it was conceived in opposition to the fervently anti-integrationist Democratic Party embodied in the region by Wallace, who had been governor from 1963 to 1967 and by 1970 was seeking a second term.
As expected, Wallace won the governorship in a landslide in the 1970 general election, with 74.51 percent of the vote. Dr. Cashin, with 14.68 percent, finished second, ahead of several independent and minor-party candidates. (There was no Republican candidate.)
Wallace, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency four times, was later elected to third and fourth terms as governor. Paralyzed from the waist down as a result of an assassination attempt in 1972, he publicly moderated his views on segregation toward the end of his life. He died in 1998.
The party Dr. Cashin founded did succeed in changing the face of local offices throughout the state. In 1968, after Alabama refused to place its candidates on the ballot for the general election, the party sued. The case was ultimately heard by the United States Supreme Court, which ordered the state to put them on.
In November, 17 of the splinter party’s candidates won local offices in Alabama’s Black Belt, the region, named for its rich, dark soil, comprising 17 counties in the central and western part of the state.
But in Greene County, near Tuscaloosa, a judge defied the high court’s order and refused to place six of the party’s candidates on local ballots that fall. The case returned to the Supreme Court, which voided the results of the general election in the county and mandated a special election there.
In that election, held in July 1969, the six candidates, all African-American, prevailed. Their victory — four seats on the county commission and two on the school board — was the first time since 1816 that Greene County’s government had not been controlled by whites.
John Logan Cashin Jr. was born in Huntsville on April 16, 1928. His father, John Logan Sr., a dentist, and his mother, the former Grace Brandon, a junior high school principal, were active in civil rights work. His paternal grandfather, Herschel V. Cashin, had served in the Alabama Legislature during Reconstruction.
After attending Fisk University, John Cashin Jr. received a bachelor’s degree in natural science from Tennessee State University. He earned a D.D.S. from Meharry Medical College, a historically black institution in Nashville, and joined his father in practice. In the 1950s, he served with the Army Dental Corps in France.
The younger Dr. Cashin ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Huntsville in 1964. A licensed pilot, he took to the air in his single-engine plane each election season for years to drop campaign leaflets in the state’s black districts.
Partly because of his civil rights activities, Dr. Cashin’s life had no small share of turmoil. As his daughter’s memoir recounts, he was long monitored by the F.B.I. The Internal Revenue Service pursued a case against him for years, saying he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. (The amount was later greatly reduced.)
Although Dr. Cashin had been “moderately wealthy,” as The New York Times wrote in 1970, he poured nearly all of his personal resources into the party he founded, leaving his family in vastly reduced circumstances, Ms. Cashin wrote. In April 1982, Dr. Cashin was convicted of perjury in federal court in New York. He had been charged with giving false statements to a judge while trying to arrange bail for a narcotics dealer. He was sentenced to four months in prison.
Later that April, Dr. Cashin pleaded guilty in an Alabama court to two counts of second-degree theft for having cashed his mother’s Social Security and pension checks for at least several years after her death. As The Huntsville Times reported, he served 17 months in a minimum-security prison.
Dr. Cashin’s first wife, the former Joan Carpenter, whom he married in 1957, died in 1997. He is survived by their three children: his daughter, Ms. Cashin, and two sons, John M. and Carroll; his second wife, Louise White Cashin; and five grandchildren. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/us/politics/27cashin.html?_r=1&emc=eta1