Theodore Bilbo

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Theodore Gilmore Bilbo
Former U.S. Senator from Mississippi
From: January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1947
Predecessor Hubert D. Stephens
Successor John Stennis
Former Governor of Mississippi
From: January 17, 1928 – January 19, 1932
Lieutenant Cayton Bidwell Adam
Predecessor Dennis Murphree
Successor Martin Sennett Connor
Former Governor of Mississippi
From: January 18, 1916 – January 20, 1920
Lieutenant Lee M. Russell
Predecessor Earl Brewer
Successor Lee M. Russell
Former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
From: January 16, 1912 – January 18, 1916
Governor Earl Brewer
Predecessor Luther Manship
Successor Lee Russell
Former State Senator from Mississippi
From: 1908–1912
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Lillian Selita Herrington (died 1899)
Lida Ruth Gaddy

Theodore Gilmore Bilbo (October 13, 1877 – August 21, 1947) was a Democrat Senator and Klansman from Mississippi. Bilbo served as a governor of Mississippi from 1916 to 1920 and 1928 to 1932, and as a U.S. senator from 1935 to 1947. A towering figure among white supremacist and segregationist politicians, Bilbo praised Nazi racial philosophy and was famous for his extreme and inflammatory rhetoric. Bilbo faced three primary challengers running for a third term and told a group of supporters, “I’m calling on every red-blooded American who believes in the superiority and integrity of the white race to get out and see that no n***** votes.” In true Democrat tradition, Bilbo won the rigged primary election with 51% in a four way contest. The Republicans won back control of the Senate that year in 1946 and refused to seat Bilbo as his comments about Democrat voter suppression to rig the election became more widely known. He died 7 months later, unable to take his seat, while the Senate was still investigating.[1]

While governor of Mississippi, Bilbo instituted a statewide sales tax[Citation Needed] and caused the state to become bankrupt after failing to negotiate a tax bill with the legislature.

Bilbo was a leader among other racist Democrats, including the Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the latter of which called him "a real friend of liberal government."[2] He claimed himself to be "100 percent for Roosevelt...and the New Deal."[3] In a 1938 filibuster against anti-lynching legislation, Bilbo said on the Senate floor that the bill would “open the floodgates of hell in the South” by encouraging Black men to rape white women.

In his book When Jim Crow Met John Bull, Graham Smith referred to a letter Bilbo received from the Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd when on the 1945 controversy raging over the idea of racially integrating the military.

Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
He had earlier written Bilbo:
I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side
Bilbo told Meet the Press in an August 9th, 1946 interview:
No man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux.[4]

In 1946, after four white men beat a Black Army veteran for attempting to register to vote, Senator Bilbo delivered a radio address urging every “red-blooded Anglo-Saxon man in Mississippi to resort to any means to keep hundreds of Negroes from the polls in the July 2nd primary.” He continued, “And if you don’t know what that means, you are just not up on your persuasive measures.” Southern senators successfully defended Bilbo against an NAACP-led effort to remove him from office for inciting violence against Black voters. Despite having been re-elected, he was blocked from taking office.[1]

Before succumbing to oral cancer at age 69 following decades of spouting hatred, bigotry, and inciting violence, Bilbo spent the last weeks of his life writing a book, Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, in which he outlined his fears of “race-mixing” and advocated for the relocation of African Americans to West Africa. (He had proposed a relocation bill in the Senate in 1938, but it failed.) Bilbo never repudiated his racist views and remained an influential figure among leading segregationists in the South long after his death.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bilbo#1 - bilbo.pdf. Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938-1947.
  2. New Deal . . . Conservatives? National Review. Retrieved September 14th, 2020.
  3. A History of Liberal White Racism, Cont. The Atlantic. Retrieved September 14th, 2020.
  4. Robert L. Fleegler, "Theodore G. Bilbo and the Decline of Public Racism, 1938–1947",The Journal of Mississippi History, Spring 2006.

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