DOLPH NORTON PLAYED KEY ROLE IN URBAN CONTROL

Submitted by Roldo on Thu, 02/11/2010 - 13:30.

Dolph Norton, whose obituary ran in yesterday’s Plain Dealer, was the “liberal” face of the Cleveland Foundation during the late 1960s when corporate leaders needed to deal with, for them, new and scary urban problems.

 

Cleveland’s heavy-hitting business leaders of that era feared what was happening in the city, especially racially.  They faced problems that had been simmering unattended for years. They now had to deal with people they did not know. They lacked contact with the usual control leader or leaders of any community that they ordinarily deal with to buy off and settle untidy situations. New, unknown leaders were pushing drastic change. The civil rights movement hit Cleveland. Hard.

 

In other words, the ghetto was boiling and corporate leaders didn’t have the usual contacts to maneuver the levers of control.

 

That’s where foundations and their money played a crucial role.

 

Dolph Norton, as I remember, cut a regal figure and talked with a cultured voice. He became a key individual in the Cleveland Establishment’s tricky need to control events of Cleveland’s stifling ghetto of the 1960s. As we know, they stumbled badly. Cleveland erupted in two major riots in 1966 (Hough) and 1968 (Glenville).

 

Corporate leaders had another major problem. Mayor Ralph Locher’s administration was faltering badly. Locher depended upon a white ethnic voting base. He didn’t deal with the new issues of in the civil rights movement that threatened the status quo. Further, he was handicapped by a corporate and foundation program of urban renewal. It exacerbated problems in the ghetto by forcing movement of tens of thousands of black resident. They failed, however, to provide adequate replacement housing.

 

Cleveland was getting bad national press. Something had to be done.

 

These divisions further threatened the kind of stability corporate leaders require for business. Unfortunately, the failure to solve these problems in the 1960s has grave consequences today represented by a city in serious economic decline and population loss.

 

The foundations played a key role in toppling Locher. Not that he didn’t help them.

 

The Cleveland Foundation – which today ironically says that it wants to concentrate efforts on Cleveland and Cuyahoga County  problems in its fight with the Fund for Our Economic Future – in 1961 formed the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation (GCAF) with the assistance of the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation would play a key role in Cleveland during the 1960s. It helped corporate leaders to oust Locher and make Carl Stokes the first black mayor of a major American city.

 

GCAF was formed because our oligarchic rulers didn’t want their Cleveland Foundation dealing with those ugly urban issues, especially racial. They felt it would taint the foundation’s image. So GCAF and Norton became the liberal face, I wrote back in the 1960s, “of the city’s foundation apparatus. It deals with institutions and individuals in areas which might be uncomfortable for elite trustees of the Cleveland Foundation who are fearful of getting involved in public controversy.”

 

I also wrote in the Cleveland Papers in the mid 1960s that the Cleveland Foundation and GCAF “have a long-term strategy of co-opting any and all mechanisms of change in order to insure a stable community with controllable institutions.”

 

The foundations, led by the Cleveland Foundation, funded all kinds of programs in the desire to help but also to direct and control people and events. It didn’t always work they way they wanted.

 

The foundations, of course, always keep ties with many institutions by grants that guide them on a course acceptable to the foundations. Money binds those who take it to the giver’s agenda. Grants are a means of control.

 

The best example of the nature of foundations as tools of the establishment probably came during Norton’s period as director.

 

I wrote a section about the foundations of the Cleveland Papers, a booklet put out by people self-described as “radical” in the late 1960s. The booklet’s introduction noted that “This booklet is for those who can look around Cleveland as see that thing are terribly wrong.” The booklet can be found at the public library. It covers many issues, including the Cleveland “medical empire.” I hope it will be instructive and give some historical perspective.

I wrote of Norton’s time as the top foundation leader:

“The nature of the foundation as the tool of establishment desires can be seen in the moves made in 1966-67 to put the lid on the volatile black community and remove the mayor as a necessary element of their plans.”

Here I excerpted a section of the Cleveland Papers to give some insight into foundation activities and control:

The situation at that time was dire. Hough had erupted in the summer of 1966 and mini-riots spurted during the early months of 1967. Mayor Ralph Locher refused to deal with the issue of black grievances but the business community knew better and attempted to assuage blacks. The foundations, already funding BIC (Businessmen’s Interracial Committee) for cooptation purposes, organized and funded the Inner-City Action Committee (ICAC), while the ashes of Hough still glowed. Ralph Besse, chairman of the Cleveland Illuminating Company, headed ICAC along with Jack Reavis, managing partner of Jones, Day, Coakley & Reavis, now Jones-Day), an elite firm from which the Republican mayoral candidate, Seth Taft, was to come. BIC and ICAC were twin units and “worked closely together.”

 

The Cleveland situation was under examination by the Ford Foundation. It’s likely that Ford was searching about for a proper situation in which a black mayor could be tested as a means of quieting the ghetto. Cleveland was a good spot because of Ford’s close relationship to GCAF. Robert Allen in Black Awakening in Capitalist America quotes McGeorge Bundy (president of the Ford Foundation) in 1966 telling the Urban League that if blacks burn the cities “the White man’s companies will have to take the losses.” Allen writes further: “White America is not so stupid as not to comprehend this elemental fact.” Bundy assured the Urban Leaguers that “Something would have to be done about the urban problem…. Thus, the Ford Foundation was on its way to becoming the most important, though least publicized, organization manipulating the militant black movement.”

 

The Cleveland-Ford Foundation manipulation took the form of a grant to the local CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) office, including a voter registration project. Along with the grant went $127,500 to BIC via GCAF; $200,000 for a program to work with racism between ethnic groups. Ford was following the advice of McGeorge Bundy who said plainly that the voter registration drive was an alternative to ‘rocks and firebombs’ (Joseph Goulden’s The Money Givers).

 

Meanwhile, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s organization) announced that it (SCLC) would begin a Cleveland program in June, 1967, rather than in 1968 as had been planned. Thus SCLC also would begin a voter registration drive. Although much national exposure has been given to the funding of CORE’s voter registration drive, little has been said of the funding the SCLC drive. Actually, areas of the city were apportioned to each organization with CORE doing Glenville, the local NAACP, House, and SCLC-United Pastors Association, the Central area, Mt. Pleasant and Lee-Harvard.

 

As a letter from A. R. Sampson, director of SCLC in Cleveland, to Lincoln Lynch, associate national director of CORE, attests, CORE contributed $3,000 to the Cleveland drive. BIC also presented Dr. King with a $5,000 check for voter registration. This didn’t, however, cover the SCLC expenses in Cleveland. On October 18, 1967, an outline of SCLC’s expense in Cleveland revealed that $27,899.40 had come from its Atlanta office. Where this money originated is merely speculation. But it is interesting to note that by that time SCLC had received a $230,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

 

I continued:

 

While the maneuvering to control the blacks was taking place, the foundations, through their other front organizations, were busy undermining Locher. Plenty of ammunition was available. In February 1967, ICAC openly broke with Locher, charging complete lack of faith particularly on the troublesome urban renewal program. The break earned the Besse committee (ICAC) banner headlines. Earlier, the Little Hoover Commission, staffed by the Government Research Institute and heavily financed by foundations, had turned out a damaging report on the city’s urban renewal program. A similar report on the operations of the police – also a sensitive issue in the black community – hurt Locher. These public relations maneuvers were handled by Bill Silverman, who later became campaign director for Seth Taft, a Little Hoover Commission member and former secretary of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation. Silverman, after Taft’s defeat, became Stokes image-maker with a $68,000 grant from the foundations routed through the Government Research Institute. This provides a good example of the ability of the foundation to provide “help to politicians.”

 

At the same time the Cleveland Development Foundation (offshoot of GCAF) and the PATH (foundation housing effort) Committee were making public and private statements that further undercut Locher. The ability to create a climate through the private utterances of civic leaders who run supposedly non-political civic groups cannot be underestimated. This is especially true since the civic leaders here have a ready mouthpiece through the decision-makers in the media. Thus what they say is reflected to the entire citizenry by the media.

 

Meanwhile, in Cleveland a private fund of some $40,000 had been put together by Besse and the ICAC to pay militants to keep peace in Cleveland’s ghettoes. The project was headed by Baxter Hill. This project ended the weekend before the primary election in which Stokes defeated Locher. This suggests that the businessmen here were more interested in being rid of Locher than in electing a black mayor. Indeed, the top contributions to a third candidate (Frank Celeste, father of former Gov. Dick Celeste) put in the race to split the white vote, suggests the same. Among the top contributors were foundation trustees Reavis, $3,000; Kent Smith, $3,000, Frank Josephs, $1,000 and H. Stuart Harrison, $1,000. (Note: a $3,000 contribution in 1968 would represent nearly $20,000 today.)

 

The departure of Locher and eventual victory of Stokes may certainly have convinced both the Ford Foundation and the foundations here of the wisdom of their methods of buying urban peace. But a year later in a similar “cooling down” program, Ahmed Evans, a black militant who had kept the peace with Baxter Hill the summer before, had a gun battle followed by street rioting (in Glenville). Ironically, the study of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, which wrongly blamed Evans and his men of the shootout, was written by the Civil Violence Research Center at CWRU, which, as the reader might expect, was funded by the foundations.

 

And when city officials, as is the custom, flew to Washington to ask for ‘riot relief,’ among the pleaders was Dolph Norton, president of the Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Associated Foundations.

 

The city paid his way this time.

 

And that’s the way it was and pretty much is the way it is today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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