By John F. Marszalek
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Extra info for A Black Congressman in the Age of Jim Crow: South Carolina's George Washington Murray
Were the delegates elected to the national conclave to be instructed on how to vote? How should a resolution supporting Johnson C. Whittaker, a former University of South Carolina black student, in his battle with the West Point judicial system be worded? Whittaker was found in early April in his West Point room, the victim of a nighttime attack by three masked men. 23 The big issue was whether or not to support U. S. Grant for a third presidential term. The debate droned on interminably until Murray, though a newcomer, protested.
He told the convention delegates that he was tired of all the haggling and just wanted to go home. 24 Murray’s political debut began with a successful display of impatient frustration at his political party’s vacillation, a display of temper that in later years would become even more evident in his political personality. This show of impudent independence may very well have been the reason for the disappearance of his name from the political rolls for the next several years. When state Republicans held a meeting in March 1882 to protest some hostile state electoral changes, Murray was not present.
They nominated Robert Smalls, a black Civil War naval hero, instead, and Murray was openly vocal in his support. The ensuing vote demonstrated Brayton’s weakness; Smalls beat him seventy-four to fifty-one. As the voting proceeded, a white delegate named Ball Hendrix walked around the hall causing shocked gasps wherever he went. He looked like Ben Tillman: he was a walking reminder in the midst of Republican bickering of the Democratic opposition. Webster’s strength and Brayton’s weakness grew even more obvious when the Credentials Committee recommended the seating of all the Webster supporters except those from Berkeley County.