A Tough Year For Harry Golden

Nineteen fifty-eight was a tough year for Harry Golden. He was the editor of the Carolina Israelite in Charlotte, North Carolina, an eccentric, blog-like, one-man newspaper he had started in 1942 with 600 subscribers, which by 1958 had grown to a circulation of 45,000.

His home, office, and library burned down, and people from all over the world helped him rebuild and replace the 2,000 books that had been destroyed. The Charlotte Police used state-of-the-art infrared techniques to save his subscriber list.

Fortunately, the week before the fire, Golden had mailed the manuscript for his first book Only in America to a publisher in New York. I’ll let Harry himself take it from there in a passage from the introduction to his second book, For Two Cents Plain:

“Within the week of its publication, Only in America reached the bestseller lists. A month later it was Number One.

“There the book stayed for many weeks, and in the fall CBS asked me to appear on a television program about racial integration along with Harry Ashmore, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of Little Rock and [Arkansas] Governor Orval Faubus [an opponent of racial integration].

“When I arrived in New York the afternoon of the telecast, however, I learned that an anonymous letter had been sent to a New York newspaper revealing a secret I had guarded for many years. The secret was that I had served a prison sentence in 1929.”

[Golden sold securities at a neighborhood “bucket shop” and probably came up short when the market crashed. He was prosecuted for fraud and served five years in prison.]

“I knew I owed an obligation to CBS,” he continues, “and I showed a copy of the letter to Mr. Howard K. Smith of the network staff. I told him it was true. He urged me to go on the air anyway. But after a long discussion, several other CBS directors and I agreed that I would not be at my best, and considering the emotionally packed issue of racial segregation, the revelation of my past might obscure this basic and important problem. I did not appear on the program.

“The story, handled sympathetically, broke the next morning in the Herald Tribune and across the country as I prepared to return to Charlotte. It was a lonely and somewhat terrifying trip. My work, I thought, now ends.

“But on my return I was greeted with warmth and affection by the press of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. Bernard M. Baruch, Billy Graham, Fannie Hurst, Carl Sandburg, and Adlai Stevenson, and many others gave highhearted statements to the wire services and newspapers; the leading Protestant clergymen of my city, the Catholic bishop of the North Carolina Diocese, and practically the entire rabbinate of America offered expressions of fellowship; all of which indicated that I might continue to publish my newspaper.

“In fact, after the incident became known, I received almost four hundred requests for speeches around the country, and in fulfilling some of these I have had the pride of standing before the entire Congregation of Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue in New York City, before many Christian fellowships throughout the South, and before the Rotary Club of Charlotte, which represents the ‘power structure’ in my home town.

“I was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner of the Alumni Association of CCNY where I was photographed in fellowship and mutual respect with a fellow guest, The Honorable Charles H. Tuttle, who was the prosecutor in my case.

“But what impressed me most is that the students of the leading high schools of Charlotte and Chapel Hill chose me to deliver the commencement address of 1959.”

After writing three bestsellers, Harry Golden traveled widely and covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann for Life Magazine in 1961. He was granted a full pardon by (guess who?) Richard Nixon in 1974.