WASHINGTON (Mar. 2)
The Senate Banking and Currency Committee today voted by five to four to confirm the nomination of Charles Meriwether, of Alabama, as a director of the United States Export-Import Bank after a heated hearing in which Mr. Meriwether denied anti-Semitism but proclaimed that he still favored the racial segregation of Negroes. The nomination, which President Kennedy is continuing to support, now faces a fight on the Senate floor.
Mr. Meriwether admitted accepting the political support of the Ku Klux Klan in political campaigning he helped direct. He was questioned about his personal connection with R. M. Shelton, Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, and his work for retired Admiral John Crommelin, an anti-Jewish agitator.
Mr. Meriwether indicated, in response to examination, that Admiral Crommelin’s anti-Semitism was not the basis for their break. Other political moves by the retired admiral were responsible, he testified. Mr. Meriwether said he did not share KKK views on Jews and Catholics but that he did advocate the segregation of Negroes in public schools.
Senate sources revealed that the four votes cast against Mr. Meriwether were those of Senators Maureen Neuberger of Oregon; Joseph Clark of Pennsylvania; William Proxmire of Wisconsin; all Democrats; and Senator Jacob Javits of New York, a Republican. Interrogated at length by Committee members, Mr. Meriwether denied the accuracy of documents including an assertion that he once stated that “We ought to run all the damn Jews into the Atlantic Ocean.
Mr. Meriwether told the Committee that he had never had “any problem of anti-Semitism” and was “friendly toward Jews and “the colored race.” Sen. Proxmire wanted to know what the nominee’s attitude would be toward Israel and African and other nations. Mr. Meriwether said he would “make a great effort to work with them in a cooperative manner if the business was in the interest of the United States.”
Senator-Neuberger questioned Mr. Meriwether’s basic qualifications as a director of the Export-Import Bank and drew from him admissions that he was unfamiliar with such important fiscal legislation as the Cooley amendment.
Senator Paul H. Douglas, of Illinois, asked Mr. Meriwether to pledge “without any mental reservation” that he repudiated KKK religious bias. Mr. Meriwether said he repudiated anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism but “I believe in segregation in public schools.”