Baltimore native, City College grad and...

STANLEY L. ASKIN,

January 01, 1994

STANLEY L. ASKIN, Baltimore native, City College grad and decorated hero who led a Rangers platoon into Normandy on D-Day, 1944, died in California recently. In 1948, he displayed courage and patriotism of another kind by playing tennis in a group of whites and blacks on the courts at Druid Hill Park.

That was against the law then, and he was arrested. One result of that is a bit of Sunpapers trivia. H. L. Mencken wrote his last newspaper column about the incident. Though Mencken was associated with The Evening Sun most of his career, this column was written for the editorial page of The Sun.

It appeared on Nov. 9, 1948, several months after the event, because of a news blackout ordered by the courts. Mencken said he had waited as long as he cared to, and made several points about the whole affair. These sentences summarize his point of view on such matters. It may be somewhat surprising to those of a later generation who know of his views on race only on the basis of his posthumously published diary and journal -- and, especially, some of the reviews and commentary dealing with those works.

"Has the Park Board any right in law to forbid white and black citizens, if they are so inclined, to join in harmless games together, on public playgrounds? Again: Is such a prohibition, even supposing that it is lawful, supported by anything to be found in common sense and common decency?

"I do not undertake the first question, for I am ignorant of law, but my answer to the second is a loud and unequivocal No. A Free citizen in a free state, it seems to me, has an inalienable right to tplay with whomever he will, so long as he does not disturb the general peace. If any other citizen, offended by the spectacle, makes a pother, then that other citizen, and not the man exercising his inalienable right, should be put down by the police.

"Certainly it is astounding to find so much of the Georgia Cracker surviving in the Maryland Free State, and under official auspices. . . . It is high time that all such relics of Ku Kluxry be wiped out in Maryland."

Soon thereafter Mencken had a stroke that ended his writing career.

hTC * * *

HOW BILL Spent His Christmas Vacation, Day One. Got up in pre-dawn. Drove two hours to Dorchester County. Bought duck hunting permit, ear plugs and duck call. Spent two hours in duck blind. Temps in teens. Bagged one mallard drake. Pigged out on venison sausage, creamed chipped beef, eggs, ham, scrapple, bacon and biscuits. Drove two hours back from Taylor's Island. Hopped a jet to Hot Springs, Ark. Played cards with Chelsea and Roger. Drank coffee. Hit town in time for pizza and cheesecake. Waived good-night to Hillary and Chelsea. Returned to Rocky's Corner for cannoli. Checked out local bowling alley. Rolled a 126.

And on the second day. . .

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