The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Botnick (A.I. and Fay) Civil Rights Collection
Collection Number: M338
Dates: ca. 1819-1993
Volume: .75 cubic ft.
Fay Waldoff Botnick:
Fay Waldoff Botnick was born in 1926 and grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She was the oldest child of Paul and Eva Waldoff, who owned and operated the Waldoff's department store in downtown Hattiesburg for many years. She retired from Tulane University in New Orleans where she served as Assistant to the Provost of the University. She continues to live in New Orleans.
Adolph (A.I.) Botnick:
Adolph (A.I.) Botnick was born in 1924 to Louis and Madge Botnick of New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent his early years in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He graduated from Gulf Coast Military Academy in Gulfport, Mississippi and served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II. After the war, he earned a degree in sociology from Louisiana State University, where he met his wife Fay. The Botnicks moved to Hattiesburg after their marriage, where they lived until 1961 with their three children: Michael, Wendy, and Lori.
Mr. Botnick accepted a position with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Atlanta in 1961. He became the Director of the Anti-Defamation League's South Central Regional Office in New Orleans in 1964, a position which served Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. His assumption of this position coincided with the murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Because two of the three victims were Jewish, the ADL began to monitor the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) more closely.
In 1968, Mr. Botnick was involved in a FBI plot to capture Klan bombers in Meridian. During the ensuing battle, one of the bombers was killed and another seriously injured. Following this incident, Mr. Botnick became a frequent target of the KKK, with the Klan continuing to monitor him into the early 1970s. The FBI apprehended Klansman Byron de la Beckwith as he attempted to bomb the Botnick home in New Orleans in 1973.
Despite the incident, Mr. Botnick continued to be an outspoken voice for civil rights in the Mississippi and Louisiana area through his efforts with the ADL. He continued to hold his position in the organization until his retirement in 1992. He died in 1995.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was founded in 1913, and is the self-proclaimed "world's leading organization in combating anti-Semitism through its programs and services." The ADL played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, because it was committed to the protection of the rights of all Americans. A major task for the ADL was to combat renowned hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
The collection consists of newspaper articles, periodicals, bumper stickers, a photograph, and various personal memorabilia collected by A.I. and Fay Botnick from the 1960s to the 1990s. Because of Mr. Botnick's connection to the ADL, the majority of the materials in the collection document Anti-Semitism and civil rights issues in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Box One consists of thirteen folders of materials. The first three folders hold materials generated by the ADL. These materials include newsletters, a photograph, and a folder of articles relating to Byron de la Beckwith. Folder four consists of a partial book review of a Thurgood Marshall biography. The fifth folder contains the memoir of A. I. Botnick in which he details the attempted bombing of his home by Beckwith in 1973. Folders six and seven contain bumper stickers and a sign pertinent to the Civil Rights Movement. The remaining folders hold articles, newsletters, and periodicals collected by the Botnicks, which document the ADL's role in the Civil Rights Movement, and A.I. Botnick's experiences combating the KKK in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s.
Box two consists of two folders and two loose items. The first folder holds an editorial cartoon that depicts the KKK and the ADL. The second folder contains two slavery newspapers from the late nineteenth century. A book of Christian Voters and Buyers League long-playing records are included in this box as the first loose item. The second loose item is a KKK rubber squeeze toy, apparently used for a dog, which reads, "Claw A Klansman."
This collection is an eclectic blend of materials that should be of interest to researchers of the Jewish role in civil rights activities in Mississippi and Louisiana (especially those activities linked to the ADL), and to those tracing the activities of the KKK in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s.