Thursday evening, I went to pay my respects at the wake for Robert J. Dwyer, who died last week at age 90. I met him only once, in 1968. Defeated that spring in his bid for a second term as a Milwaukee alderman, Dwyer had announced his candidacy as a Republican for the congressional seat held by Democrat Henry Reuss.
I wrote him a letter volunteering for his campaign, on stationary a printer friend of my dad's had made up proclaiming me "Wisconsin Correspondent for Ring Magazine," because I wrote up whatever paltry local boxing news there was for the "Bible of Boxing."
Dwyer was impressed enough to invite me to his office, but not so impressed when he discovered that The Ring's correspondent was 17 years old, heavily acned, and too shy to look him in the eye. He put me to work stuffing envelopes. I had hoped for something more administrative, and didn't return.
Dwyer's obituary in the Journal Sentinel mentioned his unsuccessful campaigns against Reuss (there were two), but missed the most eye-popping item on his political resume. In 1963, just months before he was elected alderman, Dwyer had published in William F. Buckley's National Review a four-page opinion piece titled, "I Know About the Negroes and the Poor."
In the lead article in the December 17 issue of the conservative digest, Dwyer wrote, "I submit that most poor people in America today are poor because they want to be. They make themselves the way they are by being lazy, uneducated, sick, undependable. They are all handicapped in the sense that they cannot or will not compete in the not very competitive society of modern America."
The solution to the problem was not more welfare, Dwyer said, but rather "to make it rotten for the poor. We must ... attach a terrible stigma to being poor. We must make it very unpleasant, disgraceful, in fact, to be poor, to be dependent on welfare."
"In short," he concluded, "let us make it rotten for the poor, whether they be white or colored…Read more...