Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ben Madson One More Time: Pragmatic Realist or Inclusionist Champion? (88)


The question of how to characterize Ben Madson’s action in the City Council Anti-Japanese Resolution of 1943 was, in my view, unresolved in the exchange between Rich Rifkin and myself in this blog’s posts 82 & 83 (October 28, 2012). There was simply not enough evidence to decide between a portrayal of his action as “pragmatic realist” or “inclusionist champion.”

Still curious, I have tried to identity other materials that might bear on this question. So far I have not found anything that is directly “on point.” My search has included reading press accounts (actually, lack of them) in the Sacramento Bee, the Woodland Democrat, the Dixon Tribune, and various other press and university-published reports on Madson, including obituaries.


I have also read his professional papers archived at Shield’s and the oral history interviews he did in 1971 (published as A Pioneer in Agricultural Education).

The absence of references to the Resolution, much less to his action, might mean the episode--and his action--were not considered important. It might be neither a badge of merit or of demerit for the City or for Madson. The matter and Madson’s act were (perhaps) only one more small episode in an unending flow of Council dealings.

Even so, his oral history interview (at age 85) contains some views of Davis civic life of the 1940s and 50s that I think bear in an indirect way on the Anti-Japanese Resolution and the mystery of how his act was viewed by him and by others at that time.

These observations concern 1) the relation of the City Council to the public, 2) the character of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, and 3) the Hunt’s plant controversy.

Although far from definitive, I read the views expressed in these extracts as tending in the practical realist rather than in the inclusionist champion direction.

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Interviewer Remarks

Short Bio