The Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta holds the entire national collection of U.S. draft cards from World War I. As the 225th anniversary of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution approaches, archives officials said the draft cards demonstrate Congress’ constitutional authority to raise an army.
MORROW How is baseball legend Ty Cobb’s World War I draft registration card related to the U.S. Constitution?
The answer is simple, according to officials at the National Archives at Atlanta. The Constitution grants Congress the authority to raise an army in times of war, and one way to do that is through a draft.
“Article I, Section 8 talks about the authority to declare war and to raise an army, and here we have the draft cards to show that taking place,” said Mary Evelyn Tomlin, public programs specialist at the National Archives at Atlanta.
Monday is the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. While the original copy of the Constitution is kept in Washington D.C., archives officials explained government document — showing the federal government’s founding charter in action — can be found at their facilities in Morrow and Ellenwood.
The archives holds approximately 180,000 cubic feet of archived federal government records generated across the southeast. Holdings which show the mandates of the Constitution being carried out include immigration and naturalization records copies of federal census records and federal court case files, such as key files from the Civil Rights era.
The national collection of 24 million World War I draft cards is also held at the archives and the Kentucky provost marshall draft records from the Civil War.
So, people can the use of Article I Section 8 of the constitution - which gave Congress the authority to raise an army - in the draft cards for people like Ty Cobb, Louis Armstrong and a man from Stockbridge named Michael King - who would later be known as Martin Luther King, Sr.
People can see the 14th and 15th Amendments enforced through civil rights court rulings. One such case is the 1949 Briggs V. Elliot case, which dealt with segregated schools in South Carolina. In that case, federal district court Judge J. Waites Waring, argued in his dissenting opinion that “segregation is, per se, inequality.”
The majority of a three judge panel in South Carolina upheld segregated schools, however, and Briggs V. Elliot case was later merged into the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down segregation in schools.
“He (Waites) wrote very interesting opinions,” said National Archives at Atlanta Education specialist Joel Walker. “A lot of people believe his opinion of the Briggs V. Elliot case was used by the Supreme Court intheir decision on Brown v. Board.”
Walker explained that Waites’ decisions, including one in a 1947 voting rights case where he wrote “it is time for South Carolina to rejoin the union,” made him unpopular in the state.
“The General Assembly in South Carolina named a mule barn at Clemson University in his honor,” said Walker.
Tomlin and Walker said the Constitution has been able to survive for 225 years because it has been able to be adapted through the years through amendments and federal court interpretations. Since its ratification, the Constitution has been amended 27 times and has been interpreted and re-interpreted numerous times by the federal courts.
“I think it’s held up remarkably well,” Tomlin said. “It can be changed. We’ve made changes in it. We gave women the right to vote, and the 14th Amendment gave African-Americans the right to become citizens.”
Walker added, “It’s a living, breathing thing that people still argue over today.”
The archives will commemorate Constitution Day on Sept. 18, from 9 a.m., until 11:30 a.m., with a program entitled “Constitution: 225th Anniversary” at the federal facility, located 5780 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow.
The program will include a scavenger hunt for children, a presentation National Archives at Atlanta Regional Administrator Jim McSweeney, distribution of copies of the constitution, the airing of a clip from the Andy Griffith Show, where Don Knotts tries to recite the Constitution’s preamble, and a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens.
People interested in learning more about the program should call Tomlin at 770-968-2555.
Clayton State University also has several event lined up for its annual Constitution Week celebration.
Those events include a discussion on voter ID laws on Friday, from 1 p.m., until 2 p.m., in James M. Baker University Center room 267; a debate on whether another constitutional convention is needed, on Sept. 19, from 9 a.m., until 10:30 a.m., in university center room 267, and a viewing of the documentary “Please Vote for Me,” on Sept. 19, from 5 p.m., until 6:30 p.m., in Arts and Sciences Building room 224.
Clayton State’s Constitution Week activities will conclude Sept. 20 with a discussion on “living constitutionalism” — featuring former Gov. Roy Barnes and state Attorney General Sam Olens — from 12:30 p.m., until 1:30 p.m., in university center room 272.