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Title: Governor Carlton S. Skinner Papers
Authors: Skinner, Carlton S.
Keywords: Organic Act of Guam
Governors of Guam--Carlton S. Skinner
Civilian Governors--Carlton S. Skinner
Appointed Governors--Carlton S. Skinner
Issue Date: 1949
Publisher: The Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, Manuscripts Collection, University of Guam, Mangilao, GU 96923
Citation: item identification, Governor Carlton S. Skinner Papers, MSS 2850, The Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam. Mangilao, Guam.
Series/Report no.: MSS 2850;
Abstract: Governor Carlton Skinner was sworn in September 27, 1949 in Guam’s Plaza d’Espana. During his term he helped to write and secured passage of the Organic Act of Guam, still the island’s constitution, accomplished the election of the First Guam Legislature, replaced military personnel with civilians in senior positions, created the University of Guam, and launched a free enterprise economy. He was chosen to be Governor owing to his previous civil rights achivements during World War II when he asked to command the first racially integrated naval crew in U.S. History. Before his service in the military, Skinner worked as a prewar correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and United Press International. After the war, Skinner was a Public Relations Director for the Interior Department and a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior before he was appointed Governor of Guam. He was a native of Palo Alto, California, born 8 April 1913, and attended Wesleyan University and the University of California, Los Angeles. He and his first wife Jeanne Rowe had three children: Franz, Andrea, and Barbara along with a Dalmatian when the family lived on Guam. President Harry Truman appointed Carlton Skinner as governor of Guam on 17 September 1949 after Skinner had already completed a draft of the Organic Act of Guam in 1948. Skinner replaced Vice Admiral Charles A. Pownall as the island was being begrudgingly transferred by the US Navy to the Department of the Interior and the final draft of the Organic Act was beginning to take form. During this nine month transitional period, Typhoon Allyn hit the island in November 1949, causing great devastation, including the leveling of most Quonset huts that functioned as government buildings, schools, warehouses, and even homes. While the American Red Cross responded after Skinner had flown to Washington D.C. seeking disaster relief for Guam, the Office of Emergency Management refused to help because Guam was “not part of the United States” and as such, the Office had no authority to respond. Skinner was flabbergasted at the “irresponsibility of such a reply” and emphasized that “this response had a salutary effect in making the new Guam government realize that it must be self-reliant. It had to stop its former instinctive dependence on the occasional benevolence of the US government. Even psychologically, it had to accept that with its more mature political status [by way of the Organic Act] would come the obligation to make its own decisions and provide for itself. From this stemmed a whole series of actions and programs, large and small.” In 1952, for example, Governor Skinner helped initiate the Quonset hut Territorial College of Guam in the village of Mongmong, a two-year teacher training school under the auspices of the Department of Education which became the University of Guam in 1968. The process of drafting the Organic Act included a special Congressional hearing on Guam in November 1949 led by Congressman John Miles, a former governor of New Mexico. The visiting congressional committee noted that “about 100 witnesses testified, including the community leaders and all members of the Guam Congress, and all were enthusiastically in favor of the bill.” Skinner was reappointed governor by President Truman on 21 July 1950, the sixth anniversary of the US marine invasion against Japanese forces. The day before the Organic Act was signed, however, indicate the reasons why a simple chronology of Skinner’s three years in office would be an inappropriate approach. On 30 July 1950 Skinner signed a quitclaim deed that transferred lands that were previously confiscated and condemned lands – largely belonging to Chamorro families – to the US government and thus placed safely under its control before the Organic Act took effect the next day. These approximately 49,600 acres or 36 percent of the island’s land mass represented land losses for approximately 1,350 land owners. These lands had often been acquired through extensive, seemingly indiscriminate, arbitrary seizures and condemnation processes. Historical estimates of the compensation given to Chamorros for their land have been as low as six percent of the land’s appraised value. While Skinner was instrumental in ushering in civilian rule for Guam a study of history shows that he was also involved in shaping Guam policies in many other ways. Among them are Congressional perspectives on Guam’s tenuous status with the United States. As historian Don Farrell has noted, some federal laws are “still arbitrarily applied or not applied to Guam, and Guam is considered either foreign or domestic at the whim of Congress.” The overall theme of Skinner’s perspectives on his time as governor is the integral nature of democracy itself and, under its granting to the island of Guam, the brotherhood of an extended American independence and democracy to the island. But as Robert Underwood has also noted, the history of Chamorro efforts to gain political rights is itself “antithetical to colonial perspectives” while suggesting “moments of intertwining between Native and colonial perspectives in ways that complicate important and necessary efforts to distinguish them.” These political rights were sometimes considered by anti-self governance advocates – particularly tenacious officials of the US Navy – to be worthy of sacrifice for the sake of Guam’s infrastructure and economic development. Underwood has also observed that “unreturned love is standard fare in Guam political arguments” as is an “unrequited affection.” A narrative sense of the “loyalty” of the Chamorro people toward the United States has been used to “maintain a colonial narrative of history” – a phenomenon quite evident in Governor Skinner’s own 1997 memoir, After Three Centuries: Representative Democracy and Civilian Government for Guam. Referring to himself throughout the book simply as “Skinner,” Governor Skinner traces many of the challenges he faced. His term essentially ended when Rear Admiral Ernest W. Litch, whose “friction” with Skinner, particularly over Skinner’s attempt to get the navy to allocate more electric power from its plant to Guam communities, prompted Litch to criticize Skinner to President-elect Dwight Eisenhower when the President stopped on Guam. Skinner was not on Guam at the time and had not known about the President’s travel plans. Skinner places a particular emphasis on the process leading to Congressional approval of the Organic Act as well as its provisions for “self-government” by way of an American democratic system of governance. But he makes no mention of the Guam Congress Walkout of 1949 that was widely covered by the US media and caused embarrassment for the Truman administration. The Walkout not only challenged the idealistic rhetoric of democracy by the US government when the Congress tested its actual powers in subpoenaing a witness who was, however, protected by Governor Pownall but also reflected the mass of unresolved naval governing issues culminating in the Walkout. Skinner includes the Organic Act itself as well as the full text of his supportive testimony before Congress in the book. He considered the Organic Act to have embodied the essential elements as Abraham Lincoln expressed them: “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” He includes separate chapters that also extoll the “Industrious and Intelligent” nature of the “People of Guam,” and Guam’s “Record of Loyalty to US.” The establishment of The Organic Act of Guam was nevertheless a significant event, given the decades-long rule of the island by individual commanders whose authority was essentially total. The Guam Congress, established by Governor Roy C. Smith in 1917, served theoretically as a means for Guam leaders to meet and express their concerns and recommendations to the naval governor of their time. Some governors however ignored the Guam Congress’ attempts to influence decisions affecting their island. The Organic Act of Guam changed this condition through leaders elected by the people they were meant to serve. But as critics of the Organic Act and of the United States’ overall influence on Guam have noted, the Organic Act of Guam was not the product of the people of Guam but rather a US Congressional creation. These issues, along with contemporary perspectives on issues of Chamorro self-determination based upon current and historical wrongs, all make Skinner perhaps the most important Governor up to this point in Guam’s history. His legacy cannot be separated from these problems or from contemporary issues related to how people feel – feelings that have markedly changed but also diversified over the decades since Skinner’s term – from a more accepting notion of American attachment to more questioning ideas and stances about the Guam’s still unresolved political status. While some remain content with Guam’s status quo relationship with the United States, Chamorro activists, political leaders, and people in general have, over the past few decades, become more vocal about the right of the Chamorro people, within the context of their centuries’ long control by foreign powers, to determine their own political future. Nearly sixty years after he left office on February 19, 1953, Skinner’s identity and legacy are aglow, traced, and defined holistically and individually by each of these issues. Source:
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