Black History Month Special
Senator Jesse Helms’ Remarks on Martin Luther King Day,
Part One


The late Senator Jesse Helms (R — North Carolina)

6,531 words

Foreword by Beau Albrecht [2]

It’s Black History Month, an occasion to celebrate the remarkable race that’s done so much to make America what it is today. With so many towering giants of history to remember, where does one begin? Looking to the past, there is Harriet Tubman; imagine Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny as a black lady from Philadelphia. Much more recently is Barack Hussein Obama the Lightworker, who makes Theodore Roosevelt seem like a two-bit ward heeler in comparison, and had a remarkably more cordial relationship with big business. Surely the greatest of all is St. Dr. Rev. MLK Jr., the holy blissful martyr, a colored version of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Corneliu Codreanu, and Horst Wessel all rolled into one. Surely we would do well to discover more about this embodiment of everything good in the universe.

Playing the devil’s advocate role in 1983, Jesse Helms [3] argued against MLK’s canonization during a Senate debate. For starters, adding another national holiday would be costly. In practice, after the measure did pass, this problem was avoided by removing Lincoln’s Birthday. (What did he ever do for blacks, anyway?) Washington’s Birthday was repurposed into Presidents’ Day in which we can remember all of them together, from the American Cincinnatus himself to the lethargic swamp critter now illegitimately occupying the same office. Therefore, MLK became the only individual honored with a US holiday besides his sidekick Jesus Christ.

When Helms pointed out our favorite civil rights leader’s Marxist connections, Ted Kennedy objected, finding the objection objectionable. (Chappaquiddick Teddy wasn’t so innocent of that himself, since he played ball with the KGB [4] during the Cold War.) After that, Helms laid out all the evidence in painstaking detail. Although MLK wasn’t a card-carrying Communist, he certainly rubbed elbows with some. After being warned repeatedly by Kennedy administration figures — including the President himself — to dissociate with them, he duplicitously kept up contact using go-betweens.

From several Marxists closely surrounding him, as well as his own statements, the ol’ Drum Major of Social Justice personally comes across as more than a bit pink, if you’ll pardon the expression. Later, KGB insider Vasili Mitrokhin’s tell-all book The Sword and the Shield confirmed some of the details from their perspective on the other side of the Arctic Ocean. Ultimately they regarded the efforts of American proxies to court him as a disappointment. In light of what Senator Helms revealed, the KGB’s pessimism was misplaced.

As documented in an FBI report, MLK turned against the Vietnam War effort because of influence by Communist advisors, after having said little about it previously. What were the practical effects? It certainly irritated LBJ, who considered criticism of the war effort by someone he helped to be a personal betrayal. Moreover, this surely worsened the morale of black soldiers. It’s little wonder why many Vietnam vets recall a racial powder keg atmosphere. Many (and perhaps most) of the notorious fragging incidents were black-on-white, which would be considered “hate crimes” if objective standards were applied.

Since the late 1920s, the Communists put much effort into trying to recruit blacks. This never led to masses of soul brothers getting interested in dialectical materialism and socialist labor brigades. However, a number of their luminaries and community leaders did fall under the Marxist orbit to one degree or another. This produced a tactical and strategic synergy that left its mark, in certain ways, on what is commonly known as the civil rights movement [5]. Specifically, it was the financing, publicity, organizational know-how, and other logistical support supplied by Marxists and comsymps (mostly Jewish, not to put too fine a point on it) that sent the movement into the fast lane.

For one example, MLK never would’ve emerged onto the national stage if his consigliere Stanley David Levison hadn’t provided vital support in so many ways. (He was a skilled speechwriter, for one thing.) The FBI certainly knew about this relationship [6], but the public remains largely unaware even now. If we take Comrade Levison’s opinion of his figurehead at face value, then MLK wasn’t quite the sort with the natural talents to ascend to the top of the movement on his own:

Stanley Levison has told Clarence Jones, another advisor to King, that under no circumstances should King be permitted to say anything without their approving it. Levison also informed Jones that King is such a slow thinker he is usually not prepared to make statements without help from someone.

Likewise, the MSM played an essential role by providing extensive free publicity, mostly positive. This steady drumbeat of laudatory coverage went far to produce the nearly-deified image of MLK that remains today. Unfortunately, it contrasts quite glaringly with certain aspects of his character (to say the least) about which the public wasn’t informed.

Understandably, some blacks would’ve been happy for whatever help they could get to further their cause, particularly in the early days when they were gaining little traction on their own. Still, after the Cold War was underway — which nearly got apocalyptically hot — allying with enemy subversives was a bad idea. JFK himself agreed, despite supporting the civil rights movement.

The following Jesse Helms speech was recorded in the Congressional Record, volume 129, number 130 (October 3, 1983 [7]): S13452-S13461. It’s available in hardcopy as a rare book, Martin Luther King Jr., Political Activities and Associations. For further context, hyperlinks are added here.

Senator Helms takes the floor

Mr. President, in light of the comments by the Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Kennedy), it is important that there be such an examination of the political activities and associations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., principally from the beginning of his work in the civil rights movement in the mid-1950s until his death in 1968. Throughout this period, but especially toward the beginning and end of his career, King associated with identified members of the Communist Party of the United States [8] (CPUSA), with persons who were former members of or close to the CPUSA, and with CPUSA front organizations. In some important respects King’s civil rights activities and later his opposition to the Vietnam war were strongly influenced by and dependent on these associations.

There is no evidence that King himself was a member of the CPUSA or that he was a rigorous adherent of Marxist ideology or of the Communist Party line. Nevertheless, King was repeatedly warned about his associations with known Communists by friendly elements in the Kennedy Administration and the Department of Justice (DOJ) (including strong and explicit warning from President Kennedy himself). King took perfunctory and deceptive measures to separate himself from the Communists against whom he was warned. He continued to have close and secret contacts with at least some of them after being informed and warned of their background, and he violated a commitment to sever his relationships with identified Communists. Throughout his career King, unlike many other civil rights leaders of his time, associated with the most extreme political elements in the United States. He addressed their organizations, signed their petitions, and invited them into his own organizational activities. Extremist elements played a significant role in promoting and influencing King’s opposition to the Vietnam war — an opposition that was not predicated on what King believed to be the best interests of the United States but on his sympathy for the North Vietnamese Communist regime and on an essentially Marxist and anti-American ideological view of U.S. foreign policy.

King’s patterns of associations and activities described in this report show that, at the least, he had no strong objection to Communism, that he appears to have welcomed collaboration with Communists, and that he and his principal vehicle, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), were subject to influence and manipulation by Communists. The conclusion must be that Martin Luther King, Jr. was either an irresponsible individual, careless of his own reputation and that of the civil rights movement for integrity and loyalty, or that he knowingly cooperated and sympathized with subversive and totalitarian elements under the control of a hostile foreign power.

Biographical Data 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of Alberta Williams and Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister. He was graduated from Morehouse College, Atlanta, in 1948, receiving the degree of B.A. He attended the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, receiving the degree of B.D. in 1951, and he received the degree of Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955. In 1953 he married Coretta Scott of Alabama, by whom he was the father of four children. On April 4, 1968 King was murdered by a rifle assault in Memphis, Tennessee. On March 10, 1969, James Earl Ray, an escaped convict, pled guilty to the murder of King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, a term he is now serving.


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Operation “Solo” and Stanley D. Levison [1] [11]

In the early 1950s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) undertook a long-term and highly classified counter-intelligence operation against the CPUSA. The FBI persuaded a former member of the National Committee of the CPUSA and former editor of the Daily Worker, the Party newspaper, to become active again within the Party leadership and to report on Party activities to the FBI. This man’s name was Morris Childs [12], and his brother, Jack Childs, also a Communist, agreed to act as an informant as well. The FBI operation was known as SOLO, and for nearly 30 years it provided reliable and highly sensitive information about the CPUSA, its activities within the United States, and its relations with the Soviet Union to the highest authorities in the U.S. government. At least three U.S. Presidents were aware of SOLO, and Morris Childs may have briefed President Nixon prior to his trip to Moscow in 1972. In 1980 SOLO was brought to an end. Jack Childs died on August 12, 1980, and the operation was publicly disclosed and thus terminated by historian David J. Garrow in a book published the following year.

Among the most important facts learned from SOLO was that the CPUSA was dependent on a direct financial subsidy paid by the Soviet Union. About one million dollars a year in Soviet funds was paid to a member of the CPUSA, usually Jack Childs himself, in New York City. Although this subsidy was illegal, the FBI allowed it to continue for a number of reasons — prosecution would have exposed SOLO and necessarily brought it to an end, and the operation was of continuing value; and the dependence of the Party on Soviet funds meant that it did not seek to increase its membership and importance within the United States.

In 1953 Jack Childs reported to the FBI that an individual named Stanley David Levison [13] (1912-1979), a New York lawyer and businessman, was deeply involved in acquiring and disposing of the funds of the Soviet subsidy to the CPUSA. Levison may have been involved as a financial benefactor to the Party as early as 1945 and may have established legitimate business enterprises in the United States and Latin America in order to launder Soviet funds to the Party. In this connection Levison was said to have worked with Isidore G. Needleman [14], the representative of the Soviet trading corporation AMTORG.

Childs also reported to the FBI that Levison assisted CPUSA leaders to acquire and manage the Party’s secret funds and that he directed about $50,000 a year into the Party’s treasury. After the death of Party treasurer William Weiner in 1954, Levison’s financial role became increasingly important, and Levison, according to Childs, became “the interim chief administrator of the party’s most secret funds.” [2] [15]

The FBI maintained close surveillance of Levison, but in mid to late 1955, Levison’s financial role began to decline. The FBI decreased its surveillance, although Levison was believed to have occasional contacts with CPUSA leaders. The Bureau eventually terminated surveillance of Levison, probably sometime in 1957. Some indications that CPUSA leaders were disgruntled with Levison led the FBI to interview him on February 9 and March 4, 1960. It is not clear what Levison told the FBI at these interviews, but he definitely rejected the request of the FBI that he become an informant within the Communist Party.

In the summer of 1956 Bayard Rustin [16], himself a former member of the Young Communist League, the youth arm of the CPUSA, introduced Levison to Martin Luther King, Jr. in New York City. Levison and King soon became close friends, and Levison provided important financial, organizational, and public relations services for King and the SCLC. The FBI was not aware of their relationship until very late 1961 or early 1962, and it was the discovery of their relationship that led to the protracted and intensive FBI-DOJ surveillance of King for the remainder of his life. The FBI believed that Levison was still a Communist and that King’s relationship with him represented an opportunity for the Communist Party to infiltrate and manipulate King and the civil rights movement.

Of King’s dependence on Levison there can be no doubt. A DOJ Task Force investigating the FBI surveillance of King discussed this dependence in its report of 1977:

The advisor’s (Levison’s) relationship to King and the SCLC is amply evidenced in the files and the task force concludes that he was a most trusted advisor. The files are replete with instances of his counseling King and his organization on matters pertaining to organization, finances, political strategy and speech writing. Some examples follow:

The advisor organized, in King’s name, a fund raising society . . . This organization and the SCLC were in large measure financed by concerts arranged by this person . . . He also lent counsel to King and the SCLC on the tax consequences of charitable gifts.

On political strategy, he suggested King make a public statement calling for the appointment of a black to the Supreme Court . . . This person advised against accepting a movie offer from a movie director and against approaching Attorney General Kennedy on behalf of a labor leader . . . In each instance his advice was accepted. King’s speech before the AFL-CIO National Convention was written by this advisor . . . He also prepared King’s May 1962 speech before the United Packing House Workers Convention . . . In 1965 he prepared responses to press questions directed to Dr. King from a Los Angeles radio station regarding the Los Angeles racial riots and from the “New York Times” regarding the Vietnam War. [3] [17]

After King’s death, Coretta Scott King described Levison’s role: “Always working in the background, his contribution has been indispensable,” and she wrote of an obituary of King written by Levison and Harry Belafonte, [18] “two of his most devoted and trusted friends,” as “the one which best describes the meaning of my husband’s life and death.” [4] [19] It may be noted that this obituary began with a description of America as “a nation tenaciously racist . . . sick with violence . . . [and] corrosive with alienation.” According to Garrow, Levison also assisted King in the writing and publication of Stride Toward Freedom, the administration of contributions to SCLC, and the recruitment of employees of SCLC. King offered to pay Levison for all this help, but Levison consistently refused, writing that “the liberation struggle [i.e., the civil rights movement] is the most positive and rewarding area of work anyone could experience.” [5] [20]

There seem to have been few if any agents and administrators in the FBI who knew of Levison’s background of involvement in handling the secret and illegal Soviet funds of the CPUSA who doubted that Levison remained a Communist or under Party control at the time he was working with King, and some FBI personnel have suggested that Levison may actually have held rank in the Soviet intelligence service. Garrow himself does not seriously question the accuracy of Childs’s reports of Levison’s earlier role in the Party, but he appears to be skeptical that Levison continued to be a Communist at the time he worked with King and that he was motivated in this work by any factor other than friendship for King and belief in the civil rights movement.

Garrow’s conclusion in this respect is open to question. He is decidedly favorable to King, as opposed to J. Edgar Hoover and other anti-Communists of the time. It is not clear why Garrow came to this conclusion, since he does not appear to have had access to all FBI materials on Levison or derived from SOLO and since he appears to be largely ignorant of the nature of CPUSA activities in racial relations through front groups and surrogates and of the discipline of the Party over its members.

A number of factors support the belief that Levison continued to be a Communist or to act under CPUSA control during his association with King:

First, there is no evidence that Levison broke with the CPUSA; the termination of his financial activities on behalf of the Party prior to his work with King means nothing as far as his affiliation with or loyalty to the Party or the Communist movement is concerned.

Second, Levison had been involved not as a rank-and-file member but as an operative involved with clandestine and illegal funding of the CPUSA by a hostile foreign power. He had had access to the highest leaders of the Party and to the inmost secrets of the Party. It is not likely that such tasks would be given to one who was not fully trusted by both the CPUSA leadership and by the Soviets themselves. Even if Levison had changed his mind about Communism, his activities would have constituted grounds for blackmail by the Party.

Third, several years after the apparent end of his financial activities for the CPUSA, Levison rejected an opportunity to act as an FBI informant against the Party. Details of his discussions with the FBI are not available, but apparently they were not friendly.

Fourth, Levison testified under subpoena at an executive session of the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security on April 30, 1962. This testimony is still classified. His attorney at this time was William Kunstler [21], who became notorious for his far left activities in the 1960s and 1970s; Kunstler had been recommended to Levison by the latter’s friend, Arthur Kinoy [22], also a far left activist. Although Levison in his opening statement before the Subcommittee denied that he was or ever had been a member of the Communist Party, he refused to answer any questions during this hearing dealing with his relations with the Party or his alleged financial role in it; he pled the Fifth Amendment throughout the hearing.

Fifth, Levison’s known policy and personnel recommendations to King exhibit a leftist orientation. He was instrumental in persuading and influencing King to oppose the Vietnam war and in hiring at least one other individual with known Communist affiliations to work in SCLC.

Sixth, prior to his work in a New York-based civil rights group called “In Friendship” in 1955, Levison had never displayed any interest in civil rights activities. The sudden development of his interest in civil rights and his extensive, time-consuming, and costly assistance to King may have been motivated by a spontaneous and enduring dedication to this cause, but there is little reason to think so. His own description of the civil rights movement as a “liberation struggle” suggests a Marxist perspective.

Seventh, after King was urged by DOJ to disassociate himself from Levison and was subject to surveillance and distrust by the FBI and the Kennedy Administration, there was no effort on Levison’s part to try to explain his past or to persuade appropriate authorities (in the FBI, DOJ, or the White House) that he had been innocent of Communist connections or that his relationship with King was not connected to his Communist affiliation. Had he been able to do so, King and the civil rights movement would have been much more favorably received by the Kennedy Administration and King himself would probably have been spared several years of surveillance and harassment by the FBI. Instead, Levison and King entered into a secret and deceptive relationship by which Levison continued to influence King through an intermediary, himself of far left orientation and background.

In short, Levison consistently behaved in a manner that lent itself to a sinister interpretation, and his behavior lends further credence to the firm belief of FBI agents involved that Levison remained a Communist or under Communist control. That Levison remained under Communist control was and remains a reasonable explanation of his activities in lieu of any evidence to the contrary or any known behavior on his part that would contradict this explanation.

The FBI informed Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy of the close relationship between Levison and King and of Levison’s Communist background on January 8, 1962. The Attorney General decided to warn King of Levison’s background and to urge him to disassociate himself from Levison in order to spare himself, the civil rights movement, and the Kennedy Administration any future embarrassment. Both Burke Marshall, Assistant Attorney General, acting through Harris Wofford [23], White House civil rights advisor, and John Seigenthaler [24], Administrative Assistant to the Attorney General, informed King that persons close to him were Communists or had Communist backgrounds. King expressed skepticism and made no commitment to inquire further or to take any action. Marshall brought the matter to King’s attention again in subsequent meetings. On June 22, 1963, King met separately in Washington with Marshall, Robert Kennedy, and President Kennedy. All three men again warned King about the Communist affiliations of Levison and Jack O’Dell [25], an official of SCLC who had been promoted by Levison [and who had been — and may still have been — a member of the National Committee of the CPUSA. President Kennedy, in a private conversation with King in the White House Rose Garden, compared the situation with the Profumo Scandal [26] in Great Britain and specifically stated, with reference to Levison and O’Dell, “They’re Communists. You’ve got to get rid of them.” [6] [27]

Even after this conversation, King “made no move to sever ties with either O’Dell or Levison.” [7] [28] It was not until the FBI leaked information to the press about O’Dell and the publication of this information that King “accepted” O’Dell’s resignation from SCLC in a letter of July 3, 1963. King had still done nothing to sever ties with Levison, and not until after a meeting of Burke Marshall with Andrew Young of SCLC did a change in their relationship occur. In this meeting Marshall told Young,

I can’t give you any proof, but, if you know Colonel Rudolph Abel of the Soviet secret intelligence, then you know Stanley Levison. [8] [29]


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This characterization suggests that the FBI may have had other facts about Levison showing a direct link with the Soviet Union.

Levison himself reportedly suggested to King that they curtail their association, and King reluctantly agreed. However, they now entered into a means of communication deliberately designed to deceive the FBI and the Kennedy Administration. Levison and King were to communicate only through an intermediary — or “cut-out” in intelligence parlance — and to avoid direct contact with each other. In this way Levison could continue to influence King. Whether Levison or King instigated this clandestine and deceptive relationship is not clear. The intermediary between King and Levison, from July, 1963 until 1965, when the overt contact between them was resumed, was Clarence B. Jones [32], a black lawyer whose “left political views and firm resistance to any symptoms of racial discrimination had placed him in hot water a number of times” while serving in the U.S. Army in the 1950s. [9] [33]

Jack O’Dell continued to maintain an office at SCLC offices in New York City even after his “resignation” of July 3, and King and SCLC issued contradictory explanations of this continuing relationship. King himself made commitments to federal officials that he would sever his ties to Levison and O’Dell, but telephonic surveillance of King, Levison, and Jones showed that he had not done so in regard to either individual. As Burke Marshall stated in an interview in 1970:

If you accept the concept of national security, if you accept the concept that there is a Soviet Communist apparatus and it is trying to interfere with things here — which you have to accept — and that that’s a national security issue and that taps are justified in that area, I don’t know what could be more important than having the kind of Communist that this man was claimed to be by the Bureau directly influencing Dr. King. [10] [34]

Hunter Pitts O’Dell 

Hunter Pitts O’Dell (also known as “Jack O’Dell” and “J. H. O’Dell”), known to have been extensively involved in CPUSA affairs at a high level of leadership, worked for the SCLC at least as early as 1961. O’Dell met Martin Luther King in 1959 and had communicated with him by mail in 1959 and 1960. In June, 1962, Stanley Levison recommended to King that he hire O’Dell as his executive assistant, and O’Dell subsequently was increasingly active in SCLC and was listed as a ranking employee of the organization. [11] [35]

O’Dell testified under subpoena in hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security (SISS) in New Orleans on April 12, 1956; he took the Fifth Amendment when asked about his organizational activities in New Orleans on behalf of tile CPUSA. Materials discovered in O’Dell’s apartment at the time the subpoena was served were described in the Annual Report of the Subcommittee as “Communist literature from Communist parties in various parts of the world.” [12] [36] He also took the Fifth Amendment when asked if he was a member of the CPUSA in a hearing before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) on July 30, 1958. O’Dell, according to an FBI report of 1962, was elected a member of the National Committee of the CPUSA in December, 1959, and, according to information submitted to HCUA in 1961, was a member of the National Committee as of that year. [13] [37] As Garrow states:

“No one, including O’Dell, denied his work with the Communist Party from the late 1940s to at least the late 1950s.” [14] [38]

O’Dell is an associate editor of Freedomways [39], a magazine described in 1964 by J. Edgar Hoover as an organ which the CPUSA continues to use as a vehicle of propaganda.” One of the editors of Freedomways is Esther Jackson [40], a member of the CPUSA and wife of James Jackson, a leader of the CPUSA. O’Dell, as well as James Jackson, are included in a “List of Members” of the World Peace Council [41] for 1980-1983. The World Peace Council, long known as a Soviet-controlled front organization [42], was described by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1982 as “the major Soviet-controlled international front organization.” [15] [43]

In October, 1962, various newspapers in the United States, using information provided them by the FBI, exposed O’Dell’s Communist affiliations and his current ties to King and the SCLC. King issued an inaccurate statement that sought to minimize O’Dell’s work with the SCLC and accepted O’Dell’s resignation. As Garrow states:

The resignation . . . was more fiction than fact, as King’s own message and appointment books for late 1962 and the first half of 1963 reflect.” [16] [44]

Further news stories of June, 1963, which exposed O’Dell’s continuing relationship with King and his presence in the New York office of SCLC, coupled with warnings from the Kennedy Administration led King again to accept the resignation of O’Dell on July 3, 1963. Even after this date, however, FBI surveillance showed a continuing relationship between O’Dell and SCLC.

There is no doubt about O’Dell’s extensive and high level activities in and for the Communist Party, and his affiliations since 1961 strongly suggest continued adherence to and sympathy for the CPUSA and the Soviet Union to the present day. Despite these ties and King’s knowledge of them, King promoted O’Dell within the SCLC at the behest of Levison and retained his help after twice publicly claiming to have disassociated himself from O’Dell following strong and explicit warnings from the Kennedy Administration about O’Dell’s Communist background and affiliations.

Southern Conference Educational Fund 

Stanley Levison and Hunter Pitts O’Dell were not the only individuals of Communist background with whom Martin Luther King was in contact and from whom he received advice, although they were in a better position than most to exert influence on him. From the mid 1950s through at least the early 1960s, King and the SCLC were closely involved with an organization known as the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), essentially a Communist front organization. SCEF was itself dominated by the Communist Party through the Party members who ran it, and some of these individuals provided assistance to King and exerted influence on him and the SCLC.

A. Background of SCEF

SCEF was originally founded as part of an organization known as the Southern Conference on Human Welfare (SCHW), founded in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 6, 1938. SCHW was originally located in Nashville, Tennessee, but later moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities issued a report on SCHW, which found:

Decisive and key posts [of SCHW] are in most instances controlled by persons whose record is faithful to the line of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union . . .

The Southern Conference for Human Welfare is perhaps the most deviously camouflaged Communist-front organization. When put to the following acid test it reveals its true character:

  1. It shows unswerving loyalty to the basic principles of Soviet foreign policy.
  2. It has consistently refused to take sharp issue with the activities and policies of either the Communist Party, USA, or the Soviet Union.
  3. It has maintained in decisive posts persons who have the confidence of the Communist press.
  4. It has displayed consistent anti-American bias and pro-Soviet bias, despite professions, in generalities, of love for America. [17] [45]

In 1944 the Special Committee on Un-American Activities (SCUA) of the House of Representatives also cited SCHW as a Communist-front. [18] [46]

Soon after its identification as a CPUSA front in 1947, SCHW was dissolved, but the Southern Conference Educational Fund continued. SCEF maintained the same address as SCHW (808 Perdido Street, New Orleans, Louisiana) and published the same periodical (The Southern Patriot). In 1954 the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security (SISS) held hearings in New Orleans on SCEF and found that at least 11 former officials of SCHW were or had been also officials of SCEF. Among these were the President and Executive Director of SCEF, both of whom were identified in testimony taken under oath as having been members of the CPUSA and as having been under the discipline of the CPUSA. Both individuals in their own testimony denied these allegations. The Subcommittee concluded in its report that —

An objective study of the entire record compels the conclusion that the Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc., is operating with substantially the same leadership and purposes as its predecessor organization, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.

The subcommittee accordingly recommends that the Attorney General take the necessary steps to present this matter before the Subversive Activities Control Board in order that a determination can be made as to the status of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc. [19] [47]

B. Backgrounds of Individual Leaders of SCEF 

At least two key associates of Martin Luther King were formally associated with SCEF as well as with the SCLC itself. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King’s principal vehicle for civil rights activism, was officially founded in Montgomery, Alabama on August 7-8, 1957. Among the guests at the organizational meeting in Montgomery was Ella J. Baker of New York City, of the “In Friendship” organization [20] [48] Baker was also formally associated with SCEF as of October, 1963, as a “Special Consultant.” In 1958 Baker established SCLC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and was a longstanding friend of Martin Luther King. She later played a key role in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization that became notorious in the 1960s for its advocacy and instigation of racial discord and violence. John Lewis, a founder of SNCC, described Ella Baker as “the spiritual mother, I guess you would call her, of SNCC.” [21] [49]

Little appears to be known of the “In Friendship” organization of which Ella Baker was the representative at the SCLC organizational meeting in 1957. However, Stanley Levison also was closely involved with this organization in New York. According to Garrow:

Levison . . . had first become involved in the southern civil rights struggle as one of the most active sponsors of a New York group named In Friendship. Organized in 1955 and 1956, In Friendship provided financial assistance to southern blacks who had suffered white retaliation because of their political activity. In Friendship had sponsored a large May, 1956, rally at Madison Square Garden to salute such southern activists, and a good percentage of the funds raised went to King’s Montgomery Improvement Association. [22] [50]

It was Levison who, with Bayard Rustin, sent Ella Baker to Atlanta to oversee the SCLC office in that city, just as he had brought O’Dell into the SCLC office in New York.

Fred L. Shuttlesworth [51], corresponding secretary of SCLC in 1957, was in 1963 the President and a former Vice-President of SCEF. Shuttlesworth was responsible for the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, through which King and other civil rights activists became involved in civil rights work. Several other individuals affiliated with SCEF as organizational leaders were alleged under oath to have been members of the Communist Party and to have accepted Party discipline or can be shown to have had ties to known Communist Party front organizations. Internal documents of SCEF reveal that Martin Luther King was in close contact with some of these leaders of SCEF.

First, Aubrey Williams [52]: President-Emeritus of SCEF in 1963, Williams had been identified as a member of the CPUSA and as having accepted the discipline of the Communist Party in the testimony of two former members of the Party, Paul Crouch and Joseph Butler, before SISS in 1954. Williams denied these allegations.

Second, Dr. James A. Dombrowski [53]: Executive Director of SCEF, Dombrowski had also been identified as a member of the Communist Party and as having accepted Party discipline by witnesses Crouch and Butler before SISS in 1954. Dombrowski denied these allegations. [23] [54]

Third, Carl Braden [55]: Field Organizer for SCEF, Braden was identified as a member of the CPUSA in the testimony of Alberta Aheam, an FBI informant in the Party, before SISS on October 28, 1957. Braden later served as Executive Director of SCEF (1966-1970) and, until 1973, Information Director of SCEF. Braden was indicted and convicted of advocacy of criminal sedition in the state of Kentucky in 1954 and was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment; the conviction was reversed by the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Pennsylvania v. Nelson, 350 U.S. 497 (1956), which struck down state sedition laws. In 1959 Braden was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions before HCUA. Braden served a year in a federal penitentiary for this offense, and his conviction was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Braden’s wife, Anne McCarty Braden, was also identified by Alberta Aheam as a member of the Communist Party in testimony before SISS in 1957. Anne Braden also was active within the leadership of SCEF. [24] [56]

Fourth, William Howard Melish: “Eastern Representative” of SCEF (in New York City) in 1963, Melish was identified as a member of the communist Party in testimony before the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) in 1956 in connection with SACB hearings on the National Council of American Soviet Friendship [57], described by HCUA as “the Communist Party’s principal front for all things Russian” and included in the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations pursuant to Executive Order 10450. William Howard Melish is the father of Howard Jeffrey Melish (also known as “Jeff Melish”), a member of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and of the violent “Weatherman faction [58]” of SDS. Jeff Melish was arrested in Chicago during the violent “Days of Rage” rioting organized by the Weatherman faction in 1969; he attended the 9th World Youth Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1968 and traveled to Cuba in 1970. [25] [59]

Fifth, Benjamin E. Smith: Formerly counsel to and in 1963 treasurer of SCEF, Smith was a member of the executive board of the National Lawyers Guild [60] (NLG), repeatedly cited as a Communist front organization, in 1956 and in 1962 was listed as “Co-Secretary” of the NLG Committee to Assist Southern Lawyers. In the 1950s Smith was active in the legal defense of persons charged with violating the Smith Act, and in at least one instance he was reported to have received funds from the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, an organization also identified as a Communist front organization. [26] [61]

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[1] [65] Most of this section is drawn from David J. Garrow, The FBl and Martin Luther King, Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1981), esp. pp. 21-78.

[2] [66] Ibid., p.41.

[3] [67] United States Department of Justice, “Report of the Task Force to Review the FBI Martin Luther King. Jr., Security and Assassination Investigations,” January 11, 1977, pp. 121-22.

[4] [68] Victor S. Navasky, Kennedy Justice (New York: Atheneum, 1971), pp. 162-63.

[5] [69] Quoted in Garrow, p. 28.

[6] [70] Quoted in Garrow, p. 61.

[7] [71] Ibid.

[8] [72] Ibid., p. 62

[9] [73] Ibid., p. 63.

[10] [74] Ibid., quoted, p. 95.

[11] [75] Ibid., p. 151.

[12] [76] United States Senate, “Report of the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws,” Committee on the Judiciary, 84th Congress, 2nd Session, for the Year 1956, Section III, December 31, 1956, p. 46. (Publications of this Subcommittee hereinafter cited as SISS).

[13] [77] United States House of Representatives, “Structure and Organization of the Communist Party of the United States, Part 1, Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities,” 87th Congress, 1st Session, November 20, 21, and 22, 1961, Testimony of Francis J. McNamara, p. 576. (Publications of this Committee hereinafter cited as HCUA).

[14] [78] Garrow, p. 50.

[15] [79] World Peace Council, “List of Members,” 1980-1983 (Helsinki, Finland: Information Centre of the World Peace Council), pp. 141-42; for O’Dell’s background, see Review of the News, July 13, 1983, pp. 49-50; “Soviet Active Measures, Hearings before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” House of Representatives, 97th Congress, 2nd Session, July 13, 14, 1982, p. 57.

[16] [80] Garrow, p. 50.

[17] [81] “HCUA, Report on Southern Conference on Human Welfare,” 80th Congress, 1st Session, June 16, 1947, pp. 2 and 17.

[18] [82] “HCUA, Guide to Subversive Organizations and Publications (and Appendixes),” revised and published December 1, 1961 to supersede Guide published on January 2, 1957, p. 154 (hereinafter cited as Guide).

[19] [83] “SISS, Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc. Hearings,” March 18, 19, and 20, 1954, p. VIII.

[20] [84] Trezz Anderson, “New Rights Group Launched in Dixie,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 17, 1957, p. 2; this article misprints “In Friendship” as “in Fellowship.”

[21] [85] Robert H. Brisbane, Black Activism: Racial Revolution in the United States, 1954-1970 (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 1974), p. 49; see also the masthead of the Southern Patriot of October, 1963, reproduced in “State of Louisiana Joint Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities, Report No. 4.” November 19, 1963, “Activities of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc.” in “Louisiana” Part 1, p. 74, Exhibit 29 (hereinafter cited as JLCUA).

[22] [86] Garrow, p. 26.

[23] [87] “SISS, Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc. Hearings,” pp, Vi and VII.

[24] [88] “SISS, Communism in the Mid-South,” October 28 and 29, 1957, Testimony of Alberta Ahearn, p. 37; John M. Ashbrook, “Rev. Martin Luther King: Man of Peace or Apostle of Violence,” Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13013.

[25] [89] “JLCUA,” p. 14; “Guide,” pp. 117-18; “United States House of Representatives Special Committee on Un-American Activities, Report on the C.I.O. Political Action Committee,” 78th Congress, 2nd Session, March 29, 1944, p. 156; “United States Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation, Foreign Influence – Weather Underground Organization (WUO),” August 20, 1976, p. 332.

[26] [90] See “Guide,” p. 1212, for citations of the National Lawyers Guild as a Communist front; “JLCUA,” pp. 14-16.