ADA was founded in 1947 by Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther, Hubert Humphrey, Arthur Schlesinger, and Reinhold Niebuhr shortly after FDR died. Our goal then? To keep the New Deal dream of a fair and prosperous America for all alive for generations to come.
As ADA turns 75, we remain a key player in protecting progress and building for the future so that the dream can come true. We are working with allied groups in Washington and in states even as we build and mobilize our grassroots network across the country.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, profiles have been written by ADA Executive Committee Chair, Kurt Meyer. Enjoy!
ADA All Stars
ADA is marking… no, make that CELEBRATING!… our 75th birthday. This is the first of many outbound emails “toasting” this remarkable milepost (yes, I realize that’s a mixed metaphor). It’s appropriate that we begin this series by lifting up one of our founders, Eleanor Roosevelt, talking about ADA’s founding. This excerpt about ADA’s origin is from her syndicated newspaper column, My Day, which appeared in January, 1947.
“I spent the whole day yesterday from 9:30 in the morning till after five in the afternoon with a group of people, many of whom I have known before, who were trying to set up a liberal and progressive organization. They chose as their name, “Americans United* for Democratic Action.” If they live up to that name, they will not only lay down certain principles, but they will find ways and means to acquaint the people of the country with their program.
“In addition, they will organize the action which can be taken in any community in the nation if people are in agreement on specific programs. … I am joining with other progressives, many of whom are far younger and more active than I am, and far more influential, in an attempt to carry on the spirit of progress. We do not believe that what has been done in the past is the highest attainment that can be hoped for in a democratic nation.”
“…We hope to face new situations and find new answers in line with the needs and best interests of our country and its people, never forgetting our relationship to the family of nations.”1
Kurt Meyer, ADA Executive Committee Chair
* – The word “United” was obviously jettisoned at some point… I’ll seek out more information and share what I find.
1 Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day, January 6, 1947,” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Digital Edition (2017), accessed 11/30/2021, https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers//myday/displaydocedits.cfm?_y=1947&_f=md000540.
Today’s ADA All-Stars* are a first… most certainly there will be others: an ADA couple, Don & Arvonne Fraser. Like other national figures rooted in Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the DFL) – a list that includes names like Humphrey, Mondale, McCarthy, Wellstone, and Klobuchar – Don & Arvonne embodied simple, old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves practicality.
Theirs was not necessarily a “get-‘er-done” approach, which may suggest ends justifying the means regardless of costs… but rather a pragmatic, “do-what-you-can” approach, reflective of a strong work ethic, of taking the long view, and of a steadfast commitment to service.
Don Fraser was ADA President from 1974 to 1976. He was generally the more public figure in this marriage, although Arvonne was an unsuccessful candidate for Minnesota Lieutenant Governor in the mid 1980s. The couple both worked on Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 Senate campaign. More than three decades later, Don was elected to the same mayoral office HHH once held, and served for a record-breaking 14 years.
It says a great deal about Fraser that his 2019 obituary in his hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, begins with these words: “Former Minneapolis mayor, congressman, state senator, and the most gracious man you could ever meet…”
Over the years, I crossed paths with the Frasers occasionally and always held them in high regard. In 1976, I worked in the re-election campaign of an Iowa Congressman; Arvonne was the regional Carter-Mondale campaign official who interacted with our office and brought soon-to-be Vice President Mondale into the district to campaign.
Two years later, I moved to Minneapolis and worked for the DFL in an office suite that previously housed Don Fraser’s Senate campaign, which fell short (a modest play on words there… Don was defeated in the primary by businessman Bob Short). It seems almost everyone entering the suite felt obliged to express heartfelt grief that Don Fraser would not be our next Senator. (Humphrey died in early ’78; ten months later, the DFL suffered resounding losses. Ouch!)
Not knowing the Frasers well, I surely knew enough to reach out to someone who did: Amy Isaacs, ADA’s National Director for 20 years. A few of her recollections:
– “I knew them both very, very well. They became friends over the years, starting with Don’s presidency of ADA. Needless to say, if Don was involved so was Arvonne. I adored them both.”
– “Don was forever losing coats, so Arvonne bought him a bright red parka and wrote his name in it. I daresay he was the only Member of Congress to sport such attire. I once asked Arvonne if she had considered mittens on strings to go with the parka. She thought it a good idea.”
– “As head of the Democratic Party’s Party Reform Commission**, Don made certain that I was given the task of staffing the effort. As a result, ADA was center stage in major Party reform efforts.”
– “When their eight-year-old daughter was killed by a driver as she was returning from school, they went to the driver’s home after the funeral to tell said driver that they knew it wasn’t his fault and that they knew he was suffering as well. That takes truly special people.”
Don & Arvonne Fraser merit a trunk full of accolades, distinctions, honors, and tributes. The world is a better place because of the Frasers, their primary ADA involvement taking place almost a half-century ago. Like other ADA All Stars, they are motivation for us to do what we can to support ADA and advance the same enlightened approach to politics Don & Arvonne personified. If you are so motivated, please join us in (generously!) supporting ADA.
A closing quote from Arvonne. “Activism can be as simple as a conversation. Don’t underestimate what talking to your friends and neighbors does. It’s exactly how elections get won.”
* – A key element of ADA’s 75th anniversary celebration is designating 75 ADA All Stars & All-Star Moments under the theme “ADA at 75: The Best Is Yet to Come”.
** – Don Fraser succeeded Senator George McGovern (who, ironically, succeeded Don as ADA President) as Chair of the Commission on Party Structure & Delegate Selection, also known as the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which restructured the Democratic Party’s process of nominating presidential candidates to give more power to rank-and-file members.
P.S. – To learn more about the Frasers, I recommend the biography “Don Fraser: Minnesota’s Quiet Crusader” by his long-time staffer Iric Nathanson. You can order it from your local bookstore or, if you wish, from Amazon. If you order from Amazon, please register with smile.amazon.com listing the “ADA Education Fund” as your charity of choice; by doing so, a portion of your purchase supports ADA’s liberal activism. The Frasers would be pleased.
Family photograph from Minneapolis Photo Collection in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections.
Today’s ADA All Star, our fifth, is James I. Loeb. Mr. Loeb was not an especially high-profile individual in ADA’s history, however, clearly he was in “the room where it happens”, to use current vernacular.
A brief history lesson: ADA, now celebrating our 75th anniversary, is an outgrowth of a predecessor group, the Union for Democratic Action (UDA). In 1941, Loeb, along with theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, actor Melvyn Douglas, Murray Gross, an International Ladies Garment Workers Union official (colleague of David Dubinsky, see All Star #2) and others founded UDA. Loeb served as UDA’s executive director. The organization was unequivocally pro-union and took the additional step of barring political conservatives and communists from becoming members.
UDA was respected politically – for example, its positions were quoted often and widely… its members held significant posts in the Roosevelt administration – but it was weak financially. One of its innovations was disseminating voting records for members of Congress to help voters hold them accountable, a practice continued by ADA to this day.
By the mid-‘40s, however, UDA had only one active chapter and a mere 5,000 national members. Accordingly, Loeb advocated his own version of a “New Deal”… that is, to disband UDA and create a more broad-based, mass-membership organization. Americans for Democratic Action was born in January, 1947. Loeb then served ADA as the organization’s first executive secretary until 1953.
In April, 1961, President Kennedy appointed him U.S. Ambassador to Peru. An article in the New York Post at that time referred to Loeb as a “tall, free-gaited, Lincolnesque man with an easy-going exterior and a churning, socially conscious interior… a lean, youthful former teacher of romance languages who has never permitted his ulcers to weaken his intestinal fortitude.” In 1963, after being recalled from Peru to show U.S. disapproval of a military coup there, Loeb was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Guinea, in West Africa.
From 1953 until 1970, Loeb was part-owner / co-publisher of a newspaper in Saranac Lake, New York. When he died, in 1992, a former editor of his newspaper recalled, “If Loeb was planning to be away from the newspaper, he would in one afternoon sit down and flawlessly type five editorials with no typos to run each day that he would be gone. If there was something that might change, he would provide different paragraphs that could be inserted to keep the editorial current.” (Wow! Impressive.)
Quoted in nationally-circulating obituaries at the time of Loeb’s passing, ADA’s Amy Isaacs, then national director, noted Loeb’s talents were “instrumental in bringing together liberals, educators, theologians, labor leaders and businessmen.” One last observation. When Loeb died, memorial donations were to be made to Americans for Democratic Action, the organization he had served as executive secretary four decades earlier. (Would that we ALL did the same… or, at a minimum, hit the “contribute” button. Thank you!)
P.S. – An element of ADA’s 75th anniversary celebration is designating 75 ADA All Stars & All-Star Moments under the theme “ADA at 75: The Best Is Yet to Come”. As noted above, you can indicate your support for ADA by making an online contribution.
ADA’s claim to Duffey’s talents were brief but meaningful. He called the ADA National Director Don Kusler in early summer 2020, expressing hope of attending that Fall’s Awards Celebration. Unfortunately, the event became a virtual gathering, which he may or may not have watched. His last gift to ADA was his 2021 membership dues, a half-century after he served the organization as President.
I say, admirable fidelity, Joe Duffey! One sign of a true All Star.
— the first female to serve as president of her high school’s student body;*
— the first in her high school graduating class (i.e., valedictorian);
— the first Hawaiian woman to earn a JD from the University of Chicago Law School;
— the first Asian-American woman to practice law in the Hawaiian territory;
— the first Japanese-American woman to serve in the territorial House;
— the first woman to serve in the territorial Senate;
— the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii;
— the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawaii;
— the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives;
— the first Asian-American woman in Congress;
— the first Japanese-American woman in Congress;
— the first Asian-American to run for U.S. President;
— the first witness to testify against Pres. Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee Harrold Carswell;
— the first person to oppose a Supreme Court nominee based on discrimination against women;
— the first Democratic woman to deliver a State of the Union response; AND
— the first woman to head Americans for Democratic Action.
*- voted into office shortly after the Japanese bombed nearby Pearl Harbor, a second-generation Japanese-American student attending a Hawaiian high school… imagine.
Patsy Mink served as ADA National President from 1978 to 1981, between her two, 12-year stints in the U.S. House of Representatives (1965-1977 and from 1990 – 2002). She devoted herself to her ADA role with fervor and with a schedule that enabled her to participate fully in myriad organizational activities. During her tenure, ADA was always on her mind. One example: While on a beach in Hawaii, she spotted Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; went up to them and solicited their membership; they, of course, complied. Her drive, her passion, her ability, and her availability combined to make her an exceptional ADA leader, an All Star by everyone’s estimation.
It’s a challenge when talking about an accomplished person to identify just one characteristic or one achievement that stands out. Nevertheless, let’s focus on one in each of these two categories, since shining a spotlight on two items – one personal quality, one remarkable feat – can help us see the true nature of Patsy Mink.
To the extent Mink had a personal “superpower”, it was her tenacity… sometimes referred to as resolve, or persistence, or determination. In reading biographical information about the Congresswoman, tenacity comes through almost as often as her tendency to be “the first”. For example, when her medical school applications were denied, she re-directed her talents toward law school, graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, consistently ranked among the world’s best and most prestigious.
After she passed the bar to practice law in Hawaii territory, being a woman with a child in an interracial marriage became an obstacle to securing a law firm position; accordingly, she launched her own practice. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Mink campaigned to represent Hawaii in the U.S. House; her initial campaign was unsuccessful.
Several years later, Mink ran again and WAS elected… first to the Hawaii state house, then the state senate and, after Hawaii gained a second congressional seat, Mink sought the office again, won her race, and became Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Her legislative approach was rooted in the belief that representation extended beyond the borders of a congressional district. “You were not elected to Congress, in my interpretation of things, to represent your district, period,” she stated. “You are national legislators.” As a congresswoman, Mink fought for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, bilingual education, and championed an act known for many years simply as “Title IX”.
In her first period in Congress, Mink was an early critic of the Vietnam War. In 1972, she and Representative Bella S. Abzug of New York traveled to Paris to meet with North Vietnamese officials to discuss prospects for peace. In 1967, in a speech before the House, Mink argued against harsh punishments for those who burned the American flag, declaring: ”America is not a country which needs to punish its dissenters to preserve its honor. America is not a country which needs to demand conformity of all its people, for its strength lies in all our diversities converging in one common belief, that of the importance of freedom as the essence of our country.”
But it was the Title IX law, for which Mink was both an author and a sponsor, that she was most identified. That law stated that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Drawing on her medical school experience, Title IX was not specifically aimed at sports programs; however, there is where its impact noted.
The Women’s Sports Foundation website cuts to the chase. Under the heading “History of Title IX” and a photo of Congresswoman Mink, it states: “June 23, 1972. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is enacted by Congress and is signed into law by President Richard Nixon, prohibiting sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. Rep. Patsy Mink is recognized as the major author and sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Edith Green and Sen. Birch Bayh also made significant contributions.” (www.womenssportsfoundation.org/?s=mink) After her death in 2002, the Title IX law was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.
For more than four decades, Mink championed the rights of immigrants, minorities, women, and children, and sought to eradicate the kind of discrimination she encountered in her life. Respected for her integrity and honesty, she was indeed the primary force behind Title IX, the legislation that brought academic and athletic equity to American educational institutions. And for three remarkable years, she served as ADA’s first female President, becoming one of the organization’s most dedicated and productive leaders; indeed, her devotion and activity continued unabated until her death even as she served another term in Congress. She is among ADA’s most deserving and distinguished All Stars.
Looking through ADA’s distinguished past, you can’t find a couple more essential to the organization’s first 75 years than Marvin and Evelyn Jones Rich. If you read into this statement a bit of foreshadowing, you’re right. This is another All-Star TEAM. And if this All-Star tribute is longer than normal, it’s because a list of this couple’s contributions to humankind is as long as your arm.
Marvin & Evie Rich were an extraordinary team for every endeavor in which they participated. For many decades, they championed protecting civil liberties and civil rights, playing vital roles in what is often referred to as the Civil Rights Movement. They were important links in the circle that struggled for justice, which ultimately led to major changes in our country. ADA was but one beneficiary of their exceptional talents.
Marvin’s activism began in the mid-1940s at Washington University in St. Louis, his hometown. World War II veterans had sacrificed for their country and, upon returning, sought social justice at levels previously unavailable at Washington University. He joined the Student Committee for the Admission of Negroes (SCAN), spearheading a campaign to admit Black students, which ultimately led to the integration of the University.
Marvin was a founder of ADA’s St. Louis Chapter and was active in Students for Democratic Action (SDA). He also helped establish the St. Louis Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), advocating successfully for the desegregation of public places, like restaurants, swimming pools, libraries, and department stores. In the mid-1950s, Marvin moved to New York City and joined the local CORE chapter.
The late Julian Bond talks about this era in his book, “Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement”: “In the late 1950s, the CORE organization began to decline. By 1957, there were only seven groups affiliated with CORE. Only seven people attended the 1957 CORE convention: four national officers and three delegates. The organization tried to rebuild… and in 1959 Marvin Rich became community relations director.” (Sounds like Marvin took on quite an assignment!)
Among his various duties, Marvin was responsible for program planning, materials research and development, preparing the annual budget, and fund-raising, including fund-raising with and for local CORE chapters. That Marvin was successful is seen by noting that by 1961 CORE had 53 chapters throughout the U.S, including active groups in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky. By 1963, most major urban centers had at least one CORE chapter. And lest you think this was all “office work”, Marvin also made periodic trips to the South, where in 1962 he was jailed for almost a week with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Albany, Georgia. In 1964 he was severely beaten as he observed a voter-registration demonstration in Holmes County, Mississippi.
Marvin’s next professional move was to become Executive Director (later President) of the Scholarship, Education and Defense Fund for Racial Equality (SEDFRE). This organization implemented voter registration drives in the South, trained newly elected Black officials, and provided scholarships to activists expelled from Southern colleges for their civil rights activities.
Later, Marvin was Director of Development at the New School for Social Research, Executive Director of the Queens College Foundation, and Special Assistant to the President as well as Director of the Capital Campaign at Mercy College. In the 1970s, he was a founder of the National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC) and held various leadership positions within the organization.
Of course, during this same period, Marvin devoted countless hours to ADA, a commitment spanning more than five decades, where he served at different times as Treasurer, Chair of the Development Committee, Chair of the ADA Education Fund, and Chair of the Executive Committee. He was also President of New York City ADA and with his wife, Dr. Evelyn Jones Rich, ran the NYC chapter, which assembled much of this background information at the time of Marvin’s death, in December, 2018.
Dr. Rich has devoted her entire adult life to being an advocate and an activist in the fight for civil rights and justice, seeking equal opportunity for all. One description she applied to herself was “troublemaker”, reminiscent of Congressman John Lewis’s often-cited term, “good trouble”.
Based on a story Evie tells, clearly she was pushing boundaries even as a child. She talks about her first job… delivering newspapers. Her brothers were all Philadelphia paperboys and Evie decided she was going to distribute papers and earn money, too. Her gender, however, prompted reluctance from her potential employer, who told her, “There’s no such thing as a paper GIRL. Who’s ever heard of such a thing?” Nevertheless, young Evelyn successfully persuaded him to hire her and tended faithfully to her paper route for several years.
As a college student at Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia – the first Black undergraduate student to live on campus all four years – Evie, like Marvin, joined Students for Democratic Action (SDA) and, by her actions, has embraced liberal / progressive principles ever since. Introduced to CORE by her future husband, she utilized the organization’s non-violent philosophy throughout her career as an educator, advocate, and foundation executive.
In addition to her profession as a teacher and professor, there were also various causes throughout the years: for instance, taking teachers to Africa to develop realistic curricula for U.S. students, lobbying the New York State legislature for adequate educational funding, testifying on issues including redistricting, aging concerns, and health care. Evie also helped found and direct Labor Arts a virtual museum displaying a cultural and artistic representation of the struggle of working people and celebrating the labor movement. And, she was always helping elect progressive candidates to office through ADA. According to ADA colleagues, one of Evie’s remarkable gifts was that of public speaking, including making “the fund-raising pitch” at ADA banquets, always with considerable returns.
Many who knew Marvin & Evie Rich well praised their 62-year marriage. One of Marvin’s civil rights colleagues, noted, “More important than his role in the movement was Marvin the family man. He and Evie were and are models of what love and family should be.” Another observed, “We treasure his commitment to family and friends and those in need.” Perhaps the best tribute came from Amy Isaacs, former ADA National Director, speaking at Marvin’s memorial service.
“My first national ADA meeting… I sat in a room with a gentle giant whom I would come to cherish in the years ahead. Marvin Rich was there: a quiet, steady presence whose importance to me personally and to Americans for Democratic Action specifically, cannot be overstated. It was a joy to watch him and Evie together through all those years. Evie, Marvin didn’t just love you; he adored you and his eyes shone brightly whenever he talked about you or looked at you. For Marvin, you and your family were the underpinning of everything he did and stood for.”
“Marvin ensured that what was needed happened. His presence and devotion to the causes he held dear were constant and unswerving. He never sought the limelight, but it is no understatement to say that, without Marvin, the civil rights movement couldn’t have happened the way it did and Americans for Democratic Action would not have lasted (all these) years. He didn’t see his role as simply giving direction; he worked hard to make the often impossible happen… a quiet giant who did not seek the limelight but on whose shoulders all the rest of us stood.”
Marvin & Evelyn Rich are exceptionally deserving ADA All Stars… as Amy noted, continually helping “to make the often impossible happen”. Even today, ADA stands on their shoulders.
Today’s ADA All Star is not a person, but rather an “All-Star Moment” in the history of Americans for Democratic Action. Seventy years ago, President Harry S Truman addressed ADA’s National Convention Banquet of ADA, May 17, 1952. The following is an excerpt of President Truman’s remarks, edited for brevity (that’s right, me editing the President, ha).
It is a real pleasure to speak before the national convention of Americans for Democratic Action. The ADA was set up in January 1947. Those were dark days for the liberal forces in America. But you people had the courage to take up the fight and go forward. You dedicated yourselves to fight for progress and against reaction – against reaction of the right and against reaction of the left.
You helped to hang the record of the 80th Congress around the neck of the Republican Party – and I finished the job. You held firm against the fanatical and misguided attacks of the Wallace movement. And since 1948, you have been going down the line for policies and programs in the interest of the people and in fulfillment of the highest values we cherish in this Republic. I congratulate you on all the effective work you have done for the cause of liberal government.
Now then I am going to say something to you that I think maybe will please you a little bit.
Of course, there was a time when it might not have been so pleasant for me to meet with the ADA. I understand that 4 years ago along about this time some of the leaders of ADA were engaged in rather wild fancies about the Presidential nomination*. I am told there was a little poem that gained some currency in ADA circles in those days, and it went like this:
“Between the Taft and the Dewey, / When defeat is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the ADA’s occupation, / That is known as the Eisenhower.”**
You know, the peculiar part about it was that you were a young political organization and you had not studied the history of conventions. A President of the United States, when he desires and when he wants to be nominated, there isn’t anybody in the world can keep him from being nominated. I doubt if you will be having any pauses for that particular purpose this year.
In spite of the various notions about the nomination in 1948, the outcome of the election that year pleased all of us here, particularly me, and it astonished a great many people. We astonished the pollsters and the sabotage press, and the opposition candidates – Republican, crackpot, and Dixiecrat. The results were good for the country, even though they set back the science of political forecasting for a full generation. I hope it set them back forever.
Because this is an election year, I would like to talk to you a little bit about politics. I know you are a nonpartisan or bipartisan organization. I have heard that you have some Republicans among your membership, and I am sure that at one time it was true. I don’t know whether it is now or not. I want to ask these Republicans who are in the ADA not to include themselves in any remarks I am about to make about the Republican Party. When I talk about the Republican Party here tonight, I mean the dinosaur wing of the Republican Party, which unfortunately seems to be in control of that party.
The first thing I will say about the Republican Party, believe it or not, is an expression of gratitude. I want to thank them for the way they help the Democrats win elections. Under the liberal policies of the Democratic administration, our country has grown strong and prosperous. And this has been true for such a long time now that people tend to forget what things were like under the Republicans. They criticize the mistakes the Democrats make, but they take for granted all the benefits we have brought them.
Every four years it begins to look as if the people had forgotten what a Republican administration would mean to the country. And the Republicans go around convincing themselves that they cannot possibly lose the presidential election. I have heard it happen four times. But it is just at this point, when things look darkest for the Democrats, that you can count on the Republicans to do something that will save the day – that is, it will save the day for us.
You can always count on the Republicans, in an election year, to remind the people of what the Republican Party really stands for. You can always count on them to make it perfectly clear before the campaign is over that the Republican Party is the party of big business, and that they would like to turn the country back to the big corporations and the big bankers in New York to run it as they see fit. Just leave them alone, and the Republicans will manage to scare the daylights out of the farmer and the wage earner and the average American citizen. They always do that.
Now, we can always rely on the Republicans to help us in an election year, but we can’t count on them to do the whole job for us. We have got to go out and do some of it ourselves if we expect to win. The first rule in my book is that we have to stick by the liberal principles of the Democratic Party. We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don’t need to try it. The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.
The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign. We are getting a lot of suggestions to the effect that we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program. These, my friends, are Trojan horse suggestions. I have been in politics for over 30 years, and I know what I am talking about.
There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party. The rights and the welfare of millions of Americans are involved in the pledges made in the Democratic platform of 1948 and in the program of this administration. And those rights and interests must not be betrayed.
* In April, 1948, ADA announced support for a Democratic ticket of General Dwight Eisenhower and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. ADA supported Truman after his victory in the 1948 election.
** The first stanza of “The Children’s Hour” is a poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published in the September 1860 edition of The Atlantic Monthly.
Kurt Meyer, Chair
ADA Executive Committee
Joe Rauh, more formally Joseph Louis Rauh, Jr., was born in Cincinnati in 1911, the same year as his ADA colleague, Hubert Humphrey. Both are lifted up as “founding members” of ADA. It’s likely that BOTH Rauh and Humphrey were at the table in the Willard Hotel in January, 1947; records of ADA’s “founding meeting” are a bit informal, making a complete list of founding attendees hard to nail down.
One of three children born into a family where the business was shirt-making, Joe was exceptionally bright and attended Harvard, where he majored in economics. While in Cambridge, he also played basketball. He often noted that his sympathy for the underdog was rooted in three seasons playing center on Harvard’s hapless basketball team. In some respects, this line is “classic Rauh”.
Checking Harvard’s record from those seasons, 1929-1932: 26 wins, 15 losses. While not destined for basketball immortality and occasionally competing against teams like “Lowell Textile”, Rauh’s hapless line affirms his storytelling ability, his somewhat self-effacing nature, and his willingness to work both in and out of the spotlight.
Certainly, no one ever questioned Rauh’s commitment in support of the underdog. As a lawyer, he only took cases he believed in, believing no attorney should do otherwise. Unlike some young lawyers drawn to Washington by the New Deal, he remained a steadfast advocate of the outcast and downtrodden. Much of the legal work he performed was for little or no pay. As he observed in the mid-1980s, “Other people may have made more money, but no one has had more fun!”
After graduating first in his class from Harvard Law School, Rauh served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court, first to Justice Cardozo, then to Justice Frankfurter. In 1942, Rauh joined the Army and served in the Philippines during World War II. After the war, he returned to Washington and became deputy to Wilson Wyatt, the head of the Veterans Emergency Housing Program, the first major economic innovation of the Truman Administration. This relationship was important to both men.
Two years later, Rauh joined Wyatt and other liberals resigning their government posts to protest what they saw as growing conservatism in Truman’s administration. Rauh opened a law practice in Washington, but both Rauh and Wyatt, (who became ADA’s first President) had time on their hands to help launch ADA.
If there was a great, shining moment in the Joe Rauh story, it may well be the 1948 Democratic Convention, in Philadelphia. But let’s have Rauh himself tell us about it (lightly edited from an oral history interview conducted with Rauh in June, 1989).
“At the 1948 Democratic Convention, we upset the machinery. By ‘we’ I mean Hubert Humphrey and a bunch of young people (Note: Rauh and HHH were both 37 years old at the time). We upset the establishment of the Democratic Party. The establishment of the Democratic Party was just as reactionary on civil rights as the Republicans. So, what did we do? We tied civil rights to the masthead of the Democratic Party. Hubert Humphrey made this great speech. It was a lovely; it was a great platform we put in there.* It came out for all the statutes that one would want, FEPC (fair employment), anti-lynching, anti-poll tax. Hubert offered it as the minority plank. It was the first time since prohibition that a minority plank had won. And as we came out of there, we all knew that we had forever changed the Democratic Party. Everything that has happened since then resulted from the fact that we made the Democratic Party take a civil rights plank. … We shifted the whole emphasis of the Democratic Party from a southern dominated party to a civil rights dominated party.”
Passage of this civil right plank was more than just a significant victory for Rauh and Humphrey, it was also a major victory for ADA, formed 18 months earlier. Joe Rauh went on to become one of the country’s leading civil liberties lawyers for many decades… fighting McCarthyism, serving as ADA President from 1955 to 1957, drafting much of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s, and a leader of the N.A.A.C.P. and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
Among his high-profile clients in the 1950s were Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller, both accused of anti-American activities. In the 1960s, Rauh was well known for his Capitol Hill lobbying on behalf of bills sometimes he helped author. Accordingly, he was prominent in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Beginning in 1969, Rauh represented Joseph A. “Jock” Yablonski, challenger to W.A. (Tony) Boyle’s leadership of the United Mine Workers of America. After Yablonski, his wife, and daughter were murdered, Rauh pressed for a federal investigation and went on to help reform candidate Arnold R. Miller unseat Boyle as union president. Boyle was ultimately found guilty of ordering the slayings.
Rauh dearly loved ADA, once telling staff members he woke daily thinking about what he might do that day on behalf of the organization. He would frequently swing by the ADA office to sign letters and write personal notes on fund appeals. He made a modest monthly donation to ADA, beginning in 1947 and continuing until his death (45 years of contributions!), despite differences that emerged between Rauh and the entity he helped launch in the late 1940s and helped guide in the 1950s.
Looking back on his life and his various causes, Rauh was aware of advances he helped nurture. “I’m proud of our laws. What our generation has done is bring equality in law. The next generation has to bring equality in fact.” Joe Rauh died in early fall, 1992 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in the fall of 1993. One obituary described him as “exuberant, optimistic, idealistic, and irrepressible… an engaging conversationalist and storyteller (who) believed passionately in the causes he supported and fought for them vociferously” noting Rauh was “sometimes (known) as the personal embodiment of American Liberalism.”
Obviously, Joe Rauh is a remarkably worthy ADA All Star. But, as the Rauh quote about equality underscores, the battle is not yet over.
* – Not surprising that Rauh would think highly of the minorityplank. He, along with Humphrey and other ADA colleagues, drafted it.
ADA Founding Statement: A Demanding Faith
Today’s All Star is not a person but rather an All Star Moment. As you will see, it’s also a statement… a remarkable statement. After the initial ADA “launch” gathering at the Willard Hotel, January 4, 1947, a group was empowered to draft a statement.
I quote a letter written by Eleanor Roosevelt, one of ADA’s most illustrious founders, dated January 16, 1947:
Americans United for Democratic Action* is really a group to stimulate progressive action in the Democratic Party, and I have asked Mr. James Loeb, the secretary to send you as soon as the organizing committee has formulated its principles and plans, full information on the projects which they are going to undertake. A group of twenty-five was named to work on formulating these projects.
My sense is that the statement below, presumably drafted by Loeb, a previous All Star, was one of the outcomes of this group of twenty-five. I credit my ADA colleagues who are publishing “The American Commentator” for their distribution of this noteworthy statement some 16+ months ago. I send it to you today just as it appeared in their October 1, 2020 edition.
from the Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund
October 1, 2020
[Editors’ Note: ADA was founded in 1947 by New Deal liberals, trade unionists, business reformers, and civil rights activists who sought to work largely within the Democratic Party to promote full employment, national planning, and social justice. Among its early leaders were Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther, Reinhold Niebuhr, Hubert Humphrey, and John Kenneth Galbraith. The document we share below, “Liberalism is a Demanding Faith,” is excerpted from the Statement of General Purposes drafted by the ADA Organizing Committee. It was by no means a timid agenda. Although it omitted more contemporary issues such as gender equality, identity, and climate change, and it uses the gendered language of the era, it remains a powerful statement both for its time and for today.]
Liberalism is a Demanding Faith (1947)
As Americans for Democratic Action, we stand for a liberalism that moves with the times.
Our objective is to show that American progressivism is not dead: that it is the only standard under which the United States can rally the free peoples of the world against totalitarianism, of the right or of the left. We believe that where men are faced with hunger, with homelessness, with all the cruel whims of an impersonal business-cycle, and above all, with fear of atomic war, political freedom may all too easily be compromised and deformed. Demagogues will step in and offer security in exchange for a liberty that has lost its meaning.
Our program is directed toward this one goal: a society in which each individual enjoys the highest degree of personal liberty compatible with the liberty and economic security of his fellows. By liberty we mean the literal assurance of our traditional American rights based on a profound belief in the dignity of the individual: equality before the law and freedom for all persons to speak, to write, to worship, and to vote as they choose, without regard to race, creed, color, or economic status.
By economic security we mean freedom from want and an equitable distribution of the fruits of labor. More concretely we mean the guarantee of full and steady production and full and steady employment; the protection of labor’s right to organize democratically and bargain collectively; the security of the farmer in his farm and his production; the protection of the people’s inheritance in natural resources against waste and depredation; and a system of minimum wages and social insurance broad enough to maintain adequate standards of nutrition, education, medical care, and housing, below which no one would be permitted to fall.
We recognize that if these aims are to be attained there must be drastic regulation, dispersal, and, in some cases, public acquisition, of monopolies, those aggregations of private power which now exercise so large a measure of control over the public welfare and the political life of the nation. At the same time, we believe that democratic control of economic life means not only the basic direction of economic currents through the national government, but also public participation in economic effort at all levels. We are opposed to the over-centralization of controls and to attempts to assert government supervision over the details of economic life.
Between the all-powerful state, however, and the anarchy of rampant “private enterprise” is the wide and fruitful field of independent public authorities, municipal ownership, cooperatives, federally initiated projects locally administered, and all the possible combinations of these democratic devices. This is an area we mean to explore to the full.
Liberalism is a demanding faith. It rests neither on a set of dogmas nor on a blueprint, but is rather a spirit which each generation of liberals must learn to apply to the needs of its own time. The spirit is unchanging – a deep belief in the dignity of man, a faith in human reason and the power of free inquiry, a high sense of individual responsibility for oneself and one’s neighbor, a conviction that the best society is the one that enables the greatest number of its members to develop their potentialities to the utmost. Opposed to this spirit are the wealth and power of the organized forces of reaction and the masked efforts of the advocates of Communism.
Americans for Democratic Action is an organization for those who have not abandoned hope. We desire to mobilize the illimitable energies of our democratic tradition against the blind folly of conservatism, terror of the police state, and the hopeless destruction of atomic war. The triumph of American liberalism in our own day will mean a society in which the resources of the human soul, freed for the ends of peace, will provide individual freedom and abundance on a scale higher than the world has ever thought possible.
It is to this triumph that Americans for Democratic Action devotes itself.
* – The word “United” was obviously jettisoned at some point… I’ll seek out more information and share what I find.
I did not know Leon Shull. My loss.
Fortunately, however, many veteran ADA people did, meaning I could reach out for their insights. Leon Shull served as ADA’s national director for twenty years, from 1964 through 1984. For a liberal organization like ADA, I suspect these two decades were probably the most tumultuous years in the organization’s 75-year history.
That Shull managed to carry out his duties while expanding ADA’s membership is a tribute to his diverse talents. It’s only fitting that Leon Shull be recognized as an ADA All Star, the first ADA staff member so profiled. Without question, his talents and his tenure make him an exceptional choice. Ah, but don’t take MY word for it (remember, I didn’t actually know him). Read what his ADA contemporaries – people who DID know him – had to say:
— “Leon personifies the very best in the American tradition.” John Lewis, Congressman, civil-rights leader, ADA National President, 1993-1995.
— “Leon is one of the people who helped me understand what the reality was, and how best to take up the issues I cared about.” Patsy Mink, Congresswoman, ADA National President, 1978-1981.
— “Leon provided us with a great wealth, which will endure for decades to come.” Don Edwards, Congressman, ADA National President, 1965-1967. (Congressman Edwards was referring here to a wealth of connections, experiences, traditions, and an enhanced reputation… NOT dollars, which ADA has chronically lacked throughout its 75-year history.)
Shull hailed from Philadelphia. He attended Temple University on the north side of the city but left school during the Depression to work for social causes. Before the war, he had a furniture-making business but entered the Army during World War II, joining an engineers’ battalion. (He was turned down for officer’s candidate school by an officer who decided that someone who read books and listened to classical music was NOT officer material.)
Shull joined the southeast Pennsylvania ADA chapter in 1950, three years after ADA’s founding. At the time, he was serving as director of the Jewish Labor Committee. When local ADA leaders first asked him to become their executive director, he resisted. Then, according to one of his obituaries, “Someone hit on the idea of getting him fired from the JLC to force him to take over the ADA chapter…it worked.”
Shull was executive director of the southeastern Pennsylvania ADA chapter from 1951 to 1964.
He was a force in the 1950s reform movement in Philadelphia, when Richardson Dilworth and Joseph S. Clark threw out a long-entrenched (and corrupt!) Republican regime. He was campaign manager for Clark when he ran for mayor, and was also involved in Dilworth’s campaigns, first for district attorney, then for mayor once Clark became a US Senator.
As ADA’s national director, he fought the liberal fight on almost all controversial issues that confronted the nation during those two decades. For example, under Shull’s leadership, ADA was involved in battles over civil rights, minimum wage, progressive tax reform, and full-employment legislation. During his tenure, ADA became the first national organization to oppose the war in Vietnam and the first national organization to call for Richard Nixon’s impeachment. When ADA endorsed Eugene McCarthy over organizational founder Hubert Humphrey in 1968, much of organized Labor, a staunch ADA ally, fled the organization. It took another 20 years and considerable energy for ADA to regain that support, due in large measure, to Shull’s tireless efforts.
Perhaps Shull’s greatest legacy lies in his ability to attract and mentor young people. Those he mentored – no longer so young – now serve in state and local governments, and as congressional staffers and activists throughout the country. He brought Amy Isaacs on board, first a graduate student intern, then as an organizer. When she became national director, Shull returned as an ADA volunteer who attracted other volunteers, including Winn Newman and Woody Ginsburg, adding immensely to the work ADA could accomplish with limited resources.
One quick Leon Shull story, captured in one of his obituaries: “During the Vietnam War, his daughter Jane was in Washington with college friends to demonstrate against the war. Her father and a friend went looking for them as tear gas began going off around DuPont Circle, Jane recalled. With fumes pouring into the car window, Leon put his foot on the brake. His friend yelled, ‘Leon, get us out of here!’ But Leon was a law-abiding citizen. ‘I can’t,” he said. ‘It’s a red light.’”
Leon Shull was a tireless advocate for liberalism. Upon his retirement from ADA, he said, “All the progress I can think of in the last 50 years has come from the liberal movement. Every single thing… every new proposal that deals with the quality of life, the growth of our system. We used to say liberalism was a demanding faith. (See All Star #16.) It requires us to take positions that are sometimes uncomfortable in a social sense, sometimes lonely, and it sometimes gets you laughed at. But the tide always changes, doesn’t it? The tide never keeps going the same way.”
He knew the tide would change, even during the Reagan years. While some of his liberal colleagues were melancholy about trends during “the Reagan revolution”, Shull remarked, “Well, we always raise more money during these times.” Consistent with this point, the ADA gained 5,000 members the first year after Reagan was reelected.
Leon Shull died in Philadelphia, August, 2007, at age 93. By all estimates, he is truly an exceptional ADA All Star.
Kurt Meyer, Chair
ADA Executive Committee
In a fast-paced world, with the tempo of life seeming to grow quicker every day, sometimes it’s worthwhile to pause and take a brief glance back. Today, in this ADA Moment, we’re going to look back 75 years, to 1947, the year ADA was launched.
So, what else happened in 1947 that has lived or lasted as long as Americans for Democratic Action? Obviously, this is just a partial list. Nevertheless, it will provide you with some perspective:
— Elmer’s Glue first came to market in 1947. It’s still “sticking” around.
— J. Crew and Talbots, companies marketing their wares primarily to women, were launched in 1947.
— A company called Stanley Steemer started in 1947, the rug cleaning outfit, not the automobile by the same name, which arrived on the scene much earlier.
— The “Doomsday Clock” was created 1947 to symbolize the likelihood of a human-made global catastrophe, a metaphor for threats to humanity from unchecked technology.
— “Goodnight Moon,” a childhood classic, was first published in 1947. We certainly read it to our children at bedtime… presumably many readers of this All Star moment did, too.
A few words about the author of “Goodnight Moon”, Margaret Wise Brown. She was, as a friend of mine would say, “a real piece of work”! I quote from a recent newspaper article about her:
“Brown was a seductive iconoclast with a Katharine Hepburn mane and a compulsion for ignoring the rules. Anointed by Life in 1946 as the “World’s Most Prolific Picture-Book Writer,” she burned through her money as quickly as she earned it, travelling to Europe on ocean liners and spending entire advances on Chrysler convertibles. Her friends called her “mercurial” and “mystical.” Though many of her picture books were populated with cute animals, she wore wolfskin jackets, had a fetish for fur, and hunted rabbits on weekends. Her romances were volatile: she was engaged to two men but never married, and she had a decade-long affair with a woman. (Gasp!) At the age of forty-two, she died suddenly, in the South of France, after a clot cut off the blood supply to her brain.”
Enough about Brown. Let me note, a number of PEOPLE you’re undoubtedly familiar with who were born in 1947. A few notable entertainers, Elton John and Larry David, turn 75 this year, as do a few of the men and women currently serving in the U.S. Senate, all of whom voted for impeachment of the former guy on the second go-‘round… Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney, Mazie Hirono, and Jeanne Shaheen. Senator Hirono received ADA’s Frances Perkins Award in 2019.
Several former Senators are also blowing out 75 candles this year – Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, and Dan Quayle – as are several remarkable athletes… Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nolan Ryan, and Johnny Bench. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attended ADA’s “Civil Rights Plank” Celebration in Philadelphia in 2016 representing the Clinton campaign. (It must be because they were both born in 1947, don’t you think?)
Two former athletes probably best known for what they did AFTER their athletic careers reach the 75 mark this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger and O.J. Simpson. Authors who can now write about turning 75 include Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steel. Three talented actors who are now three-quarters of the way toward a century are Ted Danson, Richard Dreyfus, and Rob Reiner. Finally, two people known for conducting interviews turn 75 in 2022… David Letterman and Chris Wallace.
Americans for Democratic Action is celebrating our 75th year throughout 2022 under the banner of “ADA at 75: The Best is Yet to Come”.
“Always a pistol.”
It may well be that these words apply to many, if not most, ADA All Stars. But I came across these words, or something like them, consistently when doing a background dive on Lila Garrett. There seems to be general agreement: Lila Garrett was a pistol.
Garrett died two years ago this month at age 94. She packed a great deal of living into her years. She was a television screenwriter – an Emmy-award winning writer – as well as a radio host. She co-wrote a Disney television movie. AND, perhaps more than any other reason why she’s an ADA All Star, she engaged in politics.
She may have been a pistol… but this is a somewhat unusual description for an outspoken anti-war activist, described by one as “married to the peace movement and forever committed to progressive values.” She clearly wasn’t at all reluctant to stand up and to speak out for what she thought and believed.
Born in Brooklyn in 1925, Garrett was well-known as a comedy writer. According to one article I found, when she first arrived in Hollywood, she got her start by writing questions for game shows. She then wrote for sitcoms, including My Favorite Martian, All in the Family, Get Smart, and Bewitched. She never thought of herself as a “woman writer” or a “woman director”. She was simply a writer / director / commentator. Nor was she “still working” at ninety-four; she was just working.
One of her great skills was as a convener, activating people from far and wide to work for causes that were central to her, especially peace and justice. Her activism and political engagement took many different forms; for many years, she ably presided over the South California chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action. Meanwhile, she was a founder of Americans Against War with Iraq, a founding board member of the California Clean Money Campaign, as well as a founding member of Progressive Democrats of America.
Americans Against War With Iraq was the first group to run a national newspaper ad protesting the possible war, which it did in September 2002, spending almost $100,000 on three full-page ads in major papers. (The war didn’t begin until late March, 2003.) Garrett was quoted at the time the ads ran, “We felt we were representing the opinion of the majority of Americans and that that opinion was not being represented in the mainstream media.”
Garrett also served on the boards of the ACLU, the Venice Family Clinic, and the Writers Guild of America. She was a Democratic National Committee delegate for presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Southern California Chair of the 2004 Dennis Kucinich campaign for President.
In her later years, she hosted KPFK’s “Connect the Dots” on Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, interviewing left-leaning luminaries and often closing her show with “The arms industry has neither allies or enemies, only customers.” For many years, Garrett was a regular contributor to the LA Progressive, an online publication that, according to its own description, served as a platform for “progressive thought, opinion, and perspectives… openly and unapologetically advocacy journalism”.
In poking around in her life story, I encountered the point – but was unable to verify – that the movie “The Way We Were”, starring Barbara Streisand, was written about her. Let’s just say, it might have been; knowing this, even if it’s not factually correct (and obviously it may not be), helps me understand Lila Garrett a bit better.
Lila Garrett was always a pistol. Shortly before her death, a friend of hers was updating her Wikipedia page. “Make sure you insert how I end my radio show,” Garrett insisted. I looked it up… and there it is: “The arms industry has neither allies nor enemies, only customers.”
You have to say, Timuel Black led a very interesting life.
One might easily conclude that the truth in this statement is due to the fact that he lived a remarkably long life… 102 years. Actually, the truth about Tim Black is that he packed a great deal of learning and teaching and leading and mentoring and explaining and interpreting and writing… and yes, LIVING, into his century-plus-two years on this earth.
Clearly, he left his beloved Chicago better than he found it, a conclusion that might be applied equally to almost every cause, every program, even every individual that became the object of his considerable talents. ADA was but one organization that knew Tim Black… and that Tim Black knew. There were many others. Records are a bit sketchy about when he first joined ADA, probably in the early-to-mid 1960s. And he recorded a message of support and encouragement for the ADA annual awards event, virtual again in 2021, a month before his death last October.
In round numbers, that’s almost six decades of ADA involvement. That record alone places Black in a rather exclusive club. But it’s all the things he accomplished both before he joined ADA and during those six decades that puts him in a category by himself. Let me share just a few of those achievements.
Timuel Black arrived in Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama before his first birthday. His family was part of the first wave of the Great Migration during which millions of African Americans moved north in search of better opportunities. Many articles about Black include a sentence or two about being drafted to fight in World War II, for which Black earned four bronze battle stars as well as the French Croix de Guerre. While he didn’t “storm the beaches” at Normandy, he was part of the renown “Red Ball Express” that furnished supplies to those who did, including General Patton and the men under his command.
During his military service, a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp changed Black’s life. Here’s his description from a 2014 interview: “When we got up to Buchenwald, to see and feel and hear the cries, I was shocked. I began to feel that this could happen to anyone, and that in the long run, this is what happened to my ancestors in an organized, systematic way. (note: his grandparents had been slaves) I was angry. I made an emotional decision that when I returned from the Army, that most of the rest of my life would be spent trying to make where I live, and the bigger world, a place where all people could have peace and justice.”
The world is a better place due to that sense of commitment. We can trace the arc of Timuel Black’s life through several of the many tributes that poured forth last October.
— “Black had a hand in electing the city’s first Black mayor and the first Black U.S. president. He fought Nazis in World War II…returning to racial discrimination radicalized him and led to a life of civil rights and public service. In 1960, Black helped found the Negro American Labor Council and worked with A. Phillip Randolph on labor issues. The historian and author strategized with Martin Luther King Jr., challenged the Democratic Party machine and fought to desegregate housing and public schools.”
— “In 1963, Black helped organize the “freedom trains” that took thousands of Chicagoans to the March on Washington. ‘When Dr. King came on stage and put into eloquent terms, that ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, all of us were in tears. We believed that dream could be fulfilled, and we left with a feeling of responsibility to the dream and to the man.’ Black said in 2014. Black spent most of his life working to fulfill King’s dream of a more equal society. As an educator and administrator, Black helped end segregation in Chicago Public Schools.”
— “Black rooted his scholarship in community, inspiring manifold generations on how to be an artist and an activist. Sitting in circles with elementary school children, Black implored African-American children to have pride and not be ashamed of descending from enslaved people. He often said he descended from the best and the brightest. His legions of honorary grandchildren will continue to honor him through our own scholarship, thinking and writing.”
— “He ran (unsuccessfully) for Chicago City Council, generating national attention when he coined the term ‘plantation politics’ to describe the city’s political system under Mayor Richard J. Daley. After Dr. King’s death in 1968, Black rededicated himself to King’s activist ideals, remaining a prominent community leader. In 1983, he was part of a grassroots campaign that succeeded in electing Harold Washington as Chicago’s first Black mayor. In 1992, he helped Carol Moseley Braun become the first African American woman to win election to the U.S. Senate. That same year, Barack Obama—then an up-and-coming political organizer who had just moved to Chicago—met Black to get his advice about running for office.”
— “Timuel Black dedicated his life to helping communities across Chicago, especially on the South Side. His unparalleled understanding of the area’s history and people made him an outstanding advocate, a trusted counselor and a consummate community partner. He was deeply committed to educating and inspiring young people. Tim was one of the most passionate community leaders of the effort to bring the Obama Presidential Center to the South Side, and his vision was central to that proposal’s success.”
— “Black was a counsel to then-Sen. Obama when he ran for president in 2008. They’d become friends when Obama was a young community organizer in the early 1980s. In a tribute to Mr. Black on his 100th birthday, Obama wrote: ‘I met Tim just after I moved to Chicago. We sat across from each other at Medici on 57th — the rookie South Side organizer on one side … and the veteran South Side historian on the other. During that first conversation I learned of Tim’s deep well of empathy. I was inspired by that. He wanted to talk about how to make life better for people all across the city, how to bring about greater equality. Perhaps the most important part, after talking about it, he gets out there and does something about it, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.’ In a statement after Black’s death, Obama wrote, ‘Tim was a testament to the power of place, and how the work we do to improve one community can end up reverberating through other neighborhoods and other cities, eventually changing the world.’”
Let me reiterate, Timuel Black led a very interesting life. It’s an honor to cite him as an exemplary ADA All Star.
Today’s All Star, Jim Jontz – former Congressman, former ADA President – was a remarkably gifted individual. Among his many skills, he could multitask. For example, while an undergrad at Indiana University, he took a heavy course load, was involved in student government, was a founder of the Indiana Public Interest Research Group, engaged in several other extra-curricular activities, and lobbied the Indiana legislature for environmental causes… all while managing to graduate with honors (Phi Beta Kappa). Pretty impressive!
And probably effective preparation for a career in elected office. Shortly after graduating, in 1974, at the age of 22, Jontz won his first Indiana legislative race, in essence by knocking on every door he could find to rap his knuckles on. He was motivated in part by his opposition to a proposed dam project in the central part of the state. And to those who might think campaigning of this nature doesn’t make a difference, Jontz won this race by all of two (2!) votes.
He was reelected five times in what was otherwise a reliably Republican district. In 1984, he was elected to the Indiana Senate and, in 1986, was elected to the U.S. House. To the extent he was driven by an issue, it was the environment: throughout his public service career, Jontz was a dedicated environmentalist.
Jim Jontz was also a dedicated liberal, although he preferred the term progressive. His multitasking skills were essential… tracking on bills, attending committee meetings, casting votes, maintaining high visibility throughout his district, and always campaigning relentlessly. His congressional tenure included service on the House Agriculture Committee, the Education and Labor Committee, and the Veterans Affairs Committee, as well as the House Select Committee on Aging. He championed the preservation of ancient forests, specifically in the Pacific Northwest, and sought ways for organized labor and environmentalists to collaborate. His House colleagues regarded Jontz as one of Congress’s hardest working members.
After reapportionment, Jontz lost his congressional race in 1992. Two years later, he attempted a return to elected office by challenging Senator Richard Lugar. This effort also fell short, prompting a new career path. He moved to Portland, Oregon, and became Executive Director for the Western Ancient Forest Campaign, coordinating grassroots efforts to protect forests, to remove federal subsidies for clearcutting, and to preserve roadless areas in National Forests. He travelled the country, launching, overseeing, and nurturing partnerships with local, state, and regional forest-related groups.
In 1998, Jontz was elected ADA’s president, an office he held through 2000. Then, in the first decade of the new millennium, Jontz took on new ADA assignments – sometimes as a staff member, sometimes as a volunteer – advancing initiatives known variously as “the Trade Project”, (trade) “Regime Change”, and “Fair Trade Now”, efforts in 2006 that morphed into “Working Families Win” to address an expanded array of issues (trade, wages & benefits, healthcare, etc.). Jontz led ADA’s “Working Families Win” program until his untimely death in 2007 due to colon cancer.
I was struck by the outpouring of accolades for Jontz, particularly his steadfast environmental commitment. According to Elaine Emmi (his former wife), “He devoted his life to making the world a better place for everyone … for people, for animals, for trees, for all nature. He was a force of nature, who combined his passions for policy and justice and didn’t back down. His ultimate goal (was) to be a spokesman for those that couldn’t speak – the trees, the animals, the air, the water.”
Four years ago, when Mike Mullett and his wife, Patricia March, established the “Congressman James P. Jontz Scholarship for Environmental Advocacy” at Indiana University, Mullett noted, “There was just something special about him. Jim was a man of action driven by his strongly held beliefs in protecting our environment, achieving social justice, and enabling broad-based citizen participation in government. … We need more men and women like Jim, people from every walk of life, studying hard, graduating, going out into the world, and emulating Jim Jontz in what they do.”
This final tribute for today’s ADA All Star is from former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, an ADA Honorary Vice President: “All of us, and especially our Nation’s political discourse, are much the poorer for the loss of Jim’s energetic voice for progressive politics and the art of making our government institutions respond and work for the people they serve. Jim’s untimely death at age 55 leaves a big hole in the leadership of America’s progressive politics. We should all take inspiration and instruction from this master in the art of deploying grassroots organizing and high-minded politics toward the highest ideals and aspirations for our great Nation.”
Fitting praise for Jim Jontz, a true ADA All Star.
Jim’s legacy lives on today as ADA’s core staff were Jontz trained. His dedication to face-to-face campaigning and coalition building continues in the way that ADA organizers are trained and perform their essentials duties.
Kurt Meyer, Chair
ADA Executive Committee
P.S. – You can support ADA financially, just like 75 All Stars did – and in some cases, still do. To make it easy, just click below… and don’t forget to be generous! Just click on the button below. And, Thank you!
I suspect many of my ADA colleagues, especially those who’ve been around a while, either knew today’s All Star… or knew of him. ADA bestows an annual award, appropriately enough, the Winn Newman Award, in his honor. During ADA’s 75th year, it’s equally appropriate to recognize Winn Newman as one of our most distinguished All Stars.
From his days in law school, when he co-led the successful fight to desegregate the University of Wisconsin dorms, to his work as a union organizer in Texas in the 50’s to his days as a general counsel for unions, a public interest lawyer in private practice, and a leader of ADA, Winn Newman fought against bigotry and oppression and fought for workers and the disadvantaged.
He filed the earliest cases brought by unions against race discrimination in employment and the earliest pay equity class lawsuits, shining a spotlight on sex discrimination at a time when it was widely accepted that “women’s work” would pay less than “men’s work,” and brought the suit that sparked a drive for new legislation outlawing discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Decisions and settlements in his cases alone increased the annual wages of women and Black and Latino workers by more than one billion dollars a year. You read that right… a billion dollars a year!
To write about Newman, it’s probably easiest to start at the beginning. A native New Yorker, born in Queens, he served as an Army Sergeant in Greenland during World War II, a stint sandwiched between receiving his bachelor’s as well as his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. While in law school, he co-led a successful effort to desegregate the University’s dorms.
Shortly thereafter, both Winn and Elaine Newman, his wife and a current ADA board member, were organizers for the International Ladies Garment Workers in Texas, from 1949 through 1951.
The Newmans moved to Washington in 1951 where Winn was an attorney and an industrial relations analyst for the Wage Stabilization Board, then an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board. Over the course of the next decade, he was with the Brewer Workers union in Cincinnati; the Steelworkers in Pittsburgh; and then General Counsel of Electrical Workers in Washington. Throughout this period, he was active in civil rights advocacy.
In the mid-1960s, Newman was Assistant Executive Director of the newly formed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he wrote many of the first regulations against racial discrimination in employment and, at a time when even many progressives failed to regard sex discrimination as a serious problem, wrote tough guidelines to require compliance.
For two different periods, Newman served as general counsel of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; then, as a public interest lawyer in private practice, filed employment discrimination suits on behalf of other unions including the Newspaper Guild, the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers, and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees. He also donated his time to serve as General Counsel for the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
He was an organizer of the National Committee on Pay Equity and the Citizens Committee for Civil Rights. He was a governor of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, co-chairman of the American Bar Association’s equal employment subcommittee, General Counsel of the AFL-CIO Public Employee Department and over the years, served as Counsel, PAC Treasurer, and chair of ADA’s national executive committee.
If Winn Newman needed a “claim to fame”, he was a leading expert – perhaps the COUNTRY’S leading expert – on employment discrimination. His groundbreaking work on pay-equity cases helped make salary discrimination based on sex and race a national issue. Newman was lead counsel in a case against General Electric in the early 1970s that challenged the exclusion of pregnancy benefits from employee health plans. Litigating on behalf of employees of the State of Washington and Westinghouse Corporation, he helped establish the principle that national law prohibits race- and sex-based wage discrimination, even when different jobs are involved.
Newman later spearheaded efforts leading to national legislation that resulted in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, amending the Civil Rights Act to clarify that differential treatment based on pregnancy is unlawful. And, in the mid-1980s, the Washington state case led to a settlement of several hundred million dollars in increased compensation for state-employed women.
In his later years, Newman continued his service as counsel for ADA, as well as for the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and the Public Employee Department of the AFL-CIO. In 1994, Winn Newman died far too soon, at age 70, of a stroke. At the time of his passing, Representative Barney Frank, who had served as ADA National President a decade before, inserted a column by Judy Mann that first appeared in the Washington Post into the Congressional Record.
In doing so, Rep. Frank called Winn Newman “one of the most dedicated and thoughtful fighters for social justice whom I have worked with … a lawyer who showed what the legal profession can be at its best. As a labor lawyer, as a leader in Americans for Democratic Action, and as a citizen, Winn Newman fought hard for the things that he rightly believed would make this a better and fairer society… a man who ought to be a role model for all lawyers, indeed for all citizens.”
I conclude Winn Newman’s All Star profile with a lightly-edited version of Mann’s column:
The essential ingredient in Newman’s bold legal concept was fairness. Newman pioneered the argument that comparable jobs should be of comparable worth to the employer, and he did it in litigation, legislative hearings, and in collective bargaining. He helped forge the coalition of trade unions, political groups, and women’s organizations that has been critically important in advancing women’s rights in the work force. “He played an extraordinary and, in many aspects, a unique role in … expanding our concepts as a country about what is fair and just in the treatment of working women,” said Marcia Greenberger, of the National Women’s Law Center.
“He really was a revolutionary,” said Judith Lichtman, head of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. “When he started thinking about and talking about and doing something about sex discrimination in employment, there weren’t very many people who were. He was willing to use creatively the resources of the trade union movement on behalf of its women members and to provide the leadership, as well as his organizing skills, and his legal ability. He was a master at using litigation for social change.”
Bernice Resnik Sandler, one of the most influential advocates for women in education, was in the standing-room-only crowd at the memorial service. “He was among the first men who understood that women’s issues were important, not just to women but to everybody.” Sandler said. “He was not a religious man,” David Davidson, a labor lawyer and former colleague of Newman’s, said in his eulogy. “But no religious activist ever had a stronger belief in the worth and dignity of every human being.”
Newman was unassuming, funny, warm, and wonderfully patient about explaining fine points of the law to newspaper columnists. Greenberger described him well when she said he had a combination of “good grace and tenacity.” But there was something else that contributed to the great affection and respect in which he was held. He had a quality that is especially prized in times marked by cynicism and demagoguery: It’s called integrity. He had it in spades.
“Sing me a song with social significance / All other songs are taboo. / It must be hot with what is what / Or I won’t love you.” … from “Sing Me a Song with Social Significance” by Harold Rome, from the 1937 musical revue, “Pins and Needles,” performed by rank-and-file members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which, until 1948, was Broadway’s longest-running show.
In this All Star profile, you’ll see reference to several other notable ADAers. But then, most ADAers worth their salt throughout the last three decades would undoubtedly also make favorable reference to today’s distinguished ADA All Star, Mary von Euler. To be sure, two National Directors, Amy Isaacs (former) and Don Kusler (current), both carried on effusively. Let me quote from Amy’s thoughts:
Early in my tenure as national director (about 1990), I got a call from someone I didn’t know offering to volunteer. She was a recently retired attorney looking for a place to focus what I soon learned were a keen mind and boundless energy.
She put forth as a reference former ADA lobbyist and noted civil rights attorney Bill Taylor… he absolutely raved about her. Out of that was built a cherished and valued volunteer member and friend. Her superb writing and editing skills were invaluable, whether it was to go over position papers, Galbraith Fellow treatises, or making descriptions of the ADA voting record understandable.
A national board meeting with her in attendance was always much livelier and much more well informed. Even now, having retired as a member of the national board, she continues to keep a watchful eye on ADA activities. We need far more Marys in our ranks.
After a profile of ADA All Star David Dubinsky (All Star #2) was posted, I received an email from Mary. “I enjoyed your piece on Dubinsky. How many ADAers are still alive who saw “Pins and Needles”? The heroine of one skit sang a ditty I have always felt belonged to me: ‘Sing me a song with social significance; all other songs are taboo. It must be hot with what is what or I won’t love you.’”
Mark me down in strong agreement: This song truly BELONGS to Mary von Euler! (You can access the musical rendition by clicking the youtube link below.)
What I didn’t realize until pulling together this profile is that Mary von Euler was among the very first ADAers. Quoting here from a different Mary email… “I have been a member of ADA for many years – in fact organizing Radcliffe SDA in 1947-48.” [SDA refers to Students for Democratic Action, a key ADA component for many decades. And yes, this is foreshadowing since other All Stars similarly entered ADA ranks through SDA… stay tuned!]
Let me say a bit more about Mary’s background and her many involvements and distinctions. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1952 and received her Master’s degree from Columbia Teacher’s College in 1956. She earned her Juris Doctor from Catholic University of America in 1975. Among her career highlights, she was a research & editorial assistant at Henry Street Settlement, New York City, 1949-1950, and a legislative secretary for Senator (ADA founder!) Hubert Humphrey, 1953-1955. She taught history and social studies, Hamden (Connecticut) Public Schools, 1956-1958, and history and government, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Maryland, 1966-1968. She was a research assistant at the Brookings Institute in Washington, 1969-1972 and a legal intern at the Center National Policy Review, 1974.
With doctorate in hand, von Euler held various legal and research positions with the National Institute Education, the Office for Civil Rights, the Department of Education (from 1980-1992), the National Education Association, and Good Sports, Inc., in Oakton, Virginia. Among her primary volunteer involvements: Board of Directors, Fair Housing, Montgomery County, Maryland, 1978-1986, including serving as president, 1982-1983; member of the American Bar Association (individual rights & responsibilities section); AND… volunteer research and writing, Americans for Democratic Action, 1992-1996, and national board member, 1995 until her recent retirement, including service as national secretary in the first two decades of the 2000s.
A skilled writer, von Euler publications include co-author of “A Citizen’s Guide to School Desegregation Law,” 1978, co-author of “The Catholic Community & the Integration of Public & Catholic Schools,” and sole author of “Race Relations in America,” 1995, an ADA Education Fund publication.
For several decades, Mary von Euler has been involved in, and more recently, has been the driving force behind ADA’s “Liberal Quotient” (also known as the Voting Record) for Members of Congress. This task requires countless hours, attentiveness to detail, and – most important – informed judgment. In recent years, this has been Mary’s product, an in-kind contribution of immeasurable value. If Mary had done nothing else during her long affiliation with ADA, her artful shepherding of the Liberal Quotient alone would merit All Star status. But, as many ADAers know, she has done much more in support of the organization, work always of the highest caliber.
Mary and her late husband, Dr. Leo Hans von Euler, a pathologist and former deputy director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (part of the NIH) were married for 65 years. Near the time of Leo’s passing in December, 2020, Mary stepped back from more direct ADA involvement; nevertheless, I trust we’ll still be beneficiaries of her watchful eye, as Amy pointed out.
In closing, let me expand on Amy’s statement: Our WORLD needs far more Marys in our ranks. Meanwhile, it’s appropriate to close with lyrics Mary von Euler (appropriately!) claims as her own:
I’m tired of moon-songs of star and of June songs, / They simply make me nap
And ditties romantic drive me nearly frantic / I think they’re all full of pap.
History’s making, nations are quaking / Why sing of stars above
For while we are waiting father time’s creating / New things to be singing of.
Sing me a song with social significance / All other tunes are taboo
I want a ditty with heat in it, / Appealing with feeling and meat in it!
Sing me a song with social significance / Or you can sing ’til you’re blue
Let meaning shine from ev’ry line / Or I won’t love you.
Sing me of wars and sing me of breadlines / Tell me of front page news.
Sing me of strikes and last-minute headlines / Dress your observation in syncopation!
Sing me a song with social significance / There’s nothing else that will do.
It must get hot with what is what / Or I won’t love you.
I want a song that’s satirical / And putting the mere into miracle.
It must be packed with social fact / Or I won’t love you.
Sing me of kings and conf’rences martial / Tell me of mills and mines.
Sing me of courts that aren’t impartial / What’s to be done with ’em tell me in rhythm.
Sing me a song with social significance / There’s nothing else that will do.
It must be tense with common sense / Or I won’t love you.
“Sing Me a Song with Social Significance” … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRnKDBkAOuM
“How did he live such a life, so hectic with public concern?… His days, foreshortened, lived out the secular dissonances. ‘Behold, thou hast made my days as it were a span long, and mine age is even as nothing in respect of thee; and verily every man living is altogether vanity.’ (Psalm 39:5) …Let Nature then fill this vacuum. That is the challenge which, bereft, the friends of Allard Lowenstein hurl up to Nature, and to Nature’s God, prayerfully, demandingly, because today, Lord, our loneliness is great.” –William F. Buckley, speaking at Allard Lowenstein’s memorial service
Today’s ADA All Star had what can only be called a magnetic appeal, one that attracted such disparate figures as Buckley and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, both of whom spoke at his memorial service. Perhaps if his life had not been foreshortened at the hands of a gunman, Allard Lowenstein would be 93 years old today. I can’t help but wonder what he’d be like. Of course, we’ll never know, but we get many hints from the 51 years of his life, hints that will be touched upon in this profile.
Allard Lowenstein was the third son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. His mother died from breast cancer when he was very young. He attended Horace Mann School in New York City and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he was a leader of the National Student Association, a confederation of university student governments founded the same year as ADA, and of the Dialectic Society, the original collegiate debating society at UNC… the oldest public student organization in the United States. He attended Yale Law School and received a J.D. in 1954.
With this background, Lowenstein became a teacher and administrator at Stanford, at North Carolina State, and at City College of New York. The lure of public service pulled him to Washington, where in the late 1950s he served in a foreign policy role on the staff of ADA founder, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, just as All Star Mary von Euler had been on Humphrey’s staff a few years earlier.
He made a trip to South-West Africa (now Namibia) in 1959 to gather evidence against the government there. He ultimately wrote a book about his findings, entitled, “A Brutal Mandate,” featuring an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he had met in 1957 through the American Association for the United Nations. In the early 1960s, Lowenstein traveled to Mississippi as part of the Freedom Summer. In 1966, Lowenstein helped Senator Robert Kennedy assemble his famous “Ripple of Hope” speech, given at the University of Cape Town, generally considered his greatest speech. (Kennedy had not been pleased with an early draft of the speech and advisors told him to seek Lowenstein’s help. Eventually, Lowenstein agreed to assist, and his recommendations were incorporated.)
In 1967, along with former ADA press secretary Curtis Gans, Lowenstein and others joined forces to launch a “Dump Johnson” movement aimed at electing a new President. They eventually recruited Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy to seek the Democratic nomination. Before long, President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election. In the 1968 election cycle, Lowenstein was elected to the House of Representatives from Long Island. Two years later, he was “gerrymandered out of office”, losing a close election after district lines had been altered dramatically by a Republican-controlled state legislature.
In 1971, he became ADA President, an office he held for two years. During this time, he helped lead a “Dump Nixon” movement, which fell short on election day in November of ’72. Within two years, however, Nixon had resigned. Lowenstein remained an active member of ADA until his untimely death. During his tenure as ADA president, Lowenstein was instrumental in bringing two “generations” of young activists into our organization, many of whom remain active today. They, and others, serve or have served in major policy roles and in elected office at all levels throughout the country. Through them, his legacy lives on.
Lowenstein campaigns for public office were unsuccessful in 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1978. After Jimmy Carter was elected President, he appointed Lowenstein a Unites States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, a post he resigned in one last effort to seek election to Congress.
A consistent characteristic of Allard Lowenstein’s political activities was his gift of attracting committed young volunteers. During his brief time at Stanford, he befriended an undergraduate student named Dennis Sweeney. Typically, he was trying to help someone in distress. Years later, Sweeney, who was mentally ill, shot and killed Lowenstein, convinced that he had been plotting against him. Sweeney was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Today, there are many awards and honors bearing Lowenstein’s name. Similarly, in preparing this profile, I encountered many remarkable attempts to capture his brief life in words. For example…
— “Lowenstein was a relentless opponent of injustice in the United States and throughout the world. His passionate leadership played a crucial role in the civil rights, anti-apartheid, anti-war, and human rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s.”
— “Thoroughly convinced that the idealistic young generation could revitalize the Democratic Party and bring about progressive reform in the United States, Lowenstein became known for his ability to inspire young people to commit themselves to lives of activism and the pursuit of justice.”
— “‘It is beyond dispute,’ David Broder wrote, ‘that he brought more young people into American politics than any individual of our time.’”
— “Lowenstein was blessed with gifts that hardly anyone had, and with one that no one did: the ability to persuade those implacably opposed to his position to change their minds. This he did by overwhelming force of logic married to respect. But it also didn’t hurt that he could make people laugh as hard as they ever have laughed — whether large audiences or individual college students conscripted to drive him to the next event”.
— Writing two decades prior to his death, in the foreword to Lowenstein‘s book about South-West Africa, Eleanor Roosevelt called him “a person of unusual ability and complete integrity… he will always fight crusades because injustice fills him with a sense of rebellion.”
In a statement from the White House upon his death, President Carter called Lowenstein “a passionate fighter for a more humane, more democratic world … a life devoted to reason and justice.” Meanwhile, his headstone inscription is from a note Robert Kennedy sent him once, quoting Emerson: “If a single man plants himself on his convictions and there abide, the huge world will come around to him.”*
Emerson was right. Today, four-plus decades after his death, much of the world has come around to honor and respect Allard Lowenstein, a true ADA All Star.
Kurt Meyer, Chair
ADA Executive Committee
* — The complete Emerson quote is, “If a single man plants himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come around to him.”
There are obviously many ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary of ADA’s founding, perhaps none more appropriate or appreciated than by making a special anniversary gift to ADA. You can do so with considerable convenience my clicking the red button below. And remember to be generous. Just click here or on the button below. And, Thank you!
Author Frederick Manfred was a native Iowan who spent most of his life in Minnesota. Probably his best-known book is “Lord Grizzly”. By the time Manfred died, in 1994 at age 82, he had published 34 books, including 22 novels. “Lord Grizzly” was the first in a series he entitled the Buckskin Man Tales, which also includes “Conquering Horse,” “Scarlet Plume,” “King of Spades” and “Riders of Judgment.” This series focuses on adventures that took place on the Northern Great Plains during the 19th century.
In assembling profiles of ADA All Stars, I became intrigued with what amounts to All Star “prequels”: what All Stars were doing BEFORE their ADA involvement. Many had full, successful careers prior to their role with ADA; for others, ADA was a springboard to accomplishments in the years following.
In researching a presentation on Manfred for a conference this fall, I stumbled across a “prequel” for one of ADA’s founders, Hubert Humphrey. Manfred writes about Humphrey in two separate chapters in his book “Prime Fathers,” 1988, the jacket containing blurbs by Wallace Stegner, Larry McMurtry, and Robert Bly. Manfred and Humphrey met in 1937 through shared connections at the University of Minnesota. In 1943, when Humphrey ran for Mayor of Minneapolis, a race he lost, Manfred had the inflated title of assistant campaign manager (basically, he drove the candidate around the city).
The first mention of HHH in any national publication came in the October 11, 1943 issue of “The New Republic”… an article written by Frederick Manfred, entitled, “Report from Minnesota,” a story that constitutes a chapter in “Prime Fathers”. Here are some highlights:
“The political pot is boiling these days in Minnesota. This state, which has always been pretty independent in political matters, can furnish some interesting clues to the general situation in the Middle West and may give a hint or two in regard to the 1944 election.”
“The most interesting new political figure in Minnesota is a defeated candidate. Although Hubert H. Humphrey lost in the recent mayoralty campaign in Minneapolis, he made a showing which definitely put him on the map. It was the most surprising because he has an English name, and is dark, in a state which prefers its politicians to be blonds of Scandinavian origin.”
“Humphrey, a former political science professor, who worked his way through college as a druggist, is wiry, slim built on springs. He is a persuasive orator. In the mayoralty campaign he started as an unknown and in six weeks he rolled up a vote ore 55,000 against an incumbent, 60,000. That vote astounded everybody, because Humphrey had some really great obstacles to overcome. … But Humphrey electrified the city in short order. Speaking as fast as a car would get him from meeting to meeting, he averaged eight talks a day, besides all of his personal contacts.”
“Humphrey right now, with the salt of defeat in his system, is an important man in Minnesota. Since (Floyd B.) Olson’s death (in 1936), the liberal cause in Minnesota, except for the Roosevelt majority in ’40, has been languishing. The more callous say it has died. Political writers and dopesters have been saying that since 1938 when shrewd Harold E. Stassen was elected Governor, the back of the liberals, the Farmer-Labor Party was broken – broken by a Republican machine modernized by liberal spicing. The writers have a point. Stassen’s liberal talk (his conservative actions have been unheralded) resulted in the landslides of ’38, ’40, ad ’42.”
“These defeats have not been so much at the hands of a Republican hero, for Stassen is too calculating to make a voter feel warmly about him, as because of the fact that the liberals lack leadership. The state Democratic Party has long been split because its leaders have been solely interested in dividing the patronage that comes from Washington and in grabbing a plum or two from either the Farmer-Labor or Republican Party, depending on which of the two offered more. And the Farmer-Labor Party is torn from within by (…) factions.”
“Roosevelt barely won in ’40. If he runs in ’44, he may lose – unless, all slippery factor remaining equal, the national Democratic heads pay some attention to the state. The Democrats must select a fiery local leader. If Olson were alive today, it would be a cinch. But he is gone. Humphrey is the one possibility.”
* * * * *
In an earlier chapter, Manfred talks at length about first meeting Humphrey and the ’43 mayoral campaign. Here are some paragraphs from that profile, written in May, 1978.
I was living near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It was 1938 and I was a reporter for the Minneapolis Journal. One evening I walked over to see some friends, Zebe and Ralph, in a nearby rooming house. We were talking about the old days back home when the door opened and a slim dark-haired fellow poked his head in and asked, “You guys busy?” Then he spotted me. “Oh, you have company.”
The fellow had a high forehead and quick dark blue eyes. “Come on in, Pinkie (HHH’s nickname),” Zebe said. “What the heck, we’re just gabbing here.” … We fell into more easy talk about country towns. It didn’t take Hubert long to find out the essentials about me, my home town, where I lived presently, where I worked. I could feel his eyes going over me like an auctioneer’s at a farm sale. Within moments the talk got around to the Newspaper Guild, of which I was an active member, and then he knew I was of a liberal cast of mind. That set off a long bull session on politics.
Hubert extolled the virtues of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. Hubert thought FDR would go down in history as a great man. I said I didn’t think so. I’d voted for FDR but wasn’t a great admirer of his. I didn’t think he was a deep man, certainly not a Washington or a Lincoln. Or for that matter a Woodrow Wilson. “Well,” Hubert countered, “there’s at least this to be said for FDR – he knew how to get the best brains together and tap them for the good of the country. FDR might not be brainy himself but he knew brains when he saw them.”
After Hubert left, Zebe asked, “What’d you think of him?” “He sure can talk,” I said. “Yeh, Pinkie always did have a gift of gab.” It was obvious that Zebe admired Hubert very much. Ralph smiled quietly to himself, head held to one side a little. “Yes, Pinkie gets a little high-flown once in a while. But he knows what he’s talking about. Terribly bright man.”
(Several paragraphs later…) Hubert was working his way through the University as a pharmacist at the Brown Drug across the campus on Washington Avenue. I’d go in and buy a malted milk and then sit joshing with him for a while. …Beside fretting over what the New Deal was doing to our economy, both of us were also quite worried about what Hitler was doing to Germany and to the balance of power in Europe. We spoke gloomily of the possibility of another World War. In any case, no matter how vigorously we might argue with each other, our discussion always ended with a warm handshake and a warm smile, and with the promise that we’d soon see each other to continue the gabfests.
(By April, 1943…) My wife Maryanna had been taking a pretty dim view of my sudden interest in politics. As she often said, politics was about the last thing she’d ever been interested in. And she was amazed that I, a man who wanted to be a writer, a man who loved solitude, had suddenly become so active in public affairs and traveled around with “a would-be politician.”
Then one evening Maryanna met him. We had been invited to a small supper party at which Hubert was to speak. Everybody but Hubert was there on time. This caused quite a laugh. Hubert’s reputation for always being a little late was growing rapidly. He just couldn’t resist adding a second conclusion and a third conclusion to any speech he gave. Also, he loved people and couldn’t tear himself away when someone wanted to tell him the sorry tale of their lives or give him some sage advice on how to handle the worthy opponent.
Finally, he arrived with Muriel, he chipper and quick-moving and greeting everybody at once, Muriel demure and apologetic. The room was instantly galvanized by his presence. It was like magic to see what had been somewhat desultory talk suddenly become excited talk. When he looked at you he looked at you directly, piercingly, with those dark blue eyes, to your core, and it always made you jump, made you want to do something, promise something, get something done. And before an evening was over he usually got in that look at every one. Dialogue quickened; laughter deepened; wit flashed. Soon the talk turned political and then Vesuvius took over.
On the way home that night my wife said, her face alive and her eyes sparkling from the lively evening, “Well, I’ve just met a man who’s going to be the president of our country some day. You were right. He is an exceptional man.”
(Concluding sentences in the HHH chapter, written five months after his death…) We’re going to miss Hubert in the years to come. We already missed having a great president in him. When he walked into a room it was like an extra current had been turned on. The lights in the room were suddenly brighter, the smiles were wider, and suddenly you were in glory land with Hubert. He was a man of tremendous internal drive. Never did I see him in a down mood. He was a great man to know.
There you have it, a HHH prequel! More about this ADA founder and many others in the coming months.
The late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, is among the most distinguished historians of the 20th century. He is also an ADA founder. When he died at age 89 in 2007, his New York Times obituary noted, “Mr. Schlesinger saw life as a walk through history. He wrote that he could not stroll down Fifth Avenue without wondering how the street and the people on it would have looked a hundred years ago.”
We don’t have to wonder too much about the founding of ADA now 75 years ago, because this gifted historian writes about the seminal meeting, January 4, 1947, in his autobiographical book, “A Life in the 20th Century, Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950”:
“The liberal split was crystalizing. In the last week of 1946, the two popular front organization ICCASP (Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions) and NCPAC (National Citizens’ Political Action Committee) merged to create the Progressive Citizens of America. … A week after the birth of the PCA, Jim Loeb’s troops met at the Willard Hotel in Washington. The turnout was impressive – Eleanor Roosevelt, Reinhold Niebuhr, Elmer Davis, Leon Henderson, Wilson Wyatt, a former mayor of Louisville and more recently Truman’s housing expediter, Hubert Humphrey, the eloquent young mayor of Minneapolis, John Kenneth Galbraith, Chester Bowles, FDR Jr., Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
From the press came Barry Bingham, Marquis Childs, Stewart Alsop and Jimmy Wechsler and from the labor movement Water Reuther of the United Auto Workers, David Dubinsky of the Ladies Garment Workers, James B. Carey of the Electrical Workers, Emil Rieve of the Textile Workers. Elmer Davis, chairing the conference, surveyed the room and said, “This crowd looks very much like the United States government-in-exile.” The new organization was christened Americans for Democratic Action. Leon Henderson and Wilson Wyatt were elected co-chairman.” (As matters transpired, Wyatt was ADA’s first President, Henderson, the second.)
Then, five paragraphs later, Schlesinger writes (yes, with a fair degree of irony):
“Leon Henderson gave a party for the new Democratic members of Congress. At one point a young fellow who appeared to Jim Loeb about fifteen years old came in the door. No one seemed to know him, and he had to introduce himself. ‘I’m Congressman Kennedy of Massachusetts.’ Though he maintained friendly relations with ADA, Kennedy did not join then or later. A Hollywood actor did join, however, and on October, 1947, Loeb wrote him, “It was an encouraging experience to have had a chance to talk to you and to know there are people in your position who share so completely a liberal point of view.” The letter began ‘Dear Ronnie.’”
I am going to quote from extensive obituaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post since they both noted the importance of Schlesinger’s involvement with ADA. First, from the Post:
“In 1947, he helped start Americans for Democratic Action, a political group made up of a range of New Deal liberals, including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, labor lawyer Joseph Rauh, economist John Kenneth Galbraith and future vice president Hubert H. Humphrey. The organizers wanted to counter the influence of the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace, which they saw as Communist-dominated.
Out of the ADA movement came Schlesinger’s 1949 book “The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom.” It was credited with providing an ideological basis for practical liberalism during the early years of the Cold War and a philosophical alternative to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, the red-baiting Wisconsin Republican. Schlesinger wrote in the book: “Problems will always torment us, because all important problems are insoluble: that is why they are important. The good comes from the continuing struggle to try and solve them, not from the vain hope of their solution.”
Here’s how the Times described the same period in Schlesinger’s life:
“He began to carve out a political identity, one committed to the social goals of the New Deal and staunchly anti-Communist. In 1947, he was a founder of the Americans for Democratic Action, the best-known liberal pressure group. In 1949, Mr. Schlesinger solidified his position as the spokesman for postwar liberalism with his book “The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom.” Inspired by the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, he argued that pragmatic, reform-minded liberalism, limited in scope, was the best that man could hope for politically. ‘Problems will always torment us,’ he wrote, … citing the same quote included above.”
It’s worth noting, in addition to being a founder, Schlesinger also served ADA as co-chair from 1954–’56, coupled with James E. Doyle, from Wisconsin. Without question, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. is an extraordinary ADA All Star.
ADA 75th All-Stars
Click on the name to jump to that profile
More to come as we celebrate throughout 2021-2022…