House Un-American Activities Committee

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House Un-American Activities Committee

(HUAC), a committee (1938–75) of the U.S. House of Representatives, created to investigate disloyalty and subversive organizations. Its first chairman, Martin DiesDies, Martin, Jr.
, 1901–72, American political leader, b. Colorado, Tex. A lawyer, he represented Texas as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1931–45; 1951–59).
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, set the pattern for its anti-Communist investigations. The committee's methods included pressure on witnesses to name former associates, vague and sweeping accusations against individuals, and the assumption of an individual's guilt because of association with a suspect organization. Witnesses who refused to answer were cited for contempt of Congress. A highly publicized 1947 investigation of the entertainment industry led to prison sentences for contempt for a group of recalcitrant witnesses who became known as the Hollywood Ten. In 1948, Whittaker ChambersChambers, Whittaker,
1901–61, U.S. journalist and spy, b. Philadelphia. He joined the U.S. Communist party in 1925 and wrote for its newspaper before engaging (1935–38) in espionage for the USSR. He left the party in 1939 and began working for Time magazine.
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 made sensational accusations of Soviet espionage against former State Dept. official Alger HissHiss, Alger
, 1904–96, American public official, b. Baltimore. After serving (1929–30) as secretary to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hiss practiced law in Boston and New York City.
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; those hearings kept the committee in the headlines and provided the first national exposure for committee member Richard NixonNixon, Richard Milhous,
1913–94, 37th President of the United States (1969–74), b. Yorba Linda, Calif. Political Career to 1968

A graduate of Whittier College and Duke law school, he practiced law in Whittier, Calif.
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. Critics of the committee contended that it disregarded the civil liberties of its witnesses and that it consistently failed to fulfill its primary purpose of recommending new legislation. After 1950, Sen. Joseph McCarthyMcCarthy, Joseph Raymond,
1908–57, U.S. senator from Wisconsin (1947–57), b. near Appleton, Wis. He practiced law in Wisconsin and became (1940) a circuit judge. He served with the U.S. marines in the Pacific in World War II, achieving the rank of captain.
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 borrowed many of the committee's tactics for his own Senate investigations. The committee (renamed the House Internal Security Committee in 1969) was abolished in 1975.

Bibliography

See study by W. Goodman (1968).

House Un-American Activities Committee

conducted investigations to purge government of foreign influences. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1641]
References in periodicals archive ?
Near the top of the list, however, came Murphy's loss; years later Dies fondly reminisced about how "New Dealers, in and out of Government, blamed the Dies Committee for Frank Murphy's defeat.
Over the country at large," he said, "the Dies Committee is considerably more popular than the President.
Detroit News, 10 November 1938, 26; Lindsay Rogers, "The Inquiring Congressman," Survey Graphic 28 (January 1939): 5; Paul Anderson, "The Loaded Dies Committee," The Nation 147 (October 1938): 143; Raymond Clapper, "The Dies Committee," Forum 103 (March 1940): 155; Press Release, Oct.
Gallup, The Gallup Poll, 128, 199; Untitled Dies speech, 17 December 1938, Box 157, File 39 entitled Speeches--HUAC 1938, Dies Papers; Richard Polenberg, "Franklin Roosevelt and Civil Liberties: The Case of the Dies Committee," The Historian 30 (1968): 171.
A study of media coverage of the Dies Committee provides a good case to examine these questions.
Of the 101 articles on the Dies Committee published from August 1938 to March 1945, just two magazines, the Nation and the New Republic, carried 98 percent of the pieces opposed, on ideological and civil libertarian grounds, to the investigation of "communist subversion.
Yet, Lippmann concluded, the Dies Committee needed to be reformed, not abolished, for it offered "a center of resistance to evils which could not otherwise be brought to light and checked.
Of twenty dailies surveyed, half wholeheartedly supported the Dies Committee.
Intensely anti-New Deal newspapers gave the Dies Committee great front-page coverage and tended to ignore or bury rebuttals.
Consequently, the cosmopolitan, liberal segment of the news media - the segment most sympathetic to industrial unionism, social security, and public works and, at the same time, hostile to the Dies Committee - was extremely small.
Finally, Goodwin correctly reported that the American Legion and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) (the latter locked in a bitter power struggle with the CIO) were lobbying Congress for more money for the Dies Committee and anticipated a probe of Soviet propaganda among southern blacks.
From 11 October to 12 November 1938, the United Press (UP) furnished 9 stories on the Dies Committee.