My father’s life-long work was with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as Senior Trial Examiner and a Civil Rights Attorney. He established the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) for the southern sector with headquarters in Atlanta during the war years.
He was appointed by Eleanor Roosevelt and our family moved to Atlanta. My dad was not a pretentious man and he spoke very little about his work. I learned about his life primarily from my brother and the records he left me.
The FBI finally released his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) files in 1996. These particular incidents took place between the war years through the mid-50s.
1) Dad obtained several photographs of lynchings in the South (Tennessee as I best remember) and made arrangements with the editor of a major news magazine (I do not remember which one) to have them published. When that did not happen he contacted the magazine and was told that the FBI would not allow it.
Dad took the photographs to the FBI and questioned Hoover directly. His FOIA files showed Hoover’s efforts to track and discredit him and have him labeled a communist by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). The blacked-out lines in the FOIA files mainly covered the names of the informants who were primarily Hoover’s puppets.
When questioned by the FBI as to whether or not he was a Red, Dad replied, “No – I’m Pink!” Dad’s own records and the support of his personal friends brought an end to Hoover’s accusations and the hearings, but not before they took a terrible toll on all of us. Our phone was tapped and I remember the exchanges between the FBI and my father. In the mid-1950s things began to change for the better.
2) My brother told me of one evening in Atlanta when the KKK burned a cross in the yard. Dad found out later that the man he had trusted at an Atlanta newspaper was a member of the KKK.
3) When the FEPC offices in Atlanta were first being set-up, Dad hired the first African American secretaries and stenographers.
Dad passed away in 1985. His obituary was a simple one only noting he was a civil rights attorney and one of the first NLRB trial examiners.
In his later years he last spoke about that deep-seated bigotry and how it still exists in so many ways. I do what I can to relay his beliefs and point out what I see about America today that would disturb him and should concern all of us.
The spread of partisanship in politics and the separation between the 1% and the rest of us is like a cancer that has metastasized.
The Supreme Court is more radical than ever and the close votes we see can shift even more so with an unexpected loss of just one more justice (i.e., Ginsburg). For Scalia, Thomas and Alito in particular to strike down that provision of the Voting Rights Act speaks volumes about racism on the Supreme Court. (I can only imagine seeing Dad cringing when President Bush appointed Thomas to replace Justice Marshall on the Court!)
Attacks against unions and social programs are becoming commonplace while assaults on personal rights (habeas corpus) and a woman’s right to choose are at the forefront.
Our elected representatives are not unifying. They demean others and thrive on division (which keeps them in office).
The 2nd Amendment is being ruled by greed and attacks by the NRA are steady and abusive.
Civil conversations, let alone debates, lack simple courtesy and respect and our media outlets have become soapboxes for bias, abuse and name-calling.
The Great Divide has another meaning entirely from that which we were first taught in school. Robert Kennedy’s words on extremists are terribly appropriate and frightening:
What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists, is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.
Grassroots organizations, like the Coffee Party, are absolutely essential for an informed citizenry to preserve that the mark of a great nation is how we take care of those who need help themselves.
Top Photo on Left: My father, A. Bruce Hunt, as a young lawyer.
Top Photo on Right: My father with my mother.
Bottom Photo: Me and my son, Bruce Hunt.
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