1957 June 18

HUAC Chair to Supreme Court: “Bone Up on Communism”


The Chair of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on this day issued an angry statement telling the Supreme Court that it should “take just one minute to bone up on Communism.” Committee chairperson Rep. Francis Walter was referring to the Court’s decisions the day before, on what has been labeled “Red Monday” (June 17, 1957), because of four separate decisions limiting anti-Communist measures.

Rep. Walter was particularly incensed by Watkins v. United States (June 17, 1957), in which the Court ruled that the power of Congress to investigate was “not unlimited.” Specifically, questions of witnesses had to be related to a committee’s legislative purpose, and committees did not have the power to expose for the sake of exposure. The comments were made in San Francisco, where a subcommittee was holding hearings on Communism.

John Thomas Watkins was a left-wing labor leader who had refused to answer the committee’s questions about his political affiliations.

Learn more about “Red Monday”: Arthur J. Sabin, In Calmer Times: The Supreme Court and Red Monday (1999)

And learn about HUAC: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/huac

Read about the history of HUAC: Walter Goodman, The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (1968)

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