Obituary: Vincent Hallinan
Thursday 17 December 1992
THE DEATH of Vincent Hallinan removes one of the last survivors of that small group of American lawyers who were prepared to risk everything in the 1940s and 1950s to defend the victims of anti-Communist witch- hunts.
It reminds us of two other things. Although film stars and the media have been given most attention by historians of those terrible years, the real price was paid not by the Hollywood Ten but by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people hounded out of work and discredited because of political beliefs or friendships formed in the 1930s.
Secondly, while Senator Joe McCarthy gets all the blame, the real damage had been done long before, not just by the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities, but by the executive and judicial branches of the Federal government as well.
Nothing illustrates this more clearly than Vincent Hallinan's experience defending the Californian waterfront workers' leader Harry Bridges. Hallinan, born Catholic, became agnostic and socialist and was deeply influenced by Popular Front reaction to the Great Depression and resistance to the rise of Fascism in the 1930s.
Bridges, an Australian-born Catholic, had formed a breakaway left-wing union and led the 1935 San Francisco general strike. From that point the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and the whole American right tried to get Bridges deported.
They failed, thanks largely to Hallinan's defence. The government had to prove not only that Bridges was a member of the Communist Party (which was hard enough), but that he had been so before entering the US and lied about it.
At one point while Bridges was freed, Hallinan was jailed for contempt of court. 'That's what being a good lawyer is all about,' he explained. At another he ran for President as a Progressive with a black woman in 1952, at the height of the anti-Communist crusade, and came third behind Eisenhower and Stevenson, polling 135,000 votes.
The Supreme Court finally ruled in favour of Bridges in 1955, a courageous decision by the Warren court after two decades in which the government had tried harder to nail him than any other man.
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
General Election 2015: Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind as he casts a line to the disaffected of Grimsby
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...