HOUSE COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL SECURITY
In October 1970, the House Committee on Internal Security [UnAmerican Affairs Committee
“HUAC”] was on its last legs and almost forgotten. Congressman Ichord was Chairman. Suddenly
I was faced with a complaint attacking the Committee that was difficult to believe. Plaintiffs
provided documentary proof that the Committee had assembled a long list of individuals it believed
were Communists or otherwise out to destroy the country by spreading their allegedly un-American
beliefs. HUAC proposed to send the list to the officials and leading alumni of colleges and
universities asking that persons listed be prevented from speaking on the campuses to student groups
or faculty. The complaint asked that the Committee be enjoined from carrying out this obvious
intrusion on First Amendment values, attempted in the hope of stemming subversion. I could not
believe HUAC was seriously undertaking such a brash step, but it was soon clear Mr. Ichord planned
to go full speed ahead. I felt something had to be done. Obviously a United States District Judge
could not enjoin a committee of the House of Representatives, but HUAC had instructed the Public
Printer to run off its implementing Resolution and the list for wide mailing. I enjoined the Public
Printer from doing so.
The first reaction from the Hill was Ichord’s rage. He had an issue! By speeches on the floor
and elsewhere he sought to draw me into a debate. I did nothing. HUAC backed him up, but it
needed approval of the House before the Public Printer could be directed to ignore my order. HUAC
failed. First, it watered down the Resolution to meet criticism and finally the project was abandoned.
This was not immediate and my action had stirred up the old Martin Dies, Nixon-type of Red
baiters. Some nasty telephone calls and letters came in and for a while we were threatened by a man
with a gun who came to my farm in Virginia on several occasions when I was not there, saying he
was going to kill me. We took some precautions and the Loudoun County Sheriff ran him off.
This early small experience indicated that a deeply entrenched fear of alien ideas still
remained in the minds of some people, and I was to learn how easy it was to play on these fears for
political purposes as more serious cases came my way during the Nixon period. Indeed, looking
back on the episode involving the Howard University riot, which resulted in my confrontation with
Deputy Attorney General Kleindienst, it became more likely that his proposals for quelling the
turmoil were more shrewdly political and less stupid than I had come to believe.
Hentoff v. Ichord, 318 F. Supp. 1175 (1970).