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Register of the Harry Renton Bridges Papers, 1938-1955
MSS 009  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Harry Renton Bridges Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1938-1955
    Collection number: MSS 009
    Creator: Bridges, Harry, 1901-
    Extent: 27 record storage and document cases

    45 cubic feet
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research.
    Los Angeles, California
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles.  The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Harry Renton Bridges Papers, MSS 009, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles.


    Harry Renton Bridges, also known as Alfred Renton Byrant Bridges, came to the United States in 1920 from Australia where he had been a seaman and involved in union activities.
    Bridges continued to be active on the docks in fighting for labor rights and was instrumental in getting the International Longshore Association (ILA), an affiliate of the AF of L, recognized as the bargaining unit for the entire Pacific coast. He became president of ILA Local 34-36 and in 1936 its Pacific Coast president. In 1937, the ILA was expelled from the AF OF L and affiliated with the CIO. That same year the Pacific Coast ILA became the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU). Harry Bridges served as its international president and maintained that position until his retirement in 1977. His long union career was interrupted by 17 years of court cases from 1938-1955. It was during that time the U.S. government made four unsuccessful attempts to deport Bridges from the United States.
    The first attempt occurred in 1938 when the Assistant Secretary of Labor issued a warrant for Bridges' arrest. It was based on Bridges' alleged violation of the Act of October 16, 1918, amended June 5, 1920, whereby an alien was subject to deportation for belonging to an organization that advocated the violent overthrow of the government. The government claimed Bridges was a member of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) (through all four deportation proceedings, Bridges denied membership). At that time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was part of the Department of Labor. Bridges' case was not heard until the Supreme Court of the United States reached its decision in the Joseph Strecker Case: past membership in the CPUSA was not grounds for deportation. On June 12, 1939, Bridges' arrest warrant was amended to read past and present membership in the CPUSA.
    Bridges' lawyers were Carol King, Aubrey Grossman, and Richard Gladstein. James M. Landis, Dean of the Harvard Law School, was appointed trial examiner and presided over the hearing (July 10-September 14, 1939). Judge Landis cleared Bridges of the charges that he had been or was currently a member of the CPUSA and was therefore not subject to deportation, at least not under Sec. 2 of the Act of October 16, 1918. The judgment was sent to the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, who dismissed the case against Bridges on January 8, 1940.
    As a result of the hearing and subsequent judgment, the House passed a bill which explicitly named Harry Bridges and directed the Attorney General to arrest Bridges on the grounds that he was harmful to the U.S. From the House it went to the Senate Committee on Immigration which refused to recommend its adoption, under the advice of the Attorney General's office. During this same period the INS was placed under the direction of the Department of Justice.
    Amendments were made to the bill which essentially deleted Bridges' name. The bill passed and became law as the Alien Registration Act of 1940 or, as it was commonly called, the Smith Act (see copy in filed folder no. 3; box no. 5). It did what the previous legislation had tried to do: make Bridges subject to deportation for being an alien who belonged to or affiliated with an organization, past or present, that advocated the overthrow of the government by force or violence. In effect the legislation overruled the Supreme Court's decision in the Strecker Case.
    As soon as the Smith Act went into effect, the Attorney General's office ordered the FBI to investigate Bridges for any evidence that could be used to indict him. A warrant for Bridges' arrest was issued on February 12, 1941; two days later he was released under a $3000 bond. The second of the four deportation proceedings began on March 31, 1941 and ended on June 12, 1941, presided over by Judge Charles B. Sears in San Francisco. King, Grossman and Gladstein, who defended Bridges in the first hearing, continued to represent him.
    Judge Sears concluded that Bridges was subject to deportation because he belonged to and affiliated with organizations that taught and advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government, specifically the CPUSA and the Marine Workers' Industrial Union.
    Bridg es' lawyers filed briefs before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Oral arguments began on November 24, 1941 and the hearing continued until January 3, 1942. Ruling that Bridges was not previously or presently affiliated with any subversive organization, the board ordered the warrant and bond cancelled and the deportation order stayed until the Attorney General dismissed the case.
    On May 28, 1942, Attorney General Francis Biddle overturned the decision of the INS Board of Appeals agreeing with Judge Sears' ruling that Bridges was subject to deportation. He ordered Bridges to be deported from the U.S. to Australia at the expense of the Federal government.
    A Writ of Habeas Corpus was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Southern Division on July 13, 1942. On February 8, 1943, it was denied by Presiding Judge Martin I. Welsh, who ruled that Bridges had received a fair hearing. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Welsh's decision. By this time Lee Pressman, general counsel for the CIO, joined in the Bridges defense. Bridges' lawyers petitioned and were granted a Writ of Certiorari by the Supreme Court of the United States. Pressman and Carol King argued Bridges' case. On June 18, 1945, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower courts, ruling that the term affiliation was used incorrectly according to statute and that Bridges had received an unfair hearing in reference to CPUSA membership. A few months later, Bridges applied for and was admitted as a naturalized citizen of the U.S. Henry Schmidt and J.R. Robertson acted as his witnesses to the naturalization proceedings.
    Criminal charges (#32117-H) were brought against Bridges, Schmidt and Robertson by a federal grand jury. They were accused of perjury and conspiring against the U.S. in order to obtain citizenship for Bridges by fraudulently concealing his membership in the CPUSA. On the same date that Bridges et al. were indicted (May 25, 1949), Frank J. Hennessy, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, filed a civil action suit against Bridges declaring that Bridges had procured his citizenship under false pretenses by stating that he was not affiliated with or belonged to the CPUSA. In turn, Bridges filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. On October 12, 1949, Judge George B. Harris denied the complaint and ordered a stay on the civil denaturalization proceedings until the criminal proceedings were final. The jury found Bridges et al. guilty and on June 16, 1950 Judge Harris issued orders to revoke Bridges' citizenship.
    Bridges' lawyers, Norman Leonard (of Gladstein, Andersen and Leonard), Vincent W. Hallinan and James Martin MacInnis appealed the decision before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court's decision. However, when the case was brought before the Supreme Court of the U.S., and argued by Norman Leonard and Telford Taylor, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling on the grounds that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, under which the charges against Bridges et al. were brought, was not applicable in the case. The Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals judgment be reversed and that the District Court dismiss the indictment.
    With the Supreme Court ruling, Bridges could focus his attention on getting the civil suit dismissed. On August 12, 1954, however, Judge Hamilin denied a motion for dismissal. In the hearing which followed (June 20-July 22, 1955), Judge Louis E. Goodman declared that the government failed to prove Bridges was a member of the CPUSA and therefore his naturalization status was valid and not fraudulently procured. This was the last of the four deportation proceedings that Bridges had to endure.

    Scope and Content

    The Harry Bridges Legal Collection contains the documents and supporting material for his deportation cases; there are also some documents that refer to a contempt case and some libel cases. These papers originated in the law office of one of Bridges' principal defense lawyers Richard Gladstein. Additional materials on the Bridges cases can be found in the library's Richard Gladstein Collection and in the Norman Leonard Papers at the Labor Archives and Research Center California State University at San Francisco.
    The files have been left in their original order except for a few changes to give the collection continuity. Most of the folder titles are the original titles assigned by Gladstein's office. Headings for the series and sub-series as well as dates have been added by the staff archivist. The case numbers have not been altered and are seen on the left hand side of the folder. The collection is arranged into four series: DEPORTATION CASES, CONTEMPT CASES, LIBEL CASE and PHOTOGRAPHS.
    The first series DEPORTATION CASES (1938-1955) constituting the bulk of the collection is arranged in sub-series: First Hearing, Second Hearing, Criminal Case and Civil Case.
    The First Hearing (1932-1939, Boxes 1-4) general file (folder #1, box 1) contains material not directly related to the hearing. For example, there are several copies of Bridges' 1937 income tax return and some correspondence between Bridges and Aubrey Grossman regarding it. There is also a statement made by Ivan Cox who was suing Bridges, among others, for conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government.
    The rest of the sub-series documents the first hearing and includes legal briefs, application for subpoenas, transcripts of the proceedings, trial notes, theory and statements on communism, testimony of witnesses and the findings of the case by the presiding judge, James M. Landis. One of the exhibits used in the hearing focuses on the signature of John Leech, a witness who testified during the trial for the government (the folder [no. 15] is in box no. 27).
    The Second Hearing sub-series (1940-1945, Boxes 5-9) documents Bridges' second deportation case which involved legal proceedings from the lower courts through the U.S. Supreme Court.
    Included is the House bill that explicitly named Bridges as well as a statement by Attorney General Robert H. Jackson criticizing it. Also in this sub-series is correspondence between Bridges' lawyers and the Harry Bridges Defense Committee which paid the legal fees for his defense. Other committee material deals with finances and information on witnesses.
    There are trial notes, working notes, draft of appeals, list of exhibits, transcripts, legal briefs, oral arguments, legal documents, case studies and the decision of the courts and of Attorney General Francis Biddle. There are press releases and publicity statements in support of Bridges. This sub-series also includes pamphlets that were used as support and reference material by the defense, one of which is Vol. 1, No. 1 of Proletcult, a serial on proletarian culture published sometime in the 1930s. There is also an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Amicus Brief; Bridges for short time was a member of the IWW.
    There is a file (folder #6, box 6) that deals exclusively with evidence of an illegal wiretap on Bridges. It includes correspondence, of King, Gladstein and Grossman following up a motion of investigation initiated by Bridges to determine if information gained by the wiretap was used in the Board of Immigration hearing. If this were true, it would have been a possible cause for dismissal. However, the motion of investigation was denied.
    The Second Hearing sub-series also contains an Amicus Curiae Brief from the National Lawyers Guild, petitions to the President of the U.S. to cancel the deportation proceedings against Bridges and a motion to intervene by the CPUSA. There is some correspondence in the Brief materials (folder #8, box 7) from Carol King to Richard Gladstein regarding the logistics of the Writ of Habeas Corpus Petition before the District Court and its revisions. There is other correspondence of King and Gladstein relating to the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (folders 9-11, box 8) and to the Supreme Court case (folder #3, box 9).
    A file containing Bridges' applications for naturalization and related correspondence among his lawyers mark the beginning of the Criminal Case sub-series (1949-1953, Boxes 10-16) of the DEPORTATION CASES. The general file (folder #2, box 10) contains a Summary of the Harry Bridges Case 1920-1945 and a Brief Chronology and Summary of the Bridges Case, 1951. In the file are also memoranda, receipts for transcripts and filings of briefs, and information on the Department of Justice's activities on internal security. Of particular note is a memorandum on the lawyers' responsibilities and fees in handling Bridges' appeal, October 1950.
    The Criminal Case sub-series continues with correspondence, 1949-1952, primarily between Norman Leonard and Richard Gladstein. It also includes trial notes of Vincent Hallinan. Several folders deal with Bridges' bail, notably its revocation. There are trial and legal notes, in addition to briefs, information on witnesses, press releases by the ILWU on the progress of the trial, memoranda, pre-trial motions and responses to motions. Some of this deals with an attempt to have Judge Harris dismissed from presiding over the trial on the basis of a prejudice against Vincent Hallinan and a bias in favor of the prosecution. Harris charged lawyers Hallinan and MacInnis with contempt of court, Hallinan for violation of a procedural rule, and MacInnis for disrespect toward the Judge.
    There are some legal documents referring to their contempt case, in addition to some correspondence. There is also the decree to revoke Bridges' citizenship after the lower court's decision as well as the opinion of Judge Harris (folder #1, box 14), which was used as Exhibit A in the appeals to the Ninth Circuit. The appeals, briefs, stipulations, transcripts, opinion and the petition for rehearing are all within this sub-series.
    The Supreme Court section contains some drafts, petitions and responses for the Writ of Certiorari. There are the Amicus Curiae briefs from the various ILWU locals and some correspondence referring to them. This section also includes the opinion of the Court and a copy of the arguments before the Supreme Court by Telford Taylor. A copy of the dismissal of the Bridges et al. case by the lower court is also included.
    The exhibits (box 15) used by the defense in the lower court of the Criminal Case have been included in this collection. The exhibits were used to prove that Bridges was in Stockton, California instead of at a CPUSA convention in New York. Most of them are photostats; however, there are the original minutes of the ILA Local 38-98 in Stockton from August 7, 1935 to June 16, 1937 and the original ledger for the same local dated January 1936 to October 1936. There are also photostat copies of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Longshore Labor Relations Committee of San Francisco (1934), in addition to Minutes of the Waterfront Employers Union, Regular Minutes of Local 38-79 (1936) and the Bay Area District Council Minutes (1936).
    In box 16 designated as Labor Publications there are mimeographed copes of the Waterfront Worker, San Francisco dated from 1932-1936, including Vol. 1, No. 1, in addition to Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Waterfront Worker from San Pedro. The Waterfront Worker emph>was used as evidence by the government to prove Bridges' affiliation with the CPUSA; Bridges took over the paper in 1934. There are also some pamphlets and leaflets in support of Bridges and his contribution to American society.
    Bridges' Civil Case is represented by two boxes (boxes 17 and 18) containing such documents as the complaint deposition, briefs, and depositions of witnesses including John Schomaker and Nat Honig. In this sub-series are also Gladstein's and Taylor's closing arguments and the opinion by the presiding judge, Louis E. Goodman. Correspondence is primarily that of Leonard and Gladstein. After 1955, the letters are mainly requests for information on the Bridges cases.
    Near the end of the DEPORTATION CASES series is a Correspondence sub-series (boxes 19 and 20) covering the years 1938-1943. Within it are also yellow slips, an integral part of the law offices' communication system; they are inter-office memoranda requesting or relaying messages on specific cases.
    Most of the correspondence is to and from counsel and union officials. The authors debate and give information on the logis and tactics of the hearings, with their comments overlapping several cases. There are also letters to the defense committees regarding fees and press releases. Correspondence of individual lawyers, e.g. Carol King, is sometimes designated in this section, but much of it is integrated into folders identified merely by date or by some aspect of the case. The various hearing sub-series that constitute the earlier sections of the DEPORTATION CASES also contain considerable correspondence.
    Covering primarily the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Newspaper Clippings file (boxes 21-24) is extensive. Taken from Bay area papers, the clippings pertain exclusively to the deportation cases.
    Oversized Materials (box 25) contains newspapers, including a photostat of some IWW newspapers that may have been used as exhibits in one of Bridges' deportation cases. Other papers contain brief biographies of Bridges' lawyers. There is also a magazine covering the maritime strike of 1934.
    The CONTEMPT CASE series (box 26) contains only part of the legal documents from the Supreme Courts of California and the United States. there are the claims and correspondence regarding the judgment against Bridges when he was found in contempt of court because of a telegram he sent to Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor. In it, he criticized a decision by Los Angeles Superior Court judge Reuben Schmidt for a decision in the ILWU-CIO and ILA-AFL dispute. The judgment against Bridges was affirmed by the Supreme Court of California. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision on December 7, 1941, agreeing with Bridges' argument that he had been denied his Constitutional rights of free expression and due process.
    The LIBEL CASES series (box 27, folders 1-3) contains papers on some of the law suits with which Bridges was involved. There is an amended complaint and some correspondence regarding a defamation of character suit filed by Aaron Sapiro against Bridges and J.P. Hentschel, an union activist in the motion picture industry. Other folders contain correspondence relating to possible libel actions in the many instances when Bridges and his lawyers challenged editorials, articles, and broadcasts about him. Documented here is Bridges' challenge of Hearst Publications for printing that Bridges had set up his own defense organization regarding the reporting of sabotage activities during World War II. The file contains correspondence, briefs, motions, notes, a copy of the ILWU's wartime policy, and some information on the suit of Joseph Curran, President of the National Maritime Union of American, against Hearst columnist Walter Winchell.
    The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains photos of Harry Bridges and the library's dinner (February 9, 1986) held in his honor.