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Alexander Pennes Papers (Committee for Medical Freedom Records), 1946-1968
MSS 048  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Seperated Material
  • Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Alexander Pennes Papers (Committee for Medical Freedom Records),
    Date (inclusive): 1946-1968
    Collection number: MSS 048
    Creator: Pennes, Alexander
    Extent: 2 boxes, 1 half-box, 1 legal half-box

    1 ½ linear feet
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
    Los Angeles, CA 90044
    Abstract: The majority of this collection concerns the blacklisting of doctors and other medical professionals during the Cold War/McCarthy Era, particularly the dismissal of three doctors by the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles in December 1951.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Donated to the Library by Alexander and Rose Pennes in the mid-1980s.


    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 items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Alexander Pennes Papers (Committee for Medical Freedom Records), Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, California.


    Blacklisting and the McCarthy Era

    The Anti-Communist fervor of the Cold War Period and what is commonly referred to as the McCarthy Era serves as a backdrop to this collection. After the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in the ideological battle known as the Cold War. The identification of communists and other radicals through the use of federal and state legislative investigative committees and the punishment of those identified through firing and blacklisting comprised a successful U.S. tactic. The investigations spread from federal and other government employees to the entertainment industry, the professions, labor unions, and the private sector. The major players in these campaigns included, on the Federal level, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In California major players included California State Assemblyman (later State Senator) Nelson S. Dilworth, and State Senators Jack B. Tenney and Hugh M. Burns. All three served on the Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in California (1945) and first Tenney and later Burns chaired the [California] Senate Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities. After passing the Levering Act, which required loyalty oaths from all state employees, the California Legislature made several attempts at passing legislation that would have required lawyers, physicians and other professionals to take loyalty oaths or lose the right to practice their profession. In 1951 HUAC held hearings into the "Communist Activities Among Professional Groups in the Los Angeles Area."


    Alexander Pennes, M.D. was a prominent Los Angeles physician who was dismissed from St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, California in September 1951, and from Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles in December, as a result of having his name mentioned in a House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearing. Two other physicians, Dr. Murray Abowitz and Dr. Richard W. Lippman, were dismissed from Cedars of Lebanon the same day. Dr. Abowitz had consulted on the case of a Smith Act defendant, and Dr. Lippman had refused to testify before HUAC. The Committee for Medical Freedom was formed in January 1952 to organize the protest of the Cedars' firings. Rose Pennes, Dr. Pennes' wife, was the Executive Director of the Committee.
    In October 1951, Pennes and other doctors were called before the HUAC hearings being held in Los Angeles. Pennes received a certificate from Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms for his appearance before HUAC. Pennes and his wife were actively involved in anti-HUAC organizations. They were also involved in fighting Burns-Tenney and Burns-Chapel legislation attempting to institute loyalty oaths for professionals in California. The Bush-Tenney Bill, SB 1665, would have amended the state Business and Professions code to require the signing of an oath to uphold the Constitution and swearing that he or she did not belong, had not belonged within the last five years, and would not join any organization or party that "advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means." Signing of the "affidavit" was required for licensure, and lying about past affiliations or joining in the future was made a felony.
    Pennes was a progressive physician interested in social welfare and the movements toward creating affordable health coverage. He was one of the founding members of the short-lived (1946-1956) Community Medical Foundation, a prepaid health insurance and group medical practice. The Foundation attracted the attention of the California State Un-American Activities (Burns) Committee in 1954. Pennes remained interested in social and civil rights issues.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains minutes, correspondence, flyers, petitions, hearing transcripts, testimony, articles, notes, newsletters, and clippings. Though the provenance of this collection is uncertain it appears to contain materials created or collected by Dr. Alexander [Alex] Pennes, and his wife Rose Pennes, including records of the Committee for Medical Freedom which was formed to challenge the loyalty-based dismissals of Pennes, Abowitz, Lippman and other physicians. Rose Pennes was Executive Director of the Committee and Stella (Mrs. Dan) Rugetti served as chairman. The Committee organized letter writing, petitions, and large informational and protest meetings (including one featuring B.Z. Goldberg, columnist for the national Jewish newspaper, The Day). Dr. Frank Weymouth of Stanford was also prominent in the protests. Linus Pauling withdrew his name from the protest meeting due to a technical problem. According to one source, Pauling later arranged research projects with Dr. Lippman at the City of Hope Hospital.
    The Committee for Medical Freedom and information on the Cedars of Lebanon dismissals make up just under half of the material. The majority of the rest concerns the response of Pennes ( and the medical community) to loyalty oath legislation directed at doctors and other professionals (Burns-Tenney and Burns-Chapel Bills), and the Los Angeles HUAC hearings, which focused on professionals. Materials in the collection include copies of testimony from several Dilworth (state) and HUAC hearings, materials from various anti-HUAC groups including the Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms, and speeches, notes, correspondence by Alex Pennes, Frank Weymouth and others.
    Other concerns ranged from the execution of the Rosenbergs to concerns over Doctors Draft Bill and the treatment of military doctors who failed loyalty challenges, and a variety of other medically related civil rights issues.
    There is one folder of information concerning the Community Medical Foundation (1946-1956), a non-profit pre-paid insurance and group medical practice, and the establishment of the pre-paid system.


    The collection is divided into 3 series: 1. Committee for Medical Freedom/Cedars of Lebanon, Laws , 2. HUAC Hearings and Protests, and 3. Articles And Clippings. One box of legal-sized materials is found at the end of the collection (Box 4). Each folder is listed within the appropriate series in the container list.

    Seperated Material

    Two copies of a poster-sized announcement of the BZ Goldberg meeting have been added to the Poster Collection.

    Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

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    Physical Description: 9 Collections