First Amendment Felon: The Story of Frank Wilkinson, His 132,000 Page FBI File and His Epic Fight for Civil Rights and Liberties

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Nation Books, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 429 pages
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"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of people to peaceably assemble." These words have guided the life of Frank Wilkinson, perhaps the nation's staunchest defender of civil liberties, to the degree that Life Magazine, in an issue given over to the two-hundred-year history of the Bill of Rights, featured a lengthy profile of him.

This is the story of an ordinary, even conservative, American who became the accidental champion of our right to speak, and (by extension) to think, what we choose. Wilkinson's life has been a David-and-Goliath battle against enemies of the First Amendment. He was jailed in 1958 when HUAC cited him for contempt (the Supreme Court notoriously ratified this decision). From 1956 to 1975, he traveled an average of one hundred days a year in thirty-five states to warn of the liberties under attack by the FBI and its marionettes. His chief antagonist was J. Edgar Hoover, who compiled a 132.000 page dossier on him.

First Amendment Felon is written by one of the most celebrated political reporters of our age, charting Wilkinson's life from a college playboy to our most determined defender of the First Amendment.
  

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Contents

Meet a Key Architect of the Cold War Mr Truman and
1
Welcome to the Very Irrational Very Cold War
17
The Real Beginning
24
k How the Playboy Scholar Almost Wins the UCLA Student
34
Frank Begins His Real Education
43
Home Is the Place Where When
59
Integrated Public Housinga Most Effective Scandal
69
Why Join the Party?
77
Youth Joins In Lending Enormous Vigor to Franks
191
Eloquent Words but Was Anyone Paying Attention?
206
Showdown at the Supreme Courts NotSoOK Corral
212
An Organizing Interlude before Jail
224
A Bitter Introduction to Penitentiary Life
243
Picking Up the Pieces Twice
259
Fighting His Way through Tangled Grass Roots
269
Too Much Travel No Home Life EqualsWell
279

A Moment of Ominous Silencethe Impact of
85
Pariah
92
The Smith Actand Taking Down CP Leadership
99
Sorry But Frank Was Not Issued Cloak and Dagger
107
U Human Rights Shall Be More Highly Regarded Than
117
Organizing to Repel the Storm
121
The Slow Evolution Toward the First Amendment
127
The East Coast Was Watching with Admiration
142
Integration and Civil Liberties Entangle and
154
Tracking the Muddy Footprints of the American
165
The Black Rebellion Begins to Rumble across Dixie
175
Suddenly or So It Seemed Protestors Were
286
One More Nail in HUACs Coffin
301
The Show Sinks to New Levels of Absurdity
314
A Foul Atmosphere from the Top Down
325
HUACs Grotesque Solution to a Problem It Helped
335
Suddenly the Once Seemingly Indestructible HUAC
349
Epilogue m
366
Notes m
385
Bibliography m
401
Index m
415
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Robert Sherrill lives in Tallahassee, FLorida. He is a former editor of Texas Observer, DC Bureau chief for The Miami Herald, a reporter for the Washington Post, contributor to the New York Times, and has been a long-time contributor to The Nation, where he is currently a contributing editor. He has written numerous books on politics and society, including The Drugstore Liberal (1968), Military Justice Is To Justice as Military Music Is To Music (1970), The Saturday Night Special (1973), The Last Kennedy (1976) and The Oil Follies of 1970-1980: How the Petroleum Industry Stole the Show (And Much More Besides) (1983).

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