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The Resource Matters of conscience : : Frank Wilkinson, interviewed by Dale E. Treleven

Matters of conscience : : Frank Wilkinson, interviewed by Dale E. Treleven

Label
Matters of conscience : : Frank Wilkinson, 1984-1986, 1992
Title
Matters of conscience :
Title remainder
Frank Wilkinson
Statement of responsibility
interviewed by Dale E. Treleven
Inclusive dates
1984-1986, 1992
Creator
Contributor
Interviewee
Interviewer
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
The interview begins with Wilkinson's family background, childhood and education in Charlevoix, Mich., Douglas, Ariz. and Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Calif. It continues with his undergraduate education and student leadership at UCLA, his post-graduation trip to the Holy Land and Europe in 1936-37, and his subsequent public lecture engagements before groups and organizations in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The interview also includes extensive discussion about Wilkinson's positions and activities as a public housing leader and racial integration advocate with the Citizens Housing Council of Los Angeles and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, his dismissal from the housing authority immediately after a September 1952 eminent domain hearing relating to sites for future public housing projects in the city, his virtual unemployability until beconing secretary of the Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms (CCPAF) and for one year national field organizer for the National Emergency Civil Liberties Commitee (ELCL), his subsequent leadership in CCPAF's successor organizations, including the National Committee to Abolish the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (NCAHUAC) and the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL), his and Carl Braden's 9-month imprisonment for contempt of Congress while making First Amendment challenges to the legality of the inquisitorial Committee on UnAmerican Activities of the United States House of Representatives. Complementing the historical narrative are Wilkinson's reflections on such contemporary events as the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion following a Simi Valley jury's acquittal of LAPD officers for violating the rights of Rodney G. King, and his discussions about speaking across the country and participating in several states as a part of the American Bar Association's Law-Related Education Program for educators and students
Note
Forms part of: Oral History collection, Dept. of Special Collections, University Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
Is part of
Additional physical form
Audio recordings also may be accessed in the UCLA Department of Special Collections by special arrangement.
Biography type
autobiography
Biographical or historical data
Frank Wilkinson, who devoted his life and career to civil rights activism and 1st Amendment advocacy, was born on Aug. 16, 1914 in Charlevoix, Mich. His father, a physician, moved the family to Arizona, then to Southern California, arriving in Los Angeles in 1925. After graduation from Beverly Hills High School, he attended UCLA and received a B.A. in Political Science in 1936. He then spent 1936-37 traveling (with his friend, Delbert Harter) through the Midwest, New York, North Africa, Palestine, Europe and Russia; what he found there, especially related to social and economic conditions, had a profound effect on his worldview. He took some graduate courses at UCLA in 1938, but started his career in that same year as a self-employed lecturer, speaking on the topic of "Social Conditions of Lower Income Classes: Europe, Northern Africa, Near East, and the Soviet Union", which pursuit he continued (with other jobs to bolster his income) until 1942. During that same period, starting in 1939, is when he began working on housing administration projects, becoming executive secretary for the Citizens Housing Council of Los Angeles (CHCLA, 1939-42) and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles liaison to CHCLA (1942-52). In 1942 he also started to manage some public housing projects in Los Angeles; namely, Hacienda Village in Watts (1942-43) and Ramona Gardens (1943-45). Wilkinson's work as a prominent civil liberties leader came from a pivotal point in his work with the Housing Authority, changing the direction of his life. The Housing Authority had plans to build 10,000 low-income housing units outside poor areas of Los Angeles. In that effort, it began to condemn property in Chavez Ravine in 1952 to make 3,500 new public housing units. In taking the property through eminent domain, homeowners were assured by the Housing Authority that they would have homes in new high-rises designed by Richard Neutra. However, this was seen as too progressive a plan by local conservatives, who fought back. During the eminent domain hearings, Wilkinson testified on behalf of the Housing Authority, but when he was asked what organizations he belonged to, he took the 5th. That action alone caused him to be fired and, for some time after that, he could not find meaningful employment; his wife was also fired from her job as a teacher, only to get it back after their divorce. A further outcome was that the Housing Authority was also investigated for communist infiltration. (Another negative result was that the plans for the project in Chavez Ravine were scrapped; instead, that area later became the property of the Dodgers and today is the site of Dodger Stadium.) Wilkinson was called before California Legislature's Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities, and a few years later, to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). For this latter session, Wilkinson asserted his 1st Amendment right to refuse to testify and was cited for contempt of Congress. He took his suit to the Supreme Court, which, in 1961, ruled against Wilkinson by a vote of 5 to 4, sending him to prison for a year (of which he served 9 months). While he had already begun to emphasize civil rights activism after being fired from the Housing Authority, Wilkinson's entire career after he left prison became devoted to 1st Amendment defense and civil rights. In 1986, Wilkinson discovered that the FBI had surveillance files on him, as well as on his National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL). He filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the FBI, eventually receiving 132,000 pages of files. Wilkinson's life long work and activities have made him an icon for progressives and a beacon for idealists. This extensive oral history gives much information and great insight into what made him tick, who his friends, colleagues and associations were and the reasons he received so many accolades and awards for his work. He died in Los Angeles, in January 2006, at the age of 91.
Cataloging source
CLU
Form designation
oral history transcript
Illustrations
portraits
Index
index present
Literary form
non fiction
Location of originals duplicates
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Label
Matters of conscience : : Frank Wilkinson, interviewed by Dale E. Treleven
Instantiates
Publication
Note
  • Pagination continuous, with the exception of the preliminaries of each vol. (averaging xiv leaves each), which contain primarily the table of contents for that vol
  • Transcript of a 58.75-hour interview completed under the auspices of the UCLA Center for Oral History Research
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Includes index (v. 6).
  • The UCLA Oral History Program : catalog of the collection. 3rd ed. / compiled by Teresa Barnett (Los Angeles : Oral History Program Dept. of Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles, 1999); available in the UCLA Dept. of Special Collections.
Dimensions
28 cm.
Extent
6 v. (xxv, 2133 leaves), bound
Other physical details
ports.
System control number
  • (OCoLC)768495338
  • ucoclc768495338
Terms governing use
Quotation, publication or reproduction permitted, subject to University policy. User must acknowledge the UCLA Department of Special Collections.
Label
Matters of conscience : : Frank Wilkinson, interviewed by Dale E. Treleven
Publication
Note
  • Pagination continuous, with the exception of the preliminaries of each vol. (averaging xiv leaves each), which contain primarily the table of contents for that vol
  • Transcript of a 58.75-hour interview completed under the auspices of the UCLA Center for Oral History Research
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Includes index (v. 6).
  • The UCLA Oral History Program : catalog of the collection. 3rd ed. / compiled by Teresa Barnett (Los Angeles : Oral History Program Dept. of Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles, 1999); available in the UCLA Dept. of Special Collections.
Dimensions
28 cm.
Extent
6 v. (xxv, 2133 leaves), bound
Other physical details
ports.
System control number
  • (OCoLC)768495338
  • ucoclc768495338
Terms governing use
Quotation, publication or reproduction permitted, subject to University policy. User must acknowledge the UCLA Department of Special Collections.

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