Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Handout 4: Testimony before HUAC

Excerpted from more than 10 hours of testimony given by Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam of the Methodist Church. Transcript published in U.S. News and World Report. August 7, 1953 and available in full on the Internet Archive website.

Rep. Velde of Illinois (chairman of the Committee)

Mr. Kunzig (prosecutor for the Committee)

Rep. Jackson of California (member of the Committee)

Bishop Oxnam

Public Hearing: Tuesday, July 21, 1953. United States House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, Washington D.C.

Rep. Velde: Mr. Counsel, will you please call the witness.

Mr. Kunzig: Will Bishop Oxnam please step forward?...

Mr. Kunzig: Do you know Rev. Stephen H. Fritchman?

Bishop Oxnam: Yes, I do.

Mr. Kunzig: Did you, on occasion, speak at Rev. Stephen H. Fritchman's church in Los Angeles?

Bishop Oxnam: Mr. Chairman, I am going to answer this and I think you are going to reprimand me, sir, but this is a very vicious procedure. Dr. Fritchman held a very high position in the Unitarian Church. He was the editor of the Christian Register. He subsequently became —

Rep. Velde: Would you be good enough to answer the question?

Bishop Oxnam: I cannot answer it without doing myself damage and there has been enough of that.

Rep Velde: The reason I ask you this is that is has been standard procedure to ask the witness to answer the question first and not make —

Bishop Oxnam: Yes, sir, I did.

Mr Kunzig: Was that on April 4, 1952?

Rep Velde: Now will you proceed?

Bishop Oxnam: Yes sir. Dr. Fritchman was the editor of the Christian Register, which was the official paper of the Unitarian Church. He, I believe, was dismissed from that office. He became the pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. When I lived in Los Angeles I knew the minister of that church who was named Bacchus. I had hoped we could have good relationships between the churches called the Unitarian and the Trinitarian.

I received an invitation to lecture at a forum which was held at the First Unitarian Church. I also lectured at the Santa Monica forum and at the Westwood Hills Methodist Church. I had no knowledge whatsoever that Mr. Fritchman was in any way related to the Communist Party.

May I say this, that since that time and I will not name the men, but two prominent officials of the Unitarian Church have conferred with me and gave me information that gave me grave doubts concerning Dr. Fritchman, and had I known what they informed me I would, of course, not have lectured at his church. I did not know before that time what they alleged and I take it what is going to be done now is going to be the same procedure that somebody is going to say that he was identified by somebody else as a Communist and they will be begin to draw inferences as far as I am concerned in the matter of lecturing in his church. I think that that is basically unfair and I respectfully request that that kind of procedure, if it is a procedure, end.

Rep. Jackson: I will say this, that in all of the City of Los Angeles there is perhaps no individual who has been as closely associated with the Community Party of Communist front organizations over a period of many years as has Reverend Fritchman. He appeared before the Committee and declined to answer questions as to his membership in the Communist Party on the grounds of the Fifth Amendment. His record has been so spectacular that is seems almost unbelievable that even the most cursory examination of a few preliminary questions to almost anyone on the street corner could have elicited the information that he had appeared before the committee and had declined to answer.

Bishop Oxnam: How did he appear, please?

Mr. Kunzig: How?

Bishop Oxnam: When was it, I mean?

Mr. Kunzig: September 12, 1951.

Rep. Jackson: Because of the fact that he is connected with the organizations which I have just mentioned and his file has been declassified by the committee and I do not want to go into detail on what his testimony was, but he refused to co-operate and had taken refuge behind the provisions of the Fifth Amendment, which he had every right to do.

Bishop Oxnam: I have stated all the facts that I know in this matter. I don't know whether we can abbreviate this or whether we have to go through the long process of all of this and never get to the questions I came to consider.

(discussion of other topics)

Mr. Kunzig: I have a document marked Oxnam exhibit number 41 which was back when we were discussion the Fritchman situation which was the listing of Bishop Oxnam being at Fritchman's church, and I should like now to offer it into evidence.

Bishop Oxnam: I stated I spoke there.

Rep. Velde: Without objection, it will be so admitted.

(discussion of other topics)

Mr. Kunzig: I have a photostatic copy marked Oxnam Exhibit Number 43 —

Bishop Oxnam: I have been a lot of trouble to this committee. I am sorry. Forty-three exhibits is amazing.

Mr. Kunzig: Let me first ask, did you know Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, a Negro leader?

Bishop Oxnam: No, I simply cannot say. I am afraid I don't know. I have heard his name.

Mr. Kunzig: Did DuBois ever speak at your church?

Bishop Oxnam: I think not.

Mr. Kunzig: Can you explain this exhibit marked Oxnam Exhibit Number 43?

Bishop Oxnam: What year are you talking about?

Mr. Kunzig: Let me show it to you. It states that he was listed to speak. The questions I asked was did he ever speak at your church?

Bishop Oxnam: Frankly, I cannot answer that. It is way back. This was in 1927. I would have to check the records of the church. I do not recall ever having met Dr. DuBois. I cannot answer that.

Rep. Velde: At the present time your recollection is that Dr. DuBois —

Bishop Oxnam: I have no recollection of it, but when somebody brings up a document that is twenty-eight years back, that is a little difficult for anybody, even from this committee, to answer.

Rep. Velde: I think the chair would defer receipt of that until the Bishop has had an opportunity to check it.

Mr. Kunzig: I think it should be withdrawn.

Bishop Oxnam: Mr. Chairman, I am leaving for Europe, I hope it will not be a discourtesy if I have to get this information after I get back. I do not think I could do it in a day or two before I go.

Rep. Velde: I am sure the committee will wish you godspeed upon your journey.