You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The Profession of Perjury

A Communication

Most Americans were shocked when they read, in the newspapers on May 27 and 28, that Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche was being subjected to a long and arduous loyalty probe by the International Organizations' Employees Loyalty Board, created by President Eisenhower to examine the loyalty of American citizens employed by the United Nations.

It was a closed hearing; the evidence remains secret. The New York Times and other newspapers, however, disclosed the names of his accusers: Manning Johnson and Leonard Patterson. Of the latter I have nothing to say. Manning Johnson, however, is a man of whom I have reason to speak.

Johnson is a professional informer employed by the Immigration and Naturalization service of the Justice Department. According to his own testimony, he was a member of the Communist Party from 1930 to 1939, a national organizer of its Trade Union Unity League, and from 1936 to 1939 a member of the party's National Committee and of its Negro Commission. He has testified in about 25 court cases and before Loyalty Boards, Congressional hearings and State Un-American Activities Committees.

I have never met Manning Johnson, though he has claimed to have met me a number of times. The following narrative illustrates his "reliability" as a witness:

In the summer of 1948, a Washington State legislative committee on un-American activities—the Canwell Committee conducted a public hearing into alleged subversive activities at the University of Washington. At this hearing one person accused me of having been a member of the Communist Party. This witness, George Hewitt, had been, like Manning Johnson, a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party. Although I had never laid eyes on him prior to the Canwell hearings, Hewitt swore that he had been my teacher at a highly secret Communist school at Briehl's Farm, near Kingston, New York, for a period of about six weeks in the Summer of 1938 or 1939, later declaring that he was positive the date was 1938. I denied these charges under oath, swore that I had never been a Communist and had never been in New Y ork State, and promptly took steps to have Hewitt arrested as a perjurer. To protect him from being questioned by the chief deputy Prosecuting Attorney, the agents of the Canwell Committee rushed him to the Seattle airport and spirited him out of the State.

But Hewitt was finally indicted for perjury and arrested; he resisted extradition, and Manning Johnson rushed to his defense. In an affidavit which he signed on September 20, 1948, Johnson declared: that he personally remembered me "as having been present at the Communist Party School held at Briehl's Farm near Kingston, New York, in the summer of 1938," that he further met me at "Communist Party headquarters, 50 East I3th Street, New York, in the executive offices on the 9th floor, on various occasions in the Summer of 1938."

At a habeas corpus hearing in Judge Aaron J. Levy's, court in New York City on May 12, 1949, after being shown a picture of me, Johnson testified: that he had seen the person pictured "a number of times, going in and out of the office" at the party's national headquarters in the Summer of 1938; further he swore that he had visited the Briehl's Farm school during the summer to deliver a lecture, and "during the course of my lecturing . . . I had the occasion of seeing Professor Rader. He was one of the students in that class."

On cross-examination, he was twice asked if he was "positive that is the picture of the man you saw up at Briehl's school up at Kingston, New York?" His answer was, "I'm positive."

Johnson's entire testimony was false; the facts were told by Edwin O, Guthman of the Seattle Times in articles which won the Pulitzer prize for the best national reporting of 1949, and by Vern Countryman, Professor of Law at Yale University, in Un-American Activities in the State of Washington,Cornell University Press, 1951. Some of the main items of evidence are as follows:

The records of the University of Washington Comptroller's office prove that I taught summer school in 1938 until July 20.

Affidavits from the former owner and care-taker of Canyon Creek Lodge, a resort near Seattle, confirming the fact, that I, my wife, and one child were guests at the Lodge for about a month in the summer of 1938.

My signature on the register of the Lodge, which was carried away by staff investigators of the Canwell Committee and suppressed for over a year, was finally, under pressure, produced by the Committee, and established that I was at the Lodge in 1938.

A rent receipt book, finally located by the former owner of the Lodge, contained the record of my having paid rent to occupy a cabin at Canyon Creek for August and up to September 5, 1938.

The records in the office of Dr. Carl Jensen, Seattle eye specialist, show that on August 15, 1938 (right in the middle of the period when I was allegedly in New York State) he tested my eyes in Seattle and gave me a prescription for new glasses.

The voting records kept in the office of the City Clerk, Seattle, show that I voted in Seattle in the primary election of September 13, 1938.

After conducting a very searching investigation, the Attorney General of the state of Washington, issued an official report on May 5, 1950, in which he declared: "The only reasonable conclusion that can be reached . . . is that George Hewitt did not tell the truth." Raymond B. Allen, then President of the University of Washington, after thoroughly reviewing the evidence, rejected the accusations of Hewitt and Johnson in language no less positive.

Even though the facts that prove Johnson a perjurer have been widely publicized, he has continued his career as a consultant and professional witness in the employ of the Justice Department.

Similarly, George Hewitt was used several times as a witness by the government while he was under indictment for perjury.

This article originally ran in the July 5th, 1954, issue of the magazine.