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October 2016 - Loyalty oaths

During the 1950s Red Scare, Seattle city employees were required to sign oaths attesting that they were not "a subversive person," (i.e., a communist). A 1951 memo found in the Civil Service Commission Subject Files addressed the particulars of six employees who had not strictly followed instructions on the loyalty oath.

Corporation Counsel A.C. Van Soelen and his assistant J. Ambler Newton described the six cases as follows:

  1. Emert Levi Frazier - Laborer - Park [sic] Department. Mr. Frazier has signed but has stricken out the paragraph preceding his signature which is to the effect that the statement is made under oath subject to the penalties of perjury... Mr. Frazier has typewritten on the back of the statement that he cannot subscribe to such an "oath" because of his religious belief.
  2. Jean E. Huot - Junior Cataloger in the Public Library. The statement is signed, but there follows a typewritten statement to the effect that she has signed because of "economic necessity" as she prefers not to lose her position. She also states that she reserves the right to her own understanding of the meaning of the law at the time of signing and to "defend it thereafter if necessary."
  3. August Miklave - Department of Lighting - Hydro-electric Operator. Mr. Miklave has inserted in writing just before his signature the following: "Cognizance is further taken of duress clearly expressed, giving apprehensions for security of fundamental American civil liberties."
  4. James R. Smith - Sr. Custodial Engineer - Building Department. Mr. Smith follows his statement with the following: "Signed under duress."
  5. F. Grimes Schneider - Steno-Clerk - Fire Department. After his signature appear the words "Not willingly signed."
  6. E.A. Wishon - Sub-Station Operator - Seattle City Light. Mr. Wishon has written in pencil..."Is this coercion? (EW)"

In the last case, the conclusion was that the question "does not in and of itself qualify his execution of the statement" and that he was thus "in substantial compliance" with the Subversive Activities Act. However, the other five employees were deemed not to have complied with the act's requirements. In Frazier's case, it was noted that "the statute contains no provision excusing one on religious or any other grounds" from signing the oath. The statements about signing under duress were similarly dismissed as not in compliance with the law.

The memo concludes, "We suggest that the employes [sic] who have qualified their execution of the statements as above be given an opportunity to sign unqualifiedly, in view of the serious consequences likely to ensue."

memo page 1 memo page 2
Law Department memo, 1951
Box 1, Folder 6, Civil Service Commission Subject Files (Record Series 6610-11), Seattle Municipal Archives