California Un-American Activities Committees Records, 1935-1977

Inventory of the California
Un-American Activities
Committees Records, 1935-1977
93-04-12, 93-04-16
3
Agency History
The growth of international communism in the 1930s had an enormous impact on American politics. Coupled with the rise
of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, the threat of communism during the period leading up to World War II
was very real and pervasive. In response to allegations that communists had infiltrated the State Relief Administration, the
California Legislature created in 1940 what was to become a thirty-one year investigation into un-American activities in
California.
The first investigating committee, chaired by Los Angeles Assemblyman Sam Yorty, was called the Assembly Relief
Investigating Committee on Subversive Activities. A report of the Committee's work was issued in late 1940. This
short-lived body devoted its attention solely to the State Relief Administration.
A second committee was created in 1941 as a joint body of the State Senate and Assembly and was named the Joint
Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in California. It consisted of three senators and four assemblymen and
was chaired by Assemblyman Jack Tenney of Los Angeles. This Joint Committee received widespread, wartime support from
the general public. It divided its investigations between the activities and organization of pro-Axis and communist groups.
In 1947, the Assembly withdrew from the Committee. The Senate took control and renamed it the Senate Fact-Finding
Committee on Un-American Activities. Tenney, now a Senator, remained as chair. The Senate Committee focused its
attention largely on identifying and exposing communists, and many hearings were held on this subject. In particular, the
Committee investigated labor unions, universities and colleges, public employees, liberal churches, and the Hollywood film
industry. In 1949, Senator Tenney, under pressure from fellow legislators, resigned as chair and was replaced by Senator
Hugh Burns of Fresno.
The name of the Committee was changed once again in 1961, this time to the Fact-Finding Subcommittee on Un-American
Activities. Senator Burns remained as chair. During the 1960s, the Committee shifted its emphasis to investigating
communist influence in racial unrest, street violence, anti-war rallies, and campus protests. Instead of hearings and staff
field investigations, the Committee reports were based more on information gathered from newspapers and police files.
Senator James Mills of San Diego became chair in 1970. At the initiative of Senator Mills, the Committee was abolished in
1971 and the records were transferred to the State Archives.
Created by michael.mcneil .
Last edited by michael.mcneil .