Home > Labor, Socialism/Communism > Archie Brown, 79, Union Leader In Landmark Case on Communists

Archie Brown, 79, Union Leader In Landmark Case on Communists

From New York Times

Archie Brown, the West Coast longshoremen’s union leader who won the 1965 Supreme Court decision upholding the right of Communists to serve as union officials, died Friday at his home in San Francisco. He was 79 years old.

His wife, Esther, said he died of lung cancer.

In 1962 Mr. Brown, a staunch Communist, was sentenced to six months in prison after being convicted of serving as a party member and a member of the executive board of the San Francisco local of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union. His membership violated an anti-Communist provision of the Federal Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959, and it was his appeal that brought Justice Earl Warren’s landmark decision striking down that provision.

Mr. Brown’s defense was that the provision was an attack on the union’s consitutional right to select its own officers without regard to race, religion or political affiliation.

Archie Brown was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1911. He completed ninth grade and then, at the age of 13, went with a friend to Oakland, Calif., where he found work hustling newspapers. In 1928, he helped organize a newsboys’ strike, and it was then that he became a committed Communist. He joined the Young Communist League in 1929.

Eventually he became a longshoreman in San Francisco, and after a maritime strike in 1934, he joined the waterfront union movement. The following year, he was charged with the murder of a fellow unionist and spent 81 days in prison before being acquitted. Fought in Spain, and at Bulge

In 1938 he joined the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War, serving eight months as a machine gunner with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. In World War II, he served with the 76th Infantry Division and took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war in 1946, he was named the Communist Party’s state trade union director in California and later became a member of the party’s national committee.

Mr. Brown gained national prominence in 1960 during hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee in San Francisco. He and other Communists were accused of organizing demonstrations against the committee and committing acts of violence against police officers trying to restore order. He was arrested in 1961 on a charge of violating the Landrum-Griffin Act.

He retired from the longshoremen’s union in 1976 but remained an active supporter of causes like the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua and the opposition to Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean President.

He is survived by his wife; a sister, Minnie, and a brother, Frank, both of Berkeley, Calif.; another brother, Abe, of Alameda, Calif.; three daughters, Susan, of Sebastopol, Calif., and Stephanie and Betsey, both of San Francisco; a son, Doug, of Berkeley, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Categories: Labor, Socialism/Communism
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