Dr. Brian E. Birdnow holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Saint Louis University and is a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the Organization of American Historians, the Smithsonian Institute, and is a past member of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Dr. Birdnow is listed in Who’s Who in the West, Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and in Strathmore’s International Who’s Who. He is an adjunct Professor of Cultural Heritage at St. Louis College of Pharmacy and an adjunct Professor of History at McKendree College and Saint Louis University.
2005 0-7734-6101-9 The St. Louis Smith Case, “James Forest et al. v United States” offers a case study of the United States governmental campaign against state and local American Communists in microcosm. The indictments and arrests of CPUSA-Missouri members in 1952, their subsequent prosecution and convictions, and the ultimate reversal of those convictions closely mirror the “second-string” prosecutions at the national level.
The case of “James Forest et. al. v United States” is complex and multifaceted. The question of whether the defendants violated the Smith Act was only a small piece of the entire puzzle. The very legitimate questions of constitutional and civil liberties involved in the case were juxtaposed against an equally strong concern for the protection of an open society against those who understood to be seeking the destruction of that society. The larger question was whether American society could take steps to impair or hinder a movement whose existence was considered inimical to the national interest. First Amendment guarantees, national security concerns and ideological questions jumbled together in an uneasy co-existence in St. Louis during the 1950s, just as they did in the larger society. The St. Louis Smith Act Case, “James Forest et. al. v United States” is the focus of this inquiry.
This work utilizes a wise range of sources, both primary and secondary. It makes substantial use of official court records, U.S. Justice Department Files, and materials from the United States National Archives. In addition, many materials from the Harry S. Truman and Dwight David Eisenhower Presidential Libraries are also employed. The secondary literature on American Communism, the Post-World War II world and the McCarthy era is vast and is thoroughly examined. The literature is supplemented by a review of period journalism in the form of newspapers and periodicals.
The student of American political history will observe that “James Forest et. al. v United States” was a prototypical Smith Act prosecution. The St. Louis case encapsulated many of the elements that marked the first American Communist prosecutions and mirrored the other state level prosecutions of the CPUSA leadership. A close examination of the case offers a priceless insight into the primary elements common to all of the state and local Smith Act cases. A study of “James Forest et. al. v United States” presents a portal through which to view the sociocultural standards of the American Midwest during the 1950s. This work will prove itself an important contribution to social, cultural, political and legal history.