Document 10: Testimony of Professor Garland Ethel, English Department, University of Washington
Washington State Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities,
Second Report: Un-American Activities in Washington State (Olympia, 1948), 130-44.
MR. HOUSTON: Will you please state your name?
DR. ETHEL: Garland Ethel. . . .
MR. HOUSTON: Doctor, I will ask you, are you or have you ever a member of the Communist Party?
DR. ETHEL: I am not a member of the Communist Party, but I have been a member of the Communist Party.
MR. HOUSTON: When did you join the Communist Party, doctor?
DR. ETHEL: 1934
MR. HOUSTON: When did you cease your association with the Communist Party, doctor?
DR. ETHEL: The end of 1941. I can't tell you precisely when, but it was in l941. . . .
MR. HOUSTON: Did you belong to a unit of the Communist Party?
DR. ETHEL: Yes, sir.
MR. HOUSTON: Do you recall what unit that was that you belonged to?
DR. ETHEL: Well, it was the one, I presume, that was referred to here most of the time in this testimony, it was a unit in the University District. . . .
MR. HOUSTON: Now, doctor, about how many people usually attended these unit meetings that you mentioned?
DR. ETHEL: Oh, anywhere from a half a dozen to a dozen, never more than that. . . .
MR. HOUSTON: Now, who were some of the other members of your unit, doctor?
DR. ETHEL: I will, Mr. Houston, with your permission, I would like to recall our private conversation, a conference downstairs.
MR. HOUSTON: Yes, go right ahead.
DR. ETHEL: Yes. Well, you will recall . . . [that] I said, "So far as my behavior is concerned, I consider that adult and responsible. I take full consequences for everything I've done anytime in my life, and in so far as my behavior is concerned, I am completely willing to talk unreservedly about myself." . . . I told you that I was unwilling to name other persons as Communists or possible Communists for two reasons. One is, that I didn't have knowledge about their membership that I consider able to stand up under the rules of evidence, and you told me, "Well, after all, this is not court law, and I admit that." The other point was that my own particular code of honor forbids that kind of naming persons to their possible injury, but most of all it's a question of living up to my own standard of conduct; and in so far as I am and have long been a teacher of literature, I suppose I might quote you a line [from Shakespeare] that sticks very solidly in my head. It's Polonius to his son, just before his boy goes to Paris: "And this above all," this is the conclusion of the advice that the old counselor gave his son. "And this above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.";
Now that happens to be my situation; I have a standard of honor, and that standard is not to name other persons, and I told you that would be my position. That is my position, sir.
MR. HOUSTON: Dr. Ethel, have you ever attended any Communist Party meetings with Harold Eby?
DR. ETHEL: I shall have to decline, sir, on the general rule that I have just announced, that that is not compatible with my code, and if I have your permission, I'll add a word or so there.
MR. HOUSTON: You'll what?
DR. ETHEL: Add a word or two of explanation.
MR. HOUSTON: No, I want the answer to the questions to be responsive.
DR. ETHEL: Yes, sir.
MR. HOUSTON: Have you ever attended any Communist Party meetings with Joseph Butterworth?
DR. ETHEL: I am going to decline again on the same grounds, sir. It's naming the person. I said I was unwilling to do that. . . .
MR. HOUSTON: Mr. Chairman, it is very clear that the witness refuses to answer proper and pertinent questions. I would ask that the Chairman of this Committee submit to the witness the last three questions that I have asked.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: Let me state that we are specifically interested in obtaining information which we feel we are authorized to elicit; and I will repeat the questions asked by Mr. Houston, as to whether you have attended closed Party meetings with Professor Butterworth, or Professor Phillips, or Professor Gundlach.
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir. I understand.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: Do you refuse to answer?
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir. I decline to answer those questions.
MR. HOUSTON: Mr. Chairman, I ask that this witness be excused.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: No, we will not excuse the witness; we will ask the witness to step aside and remain in attendance until the Committee decides what action to take on your refusal to give testimony in this hearing. You may step aside.
THE WITNESS: Well, may I ask one question of you, sir, a question of permission?
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: No, you may—we will not permit this to go on. Either you will answer the questions, the proper questions of this Committee or the questions we believe to be proper, or you will step aside until we wish to call you to the stand again.
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: I will ask you to step aside, and remain in attendance until formally released from the subpoena.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: If there are any further demonstrations by the audience, we will ask the State Patrol to remove those participating in said demonstration, and upon removal said demonstrators will remain out of the hearing room during the course of these hearings.
[The following day, Canwell recalled Ethel to the stand.] PROFESSOR GARLAND ETHEL, having been previously sworn, resumed the stand for further examination.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: Be seated, Doctor. You were sworn yesterday. I wish to advise you for this Committee, that we are going to again ask you some of the questions we asked yesterday, which you refused to answer. We do so, while at the same time advising you that if you do not testify, do not answer in response to the Committee's questions, that we will take proceedings to have you punished for contempt of the Legislature in refusing to answer these questions.
We want you to be fully advised of the possible penalties for contempt of the Legislature, and with that in mind we are going to again ask you some of the questions that you refused to answer yesterday. Now, I think that I will ask those questions.
Have you ever—?
MR. ETHEL: Excuse me sir, for information. In answering your questions have I permission to say anything more than yes or no?
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: I think that we will expect a direct answer to these questions. We will not—we do not wish any explanations or quotations from Shakespeare or anything of that nature. I think it is within your power to answer yes or no and I think we are proper in asking that you do that on these specific questions. . . .
Have you or have you not sat in closed party meetings with Ralph H. Gundlach?
MR. ETHEL: I decline to answer that question, sir.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: Have you sat in closed party meetings with Herbert J. Phillips?
MR. ETHEL: I decline to answer that question, sir.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: Have you sat in closed Communist Party meetings with Professor Eby?
MR. ETHEL: I decline to answer that one, sir.
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: Will you step aside? I wish to advise you that the entire—the unanimous opinion of this Committee is that we should cite you for contempt on your refusal to answer these questions. Now, if you will step aside we will—
MR. ETHEL: May I make one request, sir? . . .
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: No, I think not. You have refused to answer the proper questions of this committee—
MR. ETHEL: Yes, sir, uh—
CHAIRMAN CANWELL: You will step aside and have nothing more to say in this hearing.