Document 7: Interview with H. C. Armstrong
Albert Canwell, First Report: Un-American Activities in Washington State.
([Olympia]: Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities,1948), 415-39.
Examination by Mr. Houston:
Q. Will you please state your name?
A. H. C. Armstrong. . . .
Q. Now I will ask you, Mr. Armstrong, how long have you been a member of the Legislature?
A. I am entering my twelfth year. That's—
Q. Of continuous service?
A. Continuous service. That's six sessions—that is seven sessions. Six regular and one special session.
Q. Were any other members of the Legislature members of the Communist Party while you were a member?
A. There were. [When asked, Armstrong named eight communist legislators.]
Q. Now I'll ask you if any meetings were held among you, as Communist meetings, while you were a member of the Legislature.
A. Yes. . . . Let me explain [these meetings.] The fraction meetings of a purely Communist nature down there, while they were Communist-inspired and Communist-conducted, was also conducted under the spirit of the . . . United Front. In other words, we in the Party would hold a very short meeting and decide what should be done, that is, the strategy for tomorrow or the next day. And we generally had that over with very quickly before the rest of the invited guests would arrive. There were many good and sincere people in the Legislature down there at that time, who would come down there from other portions of the state, who were sent there primarily by organized labor or . . . people of that kind, that would sit in with us on these so-called caucuses. And as soon as our [communist] meeting was over, which was very rapid, then we'd have a regular so-called left-wing caucus, and sometimes we'd have as high as twenty-five or thirty of these legislators in there that would be pretty well swayed by our little fraction for a while. [Editor's note: there were over 150 Washington state legislators at that time.]
Q. [Is] that what was meant when from time to time there would be an announcement that there would be a . . . meeting of the Dikes, Drains, and Ditches [committee]?
A. That was somewhat of a password of ours, yes. . . .
Q. There was no such committee in the Legislature was there?
A. Yes, there is—frankly, at that time there was a committee called the Dikes, Drains, and Ditches. And it was—it also so happens that we of the left-the left-wingers was in the "dog house" with the people who run the Legislature down there, and we got all the rag end and bob tails of committees, and this Dikes, Drains, and Ditches was just about as low as they could stick [us], so they gave it to [us]. . . .
Q. [Was] your membership in the Communist Party a secret?
A. Oh, very definitely. Very definitely.