Professor Meets the Press
Cabbages & Kings
Wendell Furry, associate professor of Physics, accused of being a former Communist, was sitting in an armchair facing eight members of the Boston press when we walked into his living room. That afternoon the professor had balked when a Senate committee had asked about his supposed Party affiliations; he had flown back to Boston that evening and upon his arrival had informed local newspapers that he would hold a press conference in his Belmont home within the hour.
As soon as we three from the CRIMSON came into the living room the professor stood up to hand us a typewritten statement. I tried to read the statement, but the reporters kept asking Furry questions and over the interview came the shouting of his two daughters who were being sent off to bed, so I put it down. I didn't want to miss any of the questioning.
Furry appeared relaxed and confident, and the reporters clustered around him were extremely polite and extremely anxious. They pressed forward with their questions, continually returning to badger him about Communist membership. They asked the same questions in a dozen different ways, but every time they did Furry would smile and say "You sound like the Committee" or "I guess Mr. Velde could use you" and everyone would laugh. You could tell, though, that the reporters didn't think it was very funny.
He answered just about everything else. Someone asked him what he thought about Communists and he said, "Well, they're people and you can't judge them all any more than you can all Jews or all Catholics. There are some good ones and some bad ones I suppose." Everyone nodded and wrote furiously.
A reporter wanted to know if he had belonged to one group that was on the Attorney General's subversive list. Furry said that he didn't know. The reporter looked up, startled, and Furry explained "Well, you know, you're sitting at home and some one calls up and asks you to join an organization. You ask what it's going to do and who's on it, and the person names some people you respect and, especially if it's a female voice, you say sure and send them five dollars." The reporter looked startled again.
The Post man asked if he would fight on the U.S. side if there were a war with Russia, "I don't like war, any war," Furry said. "I didn't like it in 1941 any more than I do now. I wasn't sure then until about November, 1941. I've always been the hold-back type. But I assume that we won't have a war until the majority of our citizens think we must, and at that time I suppose that I'll be with the majority." He came out of a tough situation very nicely, I thought.
The questioning died out gradually and the photographers began to pester Mrs. Furry about bringing down the children so they could take a family group picture. Mrs. Furry was dubious; she didn't want to get the children mixed up in it. She complained to the Post man that his paper had misquoted her the day before. Finally she agreed to be photographed with her husband, and they sat down on the living room couch while flashbulbs lit up the children's books and the phonograph records scattered around the shelves.
When the picture-taking was over we said good-by. Mrs. Furry smiled a bit and asked us anxiously to make sure we had the facts right. We nodded and thanked her and got into the car. We drove back to Cambridge in a hurry because it was getting late and we had the story to do for the next morning's paper.