The Vigilantes

Cabbages and Kings

The overzealous amateur "untrained in the use of proper investigative techniques, may constitute a serious menace to civil rights . . . . Patriotism and zeal cannot compensate for a lack of detailed, technical knowledge . . . . The work of the vigilante too often deserves the label "Witch Hunt"; the work of the fifth columnist needs no label. Let us beware of both." J. EDGAR HOOVER

Kenneth D. Robertson, Jr. '29 was studying the program for the Law School Forum on "Communism and the Churches" when his two friends came into the New Lecture Hall. The shorter man was bald and wore heavy shellrimmed glasses. He had on a black topcoat with a black velvet collar. As he sat down he refreshed Robertson's acquaintance with the taller man, whom Robertson jokingly remembered as "Mr. X."

Waiting for the Forum to begin, Robertson and the bald man compared notes. "See this," Robertson said, pointing to the program. "They're going to make me write out my question in advance so they can check it. That's a denial of free speech. And they're the ones who yell about it."

The bald man snickered. Out from his pocket he pulled a small pamphlet entitled "For Better Neighbors." It seemed to have something to do with Brotherhood Week. "Did you see this," he said to Mr. X, pointing to the organization listed on the pamphlet as sponsors.

Mr. X looked them over. "I don't see anything wrong with these," he concluded.


"What about this one--the International Institute? And the American Jewish Committee--that's an anti-anti-Communist organization."

"But the National Conference of Christians and Jews--that's all right."

"I guess," said the bald man.

The clergymen in the Forum were taking their places on the stage. The bald man wanted to know which one was Dr. Joseph T. Fletcher, professor at the Episcopal Theological School.

"Is that Fletcher there?" he pointed. Robertson nodded, and they talked about Fletcher's record.

The three sat listening to the speeches very carefully. Fletcher mentioned "Witch-hunters and red-baiters," and Robertson turned to the bald man and grinned.

"That's us," he whispered.

When the speakers had finished, the bald man explained to Mr. X that Fletcher "wasn't affiliated with Harvard, but Harvard students can get credit for attending his classes." With that, the two men went into the entranceway for intermission, leaving Robertson to prepare his question for the Forum.

Tacked to the bulletin board in the entranceway was the weekly announcement of services in Appleton Chapel and Memorial Church. The bald man was drawn to its list of preachers. "I wonder how many of these . . . ." he said.

"Oh, forget it, let's go back," said 'Mr. X.

But the bald man was fascinated. When Mr. X had left, the bald man tore the announcement from the bulletin board and stuffed it into his pocket.

Back in his seat, the bald man showed the announcement to Robertson and said he was going to check it. Robertson was busy writing out his question. When question time came, he strode down to the stage to wait for his turn at the microphone.

"I'm Kenneth Robertson of Boston, Mass.," he announced in a clear, North Shore accent. "I'm somewhat disturbed at the naivete of the speakers tonight, except for Father Sexton, they don't seem to understand the nature of this sordid subject. Why don't they all come to Town Hall at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, where they can hear it discussed by Dr. Bella Dodd, Alfred Kohlberg, Victor Laskey, and J. B. Matthews?"

The bald man and someone else applauded. A few hisses came from the balcony.

The Forum drew to an end. After the final applause, the bald man stood up and donned his black coat with the velvet collar. With a quick check of his pocket to make sure he had the Memorial Church list and the "Better Neighbors" pamphlet, he turned and strode out.