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Loyalty oaths

Loyalty oaths

Dec. 6, 1948: Two hundred key city executives take the new loyalty oath designed for all city of Los Angeles employees. Nearly every commissioner and department head was present.

Following World War II, anti-communist loyalty oaths were required at all levels of government. The city of Los Angeles loyalty check ordinance went into effect on Dec. 6, 1948.

Before the ceremony, according to the next morning’s LosĀ Angeles Times, Mayor Fletcher Bowron was served with papers in an injunction suit by Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) union representatives trying to stop the loyalty oath ordinance.

The Times reported thatĀ  “The Mayor promptly erupted into angry denunciation.”

“I resent this action,” he said. “Loyal Americans are gathering here to make a record of their faith in their government. Anyone unwilling to take this oath draws my contempt.”

The Times continued:

Practically every city commissioner and department head was in the throng which gathered to take the oath on the first day that the loyalty check ordinance took effect. City Clerk Walter Peterson slowly read the text of the oath and the words were repeated after him by the assemblage, men and women standing with their hands upraised throughout the ceremony.

In brief, the ordinance and accompanying affidavit require all city employees to affirm that they do not now hold, and have never held, membership in the Communist Party or its affiliates, or any other organization advocating overthrow of the government by force or violence.

Los Angeles County also passed its own loyalty oath requiring employees to sign affidavits disavowing Communist Party membership. After 17 employees refused to sign and were fired, protestors, image below, showed up at the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.

Both photos were shot on 4-by-5-inch negatives now stored at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA. The negative for the image above has some scratches on the right side that could not be cropped out.

Aug. 11, 1948: Pickets parade in front of the Hall of Records in behalf of the 17 Los Angeles County employees who were discharged because they wouldn’t take loyalty oath. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA Library

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