This chapter will be devoted to JBS-related documents which generally have never been publicly available prior to now. I will scan and post copies of some of the more historically important or interesting documents.
The documents originate from a variety of sources including Special Collections of personal papers archived at college/university libraries and state historical societies as well as private correspondence by current and former JBS officials and members.
It should be noted that the Birch Society does not allow outside independent researchers or scholars to have access to its archives for historical research purposes. In addition, during its formative period, the Birch Society deliberately avoided publicity and it often was hostile toward media attention. Consequently, much of JBS history (particularly its internal disputes and documents concerning its policy-making decisions) has never been publicly available.
Like the Communist Party, the JBS wants to control the substance of whatever narrative is written about itself.
“Fact” (from the JBS perspective) consists of data which it believes reflects favorably upon its membership, activities, and objectives. Adverse or inconvenient information is suppressed or de-valued in order to manipulate readers into believing the most positive perceptions about itself as an “educational” organization.
What follows will generally be in chronological order.
Before the Birch Society was founded, Robert Welch sent copies of his book-length “private letter” entitled The Politician, to numerous individuals whom he thought could be persuaded about the accuracy of its theme that President Eisenhower was a Communist traitor. Copied below is one such letter.
Robert Welch (and his friends) were acutely aware of the damage that his comments about Eisenhower would have if they became publicly known. For example, in a letter to J.W. Clise of Seattle, Welch wrote:
“Our rather extreme precautions with regard to this document are not due to any worry on my part as to what might happen to myself…But many of my best informed friends feel that having the manuscript get into the wrong hands at the present time might do far more damage than good to the whole anti-Communist cause; whereas, by distributing it very carefully and quietly to quite a limited number of strongly patriotic leaders, so that the information in this document becomes a background to their own thinking on which their own actions are determined it can do considerable good.” [2/25/59 letter to J.W. Clise, Seattle WA].
Robert Welch asked 12 men to attend a meeting at the home of Miss Marguerite Dice of 3650 Washington Blvd in Indianapolis on Monday and Tuesday, December 8 and 9, 1958. Dice was the National Vice-Chairman of Minute Women of the U.S.A., Inc.
An example of Welch’s invitation and subsequent instructions are copied below. In this two-day meeting Welch explained his proposal for creation of the John Birch Society.
Eleven men accepted the invitation. The 11 are listed below. The asterisked names are the men who later accepted positions on the JBS National Council.
*T. Coleman Andrews (Richmond VA)
*Laurence E. Bunker (Wellesley Hills MA)
*William J. Grede (Milwaukee WI)
William R. Kent (Memphis TN)
*Fred C. Koch (Wichita KS)
*W.B. McMillan (St. Louis, MO) – McMillan was the first person to become a JBS member after founder Robert Welch
*Revilo P. Oliver (Urbana IL)
*Louis Ruthenburg (Evansville IN)
Fitzhugh Scott, Jr. (Milwaukee, WI)
*Robert W. Stoddard (Worcester, MA)
*Ernest W. Swigert (Portland OR)
The first official document generated as a result of the Indianapolis meeting probably was “Confidential Report No. 1” dated 12/19/58 – which is copied below. On page 2 of the report, Mr. Welch states that Bill Grede and Fitzhugh Scott will be scheduling the first 2-day “top level” recruitment meeting conducted by Welch during January 1959 in Milwaukee. “The second will be in Florida after the NAM board meeting. And I shall ask other members of our Indianapolis group to help me with similar meetings as fast as I can get to them.”
Note: It was Welch’s 2-day presentation in Milwaukee (January 1959) which resulted in the FBI’s Milwaukee field office learning about the existence of the John Birch Society and then advising FBI HQ in Washington DC.
Mr. Welch also stated that “Incorporation of the JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY under Chapter 180 of the General Laws of Massachusetts with all of the powers given to non-profit corporations by that Chapter, is now under way. I have obtained signatures from all seven of the incorporators required by law, the first meeting of incorporators is being held this afternoon, and the attorney says we can expect our charter by next Wednesday, December 24.”
12/23/58 = The JBS was incorporated as a non-profit business organization in Massachusetts and was assigned Charter Number 624-300. The officers were listed as Robert Welch (President) and Treasurer, Ellen M. Lovett (Clerk/Secretary). The Directors listed were Mary M. White, Robert Welch, and Ellen M. Lovett. The incorporators were listed as Robert Welch, Marian Probert Welch (wife of Robert), Ellen M. Lovett, Mary M. White, Ellen Douglas Snow aka Mrs. Stanley Carman Snow, Philip L. Jenkins, and Juliette D. Guild. The aims and purposes of the JBS were listed as promoting civic interest in national and international affairs by an educational program and the collection and dissemination of literature for educational purposes.
1/7/59 = Robert Welch sent T. Coleman Andrews a 4-page letter advising Andrews that Welch met with an “intermediate” group of 44 people in Massachusetts (above chapter level but one level down from “top level” individuals such as met in Indianapolis) and he received an enthusiastic response to his presentation.
Welch then asked Andrews to consider becoming Chairman of a project to be named “The Movement To Impeach Earl Warren” which would seek signatures on an impeachment petition because “Warren has definitely violated the oath of office which he took when he became Chief Justice…”
Welch also asked Andrews to take the lead in creation of one or more JBS chapters in Richmond VA which “could take as its very first project…all of the work and correspondence and organizational details involved there in Richmond in setting up this movement and getting it under way all over the country.”
Welch observed that: “Frankly, with the Left Wing control now so strong, insidious and ubiquitous in Washington, I am not deceiving myself that we have very much chance of really bringing about the impeachment of Earl Warren. Although we might. But, I don’t think that is really as important as dramatizing to the whole country where he stands, where the Supreme Court as now constituted under him stands, and how important it is to face the facts about the road we are now traveling so fast.”
Andrews declined Welch’s invitation to become Chairman by letter dated 1/14/59 due to other time-consuming commitments. Andrews also told Welch that he believed “that there is a strong likelihood that blood is going to flow before the integration question is settled.”
Welch’s 1/23/59 reply to Andrews is copied below. It also reveals some details concerning JBS recruitment success in Milwaukee and Boston.
3/30/59 = Welch advises Coleman Andrews that: “We now have ten chapters actually working in Greater Boston, three in Florida, one in Michigan and many more in process of formation in those and other states. And we have quite a number of Home Chapter members who are contributing time and effort and executive ability, as well as money, to our growing activities.”
05/59 = Another Birch Society project [CASE = Committee Against Summit Entanglements] was able to secure the support of numerous prominent conservatives---including many whom, in later years, would reject the Birch Society and Robert Welch for their extremism and irresponsibility. CASE endorsers list copied below. CASE opposed President Eisenhower's proposal for a summit meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
Starting in May 1959 and weekly thereafter, CASE sent letters to President Eisenhower accompanied by signed petitions. In June 1959, CASE sent 1634 signatures on 128 petitions. In addition, CASE sent a copy of their letter to the editor of 2500 daily newspapers along with 400 other “opinion molders”.
09/59 = After Robert Welch's initial two-day presentation in Indianapolis in December 1958, the 11 men who listened to it (some of them attended the presentation on two different occasions) arranged for Welch to give a "top level" presentation in their home cities. Frequently, these meetings were to prominent businessmen including former Presidents of the National Association of Manufacturers. A memorandum was written to accompany invitation letters sent by Welch. The memo presented testimonial statements by individuals who had attended one of the presentations to encourage participation by subsequent invited guests. The memo is copied below.
During 1959, Welch traveled across the country to make these presentations. For example, his schedule included a presentation in January 1959 in Milwaukee and August 1959 in Chicago. Phyllis Schlafly and her husband, Fred, attended the Chicago meeting and she and her husband joined the Birch Society after listening to Welch. See her letter below.
Other presentations by Welch during 1959 included:September 18-19, 1959 at Statler Hotel in Los Angeles CA
September 22-23, 1959 at Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco CA
September 25-26, 1959 at Olympic Hotel in Seattle WA
11/20/59 = In a letter to David Roemer of Houston TX, Robert Welch answered an inquiry concerning his religious beliefs. It is not generally known by Welch admirers that he believed in Darwinian evolution.
12/59 = Welch invited Coleman Andrews to become one of the first members of the Birch Society National Council – the governing body of the JBS. Andrews answered Welch’s proposal by inquiring into potential legal liabilities faced by Council members. Welch’s reply is copied below.
1/9/60 = The first meeting of the JBS National Council was held at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago IL on Saturday, January 9, 1960. Five of those in attendance (William Grede, A.G. Heinsohn, Robert Stoddard. W.B. McMillan and Ernie Swigert) subsequently sent a letter dated 1/13/60 to all Council members asking for their financial support so that an assistant could be hired for Robert Welch.
It was at this first Council meeting that Robert Welch made some of his most controversial comments. For example:
“From a careful and
realistic study of the mountainous pile of evidence that is there for all to
see, certain terrifying conclusions are objectively inescapable. Among them
Eight pages from the minutes of the above meeting are copied below:
1/21/60 = Lt. Gen. Charles B. Stone III (USAF, Retired) was added as a member of the JBS National Council. Stone was CEO of United States Leasing Corporation in San Francisco.
2/10/60 = Edward P. Hamilton of Two Rivers, WI was added as a member of the JBS National Council. Hamilton was President of Hamilton Manufacturing Company and a former President of the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association.
The complete list of the first JBS National Council members is below. The asterisked names refer to individuals who ultimately terminated their JBS membership---sometimes with caustic remarks about Robert Welch.
Dr. Nathaniel E. Adamson Jr.
Thomas J. Anderson
T. Coleman Andrews
John T. Beatty
Col. Laurence E. Bunker
Ralph E. Davis
*Slobodan M. Draskovich
William J. Grede
Edward P. Hamilton
A.G. Heinsohn Jr. aka Heinie
*Dr. Granville F. Knight
*Fred C. Koch
Alfred Kohlberg [Kohlberg died in April 1960]
Clarence E. Manion
Frank E. Masland
William B. McMillan aka Ben McMillan
*Revilo P. Oliver
Cola G. Parker
James Simpson Jr.
Robert W. Stoddard
Lt. Gen. Charles B. Stone III (USAF, retired)
Ernest G. Swigert
4/2/60 = Robert Welch sent a 7-page document entitled “A Confidential Report To Members Of The COUNCIL of The John Birch Society” which reported financial and membership data.
Among the highlights in Welch’s Report:
· The JBS-front group, Committee Against Summit Entanglements, independently raised $58,000 during 1959 and the JBS as a whole raised about $200,000 from member dues, contributions, fees, and other income.
· “In a brief report of progress, your Founder was glad to be able to tell the Council that the Society had just about exactly doubled in size since the first meeting of the Council on January 9. This was in chapters, which had moved from approximately 75 in number to approximately 150; in members, from approximately 1400 to approximately 2800; and in the daily average of direct income. Such income received during the three months ending March 31, 1960 was approximately $51,500. This is against a total of $71,225.80 for the twelve months of 1959. Bank balance at the end of March 1960 was $14,804.50; undeposited cash on hand, approximately $1500 and value of 40 shares of Sunbeam Stock which had been received as a donation, approximately $2200. Your Society now has one full-time salaried Coordinator each in New England, Michigan, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon, and two in California. It has Volunteer Coordinators each devoting an important part of his energy and time to the Society, in Wisconsin, Florida, Texas (4), California, and Washington.”
· “Despite our wish to avoid publicity all we can, there have been items or brief articles about The John Birch Society breaking out in the press recently in various papers all over the country—and elsewhere…But we know that as soon as the major media of communications in America learn enough about us and our activities, their treatment of The John Birch Society will – in all but a very few cases anyway – be anything but favorable. So, for this and many other reasons, we should like to have the help of our COUNCIL members in keeping general publicity about us to a minimum.”
· Welch discussed The Dilling Bulletin of October 1959 – published by Elizabeth Dilling. He mentioned the editorial he wrote about it in the December 1959 issue of the JBS monthly magazine, American Opinion. Welch described Dilling’s publication as “the monthly bulletin of one of the best-known ‘extremists’ on the anti-Communist side of the current ideological wars. That bulletin took your editor to pieces, mercilessly, on the grounds that his Committee Against Summit Entanglements consisted of ‘nothing but Jews and Jew-kissers.’ Welch observed: “You will find specific references to myself on pages 5, 6, 16, 18, and 19 of the Dilling Bulletin. But actually the whole issue is, to a considerable extent, an attack on me because of my support of Jacques Soustelle in France and Barry Goldwater in this country, both of whom are bêtes noires to Mrs. Dilling and her friends because they both happen to have Jewish blood in their ancestry (though both were born and raised in the Protestant church.”4/13/60 = In a letter to Tom Anderson, Welch presented his argument that Gov. Orval Faubus of Arkansas was actually a Communist.
4/26/60 = M.T. Phelps became a JBS National Council member. Phelps was the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.
5/3/60 = Robert Welch letter to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suggested that they meet. Welch wrote:
"There is nobody in this fight who has supported the FBI and yourself more unceasingly, uncompromisingly, or enthusiastically, and nobody who more firmly expects to keep right on doing so. When your book provoked a lot of grumbling, and even some loud and rabid dissent on the part of some of your former strong supporters, because of what they considered your too favorable attitude toward the NAACP and other organizations, I wrote many pages of letters to some of these people to calm them down -- the essence of which was that, whether you had leaned over too far backward to try to be fair in some of these cases or not, you had been for too many years and still were too great and too effective a patriot for any such withdrawal or lessening of moral support to be justified. And I am sure that you would find our treatment of Masters of Deceit in American Opinion, one of the most favorable which the book received. All of this, as I am sure you have surmised, is merely an introduction to saying that I should like very much to have a chance for at least a brief visit with you; and that I should be glad to go to Washington for that purpose, at any time which would be convenient for yourself...In the meantime, with my continuing admiration and kind regards, I am - Sincerely, Robert Welch." Hoover politely declined to meet with Welch.
5/17/60 = In a 3-page memo addressed “To All Members of the COUNCIL”, Robert Welch made the following observations:
· Next National Council meeting scheduled for 6/18/60 in Chicago at Union League Club
· CASE (Committee Against Summit Entanglements) produced and mailed 600,000 postcards and “the editorial message on those cards was reprinted in full (as a letter to the editor, or as an actual editorial or otherwise) in papers with a total circulation of about three million…”
· “That the Communists, having decided on ‘postponement’ would find some way to seize the initiative, twist appearances, save face and make it seem that the conference has been ‘postponed’ for their reasons, was to be expected…And that our government would go through every necessary motion of designed ‘blunders’ and self-abasement, to help the Soviets put over their play (whatever it might be), was as certain as that Washington will keep on subsidizing Castro.”
· “Invitations are now going out to various influential conservatives all over the country to attend the twenty-fifth full two-day ‘top level’ presentation of the background, methods, and purposes of our Society, also in Chicago, on June 24 and 25.”
7/5/60 = Robert Welch memo "To Members of The COUNCIL" stated that "We have about 270 chapters and about 4300 members (including a few hundred Home Chapter members..." Welch announces two new members of the JBS National Council: N. Floyd McGowin, President of the W.T. Smith Lumber Company in Chapman, Alabama and Stilwell Jay Conner of Chicago. Conner formed the first JBS chapter in Chicago and was a major financial contributor to the JBS.
7/25-26/60 = The first newspaper articles by reporter Jack Mabley about the existence of Welch’s “private letter”, The Politician, are published in the Chicago Daily News at the precise time when the GOP National Convention is in Chicago to nominate their 1960 Presidential candidate. The publicity ignites a firestorm within Republican circles and nationally.
8/1/60 = Welch sent a letter to Chicago National Council member Slobodan Draskovich which explains how Welch perceived the adverse publicity concerning The Politician. Although Welch blames “the Left Wing” for trying “to damage the John Birch Society because of our growth and increasing effectiveness” – the actual culprit, as Welch later admitted, was someone whom he regarded as a major conservative anti-communist ally – Fred Schwarz, the leader of Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. See below for more details.
Welch’s letter to Draskovich is copied below:
An example of the type of negative publicity which caused Welch so much grief after the publication of the first two articles by Jack Mabley in the Chicago Daily News, is the following subsequent UPI article which accurately summarized the content of The Politician:
8/11/60 = Welch sent a memo to all JBS National Council members (copied below) regarding what he described as “the smear campaign” against the JBS which occurred as a consequence of accurate publicity concerning the content of The Politician.
Due to Google sites space limitations, the Documentary History of the John Birch Society is on 5 webpages here:
JBS 9-1 / 01/58 thru 08/11/60 = https://sites.google.com/site/ernie1241/
JBS 9-2 / 09/60/60 thru 12/15/61 = https://sites.google.com/site/ernie1241a/
JBS 9-3 / 01/62 thru 12/31/64 = https://sites.google.com/site/ernie1241b/
JBS 9-4 / 01/65 thru 12/31/65 = https://sites.google.com/site/jbs9004/JBS 9-5 / 01/66 thru current = https://sites.google.com/site/jbs9005a/