Labor History in 2:00

March 21 Truman Sign “Loyalty Order”

March 21, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1947.

That was the day President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835.

It is commonly referred to as the ‘loyalty order.’

It required the screening of millions of federal civil servants and applicants.

9835 is considered one of the key preconditions for the rise of the McCarthyite Red Scare.

It established the criteria for investigation, review and dismissal.

These included a Loyalty Review Board, a master index of those investigated and definitions determining alleged disloyalty.

Disloyalty could mean sedition, espionage, or advocating revolution.

It could also mean membership or sympathetic association with movements considered totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive.

Soon, the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations was published.

It amounted to a black list.

In their book, The Fifties, Douglas Miller and Marion Nowack comment: “Between the launching of his security program in March 1947 and December 1952, some 6.6 million persons were investigated. Not a single case of espionage was uncovered, though about 500 persons were dismissed in dubious cases of ‘questionable loyalty.’ All of this was conducted with secret evidence, secret and often paid informers, and neither judge nor jury. Despite the failure to find subversion, the broad scope of the official Red hunt gave popular credence to the notion that the government was riddled with spies.”

President Dwight Eisenhower would revoke 9835 with his Executive Order 10450.

But this order dismantled the Loyalty Boards by transferring power to federal agencies. 

It also expanded investigations to include those engaged in immoral or disgraceful behavior.

This included what it considered sexual deviance and led to the witch hunting of and discrimination against gays and lesbians in the civil service.


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