Jack O’Dell, King Aide Fired Over Communist Past, Dies at 96Breaking News
tags: obituaries, civil rights
He brought a diverse résumé to the job, having worked as a merchant seaman, union activist and insurance salesman. But he had also been a member of the Communist Party, which alarmed President John F. Kennedy and the director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover.
So when civil rights groups gathered at the White House on June 22, 1963, two months before the March on Washington, Kennedy pulled King aside in the Rose Garden. The president told King that he had to fire Mr. O’Dell and Stanley Levison, a white businessman and King aide, for ties to the party, according to multiple historical accounts. Mr. Levison was under F.B.I. surveillance at the time.
“They’re Communists,” Kennedy was said to have remarked.
The president warned King that holding on to such friends could imperil his administration’s alliance with King, who was president of the S.C.L.C., an umbrella civil rights group that was formed in 1957.
Kennedy’s words tested King’s loyalty to men who had served him well.
“Dr. King would have kept Jack O’Dell forever; he didn’t believe in demonizing anyone,” Taylor Branch, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Parting the Waters” (1988), the first of a three-volume history of the civil rights era, said in a phone interview. “But it was a demand from the Kennedy administration.”
comments powered by Disqus
- Black Lives Matter Movement Prods Bethlehem and Other Districts to Review How History is Taught
- During the Civil War, the Enslaved Were Given an Especially Odious Job. The Pay Went to Their Owners.
- Riots Long Ago, Luxury Living Today
- Native Americans and Polynesians Met Around 1200 A.D.
- Campaign Urges NASA to Rename the John C. Stennis Space Center
- Historical Association Schools Teachers on White House History
- MIT Professor Tunney Lee, an Architect, Urban Planner, and Historian of Chinatown, Dies at 88
- Historian Adrian Miller on Denver’s Underrepresented Legacy of Black Culinary Excellence
- ‘If I tell people about what happened, I honor my ancestors.’ How the Pandemic is Helping a Slavery Historian Develop a K-12 Lesson Plan on African-American History
- In Memoriam: Historian and Politician Ivo Banac