The Burns Committee


6/9/2002, San Francisco Chronicle, The FBI's secret UC files, Seth Rosenfeld

The director's concern about subversives at UC was heightened by sensational hearings conducted by state Sen. Hugh M. Burns and his Fact-Finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities.

A onetime funeral home proprietor, Burns was a Fresno Democrat devoted to fighting communism. His publicity-seeking committee was a California version of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (commonly known as HUAC), issuing biannual reports and cooperating closely with the FBI.

In June 1951, the Burns committee released a 291-page report that claimed UC had "wittingly or unwittingly . . . aided and abetted the international communist conspiracy in this country." The Berkeley campus, the report alleged, was a hotbed of Soviet spies seeking atomic secrets.

UC President Robert Gordon Sproul denied the charges. A faculty group noted Burns failed to identify a single communist faculty member or student group presently on campus.

But Bay Area newspapers ran stories headlined "California Warned Reds on Campus" and "Report Charges UC Chiefs Aided Conspiracy of Reds."

And in March 1952 Burns began his own program to bar alleged subversives from campus, arranging for every California college to appoint a ''contact man" on its staff to help the committee screen faculty.

San Francisco Examiner, September 12, 1951

San Francisco Chronicle, September 12, 1951
By Carolyn Anspacher