Thursday, January 05, 2006

Salt of the Earth Revisited

UNLIKELY MOVIE STAR: Fifty years later, Clinton Jenks reflects on Salt of the Earth
San Diego CityBEAT - Sam Sokolove

Clinton Jencks isn’t an easy man to get on the phone. When I called to set up an interview, there was a nearly five-minute period of silence after his wife Muriel answered. When Jencks finally picked up the receiver, he considered the request politely, but cautiously: What paper is this for? What’s the circulation? He didn’t sound entirely reassured by the responses, but we set up a time to meet nonetheless.

Jencks has good reason to be cautious. Fifty-three years ago, as an international union representative of the Amalgamated Bayard District Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Local 890, he was convicted in El Paso of violating the oath of the non-Communist affidavit required of union officials under the Taft-Hartley Act. Sentenced to five years in prison, he was preparing for incarceration when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction on the grounds that the defense was intentionally kept unaware of “inconsistencies” by government witnesses. As it turned out, Jencks was convicted largely on false testimony given by an aide to the Communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy.


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