Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saddleback College's "Nutt" Memorial Library

Photo at left from the SOCCCD website: "In 1973, the James B. Utt Memorial Library was dedicated in honor of Orange County's late U.S. Congressman Utt."

Not long ago, while listening to trustee Tom Fuentes refer to the “James B. Utt Memorial Library,” a bell went off in my head. “Hey,” said Herr Bell, “I think I heard something in Fuentes' voice; he reveres this guy Utt. Utt's gotta be some kind of Neanderthal.”

Couldn’t find much info on the guy, but here are some preliminary factoids (or alleged factoids).

According to Wikipedia, Utt, born in Tustin in 1899, was a “conservative Repubican Congressman” who held that office from the early fifties until his death in 1970. (His successor: John Schmitz!) That means that Fuentes, as OC Supervisor (and Republican) Ronald Casper’s bagman (er, executive assistant), may have known the guy. It’s hard to say. I guess I could ask Tom.

Utt was seriously right-wing. According to Wikipedia, “one of his unachieved goals was to remove the United States from the United Nations.” (For what it's worth, the right-wing fringe views the U.N. as involved in vast conspiracies: black helicopters, one-world government, etc.) Further, he “voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1960, 1964, and 1968, and against the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Tsk, tsk.

And get this:
In 1963, [Utt] claimed that "a large contingent of barefooted Africans" might be training in Georgia as part of a United Nations military exercise to take over the United States. [See OC Almanac.] In 1963, he also claimed that black Africans may be training in Cuba to invade the United States. [See Washington Merry-Go-Round.]
The bell in my head went off again. It yelled, “Hey, maybe Utt was somehow associated with Liberty Lobby, the seriously evil anti-black and anti-Semitic organization started by the seriously wicked Willis Carto.”

You remember Willis C. He was the guy behind “Spotlight” newspaper and its boy reporter Michael Collins "count my footnotes!" Piper, Trustee Steven Frogue’s Holocaust-denying, conspiracy-mongering, pal. Carto started OC’s own “Institute for Historical Review" (it denies the Holocaust), with which he eventually had a seriously nasty falling out—in the early 90s as I recall. A lawsuit between the two sides of that war went against Carto and finally ruined Liberty Lobby in 2001. (Recently, Carto has started a new newspaper, The American Free Press. It's more of the same.)

I looked up “Liberty Lobby” on Wikipedia and, according to W, there is a Liberty Lobby/Utt connection:
The Liberty Lobby was the subject of much criticism from all quarters of the political spectrum from the first day of its founding [in the late 50s]. … ¶  Many critics...have noted that Willis Carto, more than anybody else, was responsible for keeping organized antisemitism alive as a viable political movement during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when it was otherwise completely discredited.

Evidence for the antisemitic stance of the Liberty Lobby began to mount when numerous letters by Carto excoriated the Jews … began to surface. "How could the West [have] been so blind. It was the Jews and their lies that blinded the West as to what Germany was doing. Hitler's defeat was the defeat of Europe and America."….

Starting in October 1966 two American journalists, Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, published a series of stories under [the title] "The Washington Merry-go-round" that recounted the findings of a former employee, Jeremy Horne. Horne said he had discovered a box of correspondence between Carto and numerous government officials establishing the Joint Council of Repatriation (JCR), a forerunner organization to the Liberty Lobby. The JCR stated that their fundamental purpose was to "repatriate" blacks "back to Africa". Ex-Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Tom Brady and various members of the White Citizens' Councils who had worked to [establish] the JCL, also contributed to the founding of the Liberty Lobby. Other correspondence referred to U.S. Congressional support for the emerging Liberty Lobby, such as from South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond (former Dixiecrat Party presidential candidate in 1948) and California Congressman James Utt.
Good grief.

The reports on Utt's remarkable comments about black or barefoot "Africans" appear to be reliable, though it must be said that Mr. Pearson—and to a lesser extent, his protégé Mr. Anderson—had a reputation for ruthlessness and occasional significant error. (Fox's Brit Hume used to be one of Anderson's "legmen.")

I'm still looking for verification of the Utt-LL connection. I doubt I'll find that.

It does appear, though, that Saddleback’s gosh-darned Library was named after a right-wing, UN-bashing nut—who was hostile to, or at least, um, unsupportive of, his African-American brethren.

I know. Let's just add an "n." Just call it the "Nutt" Memorial Library.

That would be cool.


Anonymous said...

Just remove the period after the "B". The first time I saw the name on the library, I had to look twice.

ernie1241 said...

I have posted copies of letters written by Carto which reveal his bigotry on my webpage here:

And FYI -- James B. Utt was a member of the John Birch Society


B. von Traven said...

Ernie 1241: Very interesting. But how do you know that Utt was a member of the JBS? He certainly sounded like a Bircher, but is there documentation?

Frankly, as I perused Google for info about the founders of our district, I was expecting to find connections to that organization since I had heard rumors that they were Birchers. Nothing's come up, aside from Utt's crazy remarks.

Do you know if any of the original trustees (of our district) were members? Here's they are:

Alyn M. Brannon
Hans W. Vogel of Tustin;
Louis J. Zitnick of Laguna Beach;
Patrick J. Backus of Dana Point;
and Michael T. Collins

I've attempted to find connections between Vogel and JBS, but I've found nothing.

Is there documentation establishing a link between Carto (or one of his organizations) and Utt? The stuff by Pearson strikes me as inadequate.

Anonymous said...

Congressman James B. Utt was NOT a member of the John Birch Society. None of the founding trustees listed above was ever a member of the JBS. All of them were fiscally conservative, but none of them should be considered an extremist.

The dress code, discussed elsewhere, was enacted to test who was in charge of the district. Once the verdict favoring the district was officially handed down, the trustees immediately removed the dress code. (A fact recorded in the board minutes, but very selectively and conveniently rarely published.) The trustees had confirmed that they were in charge, not the faculty or the students.

The late 1960's were difficult times for policy makers at all levels. Students and faculty members from neighboring colleges and universities regularly attended Saddleback CCD board meeting. They were for the most part not unruly, but quite vociferous and borderline disruptive. Meetings were conducted in a civilized manner.

Vogel was a decorated Intelligence Officer while serving under General George Patton in Europe during World War II. In 1947, after the war, he graduated from USC along with over 2000 ex-servicemen on the GI Bill. He took a position as a German instructor at USC for two years and at Cal Tech for one year. He started and coached USC men's volleyball teams to the first two national championships ever held in 1949and 1950. A total of 9 of his players were named first or second team All Americans. An SC player was the MVP in each of the two tournaments.

If more FACTS about the beginnings of the present SOCCCD would be of interest, just ask and I shall attempt to supply them.

In the meantime, please try to respect those who risked their lives and sacrificed their ambitions while in the service of their country so that future generations might enjoy the freedom to express their opinions on this type of blog and via other forms of communication.

B. von Traven said...

11:51, I think you are confusing me with those writing comments. I am aware of Vogel's distinguished service, and have mentioned it here on more than one occasion. I have not quoted selectively from old board minutes because I am not in possession of them. I have not asserted that the original trustees (or Utt) were members of the JBS; on the contrary, I have said I could find no connection between them and the JBS. But I certainly am interested in facts and would welcome further information if you are inclined to provide it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for acknowledging my comment! I am not aware that Congressman Utt was a bigot. Most, who knew him personally, thought he was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered country gentleman. He was not the typical politician who talked out of both sides of his mouth. One always knew where she/he stood with Utt - what you saw is what you got. He was respected by all who came in contact with him - agree with him or not. True, he, like many other conservatives, felt that membership in the U.N. did not serve the best interests of the U.S.

In February 1970 just a couple of weeks before his death on March 1, Utt attended the three-year anniversary celebration of the founding of the Saddleback CCD. On a long walk around the campus he and Vogel discussed the future of the district. It was at that time Vogel told Utt that the trustees had decided to name the first permanent structure - the library - in his honor. Upon hearing this he was quite humble and expressed his gratitude. He was, obviously, very pleased. Upon hearing of his death, the trustees were happy that he had become aware of the honor that they were going to bestow upon him.

Anonymous said...

Later today, I will highlight your anecdote. I'm happy to hear that Utt was the sort of person you describe. It is always better to discover that someone one disagrees with is/was a straight-shooter, which is admirable and, I know, difficult. We are always happy to report events re the colleges and district. In truth, the entire period from the district's beginning through the seventies is largely a blank slate for most of us, and, being human, we tend to fill the vacuum with the crude adventures of caricatures, not real people. Keep 'em coming. I value all such anecdotes as long as they are factual. I would particularly love to hear about the first college president and his relationship (including battles) with the board or whomever. What was it like the first few years, teaching in portables? Where were these portables? What were the milestones? Etc. Was there a great move from one location to another? What did students make of it all? Etc.

Dave Hall said...

I happened upon this blog post while looking for "old" Saddleback College photos, and immediately had flashbacks to the 1960s-early 70s. I was politically active in Orange County as a student volunteer, and know for a fact that John Schmitz, who succeeded Rep. Utt, was a Bircher. I was a Saddleback student senator in 72-73, and student body president from 73-74, so had the opportunity to work with the board of trustees and administration. They were indeed conservative, but there was never an indication that any of them were active JBS members.
One last historical note: When the Utt Library was dedicated, rumors abounded that the "Festung Europa" architecture was chosen to make the building more easily defended against student protesters...including firing ports for snipers on the roof's parapet!
Best Regards to the current crop of Gauchos...

B. von Traven said...

12:23, yes, elsewhere, we have documented that circumstance: that, all of a sudden, trustees wanted to change the plans to turn the library into a fortress. This occurred immediately after the UC Santa Barbara student demonstrations, which really freaked out the right-wingers here in OC.

B. von Traven said...

Our recent research into the views and activities of Congressmen Utt have revealed that, though he may never have been a member of the Birch Society, he certainly agreed with the organization's theses and often supported it, though, like many "establishment" Republicans, he explicitly rejected chair Welch's pronouncements (e.g., about President Eisenhower). Further, it is clear that Utt had a fondness for crazy conspiracy theories, some of which he promulgated in his newsletters to his constituency (UN plots to take over the U.S. with "barefooted Africans," etc.). See posts of the last month. He may have been a gentleman in his demeanor, but his views, if promulgated today, would surely count as intolerant and offensive. I suspect they were offensive in his own day as well, though perhaps not among most Orange Countians.

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