The story of the only American ever to be convicted solely for being a member of the Communist Party. On November 18, 1954, Junius Irving Scales, the Communist Party district organizer for the upper South, was arrested on a quiet Memphis street by FBI agents. Charged with violation of the Smith Act of 1940, Scales spent the next six years ensnared in a legal system that was in thrall to a daunting force: McCarthyism. Scales's case twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court; ultimately, his lower-court guilty verdict was upheld. Scales served fifteen months in Lewisburg Penitentiary before his six-year sentence was commuted by President Kennedy in 1962. "Cause at Heart" follows Scales from his privileged southern upbringing through the awakening of his social conscience, his civil- and labor-rights work for the Party across the South, his arrest and trials, his disillusionment with the Party, and his time in prison. Even behind bars Scales refused to cooperate with his prosecutors, to "name names."
In their foreword, Vernon Burton and James Barrett draw chilling parallels between the Smith Act, the legal grounds on which Scales was convicted, and contemporary restrictions on individual rights such as the Patriot Act. Today, as it did sixty-plus years ago, "Congress has radically expanded the description of what constitutes a threat to the U.S. government."
Publisher: University of Georgia Press