Seattle Now & Then: In 1952, Terry Pettus

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Here the square jaw of labor activist Terry Pettus holds steady like a confident variation of Smith Tower rising behind him. Our best guess on the year the photo was taken is 1952. (Paul Dorpat Collection)
NOW: For his “repeat,” Jean reached what was once Seattle’s speakers’ corner before a recent Seahawks game, where a well-plumed bird offered assurance that it was not a demonstrator but rather a dedicated fan. Indeed. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 7, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Nov. 10, 2019)

Terry Pettus faces second Red Scare at Seattle’s speakers’ corner
By Paul Dorpat

Here — perhaps on a soapbox — stands Terry Pettus.

For a time, after moving to Seattle from Indiana in 1927, Pettus lived in the home of artist Kenneth Callahan. (A Callahan drawing hangs above my desk.)

Pettus was a reporter at newspapers around the state and was Washington’s first member of The Newspaper Guild. He was a member of the Washington Commonwealth Federation, a more “leftist” faction of the Democratic Party energized to end poverty. He joined the Communist Party, but after World War II, such idealism increasingly succumbed to the paranoid preaching of McCarthyism during the nation’s second Red Scare (the first followed World War I).

In our “Then” photo, Pettus and other party members promote a “six-hour day and 30-hour week” (a nice job, if you can get it). Another sign protests the “frame-up [of] Communist Party Leaders.”

This is one of a half-dozen photos snapped of this organized protest held in what for decades served as Seattle’s own speakers’ corner, at Occidental Avenue and Washington Street. I was given these small prints about 40 years ago. One has been dated, perhaps by me, “1952.” The year might be correct. But who took the photos, and who gave the gift?

This photo, and the rest of its cadre, might soon await identification in its new home at Seattle Public Library. The photos will be joined by a few hundred thousand other images I accumulated through a half-century of collecting and studying. (My original Callahan also will find a new home among the ephemera.)

Seattle Mayor Charles Royer declared March 7, 1982, Terry Pettus Day, and in 1985, a year after Pettus died, a small park was named for him on the east side of Lake Union. (There, in the late 1980s, I sometimes wrote outlines for this series of Sunday features.)

WEB EXTRAS

Below, in chronological order, are 13 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, relate to this column. Enjoy!

May 28, 1940, Seattle Times, page 17
Feb. 3, 1944, Seattle Times, page 23
March 5, 1946, Seattle Times, page 14
March 6, 1946, Seattle Times, page 15
Oct. 10, 1952, Seattle Times, page 11
Oct. 29, 1953, Seattle Times, page 4
Jan. 20, 1954, Seattle Times, p4
June 15, 1954, Seattle Times, page 11
Aug. 25, 1958, Seattle Times, page 4
Sept. 4, 1983, Emmett Watson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 22
Jan. 24, 1984, Emmett Watson, Seattle Times, page 9
Oct. 8, 1984, Seattle Times, page 2
Oct. 9, 1984, Emmett Watson, Seattle Times, page 13
Oct. 9, 1984, Emmett Watson, Seattle Times, page 18

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