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Roger Baldwin

AKA Roger Nash Baldwin

Born: 21-Jan-1884
Birthplace: Wellesley, MA
Died: 26-Aug-1981
Location of death: Ridgeway, NJ
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Unitarian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union

Roger Baldwin was the principal founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a man of many contradictions -- raised in wealth he defended the poor, and born to every privilege, he helped bring the Bill of Rights out of history books and into the twentieth century. His father was a conservative businessman, but as a boy Baldwin was exposed to more radical perspectives in the home of his progressive aunt and uncle, where dinner guests frequently included the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Booker T. Washington. By adolescence he saw himself as a nonconformist, and became enamoured of the individualism and self-reliance of Henry David Thoreau. He attended Harvard, but then literally managed a poor house in St Louis, and became the first sociology teacher at Washington University.

His first well-known advocacy for freedom of speech came in 1912, when he was further radicalized by Emma Goldman, and voiced support for Margaret Sanger's right to speak about birth control. In opposition to World War I, he became active in a national pacifist group, the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM), and he was jailed for a year for his refusal to register for military conscription. After his release, he was put in charge of the AUAM's Civil Liberties Bureau, which challenged laws that suppressed the civil rights of Wobblies, conscientious objectors, and radicals. From the nucleus of this group, he formed the ACLU in 1920, and oversaw the organization for its first three decades, winning court cases that advanced freedoms of speech, press, and association, separation of church and state, and the rights to vote, due process, equal treatment under law, union membership, and legal counsel in court. Among the famous early cases that earned the ACLU its reputation, the group fought for John T. Scopes' right to teach evolution and Henry Ford's right to express virulent anti-union views, defended anarchist scapegoats Sacco and Vanzetti, and fought against attempts to ban James Joyce's Ulysses.

Baldwin was an open admirer of the early Soviet Union, and once wrote, "I am for socialism, disarmament and ultimately for abolishing the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class and sole control by those who produce wealth. Communism is, of course, the goal." For those who wish to demonize the work of the ACLU, that is enough to damn Baldwin to hell. Of course, his sympathies for the USSR were expressed long before Stalin's vast atrocities against humanity were known, and like most Americans, Baldwin later turned against the USSR with a passion. During the Cold War he wrote a book about the faults and failures of the Soviet Union, and enacted an ACLU rule that barred board members who had been affiliated with the Communist Party, or with any group that either supported or was supported by any totalitarian government. He was never a member of any political party, and preferred to describe himself apolitically as a reformer or heretic. At the conclusion of World War II, Baldwin was invited by General Douglas MacArthur to tour Japan and offer expert advice on creating democratic institutions, and in 1981 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by Jimmy Carter.

Father: Frank Fenno Baldwin (leather manufacturer, b. 22-Apr-1859)
Mother: Lucy Cushing Nash Baldwin (b. 31-May-1855, m. 15-Feb-1883)
Sister: Margaret Nash Baldwin (b. 3-Aug-1885, d. Apr-1974)
Sister: Ruth Baldwin Snyder (b. 31-Dec-1887)
Sister: Deborah Nash Baldwin Thomas (b. 9-Mar-1890)
Brother: Herbert Nash Baldwin (b. 11-Aug-1891, d. 27-Mar-1992)
Brother: Robert Baldwin (b. 9-Apr-1895, d. May-1979)
Brother: Frank Fenno Baldwin, Jr. (b. 22-Apr-1896, d. infancy)
Wife: Madeleine Zabinsky Doty (attorney, b. 24-Aug-1879, m. 9-Aug-1918)
Mistress: Evelyn Preston (labor activist, two sons)

    University: BS, Harvard University (1904)
    University: MA, Harvard University (1905)
    Teacher: Sociology, Washington University in St. Louis

    American Civil Liberties Union Co-Founder
    American Civil Liberties Union National Chairman (1950-55)
    American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director (1920-50)
    Missouri State Official Juvenile Court Probation Oficer (1908-10)
    American Political Science Association
    Industrial Workers of the World
    International League for Human Rights
    National Audubon Society
    National Civic League
    Presidential Medal of Freedom 1981
    Order of the Rising Sun 1948
    Draft Evasion World War I
    English Ancestry

    Reds (3-Dec-1981) · Himself

Author of books:
Juvenile Courts and Probation (1914, with Bernard Flexner)
Liberty under the Soviets (1928)
A New Slavery: The Communist Betrayal of Human Rights (1953)
Universal Civil Rights: What They Mean and How to Get Them (1973)

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