cover image Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington

Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington

Gary May. Oxford University Press, USA, $30 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-19-504980-0

This is a thorough and lucid study of Remington (1917-1954), an intriguing but minor figure in the Truman administration caught up in the 1950s hunt for Communists. May ( China Scapegoat ), who teaches history at the University of Delaware, tells of Remington's days at Dartmouth, where he both supported Communism and was driven by worldly ambition, his government work leading to an important position in the Department of Commerce and his betrayal as a Communist in 1948 by Elizabeth Bentley, a former Communist herself and one-time Soviet agent. Before loyalty boards, to his lawyer, Joseph Rauh, and in court, Remington never told the full truth of his past, though he acquired defenders, such as New Yorker staff writer Daniel Lang, who wrote an expose of the government loyalty program. Indicted for perjury about his past by a grand jury whose foreman was Bentley's literary collaborator, Remington was convicted, retried after a reversal and convicted a second time in 1953. While serving a three-year prison term at the high-security Lewisburg prison, Remington was murdered by fellow prisoners; evidence suggested the murderers were motivated by anti-Communism, but authorities denied that. While May convincingly concludes that the Remington story ``is not a simple morality play,'' representing neither a pure case of government persecution nor a stride toward justice, he could have done more to contextualize the story. Photos not seen by PW. (May)