Amzie Moore Papers, 1941-1970

Scope and Content Note

The records, which span the years 1934 to 1977, document both the activities of the Wisconsin Civil Liberties Union, and its predecessor, the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The earlier organization is represented primarily by correspondence, which concerns the formation of local committees throughout the state. The 1940s, a period of relative inactivity, are documented only by scattered correspondence. The years following the founding of the WCLU in 1953, to 1965, are also not well documented, and the records appear to be the personal files of the donor, William Gorham Rice, Jr., rather than the official records of the organization. Much of the correspondence from 1965 to 1977 was either addressed to or written by Rice, who was an ACLU national board member from 1968 to 1974, as well as an active WCLU member and general legal counsel. Unsigned carbon copies of letters, as well as handwritten notes located in the subject files, are also of Rice's authorship.

The collection is divided into three major series, Organizational Papers, Activities, and Subject Files. Many of the ORGANIZATIONAL PAPERS consist of materials duplicated for the membership, and include the WCLU constitution as amended in 1973, policy statements concerning litigation, memos, annual reports, and financial reports. The folder of minutes contains scattered material from 1959 to 1973, and a more complete run dating from 1973 to 1977. Also contained in this series are correspondence, membership lists from 1939 and 1954, undated lists of “contacts” for the organization, and a 1976 list of cooperating attorneys. The Committees file contains scattered minutes of several WCLU committees, such as the law and psychiatry, and women's rights priorities committees. Due to Rice's participation, both the legislative and privacy committees' files are substantial, containing correspondence, memos, notes, and reference materials.

The ACTIVITIES series consists of folders entitled 1971-1972 and 1973 legislation, which include correspondence, notes, and reference materials pertaining to that Wisconsin legislation which was of interest to the WCLU. The dockets list cases in which the WCLU was involved during the period 1971-1977.

Most of the SUBJECT FILES date from the late 1960s and 1970s, and contain correspondence, memos, Wisconsin legislative bills and amendments, reference materials, and notes pertaining to a variety of issues in which the WCLU was interested. The issues involved, although national in scope, are predominantly Wisconsin-related in this series. A large file of policy statements, reports, and flyers, published by the ACLU national office, and distributed to affiliates and chapters, have been separated to the ACLU collection. However, those statements on which annotations have been made, generally by William Rice, have been retained in the appropriate subject files.

Most of the folder titles are self-explanatory, however, a few warrant further discussion. Three folders concern closely related issues -- aid to public schools, church and state, and Marquette Dental School; the latter deals with the controversy surrounding public funding of the privately-owned school. The Dirksen Amendment file pertains to the Congressional attempt to overturn the principle of “one man-one vote,” and the opposition of the WCLU. Material on impeachment refers to Richard Nixon, as well as Andrew Johnson; included is a typescript of notes taken during impeachment proceedings by Rice's grandfather, New York Congressman John V.L. Pruyn. The Communism File pertains to ACLU policy statements regarding the Communist Party and the response of the Wisconsin ACLU. Files of legal cases include the suit of the Communist Party challenging its exclusion from the Wisconsin ballot, the denial of reinstatement of a medical license, and a case involving the issues of forced confession, denial of counsel, and misconduct of trial counsel. Items listed as “other subjects” are single-sheets or small groups of documents, which did not warrant individual folders. Subjects included are civil disobedience, rights and freedoms of students, First Amendment rights of Nazi Party members, and Wisconsin legislation regarding rape.

Also present in this collection are two small folders of records of other organizations. The CAPITAL AREA CHAPTER OF THE WISCONSIN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION file contains announcements of meetings, scattered correspondence, and several reports. The file of the WISCONSIN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION includes a copy of the proposed by-laws of 1969, minutes dating from October 1974 to December 1977, and a number of reports.