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Jerry J. O'Connell

john j. o'connell attorney, jerry j o'connell congressman parents
Jerry Joseph O'Connell June 14, 1909 – January 16, 1956 was an American politician He was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Montana who was at the least a Progressive and arguably either Communist Party sympathizer or member12


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Career
  • 3 HUAC testimony
  • 4 Personal and death
  • 5 References
  • 6 External sources


Born in Butte, Montana, O'Connell attended the parochial schools and Butte Central High School He graduated from Carroll College formerly Mount St Charles College, Helena, Montana, in 1931, and from Georgetown University, Washington, DC, in 1934 He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1934


Montana: O'Connell served in the State house of representatives 1931–1934 He served as member of the Montana Public Service Commission 1934–1936 He served as delegate to the Democratic State conventions 1930–1940 In 1937, he spoke at a fundraiser for the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy–with Earl Browder In 1937 and 1938, he published articles in the New Masses magazine In May 1938, he spoke at function of International Labor Defense By 1939, he was member of the National Lawyers Guild from Butte, Montana2

Washington, DC: O'Connell was elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-fifth Congress January 3, 1937 – January 3, 19393 He ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1938 to the Seventy-sixth Congress and again in 1940 to the Seventy-seventh Congress4

Montana: O'Connell worked as a newspaper editor and publisher in Hamilton, Montana, from 1939 to 1941 He commenced a law practice of law in Butte, Montana in 1940 He served as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 19445

Washington State: O'Connell moved to Seattle, Washington, in June 1944 O'Connell served as executive secretary of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee from December 1944 to January 1947, for the Roosevelt Democrats in 1947, and for the Washington State Progressive Party in 1948 and 1949 He was also an instructor at the Seattle Labor School 1946–194962

Washington, DC: In June 1948, O'Connell served as chairman for demonstrators against the Mundt-Nixon Bill, which had passed the US House of Representatives but was stalling in the US Senate He registered with the Clerk of the US House of Representatives as chairman of and therefore lobbyist for the "National Committee to Defeat the Mundt Bill," whose Washington offices shared space from the National Lawyers Guild of which O'Connell had been a member since 1937 When registering, he noted also that he was "on loan" from the State of Washington's local chapter of the Progressive Party United States, 1948 which supported Henry A Wallace for US president–and which had the support of the Communist Party Members of the committee included Benjamin J Davis, Clifford J Durr, Alexander Meiklejohn, O John Rogge, IF Stone, and Mark Van Doren78 In June 1949, he signed a letter in support of the Communist Party leaders tried in the Smith Act trials of Communist Party leaders2

Montana: O'Connell returned to Montana in 1950 and practiced law in Great Falls until his death In 1951, he defended Frank Dryman for the murder of Clarence Chester Pellett The 19-year-old Dryman, a transient, was hitchhiking, had accepted a ride in Pellett's car, and then refused to get out while pulling out a 45 pistol Shortly thereafter, Dryman ordered them to stop, get out, and then shot Pellett seven times in the back when he fled O'Connell had nearly no trial experience and was a new member of the Montana Bar He lost the case but won a first appeal Three continuances delayed legal progress for nearly a year A "Dryman Defense Committee" made legal appeals after each lower court ruled against, and O’Connell succeeded in each appeal, so hat from 1952 to 1954 the Montana courts overturned two death sentences In February 1955, Dryman received a life sentence9

HUAC testimonyedit

In 1950, the House Un-American Activities Committee HUAC singled out O'Connell as chairman of the National Committee to Defeat the Mundt Bill whose supporters, Representatives Karl Mundt and Richard Nixon, had both been active HUAC members The report focused on ties between O'Connell, the Communist Party and the National Lawyers Guild, both of which supported the Progressive Party of whose Washington state chapter O'Connell was an important member2

In 1955, he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which questioned him widely about possible communist ties, including his support of Henry A Wallace's bid for president as a Progressive in 1948 The Committee gained no new evidence, which lessened its reputation110

Personal and deathedit

O'Connell was a long-time progressive, if not Communist sympathizer and Party member1

He died of a heart attack in his sleep in Great Falls on January 16, 1956, and was interred in Great Falls Mausoleum


  1. ^ a b c Pedersen, Vernon 8 April 2010 "Terminal Hearing: The House Committee on Un‑American Activities and the Death of Jerry J O'Connell" C-SPAN Retrieved 10 December 2010 
  2. ^ a b c d e Report on the National Committee to Defeat the Mundt Bill US GPO 7 December 1950 Retrieved 15 September 2017 
  3. ^ "Jerry Joseph O'Connell" Find A Grave Retrieved October 14, 2012 
  4. ^ "Rep Jerry O'Connell" govtrackus Retrieved October 14, 2012 
  5. ^ "O'Connell, Jerry Joseph 1909–1956" The Political Graveyard Retrieved October 14, 2012 
  6. ^ Burnett, Lucy Marie deptswashingtonedu/labhist/cpproject/labor_collegeshtml "Pacific Northwest Labor School: Educating Seattle's Labor Left" Check |url= value help University of Washington Retrieved 15 September 2017 
  7. ^ "Marchers Picket the White House, Swarm in Capitol" New York Times 3 June 1948 Retrieved 1 April 2017 
  8. ^ "More Open Hearings on Mundt Bill Barred" New York Times 5 June 1948 Retrieved 1 April 2017 
  9. ^ Pellett, Clem C 5 October 2014 "Catching a Montana killer" Great Falls Tribine Retrieved 3 September 2017 
  10. ^ "2010 OAH Annual Meeting" PDF Organization of American Historians April 2010 Retrieved 10 December 2010 

External sourcesedit

  • Pedersen, Vernon 8 April 2010 "Terminal Hearing: The House Committee on Un‑American Activities and the Death of Jerry J O'Connell" C-SPAN Retrieved 10 December 2010 
  • govtrackus: Rep Jerry O'Connell
  • The Political Graveyard: O'Connell, Jerry Joseph 1909–1956 Jerry J O'Connell at Find a Grave

  • United States Congress "Jerry J O'Connell id: O000024" Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website http://bioguidecongressgov

US House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph P Monaghan
Member of the US House of Representatives
from Montana's 1st congressional district

January 3, 1937-January 3, 1939
Succeeded by
Jacob Thorkelson

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