After being fired from Hastings College for heterodox theology, Willard Uphaus ran the National Religion and Labor Foundation from 1934 to 1953, during which time he was active in international peace efforts and supported a variety of causes deemed suspect by the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). As the US-Soviet Cold War heated up, he joined efforts to promote peaceful coexistence including the World Peace Congress held in Warsaw in 1950. In 1954, he was appointed Executive Director of the World Fellowship Center in Albany, NH, just in time to get caught up in Attorney General Louis Wyman’s search for “subversives.”
Under the Subversive Activities Act, passed by the legislature in 1951, Wyman used subpoenas and undercover agents to seek out those who might be engaged in “subversion.” No one was ever charged under the law, which was finally repealed in 1994.
Willard’s refusal to turn over the Center’s guest records to Wyman touched off a 6-year legal battle, which after a decision upholding Wyman’s right to demand the records led to Uphaus being sent to the Merrimack County Jail on contempt charges in 1959. During the year he spent in jail, the Uphaus case became known worldwide as an example of the excesses of anti-communism.
After release from jail just before Christmas in 1960, Uphaus, then 70 years old, returned to World Fellowship which he directed until retirement in 1969. His memoir, Commitment, gives a fascinating glimpse at the life of a radical during challenging times.
Uphaus retired from World Fellowship in 1970 and founded Amity House in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he died in 1983.
Willard Uphaus was a speaker at Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s memorial service in New York in 1964.
Read more about World Fellowship here.