Harry F. Ward

Harry F. Ward as he appeared in 1941.

Harry Frederick Ward, Jr. (1873–1966) was a British-born American Methodist minister and political activist who emerged as a leading fellow traveler of the Communist Party, USA. Ward is best remembered as the first national chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), leading the group from its creation in 1920 until his resignation in protest of the organization's decision to bar Communists in 1940.


Early years

Harry Frederick Ward, Junior was born in the County of Middlesex, located on the outskirts of the City of London, on October 15, 1873.[1] Ward's father, Harry F. Ward, Sr., was a successful Chiswick businessman who also served as a Methodist lay minister.[1] Ward's upbringing was steeped both in commercial and religious values and he began working in his father as a wagon-driver during his teenage years.[2]

In 1878 Ward was sent away to a boarding school, a rather harsh and inferior environment to the more illustrious public schools occupied by the sires of the upper class.[3] In the estimation of Ward's biographer, Eugene P. Link, this experience quite possibly contributed to Ward's later distaste for differentiation of society into social classes.[3] During this interval Ward developed rheumatic heart problems which forced his removal from school to live with aunts in the rural environs of Lyndhurst, Hampshire.[3] Ward later remembered the experience favorably, even naming his son, the illustrator Lynd Ward, after the English south coastal town.[3]

Ward emigrated to the United States at the age of 17 in pursuit of a higher education.[3] In May 1891 Ward arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah at the home of an uncle living there to take up work for him as a horse driver.[4] He also worked for a time as a farmhand for another uncle living in the neighboring Western state of Idaho.[4] In addition to these and other jobs, Ward dedicated part of his time to Methodist evangelism as a lay minister preaching to passersby on street corners.[4]

In 1893 Ward was finally able to accomplish his goal of entering a university, enrolling at the University of Southern California (USC), located in the still modest-sized town of Los Angeles.[5] Ward became an admirer of a young political science instructor named George Albert Coe and when Coe left USC for Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois at the end of Ward's freshman year, Ward followed his mentor there.[6] Ward majored in Philosophy and minored in political science at Northwestern, with his background in populist Christian evangelism and social gospel-driven concern for the poor gradually taking on a more politicized flavor, influenced at least to some extent by the anti-capitalist critique of Karl Marx.[7]

During his Northwestern University years Ward was active in intercollegiate debate, in which he was regarded as a skillful participant.[8] Ward received a Bachelor's degree from Northwestern in 1897 and, upon the recommendation of Northwestern president Henry Wade Rogers was granted a one-year scholarship to Harvard University, from which he graduated with a Master's degree in Philosophy in 1898.[9]

Social worker and preacher

Following graduation, Ward took a position as head resident of Northwestern University Settlement, a settlement house located in Chicago which sought to educate and improve the lives of impoverished immigrant workers of the city's meatpacking district.[10] This settlement house was first launched in 1891, inspired by Hull House, established by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr two years previously.[11] Ward would remain in this position as a resident amongst the urban poor until being forced out by the settlement's governing council due to personal conflicts in the summer of 1900.[12]

The English-born Ward gained his American citizenship on October 10, 1898 at Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, shortly after beginning his life at Northwestern University Settlement.[10]

Also in 1898 Ward received his first posting to a Methodist pastorate, being appointed to a position as co-pastor of the Wabash Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.[13] In addition to preaching at his own church, Ward began to become involved in wider Chicago Protestant movement, gaining election as Secretary of the Open and Institutional Church League.[13] Ward first became an outspoken advocate of participation in "Christian politics" in this interval, declaring the necessity to put pressure for social reform upon the Chicago political structure without compromise, so as to help establish the "divine ideal, working out the dreams of the prophets, bringing in the Kingdom of God, establishing a true theocracy, a democracy led by God in the shape of the teachings of His Son."[14]

In October 1900 Ward was moved to the 47th Street Methodist Episcopal Church, another pastorate in the Chicago stockyards district with a congregation composed largely of working class immigrants from Eastern Europe.[15] Ward was increasingly radicalized by contact with the impoverished workers who attended his church. Ward himself joined the fledgling Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America in a show of solidarity with his parishioners.[16] He also joined the Civic Club of Chicago, where he became the chairman of its Committee on Labor Conditions.[16] Ward evangelized the social gospel, sermonizing on matters of economics and poverty and the potential role of the church in the rectification of the structural failings of society.[16]

Ward was married and had two children: Gordon Hugh Ward (born June 27, 1903), who later became an agricultural economics professor, and the artist Lynd Kendall Ward (born June 1905).[17] A daughter, Muriel, was born in February 1907.[18] Following the birth of the second son, Ward took a one-year sabbatical leave during which time he seems to have read the works of Karl Marx for the first time.[19] In the estimation of Ward biographer David Nelson Duke, the introduction to Marxism was not transformative for Ward, but rather "offered labels for and an interpretation of what he knew firsthand" from his life amongst Chicago's working poor.[19]

Ward returned to the pulpit in the fall of 1906 reenergized.[19] Over the course of the next year he began to formulate plans with a trio of like-minded Methodist ministers from Ohio and others to establish a new organization within the Methodist community dedicated to advance religious principles through practical politics. This group, the Methodist Federation for Social Service (MFSS), was formally brought into being at a National Conference held in Washington, D.C. on December 3, 1907.[20] Ward addressed this initial gathering and served as head of the Committee on Programs, establishing an agenda for the organization based upon the publication of pamphlet literature and the dispatch of speakers.[21] The MFSS was to be based upon a set of local chapters, each of which was to promote "social study" within their separate communities and to further coordinate local activities as part of a broad national program.[22]

In the fall of 1908 Ward was assigned to a new parish, this time in the Chicago suburbs at the Euclid Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Oak Park.[23] In December 1910 Ward was named secretary of the MFSS, a newly paid position.[24] Ward oversaw the launch of the MFSS's official organ, Social Service Bulletin, in 1911 as well as the publication of a series of pamphlets, activity which was well-received within the hierarchy of the Methodist Church.[25]

Academic career

Ward taught ethics at the Union Theological Seminary from 1918 until 1941.[17]

Ward would later obtain a law degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1931.[17]

Political activism

Ward was active in a variety of left-wing causes besides the ACLU. He was one of the founders of the Methodist Federation for Social Action and served as its general secretary from 1911 to 1944. From 1934 to 1940, he was the chairman of the American League Against War and Fascism. He frequently spoke at events held by the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship.[17]

In October 1939 Ward testified before HUAC, which concluded that the American League Against War and Fascism was a Communist front.[26]

In March 1940, the ACLU, under pressure to demonstrate its anti-Communism, barred Communists from holding office in the organization.[26]

Formally, the ACLU barred "anyone who is a member of any political organization which supports totalitarian dictatorships in any country."[26] Ward resigned in protest,[27] and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the ACLU's lone Communist board member, was forced out soon after.[28]

Death and legacy

During his final two years Ward was weak, bedridden, and in need of constant care from home aides.[29] Ward died in December 1966 at the age of 93, with a small private funeral held on December 12.[29] A public memorial service was held at Union Theological Seminary on January 4, 1967, with fewer than the chapel's capacity of 500 persons in attendance.[30]


Books and pamphlets

Selected articles


  1. 1 2 Eugene P. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet: The Times and Life of Harry F. Ward. Foreword by Corliss Lamont; illustrations by Lynd Ward. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984; pg. 2.
  2. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pg. 3.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pg. 4.
  4. 1 2 3 Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pg. 5.
  5. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pg. 5. Los Angeles recorded a population of slightly more than 50,000 people in the census of 1893.
  6. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pp. 5-6.
  7. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pp. 6-7.
  8. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pp. 7-9.
  9. Link, Labor-Religion Prophet, pg. 9.
  10. 1 2 David Nelson Duke, In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx: Harry F. Ward and the Struggle for Social Justice. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2003; pg. 44.
  11. Duke, In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx, pg. 45.
  12. Duke, In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx, pg. 50.
  13. 1 2 Duke, In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx, pg. 46.
  14. Harry F. Ward, "The Christian in Politics," sermon of June 24, 1900, Harry F. Ward Papers, Union Theological Seminary. Quoted in Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 50.
  15. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 51.
  16. 1 2 3 Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 52.
  17. 1 2 3 4 "Harry Ward Dies; Led ACLU to '40," New York Times, December 10, 1966.
  18. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 61.
  19. 1 2 3 Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 58.
  20. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 59.
  21. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pp. 59-60.
  22. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 60.
  23. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 71.
  24. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pg. 73.
  25. Duke, "In the Trenches with Jesus and Marx," pp. 72-73.
  26. 1 2 3 Gary Dorrien, Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008; pg. 128.
  27. "Dr. H.F. Ward Quits Liberties Organization," New York Times, March 4, 1940.
  28. "Liberties Union Asks Red to Resign," New York Times, March 5, 1940.
  29. 1 2 Ward, Labor-Religion Prophet, pg. 303.
  30. Ward, Labor-Religion Prophet, pp. 304-305.

Further reading

See also

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 6/30/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.