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First Amendment Felon: The Story of Frank Wilkinson, His 132,000-Page FBI File, and His Epic Fight for Civil Rights and Libertiesby Robert Sherrill
Synopses & Reviews
In the bicentennial issue of Life magazine that was published in 1991 — an issue given over to the two-hundred-year history of the Bill of Rights — Frank Wilkinson was featured as one of history's greatest defenders of the portion of the First Amendment that defined his life: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."
Frank Wilkinson's long life has been a David-and-Goliath battle against the enemies of the First Amendment. He was jailed on May 1, 1961 after the House Un-American Activities Committee cited him for contempt and then the Supreme Court notoriously ratified this decision. From 1956 to 1975, he traveled an average of 100 days a year in 35 states to warn of the liberties under attack by the FBI and its marionettes. His chief antagonist was J. Edgar Hoover, who, it was discovered in 1984, had compiled a 132,000-page dossier on him.
First Amendment Felon is a lively and witty biography written by journalist legend Robert Sherrill — that charts Wilkinson's life from a college playboy to a man who may be our most troublesome defender of the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of people to peaceably assemble. These words have guided the life of Frank Wilkinson, perhaps the nation's staunchest defender of civil liberties, to the degree that Life Magazine, in an issue given over to the two-hundred-year history of the Bill of Rights, featured a lengthy profile of him. This is the story of an ordinary, even conservative, American who became the accidental champion of our right to speak, and (by extension) to think, what we choose. Wilkinson's life has been a David-and-Goliath battle against enemies of the First Amendment. He was jailed in 1958 when HUAC cited him for contempt (the Supreme Court notoriously ratified this decision). From 1956 to 1975, he traveled an average of one hundred days a year in thirty-five states to warn of the liberties under attack by the FBI and its marionettes. His chief antagonist was J. Edgar Hoover, who compiled a 132.000 page dossier on him. First Amendment Felon is written by one of the most celebrated political reporters of our age, charting Wilkinson's life from a college playboy to our most determined defender of the First Amendment.
About the Author
Robert Sherrill, a frequent and longtime contributor to the Nation, was formerly a reporter for the Washington Post. He has authored numerous books on politics and society, including The Drugstore Liberal (1968), Military Justice Is To Justice as Military Music Is To Music (1970), The Saturday Night Special (1973), The Last Kennedy (1976) and The Oil Follies of 1970-1980: How the Petroleum Industry Stole the Show (And Much More Besides) (1983).
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