“We will be an alert and aggressive agency against those who would destroy our government and our way of life.”
—j. Parnell Thomas, House Un-American Activities Committee
J. Parnell Thomas, one of the seven founding fathers of the Dies Committee, became HUAC’s third chairman in 1947 (the same year that Richard M. Nixon joined the Committee, using the Hiss case to bring his pyrotechnic career to fame). Thomas’ chairmanship was interrupted in 1949, when he entered the Federal penitentiary at Danbury , Connecticut, convicted of taking $8,000 in salary kickbacks from office personnel and a fictitious clerk typist.
One of the most most spectacular of HUAC’s investigations was promoted by Representative Thomas during his brief career as chairman. With the flare of a Hollywood premiere, Thomas assailed the powerful motion-picture industry, which provided the main cultural fare for millions of Americans. Where Martin Dies had hinted and hesitated, Thomas acted; he served subpoenas on leading actors, writers, producers and directors.
Sympathetic celebrities, such as Robert Taylor and Adolphe Menjou, were given advance billing by impresario Thomas. Notable friends of the Committee included Walt Disney, Gary Cooper, Ronald Reagan, Robert Montgomery, as well as Hollywood script writer and author of “The Fountainhead”, Ayn Rand.