Notes for WILLIAM ADDISON PRICE:
Son of Clarence Virgil and Jeanne Marie (Roe) Price.
Born: April 20, 1915 in Unknown.
Died: April 29, 2009 in Unknown.
Last Residence: New York, New York.
Education: B.A. from Principia College, Elsah, Illinois.
Military Service: Lieutenant; Flew Air-Rescue Missions WWII.
New York Times
William A. Price, Journalist Who Defied Senate Panel, Dies at 94
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Published: May 1, 2009
William A. Price, a reporter for The Daily News who took the unusual step of invoking the First Amendment, rather than the Fifth, when refusing to answer questions before a Senate panel in 1956 about his possible ties to the Communist Party, and who later won a court judgment against the F.B.I. for wiretapping his phone in the 1970s, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 94.
The death was confirmed by his nephew G. Jefferson Price III.
On Jan. 5, 1956, Mr. Price appeared before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, which was investigating allegations that Communists had infiltrated newspapers, radio and television. Also appearing before the subcommittee that day were Otto Albertson, a proofreader for The New York Times; Richard O. Boyer, a contributor to The New Yorker; and Dan Mahoney, a rewrite man for The Daily Mirror.
All three declined to answer any questions and invoked the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects a witness against self-incrimination. Mr. Price, in a move that seemed to confound the subcommittee, refused to take the Fifth. Instead, invoking the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and a free press, he told the subcommittee that it did not have jurisdiction to inquire into his political beliefs.
Members of the subcommittee wanted to know whether he had been a member of the Communist Party and, more specifically, whether he had used the plane he owned to fly a courier for the Communist International, the organization also known as Comintern, to Latin America.
His attempt to invoke the First Amendment was overruled repeatedly by Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi, the chairman of the subcommittee.
Mr. Price was later indicted for contempt of Congress, along with Alden Whitman and Robert Shelton, who were then copy editors at The Times (Mr. Whitman became a noted obituary writer and Mr. Shelton a music critic at the paper); Seymour Peck, a Sunday editor at The Times who was later its culture editor; Herman Liveright, a former program director at WDSU television in New Orleans; and Mary Knowles, a librarian in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. The others had appeared before the subcommittee on separate occasions.Mr. Price was found guilty, fined $500 and sentenced to three months in jail.
His difficulties with the government did not end there. In April 1972, the F.B.I. placed a wiretap on Mr. Price’s home telephone on the suspicion that he might be in contact with fugitive members of the Weather Underground. Five years later, he filed suit against the agents who carried out the wiretaps, and in 1981 the Justice Department awarded him, and others, $10,000 in damages for the violation of their civil rights.
William Addison Price grew up in Montclair, N.J., and earned a bachelor’s degree from Principia College in Elsah, Ill. He started out in the newspaper business as a part-time feature writer for The Santa Paula Chronicle in California and a sports reporter for The Springfield Sun in New Jersey. In 1940 he joined The Daily News as a copy boy.
During World War II he flew air-rescue operations in the Aleutian Islands, attaining the rank of lieutenant. He emerged from the war a committed socialist. Mr. Price returned to The Daily News, where he was a reporter on the police beat. He was also pilot of the newspaper’s airplane, which was used to take aerial photographs. Later, he was assigned to cover the fledgling United Nations.
He displeased his superiors by working with a team of newspaper reporters investigating the death of his cousin, George Polk, who was murdered in Greece in 1948 while pursuing stories unfavorable to the right-wing government, which was supported by the United States.
His career at The Daily News came to an abrupt end the day he appeared before Senator Eastland’s subcommittee. Richard Clarke, the executive editor of The Daily News, informed him in a telegram that his conduct had “destroyed” his “usefulness to The News” and that he was fired.
Mr. Price’s conviction, and those of seven others, were set aside by the Supreme Court in 1962 on the narrow ground that the subcommittee had not specified the subject of its inquiry. He was re-indicted and found guilty, and sentenced to 10 days’ probation.
Mr. Price drove a bus and did carpentry work after losing his job, but went on to write for The National Guardian, a left-wing newspaper, for which he covered social issues in New York City and the civil rights movement in the South. Beginning in the 1970s, he worked with community organizations on the Upper West Side to defend tenants’ rights and stop the urban renewal plans of the city’s housing authority.
He is survived by two brothers, George J. Price of Miami and Henry Price of Brooklyn.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 6, 2009
An obituary on Saturday about William A. Price, a reporter for The Daily News in New York who invoked the First Amendment, rather than the Fifth, when refusing to answer questions before a Senate panel in 1956 about his possible ties to the Communist Party, misstated his middle name. It was Addison, not Armstrong. The obituary also misidentified the state in which the town Plymouth Meeting, where Mary Knowles, who was indicted along with him, was a librarian. It is in Pennsylvania, not Massachusetts.