Hunter Pitts O'Dell

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Hunter Pitts “Jack” O'Dell (born August 11, 1924) is, or was, a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA. He was also a top adviser to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

Early life

O'Dell was born in Detroit, Michigan, where he was raised by his grandmother and grandfather (a janitor at the Detroit public library) and served as an altar boy. His father, George Edwin O'Dell, worked in hotels and restaurants in Detroit, and his mother, Emily O'Dell, studied music at Howard University in Washington, DC, and later taught classical piano.[1] His great-grandfather was a slave who ran away to join the Union army.[2]

National Maritime Union

In 1941, O'Dell went to New Orleans to study to become a pharmacist at Xavier University, but dropped out in 1943 to join the United States Coast Guard and the National Maritime Union (NMU),[3] a labor union for seamen that was controlled by the Communist Party. According to an unpublished dissertation on the Web site of Grover Furr, a Stalinist-holocaust denier:

Of the six national officers for the NMU's first decade, only the president, Joseph Curran, did not belong to the [Communist] party, and Curran was clearly pro-Communist. The other officers openly announced their membership, and [Frederick] Blackie Meyers, a vice-president of the unon, served on the National Committee of the Communist Party.[4]

The fellow-travelling Cullen was in fact a figurehead; the real power was “Blackie” Meyers, who was identified in the FBI's March 6, 1946 Communist Apparatus (COMRAP) Summary as one of the chief overseers of the Communist seamen courier network,[5] which used United States ships to transmit intelligence from Soviet agents in the U.S. to Moscow via various overseas ports.[6]

It was during his time in the NMU that O'Dell became exposed to a variety of what calls “progressive and leftwing” thinkers of American and European origin.[7] In 1948, O'Dell became a leader of ‘‘Seamen for Wallace,’’ a group campaigning for Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party's candidate for President of the United States.[8] The Progressive Party was a creation of the Communist Party,[9] growing out of CPUSA General Secretary Eugene Dennis' February 12, 1946 order "to establish in time for the 1948 elections a national third party."[10] Wallace, one of Franklin Roosevelt's former Vice Presidents, was reportedly "most impressed" with Soviet collective farming,[11] and in 1933 had urged FDR to become a "farm dictator."[12] Wallace said if he were to become President, he would appoint as Secretary of State the pro-Soviet Laurence Duggan,[13] now known to have been a Soviet agent.[14] Had FDR died 82 days earlier, Wallace would indeed have become President.[15]

Central Committee of the CPUSA

In 1950, the NMU finally expelled the Communists from the union, including O'Dell. O'Dell was invited to a conference of the Southern National Youth Congress, an organization completely under the control of the Communist Party,[16] the members of which included Angela Davis’s mother, Sallye Bell Davis, and Julian Bond, Sr.[17] In 1956, O'Dell was called before the Senate Internal Security subcommittee, but refused on grounds of self-incrimination to answer whether or not he was a “communist marine organizer on the Gulf Coast.”[18] The following year, O'Dell became a member of the CPUSA National Committee (taking the Party name “Jack,” explained in various stories as his father's name or grandfather's nickname), and with Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph organized the Youth March for Integrated Schools.[19]

Association with Martin Luther King

In 1960, John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign put O'Dell in charge of its “get-out-the-vote” campaign in the Bronx,[20] and O'Dell worked as a volunteer for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The following year, King hired him to manage the SCLC's mass-mailing and fund-raising office. In January 1962, O'Dell was placed on the SCLC board of directors by Dr. King's “most influential white counselor, ”[21] the secret Communist Stanley Levison.[22] O'Dell was director of the SCLC's Harlem office and Voter Education Project, director of voter registration in seven southern states, and director of its Citizenship Education Program.

In March 1962, Attorney General of the United States Robert Kennedy suggested that the FBI wiretap Martin Luther King's telephones. The following month, King was invited to the White House, where the President and Attorney General each urged him to fire Levison and O'Dell. In October 1962, Robert F. Kennedy signed an order authorizing the FBI to proceed with the wiretap. O'Dell was slated to be promoted to SCLC Executive Director, when King fired him in 1963.[23]

Later life

O'Dell later worked on the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH, Rainbow Coalition, and failed 1984 campaign to become Democratic Party's Presidential candidate, and served as a writer and editor at Freedomways, a magazine aimed at African-Americans, secretly funded by the Kremlin.[24] The magazine never managed to get accepted by African-American readers, and folded in 1987. Despite having no college degree, O’Dell was made a professor at Antioch College's graduate school of education in Washington, DC. Now retired, O'Dell and his wife Jane Power live in Vancouver, British Columbia.


  1. O’Dell, Hunter Pitts "Jack" (1924- ),
  2. D.D. Guttenplan, “Who Is Jack O’Dell?,” The Nation, August 11, 2014
  3. O’Dell, Hunter Pitts “Jack” (1923- ), King Encyclopedia (Stanford University)
  4. Jim Prickett, Communists and the Communist Issue in the American Labor Movement, 1920-1950 (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, UCLA Dept. of History, 1975)
  5. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (Yale University Press 2000) ISBN 0300084625, p. 72
  6. Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, United States Congress, Communist activities among seamen and on waterfront facilities (United States Government Prining Office, 1960)
  7. O’Dell, Hunter Pitts "Jack" (1924- ),
  8. O’Dell, Hunter Pitts “Jack” (1923- ), King Encyclopedia (Stanford University)
  9. Barry Loberfeld, "The Real Meaning of "Progressive" Politics,, September 28, 2004
  10. Eugene Dennis, What America Faces (New York: New Century Publishers, 1946), pp. 37-38. Cf. Arthur Meier Schlesinger, The vital center: the politics of freedom (Transaction Publishers, 1997) ISBN 1560009896, p. 115; Arthur Meier Schlesinger, A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950 (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000) ISBN 0618219250, pp. 455-456; Karl M. Schmidt, Henry A. Wallace: Quixotic Crusade 1948 (Syracuse University Press, 1960), p. 265 (PDF p. 291)
  11. Henry Agard Wallace, 33rd Vice President (1941-1945), Senate History, United States Senate
  12. "Roosevelt Is Urged to Ask Wide Power as 'Farm Dictator'," The New York Times, March 12, 1933, p. 1
  13. Ethan Bronner, "Witching Hour; Rethinking McCarthyism, if Not McCarthy," The New York Times, October 18, 1998
  14. Venona 1613 KGB New York to Moscow, 19 November 1944
  15. William C. Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2015) ISBN 1107082064, p. 472
  16. Spyridon Mitsotakis, “Red and Black Tragedy, Part II,, August 19, 2012
  17. Historical/Biographical Note, Guide to the Southern Negro Youth Congress FBI Files TAM.265, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (New York University)
  18. Kenneth R. Timmerman, Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson (Regnery Publishing, 2013) ISBN 1621571025
  19. O’Dell, Hunter Pitts “Jack” (1923- ), King Encyclopedia (Stanford University)
  20. Paul Buhle, “The Jack O’Dell Story, Monthly Review, Volume 63, Issue 1 (May 2011)
  21. David J. Garrow, "The FBI and Martin Luther King," The Atlantic, July/August 2002
  22. Allan Ryskind, “JFK and RFK Were Right to Wiretap MLK,” Human Events, February 24, 2006
  23. Paul Buhle, “The Jack O’Dell Story, Monthly Review, Volume 63, Issue 1 (May 2011)
  24. Cliff Kincaid, "Soviets Funded Black “Freedom” Journal," Accuracy In Media, May 4, 2012