What became of Tom Johnson?

Dick J. Reavis's picture

From  early 1930 until mid-1931, a man known only as Tom Johnson was the director of the CPUSA's District 17 (the Deep South). Current accounts of his life say that he had a "nervous breakdown" in Birmingham and in the midst of it returned to New York. The story ends there. However, once he was in New York he was elevated to the Org Buro, assigned to teach a course in a Party school, and tasked with fund-raising for the burgeoning "strike" in Harlan and other Kentucy andTennessee counties. In early 1932 he was put in charge of the Party's operation there. He left about six months later, returning to New York, after disbanding the Party's operations in the region. 

I'd like to know what he did next. Did he drop out of the Party or was he reassigned somewhere else and don't know where to look. (I've checked the Comintern records for the CP's operation in California throgh 1935 and come up with nothing.)

Prison records show that Johnson was 26 years old in 1930, but do not provide a birth date. The authorities in Dixie never learned whether 'Tom Johnson' was a Party name, as is likely. He joined the CP in New Jersey in 1926. 

Categories: Query
Keywords: CPUSA

My notes have a couple of items on Tom Johnson that may help a bit.

1. He authored a 1935 pamphlet: Johnson, Tom. The Reds in Dixie; who are the Communists and what do they fight for in the South? New York, Workers Library Publishers, March, 1935.

2. Russian State Archive of Social-Political History (RGASPI), fond 495, opis 74, delo 472 contains a report send to Dimitrov, head of the Comintern, from Andreev of the Comintern’s cadre department dated January 26, 1939. The report is labeled “Short Report on the Work of the Secret Apparatus of the U.S. Communist Party” and was prepared by Povolototsky of the cadre department. In a section criticizing how “new, unverified, and unstable people have advanced to top secret positions” one of the examples given is:

“TOM JOHNSON: Very capable organizer and leader. A member of the party for around ten years. He was expelled from the party after quitting his work at the most critical moments on four different occasions. In Los Angeles, despite warning of his irresponsible behavior Johnson was assigned a management position on the Committee for Industrial Organization. Johnson’s wife was the secret secretary of the regional party organization. When Johnson was arrested in connection with the Scott affair, she met with his sister, a known Trotskyite.”

The original report was in Russian. The above is a translation done when Harvey Klehr and I were working on these files.

3. RGASPI fond 495, opis 261, delo 5200 is a Comintern personal file for DZHONSON TOM / Johnson, Tom. No idea what is in the file.

John Haynes