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April 19, 2024

Letter to the Editor: In response to “Conservatives continue to misunderstand the meaning of free speech”

By JIM STIMPERT | October 19, 2017

In response to "Letter to the Editor:

Conservatives continue to misunderstand the meaning of free speech," published on October 12:

Dear Editor,

I would like to comment on one aspect of Madeleine King's letter in the October 12 issue of The News-Letter, "Conservatives continue to misunderstand…"

She refers to Owen Lattimore as having been fired by Hopkins when he was accused of being a "known communist." This is not true. When Owen Lattimore, a recognized expert on Mongolia, was indicted in 1952 on charges of espionage and being a Communist sympathizer, the University granted him leave of absence with pay for the duration of his case, resisting demands by alumni and donors (and a few faculty) to fire him prior to any judicial verdict. In 1955, a federal judge dismissed the more serious charges against Lattimore, and the remaining minor charges were then dropped.

Lattimore had been director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations, a Hopkins division located on the Homewood Campus, since 1938. Because he was so closely associated with the Page School, and that school focused primarily on China and Mongolia, when public accusations linking Lattimore to espionage and communism were made beginning in the late 1940s, this resulted in a decrease in contributions and the Page School was left in poor financial condition.

In 1950, the School of Advanced International Studies, then an independent institution in Washington, approached Hopkins to negotiate a merger. Hopkins' interest was increased because of the Page School's financial difficulties, and SAIS was finding it difficult to succeed on its own, so in October 1950, SAIS became a division of Hopkins, remaining in Washington. In 1953, President Detlev Bronk announced a reorganization that included disbanding the Page School, leaving SAIS as the only Hopkins division focusing on international studies. When Lattimore's leave-with-pay ended in 1955, he no longer had a school to direct, so he was given a faculty appointment in the Department of History. He taught in that department until 1963, when he resigned to create the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds.

Lattimore was never fired from Hopkins - quite the contrary, he was paid for three years while he battled senators Joe McCarthy, Pat McCarran, and their formidable allies. There is a good article on Lattimore in Wikipedia (although it makes no mention of the Page School), and in 1993 Lionel S. Lewis wrote a book on Lattimore's situation, titled The Cold War and Academic Governance: The Lattimore Case at Johns Hopkins. Thank you for the opportunity to correct this inaccuracy.

Jim Stimpert

Senior Reference Archivist

Special Collections at Sheridan Libraries

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