The Eye of the Storm
Young Henry was beginning to wonder why the Ford Foundation wasn't doing anything much to support the system—capitalism—that had made it possible. Most of its activities seemed to involve the direct or indirect support of what his closest associates called socialism, or communism (or bolshevism). And none of them was clearly directed to the maintenance of the free enterprise system, in spite of Hoffman's and Hutchins' high-minded insistence, on stage and off, that their every undertaking involved fortification of that system. Young Henry was growing visibly unhappier as the second year of the Hoffman regime proceeded. "I told Henry before I took the job," said Hoffman afterward, "that I'm a militant and maybe he didn't really want me. I told him that I wanted to experiment, to change things, and that change always means trouble. But every time we got a dozen letters objecting to something we'd done—a radio show or an overseas program or whatnot—I'd have to spend hours reassuring the board. I got tired of wasting time that way. I felt I'd done a first-rate job and if, after two years, the trustees didn't agree, I didn't want to have to keep selling them."
Young Henry wasn't being sold: "I couldn't see how the Foundation could go on the way Paul was running it without falling apart at the seams," he said later. "I first got an idea of what was happening when Paul took four months off in the spring of 1952 to campaign for Eisenhower's nomination. We didn't object to that . . . and anyway I was for Eisenhower myself. But during those months I took over some of the administration for the first time—spent one week every month in Pasadena. I found there was no coordination—no contact, even—among the four associate directors. Each one was running his own show, all by himself. . . . Later I met some trustees at Hot Springs and told them about conditions in Pasadena.
We agreed that the Foundation had to be operated on a businesslike basis."
On February 1, 1953, the New York Times quoted Hoffman as saying, "We have got another couple of years' work ahead of us . . . before we can say that we are really well organized." On February 3 he conferred privately with President Eisenhower about assignments he might take for the government. On February 4 he resigned as president and director of the Ford Foundation. (The decision to fire him had been made at a board meeting in New York at the end of January.) The announcement of his departure stated that the trustees having decided to transfer the headquarters of the fund from Pasadena to New York, and Mr. Hoffman having expressed the desire to remain in Pasadena, "he has therefore asked to resign as President. . . . This resignation the trustees have reluctantly accepted."
The day after Hoffman's resignation the appointment of part-time Associate Director Gaither as president of the foundation was announced. From that time forward, through a succession of administrations, the Ford Foundation labored mightily to get rid of money, but the money was spent, on the whole, on safe and sane enterprises that finally identified it indistinguishably with the other two respectable, and respectably big, foundations—Rockefeller and Carnegie. How, in the end, could it have been otherwise and men like Hoffman and Hutchins survive? A half-billion—a billion, three billion—dollars soon or late finds its way into the right hands. By 1966 an intrepid investigator of foundations analyzed the credentials of the Ford trustees and concluded that "with one probable exception there is not a non-Establishment man"—they were all men—"among them." Speaking many years afterward of his lifelong employment by boards of trustees, Hutchins said to a younger associate, "Don't ever work for people you don't respect on the grounds that you can 'handle' them."
Young Henry, growing no more radical with the years, went on complaining about the foundation's policies, with some justification from his point of view, during the short presidential tenure of the moderately liberal McGeorge Bundy. Ford ultimately resigned from the board—in 1976—unreconciled even to its new cautious activities under increasingly cautious regimes. "I'm not playing the role of the hardheaded tycoon who thinks all philanthropoids are Socialists and all university professors are Communists," he said, "I'm just suggesting to the trustees and the staff that the system that makes the Foundation possible very probably is worth preserving."
Hoffman's departure was promptly followed by the resignation of two of his hand-picked associate directors—Chester Davis and Milton Katz. It
was not followed by the resignation of Associate Director Hutchins. Hutchins went on sitting in his now largely deserted office—and drawing his salary—in the Pasadena outpost for more than a year. Visitors found him busy with one thing or another connected with the foundation and with the Fund for the Advancement of Education (whose president, Clarence H. Faust, had been dean of the Hutchins college at Chicago). But he was off in a corner, for the first time in his professional life; the foundation was being run from New York. The surviving associate director told a visitor, "I'm the associate who doesn't associate with anybody and the director who doesn't direct anything." It was the strangest of interludes and one in which his independent activity was also minimal; in the sixteen months in which he sat solitarily in Pasadena he made fewer public appearances of any kind—thirty-two in all—than he had ever made in a comparable period; and his public addresses were on the whole confined to education.
The two years had passed 1951 and 1952, in which Hutchins and his colleagues were "going to change the temper of the country," and by the beginning of 1953 McCarthyism had America by the throat. Loyalty-security legislation and executive orders cascaded from the White House, the state capitals, and even the city halls. Taking over as president of the bedeviled United States in 1953, General Eisenhower extended the Truman loyalty programs to provide for dismissal from government service of a person who was deemed even likely to be treasonable—without any clear definition of likelihood. The separate states tumbled over one another to follow suit, requiring oaths disclaiming communism from public school teachers, professors, and other state employees, and setting up investigating units in parallel with the congressional committees that toured the country with their troupes of informers, whose unsubstantiated testimony was driving thousands of liberals and intellectuals to the wall.
Senator Joe McCarthy, enjoying congressional immunity, swore to root out of the national life the miscreants who had sold the country to the Reds. He led the pack in playing the new numbers game, claiming variously that the State Department was "thoroughly infested with Communists" variously said to number—the figure differed from speech to speech—anywhere from fifty to two hundred fifty. (He never identified one.) The other executive agencies staffed by what he called the Commiecrats were similarly pilloried. A kind of cold pogrom of federal workers ensued. A special counsel to the president announced in midyear that 1,456 subversives had been kicked out of the government since General Eisenhower took office, and Vice-president Nixon said: "We're kicking the Communists and fellow travelers and security risks out of the Government, not by
the hundreds, but by the thousands." The ultimate toll announced by Eisenhower's attorney general was 8,008. "In case after case, government employees were faced with vague and often irrelevant charges; were forced to hire attorneys while suspended without pay, for weeks and even months; were denied access to evidence used against them; were denied the opportunity to cross-examine anonymous informers; and were denied any right of appeal. Grounds for suspension and discharge might be a slightly unorthodox comment, a joke, a rumor about homosexuality—might be anything read or said in one's entire lifetime that could be found objectionable in the effort to 'defend national security.'" A negro employee was charged with "left-wing" leanings when he said he would "rather be a second-class citizen in Mississippi than a first-class citizen in Russia." A postal worker was truthfully charged with having a copy of Das Kapital in his home (it had been recommended reading in a college course years before). The new chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Harold Velde, denounced "the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt in the promotion of Communism, of immorality and indecency among so-called minority groups." Senator McCarthy characterized General George C. Marshall as a member of "a conspiracy so immense, an infamy so black, as to dwarf any in the history of man."
The great Red hunt was a first-class ticket—and the only ticket—to political preferment. Candidates and applicants, whatever else they did, had to curse communism and Communists from every platform. Senator Vandenberg's rationale for rearmament—to "scare the hell out of the American people"—was a howling success. The distinguished French editor Claude Bourdet, after a lecture tour of the country, said: "You can say anything you want to in America about anything, as long as you begin by saying, 'I hate Communism.'" The spectre that Marx and Engels saw haunting Europe a century before was haunting America now, and the vigilantes in and out of office were riding high and wide as the shotgun investigations proliferated. McCarthy's denunciation of the Democrats for their "twenty years of treason" put the Republicans into power in 1952, nationally and locally. "Jumping Joe" had the party in his pocket; John Foster Dulles was friendly to him, "Mr. Republican" Robert A. Taft praised his "fight for America," and he appeared on the networks as the party's climax speaker in the presidential campaign. Respectable Republicans fell silent while eminent old and new New Dealers were shot down and out of public life. The Democrats, on the defensive, were reduced to trying to outdo their opponents: "I," said President Truman, after the conviction of Alger Hiss, "put my Communists in jail"—whereas the McCarthyites only "exposed" theirs.
But denunciation as often as not had the effect of jail. These were the years of psychological terrorism and torture that destroyed the careers and even the lives of tens of thousands of sympathizers with causes, "bleeding hearts" who had pushed doorbells, distributed leaflets, joined committees, organized meetings and demonstrations in behalf of the downtrodden, the dispossessed, the exiled, the rebels, the suspect. Pacifists religious and secular were caught up in the torrent; "peace" was a dirty word. Critics of the public policy of increased armaments—and of the unwinnable Korean war then in progress—were ruined. Distinguished academics like Owen Lattimore, Jr., of Johns Hopkins (McCarthy called him "the top Soviet espionage agent") were driven out of public service for having "lost China" to the Communists; and physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the developer of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, lost his security clearance because he opposed the Truman program to develop the bigger and better H-bomb.
There were Communists in America—a handful—and Communist sympathizers. There were a few traitors, spies, and agents, and more than a few dupes. And there were thousands of nonconspiratorial people who still saw in the Russian revolution the hope, if a fading hope, of building a new world. (It was, after all, only a few years since the democratic leaders of the world were supporting the Soviet Union in its mortal struggle against Nazi Germany, and many Americans who could not accept the disenchantment of that country's Stalinist horrors believed that mankind's was a black-and-white choice between communism and fascism.) And there were more thousands of Americans who adhered, however half-heartedly, or less, to the Russian experiment, with all its terror and travail, as a possible alternative to the bootlessness of the world wars between great capitalist blocs of imperial powers. (Many of these fellow-travelers, so-called, had got off after one or two stops—which redemptive defection did not, however, save them from the trackers-down of Red devils.)
But there was no Communist movement in the United States, and there never had been. The American Communists and their sympathizers—or the sympathizers with causes the Communists also supported—were with the rarest of exceptions what the witch-hunters called eggheads, members of that broadly definable middle-class intelligentsia who generally constituted the backbone of all liberal and radical causes. They were generally college and university graduates or students, teachers, or figures in the entertainment and artistic worlds. The miasma of intimidation paralyzed campus activists, and the boycott and blacklisting of public performers and their works was effectively urged by broadcasters and leafleteers. The witch-hunt addressed itself to the crudest and most regressive impulses in the country. It was blatantly anti-intellectual and anti-aesthetic. Latent
anti-Semitism flourished just beneath the surface. (The Williams Intelligence Summary of Los Angeles asked its readers to dig up evidence that the villainous Robert M. Hutchins was a Jew.)
The witch-hunters had it both ways: either there were millions of hidden Communists to be hauled out of the closet or, if there were in fact only a few abroad in the land, it had to be remembered that the Bolsheviks who staged the revolution in Russia had numbered only a few thousand. Americans were not notably well schooled in modern—or ancient—history. They thought they knew that Russians (and most other peoples) were somehow backward and inconsequentially unfortunate not to be Americans; they neither knew nor cared that the social conditions of much of Europe and most of the rest of the world were conducive to the acceptance of social revolution. What they knew from their everyday experience—until they had the hell scared out of them—was that theirs was not the soil in which revolution grew. The call to revolution, even the genteel call of the doctrinaire Socialists, fell on deaf ears in the land of entrepreneurial opportunity. The American "workers of the world" were united, all right; they were united in their indifference to communism (and to ideology in general; they had a politics, denominated Republican or Democrat, but no clear political philosophy).
Still less did they have an economic philosophy. What they had was an unexamined economic practice. Except for a few of the immigrants from central and eastern Europe, they had no acquaintance, near or remote, with Marxism as a doctrine or an analysis of human nature and human society, and none whatever with a living Marxist of any variety. They had all heard rabid accounts of Soviet Russia, and they had all heard of the bugbear Communist, Bolshevik, or Anarchist with, as Alfred Emanuel Smith put it, "wire whiskers and a bomb in each hand."
This mortally dangerous isolation from the most significant historical reality of the age was not confined to a mere majority of the American people; one way or another it embraced almost all of them. In 1954 the Fund for the Republic financed "the most expensive survey of public opinion ever made," a $125,000 poll of the country's attitudes toward communism directed by the American Institute of Public Opinion and the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, under the general supervision of Dr. Samuel Stouffer, director of the Harvard University Laboratory of Social Relations. The survey revealed that, although less than 1 percent of the American people were more concerned about communism than they were about personal and domestic issues, 77 percent would revoke a Communist's citizenship (and 51 percent would jail him); 73 percent thought that "suspicious" behavior of neighbors should be re-
ported to the FBI; and 64 percent approved of the wiretapping of suspects. Ninety-four percent would refuse to let an atheist teach in a college—and 68 percent would deny such employment even to a Socialist. Nor was the general public alone endemically infected with the hysteria; even 50 percent of the nation's attorneys said they considered the invocation of the Fifth Amendment an indication of guilt.
During General Eisenhower's presidency the Madison, Wisconsin, Capitol Times asked, "What is a Communist?" of the typical man (and woman) in the street. One housewife replied: "I really don't know what a Communist is. I think they should throw them out of the White House." Since there were so few known—or unknown—Communists in the country and no American was likely to know one as a Communist , the anti-Communist crusade was necessarily fueled by suspicion of the most vagrant kind. Ten percent of the Stouffer interviewees were suspicious of one or another person of their acquaintance: "I saw a map of Russia on a wall in his home." "He had a foreign camera and took many pictures of New York bridges." "He was always talking about world peace." "He didn't believe in Christ, heaven or hell." "My husband's brother drinks and acts common-like. Sometimes I kind of think he is a Communist." These were the meat on which the McCarthyites gorged.
College graduates were as ignorant of Marxism as were high school dropouts. They were unaware of the implications for America of the "Marxist-Leninist" address to the industrial proletariat—the people without property and with nothing to sell but their labor. Most Americans had property—something to lose besides their chains—and those who didn't believed that they would, any day now. Men who lost their jobs in hard times did not think they would get another—they knew they would (and they usually did). There was plenty of starvation in the richest of all great lands, but even the starving were incapable of seeing themselves as the Marxists' prisoners of starvation. The closest thing to a proletarian in America was the Negro—but even he, armored by the hope of a better life both hereafter and here, was impervious to the siren songs of the revolutionaries. The Negroes had been unreachable even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when a majority of them were out of work.
But the reality of the actual social fabric in America did not impinge on the fantasy of the supposedly Red-infested country—or, of course, on the strategy of the exploiters of that fantasy. There was a new reality threatening as McCarthyism in its myriad manifestations seemed to be achieving undreamed-of proportions, as the dreadful year of 1953 went forward and Robert M. Hutchins, the exponent of free disputation and free dissent seemed to be sitting it out among the great big geraniums of Pasadena. The
threatening reality was the collapse altogether of the spirit of individual independence, of forthrightness, and, most fragile of all, of toleration in the happy American fabric. Solemn people, and not just hysterics, began talking about fascism and whether "it" could happen here; Huey Long was quoted as saying that if fascism ever came to the United States it would be called Americanism.
Ever since he had come to the Ford Foundation and encountered its board of trustees, Hutchins had pondered the language of that section A of the Second Program Area of the Study Report that those trustees had adopted at the end of 1949: "The Foundation should support activities directed toward . . . the elimination of restrictions on freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression." Section A appeared to have fallen into the direct jurisdiction of none of the associate directors, and nothing of any significance had been undertaken to implement it as the loyalty-security programs and investigations mounted in Washington and swept across the country. But in August 1951 Hutchins submitted a two-page proposal for a Fund for Democratic Freedoms, which would deal "almost wholly with unpalatable causes." The first thing such a fund would do—he later proposed The Fund for the Republic as its name—would be to make "continuing studies and reports on the ever-new and current dangers which threaten the unalienable rights of men in a democratic society." Nothing too hopelessly unpalatable there. But its second function was something else again. To be established by the Ford Foundation with a distinguished board of directors, the Fund would have the authority to defend individuals and groups directly and "provide backing" for scientists and teachers embroiled with problems of scientific and academic freedom. It would be an activist agency dealing with actual cases and offer financial assistance to defendants. It would, in a word, function as no such philanthropy had ever functioned before.
The proposal moved slowly, but, surprisingly enough, it moved. The other senior officers of the foundation joined in the recommendation to the board, saying that "none of the tasks before the Foundation is more critical than this; it is timely for the Foundation to take it." Neither Young Henry nor his board could say later that they had bought a pig in a poke—however much they might have liked to. They may have been lulled by the fact that the officers of the foundation proposed that each member of the board of the new Fund would have to be approved unanimously by the board of the foundation—a provision that did in fact produce a "representative" (that is, a careful) group of trustees. They may have been reassured by the provision that the new Fund, unlike the other foundation spin-offs, was to be wholly independent of the foundation, so that its activ-
ities could not jeopardize the foundation's tax exemption. (Hutchins would subsequently refer to it as "a wholly disowned subsidiary of the Ford Foundation.") They may have been further lulled by the provision that the capital of the new Fund, a modest fifteen million dollars, would revert to the foundation if the Fund should ever lose its tax exemption (which it had yet to obtain). They may have been emboldened by a disarming memorandum submitted by W.H. "Ping" Ferry, the wealthy young Detroiter who had been Young Henry's speechwriter, was now public relations adviser to the foundation, and was destined to be the vice-president of the new Fund. Ferry's memorandum called for "bold experimentation" by the Fund and added: "Such a policy is not in conflict with the real interest of the Ford Motor Company, although it may sometimes prove irritating to some of its officials, and may embarrass, temporarily, members of the Ford family. In the long run it will bring more credit to the Ford name than the easy and innocuous course of making impressive contributions to established activities or undertaking programs that can not arouse criticism or opposition. Here it should be remembered that the reputation of the Ford Motor Company largely centers around Henry Ford's lifelong preoccupation with experimentation and pioneering ventures."
It wasn't until December 1952 that the Foundation board brought the Fund for the Republic into corporate existence, after a monumental exchange of memoranda generally directed to hedging it about with large generalities which would antagonize nobody. But among those memoranda was a steady succession from Hutchins in Pasadena pushing for speedy action on the whole front of burning political issues. "The Fund" he wrote, "should feel free to attack the problem of the freedom of the press; of migrant workers; of the immigration laws and the McCarran [Internal Security] Act; of loyalty investigations; of the House Un-American Activities Committee; of conscientious objectors; of academic freedom and teachers' oaths; of racial and religious discrimination in all its manifestations, from lynching to inequality of educational opportunity; of disfranchisement; of dishonesty in government; of the liberties guaranteed by the first and fourteenth amendments; of the administration of justice." With a grimace of annoyance by his fellow associate directors at the foundation—this was before Hoffman's resignation—Hutchins placed the development of the Fund for the Republic under his own administrative jurisdiction.
Hoffman, resigning as president of the foundation, was named board chairman of the new Fund; with whatever reservations the foundation's board members might have had about his liberalism (and about his devo-
tion to Hutchins), the appointment took the public relations sting out of Hoffman's separation from the foundation—and he was, after all, still an Eisenhower Republican. Casting about for a president of the Fund, the foundation trustees lit upon another Eisenhower Republican, this one, however, a much more reliably moderate man than Hoffman: Congressman Clifford Case of New Jersey, who resigned his seat in the House to take the job. In foundation circles it was thought, or, at least, hoped, that the selection of a respectable member would relieve the foundation (and ultimately the Fund) of some of the heat that was galvanizing congressional investigations into both the fiscal and the political policies of the foundation and its offspring. But the New York Times reported that "a decision by the Ford Foundation to grant $15,000,000 to inquire into the methods of Congressional investigations into Communist infiltrations and civil rights appeared to rankle a large section of the House."
From its inception the Fund was pitted against powerful forces in Congress, and against the congressional courtesy that at times such as these tended to unite its members. Shortly after Hoffman became its chairman, the board of the Fund approved a staff prospectus that contemplated, inter alia, "a study of the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Senate Internal Security Committee, and other Congressional investigating committees." And its very first allocation of funds was a grant of fifty thousand dollars to the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Individual Rights as Affected by National Security. The ABA's request for the grant had been made to Hutchins prior to the incorporation of the Fund, and it proposed an examination of "the extent to which Congress should place any limitations upon the scope of its investigations or should regulate their procedures so as to protect the rights of individuals by providing some of the safeguards of due process at trials."
Just before Case's resignation from Congress to take the Fund presidency, the House had authorized a new round of Red hearings under Congressman Carroll Reece of Tennessee, who told his colleagues: "There can be no question that Hutchins is behind this new Ford Foundation project, for he has consistently expressed his concern for the civil liberties of Communists. Since we know Hutchins' attitude toward communism and we know that his conception of civil liberties is similar to that of the Communists, we can be sure that the new Ford Foundation project will aid the Communist conspiracy and will try to discredit all those who fight it." Appealing—successfully—for a second investigation of the Ford Foundation after Hoffman's replacement by Gaither, Reece said, "Gaither is a mere figurehead and Hutchins is still running the Foundation. Gaither has
accepted the presidency only for a year, and thus Hutchins may yet become the formal head of the organization."
No sooner was the Fund incorporated and Hoffman named its board chairman, than he received a letter from Senator McCarthy: "I understand that you have just been elected President of a new foundation. . . . I would appreciate it if you would . . . advise when you can appear in Washington without too much inconvenience." Hoffman detested McCarthy, who had engineered the brutal defeat of his (and Hutchins') close friend Bill Benton for reelection to the United States Senate from Connecticut in the 1952 election. With exemplary courage the one-time ad man had risen, alone, on the floor of the Senate on August 6, 1951, and, waiving his congressional immunity, delivered an all-out attack on McCarthy and introduced a one-man resolution to expel him from the chamber.
But Hoffman was careful to reply courteously to McCarthy's request that he appear in Washington, informing him that he would be glad to do so but would be out of the country on a trip he was undertaking for the Studebaker Corporation. McCarthy then asked for a list of the personnel of the Fund for the Republic, which Hoffman submitted. McCarthy later issued a press release to the effect that the fund's "principal objective is to torpedo any effective security program." Meanwhile Hoffman was solemnly assuring Eisenhower's vice-president, Richard M. Nixon, that the Fund would be making a fundamental study of "the extent and nature of the internal communist menace and its effect on our community and institutions."
Though the American Legion news letter, Firing Line , referred to the Fund as "a huge slush fund for a full-scale war on all organizations and individuals who have ever exposed and fought Communists," the Fund during the year and more of the Case presidency did very little besides obtain its tax exemption and its terminal grant of fifteen million dollars from the Ford Foundation. Its internal memoranda were on the whole temperate enough to mollify anyone short of the most fanatical Red baiters; it had issued no printed matter; it had issued two colorless press releases; and it had made cash grants to four tax-exempt recipients (largely in the respectable area of race relations). The most conservative of its board members had no fault to find with its program, which was heavily devoted to research and study projects such as a long-term history of American Communism. But there was sufficient resentment arising from below—and from Hutchins in Pasadena—so that in early 1954, when Case offered to leave (and go on to be a mildly liberal senator from New Jersey), his resignation was promptly accepted.
Thomas C. Reeves, author of an exhaustive history of the Fund, recounted Hutchins' situation at the Ford Foundation after Hoffman's resignation: "The associate director sat in the rump office in Pasadena, looked upon by many insiders as an unnecessary vestige of turbulent times, an overly outspoken crusader whose retention was due solely to the corporation's unwillingness to invite controversy. No one within the Foundation offered any positive suggestions about the future of the fifty-four-year-old administrator, and Hutchins himself seemed unready to seek other employment voluntarily. His advice was sought on several occasions, but he provoked ill will by insisting repeatedly that the Foundation had higher responsibilities than it currently recognized, and should be much more than a pliant device of a recreant donor. The already strained relationship between Henry Ford and Hutchins became increasingly poor as months passed. By the end of 1953 the educator's presence was becoming intolerable."
He continued to waft memoranda to New York deploring the Fund's quietism and urging an activist program against the extremists in and out of the government. The trouble was that he was still an associate director of the Ford Foundation, and the Fund for the Republic was a wholly independent organization. The nexus, of course, was Board Chairman Hoffman of the Fund. Board Chairman Hoffman was out of town—town being New York now, instead of Pasadena—more than he was in. But he shared Hutchins' impatience for aggressive action against the high tide of McCarthyism—and he still had his unabated enthusiasm for Hutchins and Hutchins' aggressive views and aggressive tactics.
With Clifford Case's resignation pending, a search for a new president of the fund went forward on several fronts. Hutchins participated, though he had no corporate right to do so. He spent three hours in Sacramento with the Republican governor of California, Earl Warren. Governor Warren was interested in the Fund, but he told Hutchins that he would be unavailable as a presidential candidate since it appeared that he was going to be offered another post. (As indeed he was, almost immediately thereafter: the chief justiceship of the US Supreme Court). Manufacturer William Joyce and the pollster Elmo Roper, both of whom Hutchins had suggested as board members when the fund was established, put Hutchins' name forward after "some exchange with trustees of the Ford Foundation. . . . They were not wild about the idea," said Joyce, "but there was no vote." Fund Chairman Hoffman was unreservedly enthusiastic, and though there was some opposition in the Fund's board, a majority was receptive—if a little worried. His presidency was announced on May 25, 1954, during the uproar of the Army-McCarthy hearings.
The Fund's trustees had a little to be worried about. Hutchins' acceptance of the offer with, he told the board, "willingness and pleasure," meant that the Fund for the Republic would ride right into the eye of the storm. He had made his position plain: the fundamental freedoms of the American republic were under remorseless and relentless attack by powerful politicians, who scrupled at nothing in their exploitation of the popular panic engendered by the Truman/Eisenhower cold war policies in conjunction with the traditional American dread of bolshevism. (Perhaps one in a million Americans actually knew a real, live Communist.) Robert Maynard Hutchins' reputation as a trouble-maker—as if there would be no trouble were it not for him—went back to his assumption of the presidency of the University of Chicago. The decades had not tempered him; quite the opposite. He had never had to look for trouble; he had been drawn inexorably to where trouble was. Between February of 1953, when he was stranded in Pasadena, and May of 1954 he had been making portentous and premonitory rumbles and it wasn't like him to confine himself to memoranda. By way of underscoring his intentions, if they needed underscoring, he at once asked W. H. "Ping" Ferry—who was, if anything, more radical than Hutchins—to serve as vice-president of the fund. The job would mean a considerable financial sacrifice for the forty-one-year-old Ford public relations man, but he accepted without hesitation.
On taking his new post, Hutchins resigned from the Ford Foundation; so much for the half-billion dollars that were going to change the temper of the country in two years; so much for the diamond-studded straw he'd grasped at. Now he had fifteen million dollars—peanuts, in Ford terms— but he was expected to get rid of it in five years and go out of business—if, in the meanwhile, the witch-hunters in Washington did not succeed in persuading the IRS to withdraw the fund's tax exemption. In his Never Complain, Never Explain: The Story of Henry Ford II , Victor Lasky wrote, "The Hutchins appointment was not exactly greeted with joy by either Henry or his fellow trustees at the Foundation, one of whom said, 'This means trouble.' "