Historical records matching Tillman Harvey Erb
About Tillman Harvey Erb
Tillman Harvey Erb was a history teacher. He was fired from his job during the McCarthy Era, when the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities investigated him. After he was fired, he got a job in southern California teaching in a women's prison. In 1965 he was elected President of the Ventura County, California Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The letter below was probably written sometime in the late 1960s.
"Six individuals employed as teachers were subpenaed before the committee on the basis of information that they have also been active in the Communist Party. Martin Irving INIarcus, public school teacher of Pacific Grove; Lottie L. Rosen, teacher from Berkeley; Betty Halpern, a teacher in a Berkeley private scliool ; and Travis fjaft'erty, Oakland teacher, invoked the fifth amendment when questioned regarding past and present Communist Party membership. Tillman H. Erb, a teacher at the Campbell School in Santa Clara County, California, stated he was willing to discuss his own activities but would not testify regarding others associated with him. When the committee did not agree to such qualifications, Mr. Erb declined to answer all questions concerning Communist Party activities on the ground of possible self-incrimination. John Allen Johnson, a high school mathematics teacher of Ukiah, California, also declared he had decided to '"offer a certain degree of cooperation" to the committee by answering questions concerning his own associations but not those of other individuals. Claiming that disorderly demonstrations against the hearings had altered his plans, Mr. Johnson proceeded to respond to all questions by invoking the fifth amendment. " (The Northern California District of the Communist Party, Structure — Objectives — Leadership, Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Sixth Congress, Second Session, Part 1, May 12, 1960, p. 2092).
Re Tillman Erb. (Calif. Bd. of Educ.) 1930: Pet. became public school teacher. 1960: Pet. refused to answer questions by HUAC on ground of Fifth Amendment privilege. Credentials Comm. denied renewal of teaching credential solely on this ground. H'g. Officer, Div. of Admr. Proc. recommended affirmance. Pet's. appeal pending before Bd. of Educ. Betram Edises, Esq., 1440 Broadway, Oakland.
Re Tillman Erb. (Calif. Bd. of Educ.) Facts: VI DOCKET 64. Apr. 5, 1961: Atty. Genl. issued opinion that Bd. could not constitutionally withhold credentials solely because teachers invoked Fifth Amendment privilege in fedl. proceeding. Apr. 6, 1961: Bd. restored Pl's. credential. Bertram Edises, Esq., 1440 Broadway, Oakland; John E. Thorne, Esq., 481 N. First St., San Jose.
Profile of a Teacher
By Tillman H. Erb
I grew up in a rural Kansas, as it emerged from the homestead period. My father was a bishop of the Mennonite church, and we lived in a community of Mennonites, a pacifist, other-worldly religious group in many ways resembling the Quakers. My father ran a farm and a creamery, and established an academy so that the young people of his jurisdiction could have a religiously-oriented secondary school education. Our home combined a respect for knowledge with a strong sense of community responsibility: it seemed natural that I should go into teaching.
When I was twenty-three, I married and became a teacher in a small sugar-factory town in Colorado. By going to summer school, I finished the work for my M.A. degree, which I received in 1936. In the course of these studies I became deeply dedicated to the political liberalism and educational philosophy of man like George Counts, Charles Beard and John Dewey. In 1936 I went to South High School in Denver, where I taught for sixteen years.
I believe deeply in the democratic process. My political philosophy is based on the Jeffersonian democracy of American frontier life, with its community of self-reliant, outspoken individuals, its resistance to tyranny, and its respect for the rights of mankind.
I see the central problem of education as the expanding of these values into the new industrial society, with it’s rapid, kaleidoscopic changes and its proliferation of new forms and new organizations. The problem has been further extended by two world wars and the arrival of the atomic age, making peaceful international relations the paramount issue of our time.
I believe deeply that war must be replaced by the peaceful settlement of disputes. As a boy, I heard Woodrow Wilson speak of “the war to end war”; later I hailed the League of Nations, and the Kellogg-Briand Pack to outlaw war as a means of national policy. I was bitterly disappointed when, in the thirties, the Big Powers failed to halt the march of fascism with the economic weapons at their disposal. After the horrors of World War II (my son fought in the Pacific area) I was deeply moved by the establishment of the United Nations. I have deplored the mounting tensions and hostilities of the Cold War period, believing that they lead in the direction of total annihilation of the human race by atomic warfare. I believe in Wendell Wilkie’s profound slogan, “One world”; I welcome all efforts of the United Nations in this direction, and all such efforts to reduce tension as the exchange of farmers, students, and cultural groups between our country and the countries of the Communist bloc.
Within our country, I have felt that the working out of Jeffersonian democracy was threatened by the growth of huge corporations. Their penetration into government, education and mass media of communication should be challenged. I have favored organizations of small business, consumers and labor, which attempt to speak out for the rights of the “little man” ---the ordinary citizen for whom the Constitution of the United States exists.
This important citizen is further threatened by the current wave of attacks on civil liberties, as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. There is a tendency to require political orthodoxy, which is so foreign to the free exchange of ideas. Loyalty oaths, Un-American Activates committees and Justice Department pronouncements have created a climate of fear which is stifling to creative and independent thought. There is a tendency to establish grades of citizenship, based on race, religion or political belief. I believe we are emerging from the worse excesses of the McCarthite period, and I welcome a return to the basic sanities of American political life.
I believe that a teacher’s classroom activities are buttressed by his example as a citizen, and I have always taken part in the organizations who social aims I share. I have been a Sunday School teacher, and have served on the social action committees of my church. I have participated in numerous conferences and conventions of teachers’ organizations. I have worked with the Fellowship of Reconciliation in its program to promote world peace and break down racial barriers. During World War II, I worked with the Council of Soviet-American Friendship. I have been active in the United Nations Associations. In the political party of my choice, the Democratic Party, I have served as precinct chairman, and for several years conducted a neighborhood forum on public issues. At one time I ran for Congress as an independent candidate.
After twenty-eight years of teaching, I left Denver and came to California because of my wife’s health. I decided to stay outside of the teaching profession for a while; teachers will understand that a feeling of staleness almost amounting to cynicism can require a fresh experience like a breath of fresh air. Also, I was repelled by the Levering Act type of legislation which seemed to me to threaten the independent thinking of teachers, both in the classroom and as citizens.
However, the life-time desire to teach has been too strong to deny. I feel more strongly than ever, that the place for a teacher is in the school. My return to the classroom has been intensely satisfying, and I have every hope that I may be able to continue to teach for may years to come.
From David Smith. I knew them as Till and Amo. They were my unofficial Godparents. I was born in August of 1958. My parents knew them, I do not know from where. Both families were teachers and also both active in the Democratic Party. From conversations my parents shared with me at the time and a few years later when the Erbs had to move to find work. The House on Un-American Activities, went after a lot of people. They also targeted my dad from what I'm told. My dad had the advantage of being just a bit more established in the Community, Served in WWII and was a Medic who was on the second wave invading a Japanese Island that very few Medic's survived. Medics were the primary targets for Snipers. My Dad had a lot of connections and he had the advantage of Tenure. As I understand it, Tillman was a few months of getting Tenure when the House on Un American Activities went after him. My dad was one of the few that stood with Tillman.
My mom said that there were protests the day of the hearing. I believe it was held in San Francisco. The Police used fire hoses on the protesters. It was never shown or reported on TV. Tillman was planning to cooperate some. The Committee had send a list of basically harmless questions and said that was what they were planning to ask him. When he got there, they handed him a different list that also wanted him to confirm names and give up more names to the committee. He did not want to do that. His attorney told him to take the 5th. Most people do not understand that when you take the 5th, you don't have the option of answering some questions and not answering others. You have to take the 5th on all the questions and not answer any.
Tillman was not a communist. He was a man who was like many others at the time who thought by talking with other people, sharing ideas, that common ground could be established , and maybe if enough people did it they could put pressure on the leaders and keep us from killing the world with atomic bombs.
The problem being called in front of the House on Un-American Activities is that it's like waking up and finding your the president of a bank who has been accused of Bank Robbery by the police, and your name is plastered all over the front page of the newspapers, and on all the Internet News Sites. It says we think you may have robbed the back but we don't have any proof. The House on Un American Activities never cleared anyone. Just smeared many peoples good name.
My Dad wrote a letter of reference, and I believed also spoke with my Grandfather Joe Smith, and he helped as well writing a letter or making a few calls. My Grandfather was a retired Federal Prison Guard and had heard there were teaching positions open in Oxnard at some Women's Correctional Prison. Tillman was able to continuing working in Oxnard.
It meant that my Godparents, who purchased me my crib I would see very little. We lived in San Lorenzo and later Fremont. They moved 350 miles south to Oxnard. The last time I would see them would be when we stopped and stayed with them for one or two nights between Christmas and New Years in 1969 coming back from a trip to Mexico.
By 1969 Amo's health was failing. I believe she had already suffered 2 heart attacks, maybe three. After 1969 we still exchanged our annual Christmas letters. I believe we lost Contact with Tillman in 1974 after Amo died. Our Christmas letter came back and the follow up phone call just said line disconnected. My Dad was having severe medical problems at the time as well. I'm sure they missed their chats, but I know when there is a death of a loved one there is lots of confusion and addresses and phone numbers get lost, and in 1974 there was no internet that could be used to locate what happened to a good friend.
Tillman's Letter, Profile of a teacher was sent to my parents. My mother Gloria kept it among some of her precious letters from good friends. I remember they read it too me some time back in the late 1960's. I'm so glad they kept it so it could be shared with others to help explain a mind set of the time.
Tillman Harvey Erb's Timeline
September 4, 1902
Harvey, KS, USA
August 12, 1923
June 23, 1938
Denver, Denver County, Colorado
June 23, 1938
Denver, Denver County, Colorado
June 4, 1984
Denver, CO, USA