Erwin Salk

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Erwin A. Salk (June 1918 - July 2000) was a businessman, civil rights activist, peace advocate, philanthropist, and educator. He described himself as a "hard-nosed capitalist" and a "conservative", however he advocated for a number of "pragmatic" - not radical, he insisted - issues.[1]

Education & Army Service

Salk graduated from the University of Chicago in 1939 then earned a Master's degree there in Political Science and Public Administration in 1941. During World War II, Salk served in the office of the Secretary of War and graduated from the School for Military Governors for the Far East of the University of Virginia. He went on to serve with the Supreme Command Allied Powers in Tokyo.[1]

American Veterans Committee

Salk was a member of the leftist American Veterans Committee along with Ed Morris and Mike Alexandroff.[2]

Career

Following his Army service, Salk worked for two years in Paris for the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He then worked as a mortgage banker with Salk, Ward and Salk which his father, Harry Salk, founded in 1926. Salk joined the firm in 1950. It grew into the 43rd largest mortgage service in the United States by 1969. He also held positions with AMI Real Estate Corporation, Board of the Independence Bank of Chicago, and Mortgage Bankers Association of America.[1]

Columbia College

Salk served on the Board for Columbia College, Chicago alongside Don Nathanson and Ed Morris who taught at that college, and president of the college, Mike Alexandroff.[2]

Advocacy

Salk served as chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Fund Raising Campaign of Greater Chicago, Board of Managers of the Robert R. McCormick Chicago Boys Club, and President of B'Nai B'rith, Louis H. Harrison Lodge. As a businessman he was frequently called upon for financial support. In addition to working with organizations he also donated to a long list of them. Among his many contributions was the donation to local schools of a 37 volume series of the work of W.E.B. DuBois.[1]

Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace

In 1967, Salk co-founded with four other businessmen, Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace. The group sought an end to the U.S. war in Vietnam mainly on the grounds that military Keynesianism was bad for the American economy.[1]

Guardian

In March 1979, the New York radical magazine the Guardian issued an emergency appeal to funds in an effort to save the publication. Over fifty supporters endorsed the appeal including Erwin A. Salk[3]

American Committee on East-West Accord

As at March 10, 1982, Erwin Salk was a member of the American Committee on East-West Accord. The ACEWA, based in Washington, D.C., was a tax-exempt "independent educational organization", with the stated aim of "improving East/West relations, with special focus on U.S.-Soviet relations." Salk also endorsed the Kennedy-Hatfield Nuclear Freeze Resolution which was introduced in the Senate on March 10, 1982.[4]

Salute to Paul Robeson

Circa 1983, a luncheon to honor Communist Party USA member, Paul Robeson was held at the Ambassador West hotel and attended by prominent civic, religious labor and political leaders. The event was organized by a coalition of forces under the title, Salute to Paul Robeson, which organized a series of events to honor the civil rights leader. The series of events included film showings, lectures, the unveiling of a Robeson mural by Astrid Fuller, a radio program and a fundraising "Run-for-Robeson".

Honorary co-chairs of the Salute committee were Etta Moten Barnett, cultural and civil leader; Brenetta Howell Barrett, civil rights activist; Earl Dickerson, business and independent political leader; Susan Robeson, granddaughter of Robeson; and Erwin Salk. Salk was master of ceremonies at the luncheon.

Presenting the awards was Roger Watts, district manager of the Golden State Life Insurance Co. watts has one of the country's finest collections of murals by Afro-American artist at the company's offices in Los Angeles. A special part of the luncheon was the singing of Deep River by Earl Calloway, tenor and cultural editor of the Chicago Defender, the city's leading Black-owned newspaper. A proclamation by Mayor Harold Washington was read naming 1983 Paul Robeson Year in the City of Chicago.[5]

Chicago Center for US/USSR Relations and Exchanges

As at May 13, 1988, Erwin Salk, President, Salk, Ward, Ward & Salk Inc. served as president on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Center for US/USSR Relations and Exchanges.[6][7]

In the FBI's file on Salk, an informant is quoted as saying that Salk was someone who, "attempts to be in the forefront among the individuals dealing with various Soviet delegations visiting Chicago in order to satisfy his personal need for attention. Although Salk appears to be genuine in his efforts to develop U.S.-USSR relationships, he is easily manipulated due to naivete." However Evelyn Salk, his wife, contested this, responding, "That is so grossly wrong. He was a very strong person with a very strong will. Nobody manipulated him".[8]

Under FBI surveillance

At the same time he was selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union, former FBI special agent Robert Hanssen was a key supervisor in a 1980s domestic-spying program questioning the loyalty of American citizens and monitoring their activities, FBI documents have shown.

Under this program, federal agents filed reports on teachers, clerics and political activists who primarily were affiliated with liberal causes.

Another of those named in the documents is Erwin Salk, a prominent Chicago businessman and civil rights activist. Salk, who died in 2000, was somewhat disparagingly described by an informant as someone who "attempts to be in the forefront among the individuals dealing with various Soviet delegations visiting Chicago in order to satisfy his personal need for attention. Although Salk appears to be genuine in his efforts to develop U.S.-USSR relationships, he is easily manipulated due to naivete."

To which his widow, Evelyn, retorted: "I wonder who that person is who said that. That is so grossly wrong. He was a very strong person with a very strong will. Nobody manipulated him."[9]

Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights

In 1992 Erwin Salk and Evelyn Salk were members of the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, a long time front for the Communist Party USA, then dominated by members of the newly formed Committees of Correspondence.[10]

Committees of Correspondence Connection

In 1994 Erwin Salk, Evanston was listed on a "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" for the Chicago Committees of Correspondence, an offshoot of the Communist Party USA.[11]

Donations to Radical Organizations and People

Despite claiming that he is a "hard-nosed capitalist" and a "conservative",[1] Erwin and his wife Evelyn have supported a large number of leftist, socialist candidates, and very few, - if any - right-wing candidates for office. Between Nov. 19, 1981 and June 22, 1997, Salk has made at least $11,400 in donations to left-wing candidates. View details of Evelyn's contributions (totalling $29,000) here.

Publications

  • A Layman's Guide to Negro History, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967, (editor)

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 University of Illinois, Chicago website: Erwin A. Salk Collection
  2. 2.0 2.1 Interview with Ed Morris, unknown date
  3. Guardian March 2 1979
  4. East-West Outlook newsletter, March-April 1982, Vol. 5, No. 2
  5. Schwarz Report: Newsletter dated August 1, 1983
  6. Letter from Richard Cooper of CCUURE to Rose Jennings and Buzz Palmer, May 13, 1988
  7. Ukrainian Weekly, August 9, 1987, page 9
  8. LA Times: At FBI, a Traitor Helped in Search for Subversives, July 29, 2001
  9. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/0729-02.htm Jonathan Dann and J. Michael Kennedy, July 29, 2001 Los Angeles Times
  10. CCDBR 1992 membership list
  11. Chicago CoC "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" 10.14.94
  12. City Data website: Chicago, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1981/1982 (part 2)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 website: Campaign contributions, Erwin Salk, Chicago, Illinois
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 City Data website: Evanstown, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1981/1982
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 15.7 NewsMeat website: Campaign contributions, Erwin Salk, Evanston, Illinois
  16. City Data website: Evanstown, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1983/1984
  17. City Data website: Chicago, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1985/1986 (part 1)
  18. City Data website: Chicago, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1985/1986 (part 2)
  19. City Data website: Chicago, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1985/1986 (part 3)
  20. City Data website: Chicago, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1987/1988 (part 4)
  21. 21.0 21.1 City Data website: Chicago, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1987/1988 (part 2)
  22. City Data website: Evanstown, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1991/1992
  23. City Data website: Evanstown, Illinois Political Contributions by Individuals, 1997/1998]