3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
“The Acid Attack on Victor Riesel and the Racketeer Menace in Cold War America”
David Witwer, Penn State Harrisburg
When a hired thug hurled acid in the face of the prominent newspaper columnist, Victor Riesel, in 1956, the attack left him permanently blind. The incident appeared to dramatically vindicate Riesel’s repeated warnings about the dangerous power of labor racketeers and it helped spur the creation of the largest ever congressional investigation into union corruption, the McClellan Committee hearings (1957-1959). My paper uses the history of this sensational crime to explore how the issue of union corruption emerged onto the nation’s political agenda in this era; it also probes the intersecting interests in the media, politics and business community who hoped to shape the impact this issue would have.
Commentators: Victor G. Devinatz, Illinois State University and Liesl Orenic, Dominican University