James Dombrowski

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Dr James A. Dombrowski was born in Tampa, Florida in 1897. After serving in France in World War I, he attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he graduated in 1923. At Emory, Dombrowski organized the Alumni Association, served as its executive secretary, and edited the Emory Alumnus. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York with a bachelor of divinity degree and received a Ph.D. in philosophy at Columbia University.

Dombrowski's doctoral dissertation, The Early Days of Christian Socialism in America, was published by Columbia University Press in 1940. He did graduate work at the University of California and Harvard, was a Rosenwald Fellow and Kent Fellow of the National Council on Religion in Higher Education, and taught Christian ethics at Union. [1]


During his education, Dombrowski became active in social causes. He went to Elizabethton, Tennessee, and Gastonia, North Carolina, during textile strikes and was jailed as a suspect and later released in the killing of the Gastonia chief of police.

From 1934 to 1941, Dombrowski served as staff director of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, and then joined the staff of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare (SCHW) as executive secretary.

When this organization went out of existence after World War II, Dombrowski and others continued its educational wing, the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF). During his tenure as executive director, he was active in the struggle against segregation and helped hold the organization together through the McCarthy era. Troubled by painful arthritis, Dombrowski hoped to retire in 1963, but in that year the New Orleans offices of SCEF were raided by state and local police and the organization's records were confiscated. Dombrowski and other SCEF officials were charged with violating Louisiana's anti-subversive law. Dombrowski and SCEF filed suit on the grounds that their first amendment rights had been violated. After several years of litigation the organization's files were released by court order in April, 1965. Dombrowski and SCEF won a legal victory in 1968 when the Supreme Court struck down large sections of the Louisiana law.

Dombrowski retired as SCEF executive director early in 1966 and was replaced by Carl and Anne Braden. He remained active in SCEF, however, in the post of special consultant. After his retirement, Dombrowski pursued his love of art. He attended the John McCrady Art School and produced paintings, drawings, and posters. His work, which reflected his interests in social causes, was exhibited at the University of New Orleans in 1976. From 1974 to 1978, Dombrowski held annual distributions of his artwork at which friends were invited to choose a Dombrowski piece to display in their homes for one year. James Dombrowski died in April 1983. [2]

Southern Conference for Human Welfare

175px-SCHW program.jpg

The 1938 Southern Conference for Human Welfare meeting was a landmark political meeting held in Birmingham from Sunday November 20 to Wednesday November 23, 1938. It was organized by the Birmingham-based Southern Conference for Human Welfare.

Publicity for the meeting heralded that, "the Conference, by providing a meeting ground for all Southern progressives, will promote mutual trust and cooperation between them for greater service to the South.” Fisk University sociologist Charles S. Johnson reported that the 1,200-plus attendees were a "curiously mixed body which included labor leaders and economists, farmers and sharecroppers, industrialists and social executives, government officials and civic leaders, ministers and politicians, students and interested individuals.

Guests of honor included First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, and Governor Bibb Graves. Also among the attendees, a fourth of whom were African-American, were the Works Progress Administration's Aubrey W. Williams, educator Mary McLeod Bethune, Avondale Mills president Donald Comer, Methodist minister James Dombrowski, Senator Claude Pepper, and SCHW co-founder Virginia Durr.[3]

Southern Conference Educational Fund

Financial woes forced the cancellation of the 1939 meeting, and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare continually struggled to pay the modest salaries of its small staff. Not until the months after World War II, when the organization held a series of fundraisers that often featured celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Orson Welles, did its finances begin to improve significantly. Bolstered by their success, the officers voted in 1946 to create the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), which would be the educational arm of the SCHW. James Dombrowski of the Highlander Folk School became director of the SCEF and edited its newspaper, the Southern Patriot. The following year, the SCEF became a separate organization and actually survived the SCHW by a number of years; it was particularly active during the civil rights movement. The SCEF differed from the SCHW primarily in that it was nonpolitical; whereas the SCHW tended to work through political channels, the SCEF worked largely through teaching and publishing. The main thrust of its work was to eradicate segregation in the South's schools and colleges.[4]

National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee

As of May 1964, James Dombrowski, Director, Southern Conference Educational Fund Incorporated, was listed as a sponsor of the Communist Party USA front, National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee.

SCLC reception

Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr., Frank Wilkinson, Carl Braden and Dr. James Dombrowski at the SCLC reception

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference hosted a reception honoring Frank Wilkinson and Carl Braden, April 30, 1961, the day before they went to jail for defying the House committee on Un-American Activities. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. James Dombrowski were present.[5]

American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born

In the late 1960s James Dombrowski was listed as a Sponsor of American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born[6].