John Stanford

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John Stanford

John W. Stanford was a longtime San Antonio Texas Communist Party USA member.

Stanford joined the Party[1]on the day after his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1946. He became an activist within weeks, soon after re-enrolling at the University of Texas at Austin.

The "Sweatt" affair

Late in 1946, the Houston Informer reported that Stanford gave a speech in the basement of a Baptist church, under the sponsorship of the youth wing of the NAACP.

White students are learning that it is time for them to fight for the rights of the Negro people...If we increase our unity, we can make of the South a place where everyone can have a decent living, health, and education facilities.

Stanford, delivered his Houston speech to support a lawsuit by Heman Sweatt, a Black postal worker, to gain admission to the University of Texas law school.

After a tough campaign Sweatt was victorious. He posthumously become a Texas hero-his portrait displayed at the Institute of Texan Cultures, a scholarship and college campus named in his honor.

Members of the Communist Party customarily don’t reveal the names of members or former members who are still alive. But Sweatt’s death has freed Stanford to declare that at the time of the suit, Sweatt, too, was a Communist Party member.

Activism, going underground

Stanford moved to the Bayou City following his graduation from UT, and on September 16, 1948 – El Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Mexican Independence Day – the bilingual agitator was arrested for distributing Party leaflets decrying “the ruthless economic, political, and social oppression of the Mexican-American people.”

In 1950, Stanford circulated the Stockholm Peace Petition, which called for banning nuclear weapons and was a project of the CPUSA.

In 1951, Texas passed a Communist Control Act that required Party members to register with authorities, and prescribed a two- to 10-year prison term for failure to comply with the law. The Party decided to challenge the law’s constitutionality and Stanford, who was by then living in San Antonio, volunteered to be the test case, mailing an open letter to officials in 1952, declaring his membership. According to the plan, he was to refuse to register when the authorities responded.

After Stanford mailed his statement, the Party’s leadership found that it didn’t have the resources to pursue the Texas challenge, and ordered him to go underground.

To avoid arrest, he fled to Alabama, finding a job as a waiter at a diner and tried to lay low. After a few weeks in Birmingham, Stanford began attending meetings of a committee that was opposing fare hikes on city buses. Alabama bus fare activists, however, were wary of the Texan who showed up as if from nowhere-they thought that he was an FBI agent.

Stanford’s arrangement with the Party–was that he was to stay out of view for six months, then place a classified ad in the leading daily newspaper, saying that he had lost a meerschaum pipe. The person who called to report the discovery of the meerschaum, the plan went, would become his contact with the Party. Stanford placed the ad and a young woman called. He asked her to meet him at the diner on a Sunday morning, when business was slow.

Joanna Tylee walked in, she recalls, and upon seeing the Texan whom she remembered from the bus fare meetings, thought that she had walked into a trap. Joanna Tylee became Mrs Joanna Stanford.

Following their marriage, the Stanford's returned to San Antonio to reorganized the city’s Communist Party club.

Government raid and Supreme Court case

In 1961 Stanford began selling communist literature through a mail-order bookstore in his home called All Points of View.

The business was raided in 1963 and Stanford was hauled into court-represented by his attorney, the late Maury Maverick, Jr.

The case went to the Supreme Court, where it failed and all of Stanford's material and literature was returned.

"Free Angela Davis"

People’s World, June 12, 1971, covered a San Antonio meeting “!,500 in San Antonio at Free Angela meeting."

“San Antonio, Texas—The first mass rally and dance for Angela Davis in the Southwest was a smashing success here May 23 as some 1,500 persons attended.

David Poindexter, main speaker of the evening, termed the rally and dance the most successful he had yet seen.

“First speaker for the evening, Rev. C. W. Black, Jr., pastor of the Mt Zion First Baptist Church, was followed by Franklin Garcia, international representative of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen’s Union.

“Seated on the platform were Carlos Richardson, Texas co-ordinator of Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee and chairman of the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis; Raul Rodriguez, publisher of Chicano Times, and Rosie Castro, both candidates for City Council; G.J. Sutton and John Inman, black community leaders; John Stanford, Communist party spokesman; Mario Cantu, Chicano businessman; Mrs Manuela Sager, and David Plylar.

“Poindexter dealt with the August 7 shoot-out at the Marin County Courthouse, used as the excuse for Angela Davis’ subsequent imprisonment. He said Davis ‘didn’t know about Jonathan Jackson’s attempt; didn’t give Jonathan any guns; and had she known, she would have stopped Jonathan. Angela knew that the only defense we have is organizing people.’

May Day Greetings

In May 1992 The Communist Party USA newspaper Peoples Weekly World published a May Day supplement. May Day Greetings were sent from John Stanford[2].

Communist Party Labor Day call

The Communist Party USA paper People's Weekly World issued a statement to mark Labor Day 1995, entitled "We honor the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Of the more than 100 endorsers listed, almost all were identified members of the Communist Party USA.

John Stanford, CWA San Antonio Texas, was on the list.[3]

Tribute to San Antonio communists

The People's Weekly World of May 20, 2000, carried a May Day Supplement. On page B, San Antonio activists paid tribute to contributors to the "worker's cause" - all Communist Party USA members Emma Tenayuca (1916-1999), John Inman (1896-1996), Manuela Soliz Sager (1911-1996), James Sager (1902-1979), Luisa Moreno (1906-1992).

Signatories included John Stanford.

Mother's Day for Joanna Stanford

2009 Mother's Day Greetings and Love to the multi-talented Joanna Stanford — now in hospice care — whose life has combined love of family with distribution of the People's Weekly World and predecessor papers, and with the struggle for a world of peace, justice, freedom, art, dance, dolls and handicrafts.

Signatories included John Stanford.[4]

Later activism

In later years Stanford was involved in dozens of other causes-the unionization of Valley farm workers, the campaign to free Angela Davis, protests over U.S. involvement in Central America and since 2001, Thursday peace vigils at the San Fernando Cathedral.


In 2007, John Stanford was honored at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, Texas.[5]

I really appreciate being honored along with Ruth Lofgren, Nickie Valdez, T.C. Calvert, and María Antonietta Berriozábal; but I'm not sure I deserve the honor the same way the other four honorees do. Wednesday's Express News (October 24, 2007) had an article noting the accomplishments of the honorees. But when it came to me, the article did not mention any accomplishments. It said: "The longtime activist is best known for Stanford vs. Texas..." This was an important case argued by Maury Maverick, Jr., American Civil Liberties Union attorney, before the U.S. Supreme Court. His arguments won a unanimous reaffirmation of the liberties guaranteed by the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. I had little to do with the case except to discuss with Maury what Communists believe. The case came after a raid on my house and the seizure of thousands of books and papers. I was away at work. The real hero was my wife, who was at home at the time.
Actually, I did have a little bit more to do with the case. John J. McAvoy -a conservative, Wall Street Republican, according to Maury -was also an ACLU attorney on the case. After reading some of the changes made in the brief, I insisted on filing a supplemental statement of my own with the Court. Maury said the ACLU was afraid the case might be thrown out if I insisted on filing a separate statement. I was very careful with what I said, and the case was not thrown out.
I appreciate what Laura Codina and the Coordinadoras of Fuerza Unida, Petra Mata and Viola Cásares, said, but in all honesty I have to say that whatever I've been able to accomplish has been built on the legacy of Communists here in San Antonio, Texas before me.
In October of last year there was a symposium held at the Tamiment Library of New York University on "James and Esther Jackson, the American Left and the Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement." James Jackson was a big influence in my life. At the symposium Percy Sutton, former Manhattan borough president, spoke of his long association with and appreciation of the Jacksons. This began in San Antonio where Sutton grew up in a family of twelve, half of whom became Communists.The six Suttons; Emma Tenayuca and John Inman, both of whom were chairs of the Communist Party of Texas; Hattie Mae Inman, who raised a family and was an inspiration to others while bedridden with five types of cancer; Manuela Soliz Sager and her husband James Sager; Luisa Moreno, and many more -- these are people to whom I'm indebted. I think this honor belongs to them also. And to my wife, Jo, whose support enabled me to be involved in struggles for peace and justice.

I consider the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center one of the most important promoters of art, culture, peace and social justice in our country. The vision statement of the Esperanza starts off with the words: "The people of Esperanza dream of a world where everyone has civil rights and economic justice, where the environment is cared for, where cultures are honored and communities are safe." Many of you may not agree with me, but if you take the words literally, I think the world these people of Hope -- we people of Hope -- are dreaming of is Communism. It is not a world that can be achieved under today's capitalism.

San Antonio Party member

From an October 14, 2004 San Antonio Current article, "Out of hiding" by Lisa Sorg.

On a recent Saturday evening, the local Communist Party held a meeting about the upcoming election not in a basement or secret room, but in a Mexican restaurant with big windows that let the setting sun shine in. The 10 attendees included several former and current party members, a Democrat-turned-Green, and a woman who had spent the day registering voters on behalf of Bexar County Democrats.

A Kucinich supporter, Communist Party member John Stanford plans to vote for Kerry and isn't discounting the chance the Democrat could win in Texas. "I haven't given up on Texas," he said. "We need to mobilize people to vote."[6]

Still a member


John Stanford was still a member of the Communist Party USA in 2010.[7]

Appeal to 5th Circuit

According to Graciela I. Sanchez of the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition: We chant Las Calles No Se Callan! The Streets Will Not be Silent, prior to press conference announcing our appeal to the Fifth Circuit. July 27, 2009. Friends present are Rhett Smith, Johnny Martinez (hidden) Jessica O. Guerrero, Enrique Sanchez, Rosalyn Warren, Brenda Davis, Marissa Gonzalez, Justice, Isabel Sanchez, Maria Berriozabal, Mariana Ornelas, Michelle Myers, John Stanford, Gloria Ramirez, Larry Fabiola Torralba, and Amy Kastely.[8]

Free the Cuban 5

In 2009, over 100 Texan activists wrote a Letter from San Antonio Activists Supporting the Cuban 5 to President Carter:

We actors, artists, writers, teachers, cultural workers and other activists in the struggle for peace and justice in San Antonio, Texas, have read the letter that twenty Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 wrote you on April 8. We agree with the contents of that letter, which we have copied below, and we wish to add our names as signers to that letter.

We are sending a copy of this letter to President Barack Obama, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the five Cuban anti-terrorists who are in U.S. prisons, to the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, and to the U.S. office of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. Signers included John Stanford,peace activist .[9]