THE BRADENS: WHITE ALLIES ON TRIAL
The Braden Sedition Trial
Between the dynamiting of the Wades’ home on June 27th and the indictment against the Bradens on October 1, the grand jury investigation into the bombing shifted from the crime that had been committed to the whites who had supported the Wades.
White neighbors admitted to burning a cross in front of the Wades' house and it was revealed that one had worked at a munitions factory. But it was Carl and Anne Braden and five other white members of the Wade Defense Committee who were arrested on October 1, 1954. As known left-wing activists, the Bradens, Vern Bown, Lou Lubka, Louise Gilbert, Larue Spiker, and I.O. Ford (who openly claimed Communist Party membership) were indicted for "sedition," a rarely used and poorly worded charge that remained unclear. Even lawyers consulted a dictionary to try to define it. The Bradens sent their children, ages 3 and 1, to live with their grandparents while they fought the charges.
Carl Braden, the perceived ringleader, was tried first. His trial-- the first ever to be televised locally--went on for 13 days. The issue of housing segregation received no airing whatsoever amid the drama of possible communist conspiracy. No evidence connected the Wade home purchase to any organized campaign of any kind, and Wade himself testified repeatedly that the purchase had been his own idea. Braden denied under oath any membership in the Communist Party, but paid FBI witnesses said otherwise. The Bradens’ 800 books--ranging from Lenin to Dostoevsky to Einstein—took center stage in the argument that the coupley were “subversives.” On December 13, 1954, amid heated local and national publicity, Carl was convicted and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Louise Gilbert and LaRue Spiker had sent a letter to whites in Shively urging them to accept the Wades.Vernon Bown had helped to guard the Wades’ home after shots were fired through the front of the house: he and was away in Milwaukee at the time of the explosion. I.O. Ford had no connection to the Wades but shared an apartment with Bown and was a self-professed former Communist Party activist. Lew Lubka, a unionist who had assisted the Wades, also testified before the grand jury and refused to answer questions about his political affiliations. The prosecutor raided the defendants’ respective residences and seized “Red literature” from Bown and Ford’s apartment. Bown was also charged with dynamiting the house.
In short, sedition is encouraging people to disobey their government. Webster’s dictionary defines sedition as incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority. The Kentucky law’s actual text defined a guilty party as:
“Any person who by word or writing advocates, suggests, or teaches the duty, necessity, propriety, or expediency of criminal syndicalism or sedition, or who prints, publishes, edits, issues, or knowingly circulates, sells distributes, publicly displays, or has in his possession for the purpose of publication or circulation any written or printed matter in any form advocating, suggesting, or teaching criminal syndicalism or sedition, or who organizes or helps to organize, or becomes a member of, or voluntarily assembles with any society or assemblage of persons that teaches, advocates, or suggests the doctrine of criminal syndicalism or sedition.”