WASHINGTON (Feb. 6)
William Dudley Pelley, leader of the anti-Semitic Silver Legion, whom the Dies Committee has been seeking unsuccessfully for a year, made a surprise appearance in Washington today to deny before the Dies Committee and the House Rules Committee that he had had any relations with Chairman Martin Dies.
As a result, Rep. Frank E. Hook (Dem.,Mich.) offered to withdraw from the Congressional Record purported letters linking Pelley to Dies, and the Rules Committee withheld action to give Hook time to do so, but a Grand Jury investigation of the entire Pelley affair seemed certain as both Hook and the Dies Committee demanded a probe by Attorney General Robert H. Jackson.
Rep. Joe Starnes (Dem., Ala.) said that Pelley would be questioned at open hearings of the Dies committee on his alleged un-American activities. Acting Chairman Starnes said he was being held under subpoena, but not being jailed. The Silver Shirt leader is also wanted by the North Carolina authorities for violation of parole.
Both Starnes and the offices of the Dies committee refused to say whether Pelley would be held to answer the North Carolina charges. Judge Zeb Nettles, who issued the capias for Pelley’s arrest, said it was still in force and that it would be up to the sheriff of Buncombe County to seek Pelley’s extradition from Washington to Asheville through the Governor of North Carolina.
Starnes had told the Rules Committee yesterday that “one additional witness” would be heard before the transcript of the testimony before the Dies committee on the Hook charges would be made available. Committee aides would not say today whether this had been a reference to Pelley.
At any rate, Pelley this morning walked into the headquarters of the Dies Committee–in time to testify that he had not written the letter to David Mayne, his Washington agent, which Rep. Hook had inserted in the Congressional Record and which implied that Dies would go easy on Pelley and other anti-Semites.
Pelley, who has some reputation as a writer of highly imaginative stories, made his entrance dramatic. Immaculately attired and wearing spats, the goateed would-be “Fuehrer” of America entered the Dies Committee offices and blandly inquired: “Gentlemen, were you looking for me?”
Immediately, Robert Stripling, committee secretary, served him with a subpoena and at 11:15 a.m. the committee opened an executive session to hear his testimony. Rep. Starnes then hustled him before the Rules Committee, which was considering action to expunge Hook’s remarks from the Record. There Pelley said he had not written, composed or signed any of the letters bearing his signature.
Rep. Hook then said he was convinced that the letters were spurious and offered to withdraw them from the Record. The Rules Committee withheld action so as to give the Michigan Representative time to withdraw the speech containing the purported Pelley letters. A few days ago Hook had attempted to withdraw the speech but was prevented from doing so by Rep. Keefe because Hook refused to admit then that the letters were forgeries.
Pelley said he had never met, talked to or communicated with Dies but that he had sent a letter to Rep. Jerry Voorhis, head of a special subcommittee of the Dies Committee entrusted with finding him.
Between the time Pelley appeared at the Dies Committee offices and his appearance before the Rules Committee he talked to reporters briefly and said: “I’m giving Martin Dies an absolutely clean bill of health.”
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Dies himself continued to be a mystery. Dies left his home in Orange, Texas, on Friday, accompanied by a bodyguard, according to reports received by his Washington office, but he has yet to appear in Washington.
Pelley, one of the most vocal anti-Semites in the country, has been the object of Dies committee search for almost a year. After initial failure to bring him before the committee, details of his personal and political record were given at a public hearing by a committee investigator last October. Afterward, a subpoena was issued for him and a fruitless search was launched.