Carol Weiss King

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Carol Weiss King
Born Carole Therese Weiss
(1895-08-24)August 24, 1895
New York City
Died January 22, 1952(1952-01-22) (aged 56)
New York City
Cause of death Lung cancer
Nationality American
Other names Carol King
Education JD from New York University Law School
Alma mater Barnard College
Occupation Attorney, legal organizer
Years active 1917–1952
Employer Self
Known for Pro-communist, civil rights legal defenses of Harry Bridges, Gerhart Eisler, J. Peters
Notable work Formation of International Labor Defense, International Juridical Association and National Lawyers Guild
Spouse(s) Gordon Congdon King
Children Jonathan King
Parent(s) Samuel Weiss, Caroline Stix
Family William Stix Weiss; Nina Henrietta Weiss Stern, Louis Stix Weiss

Carol Weiss King (24 August 1895 – 22 January 1952)[1] was a well-known immigration lawyer, key founder of the International Juridical Association, and a founding member of the National Lawyer's Guild in the United States.[2] Her Left-leaning career spans from the Palmer Raids to the McCarthy Era.[1][3]


Born August 24, 1895, Carol Weiss was the youngest child of Samuel Weiss and Carrie (née Stix) Weiss. Her father was a founder of the law firm of Frank and Weiss (1875-1880), then practiced alone (1880-1910). Her oldest brother, William S. Weiss, continued their father's firm until forced to stop by multiple sclerosis. Another older brother, Louis S. Weiss also entered his father's first Frank and Weiss, which developed into today's Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.[1]

Barnard College[edit]

In 1912, Weiss entered Barnard College as a member of the Class of 1916. Archives show many sides of her college life. In 1913, she appeared in a school play, partook in "Mysteries" (sorority rushing), and played basketball.[4][5][6] In 1914, she was known as "man-hating" yet managed to appear "resplendent" for the Sophomore Dance.[7] She also joined the managing board of the Barnard Bulletin, whereafter her name appeared as an associate editor.[8][9] In 1914-1915, she was active in the English Club.[10][11] In 1915, she was involved in the Social Science League, which discussed theories of Scott Nearing and for which she was running as secretary-treasurer.[12] For the Athletic Club, she served as pitcher in 1914.[13] In 1916, she was among many who had not paid her Athletic Association dues but was in good enough standing appear listed as a member in yearbook as well as a committee member for Greek Games.[14][15] She graduated in 1916.[16]

In 1917, she entered law school and in 1920 graduated with a JD in Law from New York University; her brother Louis graduated with a BA in Law from Columbia University, although he started law school a year earlier.[3]


By year-end 1916, Weiss was "doing volunteer work for the American Association for Labor Legislation."[17]

In 1917, she was a volunteer research assistant for the American Civil Liberties Union.[3]

By 1920, as Carol Weiss King, she volunteered to work with Local 25 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).[1]

In 1921, she had opened her own law office.[16] In 1923, her name appears in the Barnard Bulletin as "lawyer" without affiliation stated.[18] In 1924, the communist Daily Worker newspaper listed her as one of their most successful solicitors of subscriptions.[3]

Early in her career, she formed a "loose partnership" with radical attorneys. These included Joseph Brodsky, Swinburne Hale, Walter Nelles, and Isaac Shorr. One of Carol Weiss King's first and most durable relationships was with Walter Pollak, a onetime partner of Benjamin Cardozo, whom she met through her brother-in-law Carl Stern. The three of them — King, Pollak and Stern — worked on the Scottsboro Boys cases, which Pollak successfully argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, among other cases.[1]

King also associated with left-wing activists, including members of the Communist Party of the United States of America. She edited the Law and Freedom Bulletin (1924-1931) — an important digest of the American Civil Liberties Union that recorded state and federal cases involving significant questions of constitutional law.[1]

In her 30-year career, she represented hundreds of foreign-born radicals threatened with deportation in administrative proceedings in the lower courts and in the Supreme Court. In 1942, she became general counsel to the American Committee for the Foreign Born. Because of her association with controversial clients, King herself was subject to surveillance by the FBI.[1]

Associations: ILD, IJA, NLG[edit]

In 1925, she helped Brodsky found the International Labor Defense for the CPUSA (then operating under the name Workers Party of America).[3] In 1931, she became the primary founder of the International Juridical Association.[19] In 1937, she helped found the National Lawyers Guild.[1]

In a footnote in his 1952 memoir, Whittaker Chambers notes:

In the early 1930's, Hiss had been a member of the International Juridical Association, of which the late Carol [Weiss] King, a habitual attorney for Communists in trouble, was a moving spirit. The International Juridical Association has been cited as subversive by the Attorney General. Also among its members: Lee Pressman, Abraham Isserman (one of the attorneys for the eleven convicted Communist leaders), Max Loewenthal, author of a recent book attacking the F.B.I.[20]


Harry Bridges 1938[edit]

King's best-known client was union leader Harry Bridges, who faced deportation in 1938 for alleged membership in the Communist Party. The case reached the Supreme Court of the United States, which reversed the deportation order during World War II.

William Schneiderman 1940[edit]

Her representation of Communist Party leader William Schneiderman[21] exemplifies her success in enlisting other (male) attorneys to work for free on key constitutional cases — in this case, recruiting Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican Party presidential nominee, to represent Schneiderman before the Supreme Court. King won this case in 1943, preventing the Government's revocation of the Communist Party leader’s citizenship.

Gerhart Eisler 1947[edit]

Carol Weiss King also represented Gerhart Eisler in his trial in July 1947. She accused FBI agent, Robert J. Lamphere, of framing Eisler. [22] After only a few hours of deliberation, the jury brought in a guilty verdict and he was sentenced to a year in prison. [23]Lamphere asked Eisler as the court was adjourning, "Gerhart, do you think you got a fair trial?" He replied: "Yes, a fair trial but an unfair indictment. Lamphere later recalled: "It was the last time I saw Eisler in person; in a way, I almost liked him - his bravado was astonishing." [24]

J. Peters 1948[edit]

King also defended "red conspirator" J. Peters against the INS (named by Louis Budenz and Whittaker Chambers as mastermind of a Soviet underground spy ring operating in Washington, DC, during the 1930s and 1940s) and counseled Peters on how to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) (1948-1949).[25]

Although the J. Peters case was among the best known of King's career, Ann Fagan Ginger makes only a single reference to it in her biography of more than 500 pages.[2]

Sung v. McGrath 1950[edit]

King took on many cases against the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Her most important legal victory came from Sung v. McGrath (339 U.S. 908, 1950). In this case, the Supreme Court acknowledged that INS was subject to the same administrative and procedural rules as all other federal departments. This ruling froze deportation hearings until the INS agreed to comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.


King herself made only one appearance before the Supreme Court, in Butterfield v. Zydok (342 U.S. 524, 1952), which she lost.[1]

African-American Communist organizer Angelo Herndon was another client.[1]

She also represented petitioner Harisiades in the important U.S. Supreme Court immigration law case Harisiades v. Shaughnessy, 342 U.S. 580, 1952.[2]

Personal life and death[edit]

She married Gordon Congdon King in 1917.[26] Her husband died of pneumonia in 1930, leaving her a widow with one son—and her work.[1] (Her brother William married 1915 Barnard alumna, Ray Levi.[27])

King died of cancer in 1952.[1][2]


Barnard College recognized Carol Weiss King in a 1951 issue of the Barnard Bulletin:

Carol Weiss King '16, is a prominent layer specializing in immigration work. She has served as counsel in several well-known cases, including the Harry Bridges case, for which she was chief counsel up through the U.S. Supreme Court; and the William Schneiderman[21] case, in which she was co-counsel with Wendell Willkie. Mrs. king has also published numerous articles for law reviews.[28]

Note: Other alumnae who appeared in that article include poet Leonie Adams Troy ('22), author Irma Simonton Black ('27), and Margaret Mead ('23).

The National Lawyers Guild's Immigration Project presents the Carol King award each year in Ms. King's honor to an outstanding immigration advocate.[2]

Walter Pollak's son, Senior U.S. District Judge Louis Pollak (who married King's niece), wrote the forward to Ann Fagan Ginger's 1993 biography of Carol Weiss King.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Carol Weiss King". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ginger, Ann Fagan (1993). Carol Weiss King, human rights lawyer, 1895-1952. Boulder: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0-87081-285-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Thompson, Craig (17 February 1951). "The Communists's Dearest Friend". Saturday Evening Post. pp. 30, 90–93. 
  4. ^ "C.S.A. Party". Barnard Bulletin. 3 November 1913. p. 1. 
  5. ^ "Mysteries". Barnard Bulletin. 13 October 1913. p. 1. 
  6. ^ "14-16 Basketball Game". Barnard Bulletin. 12 March 1913. p. 1. 
  7. ^ "Sophomore Dance". Barnard Bulletin. 9 March 1914. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "New Bulletin Members". Barnard Bulletin. 11 May 1914. p. 4. 
  9. ^ "New Bulletin Members". Barnard Bulletin. 11 May 1914. p. 2. 
  10. ^ "English Club". Barnard Bulletin. 30 November 1914. p. 2. 
  11. ^ "English Club". Barnard Bulletin. 29 November 1915. p. 3. 
  12. ^ "Social Science League". Barnard Bulletin. 13 December 1915. p. 3. 
  13. ^ "Baseball '16 vs. '17". Barnard Bulletin. 27 April 1914. p. 4. 
  14. ^ "A.A. Dues". Barnard Bulletin. 13 March 1916. p. 88. 
  15. ^ "Athletic Club". Barnard Bulletin. 1916. pp. 88, 98. 
  16. ^ a b "Alumnae Notes". Barnard Bulletin. 21 October 1921. p. 5. 
  17. ^ "Alumnae Department". Barnard Bulletin. 19 December 1917. p. 6. 
  18. ^ "Alumnae Vocational Conference - February 15". Barnard Bulletin. 9 February 1923. p. 1. 
  19. ^ "Report on the National Lawyers Guild, Legal Bulwark of the Communist Party". U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). 1950. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  20. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. LCCN 52005149. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  21. ^ a b "Finding Aid to the William Schneiderman Papers". Online Archives of California. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Robert J. Lamphere, The FBI-KGB War (1986) page 62
  25. ^ Sakmyster, Thomas (March 2011). Red Conspirator: J. Peters and the American Communist Underground. University of Illinois Press. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  26. ^ "Alumnae Notes". Barnard Bulletin. 11 October 1917. p. 4. 
  27. ^ "Alumnae Department". Barnard Bulletin. 13 April 1917. p. 4. 
  28. ^ Collins, Peggy (12 April 1951). "Former Bulletin Eds Attain Career Fame". Barnard Bulletin. p. 2. 

External sources[edit]