Culbert Olson

Culbert Olson


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Culbert Olson was born in Filmore, Utah on 7th November, 1876. His mother was involved in the campaign for women's suffrage and eventually became the first female elected official in Utah. He was brought up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) but rejected religion at an early age.

At the age of fourteen Olson left school and found work as a telegraph operator. In 1890 Olson enrolled in the Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah. After graduating he found work as a journalist for the Daily Ogden Standard.

Olson took a keen interest in politics and in 1896 campaigned for William Jennings Bryan. He later moved to Washington as a newspaper correspondent.

Olson studied law at George Washington University and the University of Michigan and was admitted to the Utah Bar in 1901. Olson became a lawyer in Salt Lake City. A member of the Democratic Party, Olson was elected to the state legislature of Utah in 1916. Over the next four years he advocated an end to child labour, progressive taxation, old age pensions, government control of public utilities and legislation to protect the rights of trade unionists.

In 1920 Olson moved to Los Angeles. In his law practice he gained a reputation for investigating business fraud. In the 1924 presidential election he campaigned for Robert La Follette and the Progressive Party and later for the novelist, Upton Sinclair, when he tried to become Governor of California.

A strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, in 1934 Olson became state chairman of the Democratic Party. In November 1938 Olson was elected as Governor of California, the first Democrat to hold this office for forty-four years.

One of the first acts was to pardon Tom Mooney, a trade union leader who had been convicted of a bombing which occurred in San Francisco in 1916. Although strong evidence existed that the District Attorney of the time, Charles Fickert, had framed Mooney, the Republican governors during this period, William Stephens (1917-1923), Friend Richardson (1923-1927), Clement Young (1927-1931), James Rolph (1931-1934) and Frank Merriam (1934-39) refused to order his release. In October 1939, Olson pardoned Warren Billings, a friend of Mooney's who had also been imprisoned for the bombing.

As governor Olson tried to introduce an advanced New Deal in California. In Olson's words that would provide "economic security from the cradle to the grave, under a government that recognizes the right to an education, to employment on a basis of just reward, and to retirement at old age in comfort and decency, as inalienable as the right to life itself."

Olson was defeated in his campaign to be re-elected in 1942. Olson, an atheist, told a friend that he lost "because of the active hostility of a certain privately owned power corporation and the Roman Catholic Church in California."

In 1957 Culbert Olson became president of the United Secularists of America and held the post until his death in Los Angeles on 13th April, 1962.

I was born in a small country town. The entire community belonged to one religion and church, which controlled the educational, cultural and civic affairs of the community. Any apostate was looked upon as having fallen by the wayside by the influence of the "Devil." It may be that I was naturally a skeptic, for, notwithstanding the religious influence of my early youth, I did not join in the emotion that other children seemed to enjoy in their emotional response to the passionate sermons of the church teachers who told of revelation from God and the appearance of an angel to the prophet, seer, revelator and founder of the church. Reason forced me to conclude that the founder was a bold, ambitious impostor whose revelations did not make sense. My conclusion was not reached easily because of my desire to conform with the religion of my Mother whom I dearly loved - the kindest, most humane and self-sacrificing person I have ever known.

Olson visited me last week and told about the desperate plight in which he finds himself with regard to the necessary finances in order to conduct a vigorous campaign. It is not a pushover for him by any means. This is our one sure shot for freedom if he is elected and in the event that the United States Supreme Court fails to liberate me in the Fall.

I wish to assure every citizen that I enter the high office of Governor of our great State free of all prejudices, even against those who most bitterly, and sometimes unfairly, opposed my election. I respect honest differences of philosophy and viewpoint on public policies. Marked differences in partisan opinion, for the most part, arise out of differences in understanding our common problems and the methods necessary to meet them through government. These are but the natural and healthy attributes of a functioning democracy.

Every person in California, regardless of party, color, creed or station in life, must know that, not only am I without prejudice, but I regard it as my sacred duty, under the oath I have taken today, to protect every person's civil liberties, and equality before the law, with every power at my command. These are precious rights. The founders of our republic and the preservers of the Union made supreme sacrifices for these rights. They are the very cornerstone of our democracy.

As we witness destruction of democracy elsewhere in the world, accompanied by denial of civil liberties and inhuman persecutions, under the rule of despots and dictators, so extreme as to shock the moral sense of mankind, it seems appropriate that we Californians, on this occasion, should announce to the world that despotism shall not take root in our State; that the preservation of our American civil liberties and democratic institutions shall be the first duty and firm determination of our government.

America has built enormously productive facilities for manufacturing. Our scientists, engineers and technicians have literally recreated the world in which we live. It is now well known that we have both the capacity and the ability to produce abundantly for all. But these advances, wonderful as they are, have brought along their own new and extremely difficult problems. We are a long, long way from the goal of social justice. We have yet failed to solve the question of distribution that attends our newly developed productive skills and capacities. This failure has plunged us into hard times and depression - the longest and most persistent in modern times.

But with all of our seeming failure; with all our difficulties and economic mal-adjustments; despite the puzzling paradox of unemployment and poverty in the midst of potential plenty, every right-thinking citizen, native or foreign born, regards his American citizenship as his most precious possession. He knows that it is a part of the sovereign power of the people to guide their own destinies.

Confronted by economic and social crisis, are we going to move forward toward the destiny of true democracy, or slide backward toward the abyss of regimented dictatorship?

In the final analysis, this depends upon the intelligence with which the people exercise their franchise, upon the wisdom and integrity of their leadership; and upon the courage with which we face our problems.

Until all the electorate shall have the benefit of a free education to aid them in the expression of their citizenship, it may be expected that in the future, as in the past, a large proportion may be confused and guided away from their purpose to go forward for their collective welfare, by deliberately false or selfish propaganda, superficial considerations, or provincial circumstances. Such impediments may delay, but they must not be permitted to defeat the ultimate successful working of American democracy.

The people of California want employment, a decent standard of living, education, opportunities for youth, social security, old age retirement, protection against pauperism and starvation. Activities in private industry and individual enterprise must be guided by these social objectives, if our present economy is to survive.

Owners of capital and means of production and distribution must realize their responsibility to society - not to radically engage in human exploitation, but to conservatively engage in management for human advancement. They must be satisfied with stability and permanency of investments for strictly conservative and safe returns. Our policies in the field of industrial relations will be to aid in establishing this sound basis for industrial activity.

In the field of private industry, the right of organized labor to honest collective bargaining must be protected; minimum wages must be established and vigorously enforced to maintain a decent American standard of living; vocational training must be extended, and the doors of employment and of opportunity for advancement, through useful and meritorious service, must be opened to the eager, splendid youth of our State. Youth's social-minded ideals, developed while in training for lifetime service, must not be shattered upon their entrance to adult life by a selfish, cold unwelcome world.

California's elderly citizens have taken the lead in bringing the general public to the realization of the plight of those who, having served their best years in American industry, must be left to spend their declining days in poverty and misery, unless social security programs provide for their retirement in health and comfort.

Such programs have been started, with provisions for partial aid to the support of those in need who have reached the age of sixty-five years. California has more than matched the small amount ($15.00 per month) provided for such eligibles by the Federal Government to make a total of thirty-five dollars per month. This amount, however inadequate, is more liberal than that paid by any other State. A total of thirty-two and one-half million dollars per annum is now required of the State and the counties to meet this pension; yet the amount of the pension is too low and the age limit too high. For our State to meet the amount required to provide this inadequate pension for those of its citizens who find themselves in need of pensions at the age of sixty years would require approximately forty-eight and a quarter million dollars per annum.

Old age pensions must be furnished by those who are producing and by the machinery of production.

Public support of the old or the young can only be furnished by taxation in one form or another.

When other states fail to provide aid for their aged, equal to ours, it may naturally be expected that their citizens approaching the eligible age will seek residence here. This places a disproportionate share of the tax for this worthy social purpose upon our State. For the purpose of uniformity, it is necessary that old age pensions, in their entirety, be financed by the Federal Government. We shall continue to urge an adequate Federal old age security program.

Meantime we shall favor State aid for pensions to the aged to the limit that State finances will permit. That limit, however, because of the tax necessary for present unemployment relief, may for a time at least, be very nearly reached. But as our tax burden is linked with unemployment, so is it linked with the need for old age pensions. More liberal old-age pensions may be anticipated when the unemployed are placed at productive work for their own support and the heavy tax burden for unemployment relief is thus reduced.

Social problems are created by economic maladjustment, poverty in the midst of plenty, mass unemployment occurring when war or preparation for war is not providing full employment; continued concentration of the wealth and control of the national economy in the hands of a small percentage of the population opposing every effort of government to interpose controls for economic stabilization and for the general welfare.

To my way of thinking, it is the social responsibility of government in promoting the general welfare, to exercise controls of stabilization of the national economy; to plan and provide for full employment when private industry fails; to prevent business cycles which result in industrial depressions; to provide for ways and means of making available to all the people health protection, and the utmost in educational services; to protect the national resources against wasteful exploitation for private greed; to plan and carry forward huge projects in the great river valleys of the country for flood control, reclamation, and conservation of water resources, harnessing the water power and providing and making available to the people hydro-electric power at reasonable cost; to protect civil rights and enforce social justice in industrial relations regardless of race or creed and, I might add, to require the federal licenses of radio and television circuits to grant secularists equal rights with churches to discuss religious subjects over the air. .

The political cry that such progress will lead to dictatorship and regimentation is pure demagoguery. Socially minded citizens, and certainly all secularists, in our constitutional democratic-republican form of government will be the first to protect the rights of man in our American democracy as social progress develops through democratic processes and constitutional means.

Our present state of affairs has been reached after centuries of the predominant power and influence of religious superstition and god-worship. Organized religions, led by church priesthoods, claim leadership of the people's minds and thoughts by virtue of divine authority.

It is certain that organized religion and prayers to their almighty deity have not been the means of saving humanity from want or from wars, a large proportion of which have been wars for power between conflicting religious dogmas. Nor have the principles of morality taught as a part of religious doctrine, become prevalent by that method. Witness the extent of selfishness, greed, opportunism, hypocrisy, and crime which now permeates our society.

I wouldn't say that religion has promoted the social progress of mankind. I say that it has been a detriment to the progress of civilization, and I would also say this: that the emancipation of the mind from religious superstition is as essential to the progress of civilization as is emancipation from physical slavery.


Culbert Olson

FirstName:Culbert LastName:Olson DisplayName:Culbert Olson BirthDate:1876-01-01 DeathDate:1962-04-13 BirthLocation:UT Gender:Male Ethnicity:White GenerationIdentifier: Nationality:US ExternalResourceLink: PrimaryGeography: Religion:

Culbert Olson (1876–1962) successfully campaigned in 1938 for the governorship of California on a New Deal platform, enjoying the open support of President Roosevelt. It came as no surprise, then, that Olson would become a staunch advocate of Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 . But the one-term governor who allowed thousands of his state's residents to be expelled from their homes would be defeated in 1942 by Earl Warren , an even more zealous proponent of the removal and imprisonment of Japanese Americans.

Culbert Olson, born in 1876, was a lawyer in his native state of Utah, earning a reputation as a political progressive and a defender of labor unions. He moved to California in 1920 and was elected to the state senate in 1934 as a Democrat representing Los Angeles. When he ran for the state's highest office four years later, no Democrat had served as governor of California for forty years.

Olson held a number of left-leaning positions, opposing oil company monopolies, backing compulsory universal health insurance, and promoting reform of the state penal system. Despite a long career as an activist for the rights of the common man, Olson joined liberals and conservatives alike in anti-Japanese fervor.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, California's Attorney General Earl Warren began investigating Japanese land holdings, looking for violations of the state's Alien Land Law , while Olson attempted to revoke the professional and business licenses of " enemy aliens ." In January of 1942, General John DeWitt held a series of meetings to discuss options for "mass evacuation" of West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry. Olson recommended moving California's Issei inland, a position DeWitt briefly embraced before Provost Marshal General Allen Gullion and, especially, his assistant Karl Bendetsen pressed DeWitt to endorse harsher measures that would apply to both aliens and American citizens. [1]

Still, Olson was in agreement with Warren and DeWitt, upon whose recommendations E.O. 9066 rested, about the potential for sabotage coming from the California's ethnic Japanese population. Olson, reacting to information from DeWitt, believed that evidence existed supporting Japanese residents of California preparing for fifth column activities. They argued that an act of sabotage must be imminent because none had yet occurred, completely dismissing the possibility that DeWitt's information was false and that no incident would be forthcoming.

Shortly after the issuance of E.O. 9066 on February 19, 1942, Olson testified before a U.S. Congressional committee charged with studying potential problems resulting from the order. On March 6, 1942, Governor Olson stated that, "because of the extreme difficulty in distinguishing between loyal Japanese Americans, and there are many who are loyal to this country, and those other Japanese whose loyalty is to the Mikado. I believe in the wholesale evacuation of the Japanese people from coastal California." [2]

The expulsion of all Japanese immigrants and their descendants from California would, however, have a serious impact on agricultural output. Olson believed the exclusion zone, as he had testified before the Congressional committee, should be limited to "coastal California." Instead, he proposed that adult Japanese men should live inland, in work camps, so they could harvest crops in the state's productive Central Valley. It is possible that Olson considered the potential for a different race problem caused by the removal of Japanese communities and subsequent influx of job seekers. Author Michi Weglyn charged that Olson feared "inundation of the state by Blacks and Chicanos would be unavoidable." [3]

Yet Olson promoted the image of a racially tolerant atmosphere in his state. Olson said, "Californians have kept their heads. There have been few if any serious denials of civil rights to either aliens or citizens of Japanese race, on account of the war. The American tradition of fair play has been observed. all the organs of public influence and information—press, pulpit, school welfare agencies, radio and cinema—have discouraged mob violence and have pleaded for tolerance and justice for all law abiding residents of whatever race." [4] By the time 93,000 California residents of Japanese heritage were expelled from their homes and imprisoned in desolate and remote "camps," Olson's statements rang especially hollow.

The Republican Party nominated Earl Warren to run against Culbert Olson and Warren soundly defeated him. Olson returned to his law practice and, as an atheist, lead the United Secularists of America. Olson's wife had died shortly after his inauguration as governor. He died on April 13, 1962 at the age of 85.


Why California’s Godless Governor Was Ahead of His Time

Culbert Olson being sworn in as governor, with his left hand in his pocket, rather than on the Bible. Photo courtesy of Deborah Olsen.

By Debra Deane Olson | May 29, 2018

Culbert Olson is one the most important men you probably never have heard of. He was the only Democrat to serve as governor of California between 1896 and 1958, and he lasted just one term—elected in 1938, and ousted in 1942. He was that rarest of birds among American politicians elected to high office, an atheist and free thinker.

He may be best known for refusing to say the words “so help me God,” substituting it with “I will affirm” as he took the governor’s oath of office.

But he was much more than that. He was a progressive who was far ahead of his time, perhaps too far for his own good. I believe now would be a very good time for a reappraisal and deeper understanding of Governor Olson. I say that not merely because Culbert was my grandfather. He proved prescient about the threats to American society—from economic inequality, war, racism, and the dangers of religious tribalism—that are all too much with us today.

“No deity will save us,” he liked to say. “We must save ourselves.”

Olson was born and raised in Utah in the Mormon faith but left the church as a young man after deciding that Joseph Smith was an imposter and that his revelations didn’t make any rational sense. He came to atheism after listening to lectures of one of the most famous American atheists, Robert Green Ingersoll.

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He would argue that the Founding Fathers were not Christian, they were deists, and they formed the most secular nation in the world with a strong separation of church and state. Olson, before and during his political career, would urge people to become “humanitarians,” which meant avoiding the bigotry and tribalism associated with organized religions. One of his most quoted statements was, “We should be concerned with the brotherhood of man not the fatherhood of God.”

Olson won a seat in the State Senate in 1934. In that era, Democrats had little chance at winning statewide office. But when Olson was nominated by his party for governor in 1938, he had the good fortune to oppose a highly unpopular and corrupt incumbent, Frank Merriam, at a moment when the Depression was taking another turn for the worse. In November 1938 Olson was featured on the cover of Life magazine, which described him as a handsome, impeccably dressed idol of western politics, looking like a movie star’s projection of a governor. The article informed its readers that “Culbert Levy Olson advances the progressive agenda in California and is known as ‘the people’s governor.’”

Poster for re-election of Culbert L. Olson as Governor of California, 1942. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

No governor has faced so many obstacles in pursuing his ideas. The California legislature and political establishment dominated by Republicans, and William Randolph Hearst’s right-wing newspapers, opposed almost all of his progressive initiatives and the laws he proposed.

Olson didn’t trust large corporations, especially financially powerful interests. He wanted to support the mainstream American middle class with his progressive ideas. But the legislature defeated most of his programs, which included support for solving the devastating unemployment crisis with the “production for use” concept championed by Upton Sinclair public ownership of public utilities universal health insurance for every Californian legislation to raise taxes on upper-income banks and corporations and new regulations on lobbyists.

He was successful in breaking up big oil, regulating “loan sharks,” and rewriting usury laws, reforming the largest and most oppressive penal system in the United States at the time, and writing laws to support labor unions.

He didn’t get everything he wanted for his New Deal in California and he made many enemies in the pursuit of his progressive agenda, especially Standard Oil and the Roman Catholic Church (with whom he tangled over its outsized influence in public education). He sought to handle his defeats with humor. He said, “If you want to know where hell is, just be the governor of California.”

Olson’s criticism of corrupt interests was not welcome in Sacramento. He was unapologetically progressive in demanding judicious government regulation of big industry. In 1939, he said: “To my way of thinking, it is the social responsibility of government in promoting the general welfare to exercise control and stabilization of the national economy, to plan and provide for full employment when private industry fails to prevent business cycles which result in industrial depressions to provide the ways and means of making available to all the people health protection, and the utmost in educational services to protect the national resources against wasteful exploitation for private greed.”

During World War II, Olson opposed the incarceration of people of Japanese heritage, which had been supported and defended by the state Attorney General, Earl Warren. In public statements and in a letter to his friend and political confidant, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Olson pointed out that Japanese residents and Japanese Americans were citizens and just as American as anyone else here. In a San Francisco speech, he warned, “Anyone who generates racial hatred and social misunderstanding is a demagogue of the most subversive type. He becomes an enemy of society, just as truly as a tax evader, an embezzler, or a murderer. In fact, he does infinitely more harm.”

Eventually, Governor Olson had to accept the internment after a military order from General John DeWitt, a fervent advocate of incarcerating Japanese Americans. In 1943 he lost his re-election bid to Earl Warren due to the improved economy in California preparing for World War II. In an ironic twist, Warren proved more effective than Olson had been at pushing through some progressive aspects of Olson’s program, including corporate regulation, political reform, and investment in public infrastructure.

After he left office, my grandfather became President of the United Secularists of America, a body of secularists, atheists, and freethinkers. This work included defending separation of church and state, eliminating superstition, promoting taxation of church property, and opposing religion in public schools.

I still hear Grandfather’s humanitarian views in the conversation about income inequality, which is as bad now as it was when he served as governor during the Great Depression. About inequality, he warned: “Social problems are created by economic maladjustments, poverty in the midst of plenty … continued concentration of wealth, control of the national economy in the hands of a small percentage of the population opposing every effort of the government to interpose controls for the economic stabilization and for the general welfare.”

Governor Culbert Olson represented an American tradition of politics that originates from basic human needs and not from personal or financial privilege. His message deserves more thought and attention today.


Culbert Olson (1876-1962)

Described by the New York Times as a “strong advocate of the New Deal,” Culbert Olson was a Democratic member of the California State Senate from 1934 to 1938 and Governor of California from 1939 to 1943 [1].

Culbert Levy Olson was born on November 7, 1876, in Fillmore, Utah to George Daniel Olson and Delilah King. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1895 and, while working as a journalist and congressional secretary in Washington, D.C., earned a law degree from Columbian University Law School (today’s George Washington University School of Law). In 1901, he was admitted to the Utah Bar and began practicing in Salt Lake City [2].

Olson served in the Utah State Senate from 1916 to 1920, after which he moved to California, where he practiced law, investigated corporate fraud, and was active in the Democratic Party. In 1932, he campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt and in 1934 supported Upton Sinclair’s run for the California governorship under the famous program, “End Poverty in California” (EPIC). Sinclair lost the election, but Olson became a California state senator [3].

During his time in the State Senate, Olson pushed hard for progressive reforms and “secured a major victory when the governor accepted his proposed bills establishing a state income tax and increasing inheritance, bank, and corporate franchise taxes…” [4]. Olson was a leading advocate of oil “prorationing” to limit output and raise prices in a depressed industry, which became national policy for the next half century. President Roosevelt appointed Olson special assistant to the US Attorney General to pursue government suits over oil royalties [5].

In 1938, Olson was elected governor, the first Democrat to occupy the office in the 20th century. Many hoped he would usher in a New Deal for California [6]. During his inaugural address, Olson declared that, “New social concepts are born through pain and distress brought upon the people by great industrial depressions such as we have been suffering. Every individual is forced to realize that he is a social being, not an independent self-sufficient entity. This has given us a national administration with a social viewpoint, with a New Deal program of government service to the immediate needs of a people left in despair by the total failure of the sterile policies of the old order…” [7].

Although Olson was able to advance some prison and mental health care reforms, and appointed some liberal state judges and administrators like Carey McWilliams, most of his agenda was blocked by the Republican-controlled state senate [8]. California would benefit greatly from the New Deal [9] and again as the nation mobilized for war [10], but it wasn’t enough to save Olson, who lost his reelection bid in 1942. Ironically, his conservative Republican successor, Earl Warren, would become a postwar advocate of such New Deal era policies as expanding public education, parks and infrastructure, and then preside as Chief Justice over the most liberal Supreme Court in US history, replete with New Dealers like William O. Douglas and Hugo Black [11].

Olson remained active in the Democratic Party for a number of years after his defeat. He died on April 13, 1962, at the age of 85, survived by his three sons, Richard, Dean, and John (his first wife was Nellie E. Boronson-Day and his second wife was Kate Jeremy) [12].

Sources: (1) “Culbert L. Olson, Ex-Governor, 85,” New York Times, April 14, 1962. (2) Ibid., and also see “Coast Leader, Ex-Utahn Dies,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 1962 and “Culbert Olson, 1939-1943,” The Governor’s Gallery, California State Library, accessed December 6, 2016. (3) James S. Olson (ed.), Historical Dictionary of the New Deal, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985, p. 381. (4) Ibid. (5) See note 1. (6) “Culbert Olson, 1939-1943,” The Governor’s Gallery, California State Library, accessed December 6, 2016. (7) Ibid. (8) See note 3. (9) Richard Walker and Gray Brechin. The Living New Deal: The Unsung Benefits of the New Deal for the United States and California. Working Paper 220-10, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley. 2010. (10) “Governor Culbert L. Olson,” National Governors Association, accessed December 6, 2016. (11) John Douglass, “Earl Warren’s new deal: economic transition, postwar planning, and higher education in California.” Journal of Policy History. 2000. 12/4: 473-512. (12) See notes 1 and 6.


Culbert Levy Olson

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About Culbert Olson, Governor

Culbert Levy Olson (November 7, 1876 – April 13, 1962) was an American lawyer and politician. A Democratic Party member, Olson was involved in Utah and California politics and was elected as the 29th governor of California from 1939 to 1943.

Olson was born in Fillmore, Utah, the son of Delilah Cornelia (nພ King) and George Daniel Olson, on November 7, 1876. Olson's mother was a suffragette and became the first female elected official in Utah. Both his mother and father belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Culbert was unconvinced of the existence of God, becoming an atheist at the age of ten. Olson's change of beliefs distanced himself from his parents' Mormon beliefs. He was also the first cousin of U.S. Senator William H. King.

Leaving school at the age of 14, Olson worked briefly as a telegraph operator and in 1890, enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo, studying law and journalism. Upon graduating at the age of 19 in 1895, Olson embarked on a career as a journalist with the Daily Ogden Standard. During the 1896 Presidential Election, Olson openly campaigned for Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan. After the election, Olson moved briefly to Michigan, studying law at the University of Michigan, and then later to Washington, D.C., working as a newspaper correspondent and secretary for the U.S. Congress. During his time in the capital, Olson attended law school at George Washington University, being admitted to the Utah Bar in 1901.

Utah and California State Legislatures

Olson moved back to Utah in 1901, settling in Salt Lake City to join a law practice. Building a reputation of defending trade unionists and political progressives, Olson was elected to the Utah State Senate in 1916. During his four years in the State Senate, Olson wrote and endorsed legislation to end child labor in the state, guarantee old age pensions, and expand government control of public utilities.

Olson declined to run again for the State Senate in the 1920 general election. Instead, Olson relocated to Los Angeles, California, beginning another law practice, where he again gained a reputation of investigating corporate fraud. Politics never remained far. Olson campaigned openly for Progressive Party candidate Robert La Follette in the 1924 Elections, and for Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in the 1932 Elections.

In 1934, in the middle of the Great Depression, Olson ran as a Democrat for the California State Senate, representing Los Angeles. During the 1934 state general elections, Olson campaigned for former Socialist Party member and Democratic nominee for Governor, Upton Sinclair, participating in Sinclair's End Poverty in California campaign. While Sinclair lost the gubernatorial election to Republican Frank Merriam, Olson was elected to the State Senate that year.

While in the California State Senate, the second state legislature he was elected to, Olson openly supported Roosevelt's New Deal policies towards the unemployed. Seeing large business interests as a barrier to change, Olson wrote the Olson Oil Bill to cut down oil company monopolies in the state.

With the open support of President Roosevelt, Olson ran for governor of California in the 1938 general elections against conservative Republican and anti-labor incumbent Governor Frank Merriam. Merriam, known for suppressing the 1934 Longshore Strike and his conservative fiscal policies, was a highly unpopular candidate among progressives and unionists, with even conservative Republicans angered by his 1935 tax reforms. Merriam lost soundly to Olson. He was the first Democrat to win the governorship since James Budd's election in 1895, breaking the 40 year Republican dynasty over the governorship.

Olson was inaugurated as California's twenty-ninth executive on January 2, 1939. In his inaugural address, Olson pointed at progressives and the Left for his inspiration, citing that "[t]hey point the way forward- toward the achievement of the aspiration of the people for an economy that will afford general employment, abundant production, equitable distribution, social security and old age retirement, which our country, with its ample resources, great facilities and the genius of its people, is capable of providing."

Olson refused to say "so help me God" during his oath of office to state Supreme Court Justice William H. Waste. Olson remarked earlier to Justice Waste that "God couldn't help me at all, and that there isn't any such person." Instead, Olson said, "I will affirm."

Olson's tenure in the governorship began to a rocky start. Olson collapsed four days after his inauguration. Doctors discovered that Olson was suffering from an ailing heart. On top of personal health matters, Kate Jeremy Olson, the Governor's wife of nearly thirty-nine years, died shortly after Olson assumed the office.

Contrasting with the conservative policies of Governor Frank Merriam, Olson extended friendly relations with the state's labor unions. In September 1939, Olson officially pardoned Tom Mooney, a labor activist and political prisoner accused of plotting the 1916 Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco. Olson cited scant evidence against Mooney as the reason for his pardon. The next month, Olson pardoned Mooney's alleged accomplice, Warren Billings.

Olson's relationship with the California State Legislature was often bitter. With conservative Democrats controlling the Assembly, and business friendly Republicans in the Senate, Olson had little room to promote his New Deal politics, while the Legislature remained weary of Olson's leftist agenda. By the first year of his governorship, Olson's proposed budget was cut by nearly 100 million dollars, plus the Governor's proposal of compulsory universal health insurance for every Californian was defeated. The Legislature also defeated legislation to raise income, bank and corporate taxes, as well as Olson's proposed bills to regulate lobbyists and reform the state penal system. State subsidized relief for farmers was also nearly cut in half. During his tenure of the governorship, Olson installed a telephone hotline to the Legislature to get immediate word of lawmakers' positions on bills in committee or on the floor for a vote.

During his tenure of the governorship, Olson grew increasingly critical of the Roman Catholic Church and its presence in the state educational system. Olson gained the ire of Archbishops John J. Cantwell of Los Angeles and John J. Mitty of San Francisco, during his term in office. A secular atheist, Olson was disturbed by the state legislature's passage of two bills in 1941, one to give free transportation to students attending Catholic schools, while the other would release Catholic children from public schools in the middle of the school day in order to attend catechism, leaving the schools and other students idle until the Catholic students' return. Olson signed into law the first bill, later citing the enormous pressure of the Catholic Church on his office and on state lawmakers. However, he vetoed the second ("early release") bill.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the Second World War in December 1941, many in California feared a Japanese invasion. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, allowing the US Military to create an exclusion zone. Based on this all West Coast non-citizen Japanese and citizen-Japanese Americans were moved to internment camps. Testifying before a U.S. House committee on March 6, 1942, Olson, a longtime supporter of nearly every Roosevelt position on economics, politics and foreign policy, supported the move wholeheartedly. "Because of the extreme difficulty in distinguishing between loyal Japanese-Americans, and there are many who are loyal to this country, and those other Japanese whose loyalty is to the Mikado. I believe in the wholesale evacuation of the Japanese people from coastal California."

By the 1942 general elections, Republicans had accused Olson of blatant partisan politics during wartime, citing Olson's often bitter divides with the State Legislature. The Republican Party nominated California Attorney General Earl Warren as the party's nominee for the governorship. Warren, a centrist Republican, campaigned as a moderate voice that would appeal to both liberals and conservatives during a time of war, where California was considered as a possible front line, while accusing Olson as an uncompromising, left-wing Democrat.

Olson lost to Warren by a large margin. In later years, Olson blamed "the active hostility of a certain privately owned power corporation and the Roman Catholic Church in California" for his defeat.

Following his departure from the governorship, Olson returned to law. He regained the public spotlight again in the 1950s, when the Legislature voted to exempt Catholic schools from real estate taxes. Olson filed an amicus curiae brief to the state Supreme Court, asking the court to explain how the state's exemption of a religious organization from civil taxes was constitutional.

In 1957, Olson became president of the United Secularists of America, a body made up of secularists, atheists, and freethinkers.

Olson died in Los Angeles on April 13, 1962, aged 85, long predeceased by his wife, Kate. Olson is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.

Olson speaking to his successor, Earl Warren, shortly before his inauguration in 1943:

“If you want to know what Hell is like, just be Governor.”

“It is certain that organized religion and prayers to their almighty deity have not been the means of saving humanity from want or from wars, a large proportion of which have been wars for power between conflicting religious dogmas. Nor have the principles of morality taught as a part of religious doctrine, become prevalent by that method. Witness the extent of selfishness, greed, opportunism, hypocrisy, and crime which now permeates our society.”

Olson's view of the power of the Catholic Church:

“What I wish to do now is to revert to [return to the topic of] the political activities and influence of the [Roman] Catholic Church under its priesthood direction in our secular government of California. Who in public life now or heretofore has not felt that pressure of that influence?"


GOVERNOR CULBERT OLSON - AUTOGRAPH NOTE SIGNED 11/11/1948 - HFSID 83981

CULBERT OLSON
Extremely rare signature from the California Governor on a note to a friend, dated 1948
Autograph note signed: "Culbert Olson", in blue ink, 4¼x6. Also signed on verso: "Martha Gerrard", which requires more research. In full: "Pearl: you are charming and not merely as a wonderful hostess - you inspire sincere affection [signature] Nov. 11 - 1948". Culbert Olson(1876-1962) served in office from 1939 to 1943 as Governor of California. Born in Utah, his mother was a suffragette and the first female to be elected to an official office in Utah. An independent mind as a young child, Olson declared himself an atheist at age 10 and left school at age 14 to become a telegraph operator. He later graduated from Brigham Young University and worked as a journalist for a short while before starting a career in law, and subsequently was elected to the Utah State Senate. He worked to end child labor and expand government control of public utilities, and after a move to California, continued to pursue politics until he was elected as governor in 1939. Olson was noted for being particularly liberal and progressive, aiming to end the presence of religion in many government run facilities, proposing universal health care, and hoping to reform the state penal system. Although Olson proved popular to some, he was ultimately unable to secure another term, as World War II proved too stressful to elect someone as radically liberal as Olson. After his government position, he returned to a career in law. Left edge torn and creased. Heavily toned. Ink notes (unknown hand) on bottom margin. Slight surface creases. Otherwise, fine condition.

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Culbert Olson - History

Many people suggest that atheists are necessarily barred from holding high political office by virtue of the unpopularity of their world view. Whether that is true or not today, the fact remains that at least one freethinker has achieved high political office in this century.

On November 7, 1876, Culbert Levy Olson was born in Fillmore, Utah, to a devoutly Mormon mother and a skeptical father. He attended a school run by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, but at an early age got into trouble. In a 1961 interview, he described his experiences:

Nevertheless, he was admitted to Brigham Young University and graduated at age nineteen in 1895. After graduation, he pursued a career in journalism, finding his way to Washington, D.C. There, he attended a lecture given by Robert G. Ingersoll, and found a tremendous sense of relief and community, realizing that there were others who shared his skepticism about the supernatural.

Thus energized, he entered Columbian Law School, today known as George Washington University School of Law, taking an L.L.M. degree (the equivalent of today’s J.D.) in 1901 with a year’s study at the University of Michigan in his second year. He passed the Utah bar in 1901 and opened a private law practice in Salt Lake City. He married Kate Jeremey in 1905, and described her as a “freethinker” who had some degree of religious faith but was critical of most religious institutions. They had three sons, one of whom followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the practice of law.

By then, Olson had begun a life of political activity (which began by working in 1896 as a campaign volunteer for, of all people, William Jennings Bryan) which increasingly supplanted the practice of law. He was elected to the lower house of the Utah Legislature in 1916, and served two terms until 1920 where he pushed for an end to child labor, support for labor unions, and progressive taxation. A strong proponent of the “reform” movement sweeping the nation at the time, he sponsored and shepherded through the Legislature laws to fight political corruption, establish minimum wages and safe working standards, and to improve the level of social services provided by the state government.

Olson moved to Los Angeles, California in 1920, and was admitted to the California Bar in September of 1921. He was only the 6,335th lawyer in the history of the organized legal profession in California. He became a great supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and worked to implement the principles of FDR’s New Deal in California. Initially a behind-the-scenes operator, he was elected to the California State Senate in 1934 and served one term. He became the head of the Roosevelt wing of the Democratic party, which at that time was split between FDR’s faction, Progressives led by Upton Sinclair, and those who favored compromising with the Republican majority on economic issues, led by the man who would become his Lieutenant Governor, in order to obtain moderate social legislation.

In 1939, Olson ran for Governor and, with FDR’s personal endorsement and an alliance with Sinclair’s progressives, became the first of only four Democrats elected to the California Governor’s office since 1895. His swearing-in was delayed and conducted in private because he refused to include the words “to God” in his oath of office eventually, a member of the Supreme Court was persuaded to administer the oath in the Capitol building and to accept the words “I affirm” instead.

A friend of Olson in the entertainment industry once said, "If you'd called Central Casting for a governor, Culbert Olson is what they'd have sent you.” Sadly, it seems that Olson’s personality was not as good a fit for the job as his appearance. His problems began with a political mishandling of the then-controversial “Ham and Eggs” initiative. Olson’s campaign carefully ducked this proposal to establish generous state pensions for all retired Californians as a supplement to social security. Once in office, however, Olson sided with economic conservatism over his progressive political instincts and opposed the initiative when it went before the voters, leaving the progressives feeling betrayed.

They should not have Olson was a dedicated adherent to the generally-progressive social and governmental policies of the Roosevelt Administration and was dedicated to implementing mirror images of those policies at the state level. He took great pains to provide for social welfare programs while attempting to balance a large deficit left over from previous administrations – however, he failed in this regard because his party did not obtain majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and Republicans allied with the fiscally-conservative wing of the Democrats to deny Olson the money necessary to fund his requested social welfare programs.

The most controversial thing Olson did as Governor was to pardon labor activist Tom Mooney, who had been convicted in 1919 of involvement in an attempted bombing of a series of Pacific Gas and Electric Company facilities. Mooney has since been exonerated by further evidence demonstrating that he had been framed, justifying Olson’s pardon. Olson expanded California’s public education system significantly, in particular focusing his efforts on increasing the endowment and number of locations of the University of California. He also recognized, perhaps before any other leader of California, that public utilities required careful regulation and control by the government in order to provide for what were becoming necessities of life such as electricity and natural gas. The Republican-dominated Legislature, however, successfully obstructed Olson’s desires to impose greater regulation, if not public takeover, of these vital entities.

Fulfilling his desire to see an active government in California stimulate economic activity in the midst of the Depression, Olson he established the California Conservation Corps, which hired otherwise unemployed young men to preserve California’s wilderness areas, plant forests and preserve other natural resources. He was an advocate of prison and penal code reform, steering California’s prison system firmly down the road of providing counseling and vocational training to prisoners to encourage them not to commit crimes upon their release, and setting in place reforms to the juvenile justice system, and mental illness treatment provided in conjunction with the criminal justice system, which survive essentially intact today.

World War II came to America in Olson’s administration and Olson largely deferred to military authorities on all significant issues after December 14, 1941 when Olson declared a state of military emergency at President Roosevelt’s request. It is not clear how Olson felt about the military’s decision to relocate Japanese citizens to “holding camps” in the valleys of California’s deserts to the east of the Sierra Nevada mountains however, Olson did not protest the decision in any fashion. It is also likely Olson became somewhat depressed after the death of his wife after the first year of his administration he never re-married.

Olson was opposed for his re-election by the Attorney General, Earl Warren. Warren cross-filed and ran for both the Democratic and Republican nominations he came within 100,000 votes of beating Olson in the Democratic primary because of internecine disagreements between organized labor and progressives within the Democratic party leading to a low turnout. This presaged a solid win by the Republican Warren in 1942. Olson returned to his private law practice in 1943, and while he was still honored in Democratic circles for years afterwards, his political power had clearly vanished. He attended Earl Warren’s inauguration and famously told the future Chief Justice, “If you want to know what Hell is like, just be Governor.” Perhaps out of respect for Olson’s interest in and respect for the University of California system, Governor Warren appointed Olson to the UC Board of Regents, the governing body of that institution.

In 1947, Olson began a campaign of advocating significant changes to California’s constitution, including reform of the Legislature as a unicameral institution, permitting the Governor to appoint Constitutional officers such as the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State, and permitting executive deliberation in the process of drafting laws. While his views found some adherents in members of both parties, not enough support has ever been garnered for these ideas to be presented to the voters, and the general structure of California’s Constitution remains one of multiple executives elected independently from one another with a bicameral legislature. He also actively, and successfully, campaigned against the adoption of the phrase “In God We Trust” as California’s official motto.

During his political life, Olson kept his personal atheism quiet and only confided that facet of personal information to trusted colleagues and close family members. Nevertheless, he stated on several occasions that his policies were motivated by “secularism,” which he defined as “…an ethical system founded on natural morality which seeks the development of the physical, moral, and intellectual nature of man to the highest possible point.” He joined the United Secularists of America in 1952 and became its President in 1961. When asked in his later years about his religion by the press, he bluntly replied, “I am an atheist.”

However, he struck a public nerve in May of 1959, when he published an essay entitled “The Problem of Separation of Church and State,” based on an address he had intended to give to the California Commonwealth Club the previous month, but which the Club requested he not give once its subject became known. He presented his view of moral atheism and strict separation of the government from all religious institutions (particularly the Roman Catholic Church) on several television programs in 1959 and 1960, usually writing or speaking on the topic “God is a myth.” He also filed an amicus brief, laced with firey rhetoric, in the California Supreme Court, protesting a lower court’s decision exempting the Catholic Church from paying property taxes because it was a religious institution.

Olson died at the age of eighty-five on April 13, 1962, in a nursing home in Los Angeles and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. It is easy to see his term as Governor of California as largely failed because of a lack of tact and misreading of the political landscape however, it is difficult to see how anyone else could have done much better, given the highly fractious state of politics and the extreme economic, and later military, pressures that California faced during Olson’s term in office. Not all of his political proposals were good, and he was guilty of permitting his late-life criticism of the Roman Catholic Church to cross the line into invective. But, Olson did achieve a very high political office as a freethinker, guided an economically and culturally complex state through some of its hardest times, was a steadfast advocate for bettering the lives of working-class people through civil liberties and economic opportunities, and he laid the foundation for substantial reforms in government and social policy which endure to this day. He remains one of the most ambiguous, and historically controversial, leaders of the Golden State’s history.

H. Brett Melendy and Benjamin F. Gilbert, The Governors of California: Peter H. Burnett to Edmund G. Brown (1965).


Neuanfang in Kalifornien

In Los Angeles ließ er sich als Anwalt nieder und erwarb sich bald einen ähnlich guten Ruf wie zuvor in Utah. Dabei verlor er nie die Politik aus den Augen. 1924 unterstützte er Robert M. La Follette sr. und 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt in deren Wahlkämpfen um die Präsidentschaft. 1934 bewarb er sich erfolgreich als Demokrat um einen Sitz im Senat von Kalifornien. Gleichzeitigt unterstützte er den ehemaligen Sozialisten Upton Sinclair, der sich, allerdings erfolglos, um das Amt des Gouverneurs bewarb. Im kalifornischen Senat war er ein Befürworter von Präsident Franklin Roosevelts New Deal Programm. Au෾rdem setzte er sich gegen Monopolstellungen von Mineralölkonzernen ein. Für die Gouverneurswahlen 1938 wurde er mit Unterstützung von Roosevelt von den Demokraten als deren Kandidat aufgestellt. Sein Gegenkandidat war Amtsinhaber Frank Merriam der inzwischen sowohl bei den Konservativen als auch bei liberaleren Kr๏ten äu෾rst unpopulär war. Infolgedessen gelang Olson ein klarer Sieg mit 52 gegen 44 Prozent der Stimmen ein komfortabler Sieg. Damit endete eine jahrzehntelange Niederlagenserie der Demokratischen Partei in Kalifornien. Seit 1895, als James Budd die Wahlen gewann, hatte es kein Demokrat mehr in das hཬhste Regierungsamt Kaliforniens geschafft.


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About Culbert Olson, Governor

Culbert Levy Olson (November 7, 1876 – April 13, 1962) was an American lawyer and politician. A Democratic Party member, Olson was involved in Utah and California politics and was elected as the 29th governor of California from 1939 to 1943.

Olson was born in Fillmore, Utah, the son of Delilah Cornelia (nພ King) and George Daniel Olson, on November 7, 1876. Olson's mother was a suffragette and became the first female elected official in Utah. Both his mother and father belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Culbert was unconvinced of the existence of God, becoming an atheist at the age of ten. Olson's change of beliefs distanced himself from his parents' Mormon beliefs. He was also the first cousin of U.S. Senator William H. King.

Leaving school at the age of 14, Olson worked briefly as a telegraph operator and in 1890, enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo, studying law and journalism. Upon graduating at the age of 19 in 1895, Olson embarked on a career as a journalist with the Daily Ogden Standard. During the 1896 Presidential Election, Olson openly campaigned for Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan. After the election, Olson moved briefly to Michigan, studying law at the University of Michigan, and then later to Washington, D.C., working as a newspaper correspondent and secretary for the U.S. Congress. During his time in the capital, Olson attended law school at George Washington University, being admitted to the Utah Bar in 1901.

Utah and California State Legislatures

Olson moved back to Utah in 1901, settling in Salt Lake City to join a law practice. Building a reputation of defending trade unionists and political progressives, Olson was elected to the Utah State Senate in 1916. During his four years in the State Senate, Olson wrote and endorsed legislation to end child labor in the state, guarantee old age pensions, and expand government control of public utilities.

Olson declined to run again for the State Senate in the 1920 general election. Instead, Olson relocated to Los Angeles, California, beginning another law practice, where he again gained a reputation of investigating corporate fraud. Politics never remained far. Olson campaigned openly for Progressive Party candidate Robert La Follette in the 1924 Elections, and for Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in the 1932 Elections.

In 1934, in the middle of the Great Depression, Olson ran as a Democrat for the California State Senate, representing Los Angeles. During the 1934 state general elections, Olson campaigned for former Socialist Party member and Democratic nominee for Governor, Upton Sinclair, participating in Sinclair's End Poverty in California campaign. While Sinclair lost the gubernatorial election to Republican Frank Merriam, Olson was elected to the State Senate that year.

While in the California State Senate, the second state legislature he was elected to, Olson openly supported Roosevelt's New Deal policies towards the unemployed. Seeing large business interests as a barrier to change, Olson wrote the Olson Oil Bill to cut down oil company monopolies in the state.

With the open support of President Roosevelt, Olson ran for governor of California in the 1938 general elections against conservative Republican and anti-labor incumbent Governor Frank Merriam. Merriam, known for suppressing the 1934 Longshore Strike and his conservative fiscal policies, was a highly unpopular candidate among progressives and unionists, with even conservative Republicans angered by his 1935 tax reforms. Merriam lost soundly to Olson. He was the first Democrat to win the governorship since James Budd's election in 1895, breaking the 40 year Republican dynasty over the governorship.

Olson was inaugurated as California's twenty-ninth executive on January 2, 1939. In his inaugural address, Olson pointed at progressives and the Left for his inspiration, citing that "[t]hey point the way forward- toward the achievement of the aspiration of the people for an economy that will afford general employment, abundant production, equitable distribution, social security and old age retirement, which our country, with its ample resources, great facilities and the genius of its people, is capable of providing."

Olson refused to say "so help me God" during his oath of office to state Supreme Court Justice William H. Waste. Olson remarked earlier to Justice Waste that "God couldn't help me at all, and that there isn't any such person." Instead, Olson said, "I will affirm."

Olson's tenure in the governorship began to a rocky start. Olson collapsed four days after his inauguration. Doctors discovered that Olson was suffering from an ailing heart. On top of personal health matters, Kate Jeremy Olson, the Governor's wife of nearly thirty-nine years, died shortly after Olson assumed the office.

Contrasting with the conservative policies of Governor Frank Merriam, Olson extended friendly relations with the state's labor unions. In September 1939, Olson officially pardoned Tom Mooney, a labor activist and political prisoner accused of plotting the 1916 Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco. Olson cited scant evidence against Mooney as the reason for his pardon. The next month, Olson pardoned Mooney's alleged accomplice, Warren Billings.

Olson's relationship with the California State Legislature was often bitter. With conservative Democrats controlling the Assembly, and business friendly Republicans in the Senate, Olson had little room to promote his New Deal politics, while the Legislature remained weary of Olson's leftist agenda. By the first year of his governorship, Olson's proposed budget was cut by nearly 100 million dollars, plus the Governor's proposal of compulsory universal health insurance for every Californian was defeated. The Legislature also defeated legislation to raise income, bank and corporate taxes, as well as Olson's proposed bills to regulate lobbyists and reform the state penal system. State subsidized relief for farmers was also nearly cut in half. During his tenure of the governorship, Olson installed a telephone hotline to the Legislature to get immediate word of lawmakers' positions on bills in committee or on the floor for a vote.

During his tenure of the governorship, Olson grew increasingly critical of the Roman Catholic Church and its presence in the state educational system. Olson gained the ire of Archbishops John J. Cantwell of Los Angeles and John J. Mitty of San Francisco, during his term in office. A secular atheist, Olson was disturbed by the state legislature's passage of two bills in 1941, one to give free transportation to students attending Catholic schools, while the other would release Catholic children from public schools in the middle of the school day in order to attend catechism, leaving the schools and other students idle until the Catholic students' return. Olson signed into law the first bill, later citing the enormous pressure of the Catholic Church on his office and on state lawmakers. However, he vetoed the second ("early release") bill.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the Second World War in December 1941, many in California feared a Japanese invasion. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, allowing the US Military to create an exclusion zone. Based on this all West Coast non-citizen Japanese and citizen-Japanese Americans were moved to internment camps. Testifying before a U.S. House committee on March 6, 1942, Olson, a longtime supporter of nearly every Roosevelt position on economics, politics and foreign policy, supported the move wholeheartedly. "Because of the extreme difficulty in distinguishing between loyal Japanese-Americans, and there are many who are loyal to this country, and those other Japanese whose loyalty is to the Mikado. I believe in the wholesale evacuation of the Japanese people from coastal California."

By the 1942 general elections, Republicans had accused Olson of blatant partisan politics during wartime, citing Olson's often bitter divides with the State Legislature. The Republican Party nominated California Attorney General Earl Warren as the party's nominee for the governorship. Warren, a centrist Republican, campaigned as a moderate voice that would appeal to both liberals and conservatives during a time of war, where California was considered as a possible front line, while accusing Olson as an uncompromising, left-wing Democrat.

Olson lost to Warren by a large margin. In later years, Olson blamed "the active hostility of a certain privately owned power corporation and the Roman Catholic Church in California" for his defeat.

Following his departure from the governorship, Olson returned to law. He regained the public spotlight again in the 1950s, when the Legislature voted to exempt Catholic schools from real estate taxes. Olson filed an amicus curiae brief to the state Supreme Court, asking the court to explain how the state's exemption of a religious organization from civil taxes was constitutional.

In 1957, Olson became president of the United Secularists of America, a body made up of secularists, atheists, and freethinkers.

Olson died in Los Angeles on April 13, 1962, aged 85, long predeceased by his wife, Kate. Olson is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.

Olson speaking to his successor, Earl Warren, shortly before his inauguration in 1943:

“If you want to know what Hell is like, just be Governor.”

“It is certain that organized religion and prayers to their almighty deity have not been the means of saving humanity from want or from wars, a large proportion of which have been wars for power between conflicting religious dogmas. Nor have the principles of morality taught as a part of religious doctrine, become prevalent by that method. Witness the extent of selfishness, greed, opportunism, hypocrisy, and crime which now permeates our society.”

Olson's view of the power of the Catholic Church:

“What I wish to do now is to revert to [return to the topic of] the political activities and influence of the [Roman] Catholic Church under its priesthood direction in our secular government of California. Who in public life now or heretofore has not felt that pressure of that influence?"


The 10 Worst Bombings in US History

We still don’t have all the facts about yesterday’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing. At the time this column is being written, it’s being reported that 12 people died and more than 50 were injured in the attack. If those numbers hold, which is far from a given because of the wildly inaccurate reporting that usually follows events like this one in the first 24 hours, this could arguably be considered one of the worst bombings in U.S. history. While bombings are not a common occurrence in America, there have been more of them than most people realize.

10) The World Trade Center Bombing (February 26, 1993): A van filled with explosives went off in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center. Almost unbelievably, although over a thousand people were wounded, only six were killed. It could have been much worse because the goal of the bombing had been to take down both towers. Had that happened, the body count would have been even larger than 9/11. The terrorist behind the attack was Ramzi Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence.

9) The Preparedness Day Bombing (July 22, 1916): The Preparedness Day parade was designed to lift morale in San Francisco in anticipation of the possible entry of the United States into World War I. Before the event, anti-war activists were harshly critical and during the parade a suitcase bomb went off, killing 10 and wounding 40. Labor leaders Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings were convicted of the crime and were both eventually sentenced to life in prison. After the two men spent 20 years in jail, Democrat Governor Culbert Olson grew concerned about whether they received a fair trial and pardoned them.

8) The LaGuardia Airport Bombing (December 29, 1975): Four days after Christmas, a powerful bomb that had been placed in a locker at LaGuardia Airport went off. It collapsed the ceiling and fired shrapnel across the room. Eleven people were killed and seventy five were injured by the bomb. Although a number of groups were thought to potentially be responsible including FALN, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Jewish Defense League and also a Croatian nationalist named Zvonko Busic, no organization ever claimed credit and the crime remains unsolved.

7) The Haymarket Affair (May 4, 1886): A protest rally in Chicago led to a clash between anarchists, union members and police. During the protest, an anarchist threw a bomb at the police. A police officer was killed by the bomb and several others were wounded. That led to an exchange of gunfire between the cops and the violent crowd. Seven police officers and four members of the crowd were killed while one hundred twenty people were injured. While no one every figured out exactly which anarchist actually flung the bomb, seven were prosecuted for the crime. Ultimately, Oscar Neebe received 15 years in prison, Michael Schwab and Samuel Fielden served life in prison, Louis Lingg killed himself while he was jailed and Adolph Fischer, Albert Parsons, George Engel and August Spies were hung.

6) The Los Angeles Times Bombing (October 1, 1910): A bomb wired to 16 sticks of dynamite exploded in an alley next to the Los Angeles Times. The bomb killed 20 employees of the paper and injured another 100. It turned out that two brothers who were members of the Iron Workers Union, John and James McNamara, were angry about the anti-union slant of the Times and set the bomb as retaliation.

5) The Bath School Disaster (May 18, 1927): After losing an election for Township Clerk, School Board Treasurer Andrew Kehoe decided to take revenge by executing what turned out to be the worst massacre at a school in American history. After murdering his wife, Kehoe set off bombs that he had secretly been planting inside the school for months. As rescuers arrived to begin helping the wounded children and teachers, Kehoe drove up in a truck filled with explosives and blew himself up, slaughtering even more people. By the time it was over, 44 people were dead and 58 were injured.

4) The Wall Street Bombing (September 16, 1920): A horse drawn carriage packed with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of iron was detonated outside the headquarters of J.P. Morgan Bank on Wall Street. Although anarchists were believed to be responsible, no culprit was ever prosecuted for the bombing that took the lives of 30 people and injured another 300.

3) United Airlines Flight 629 (November 1, 1955): John Gilbert Graham had a poor relationship with his mother, Daisie Eldora King. After taking out 4 life insurance policies on her, he offered his mother a “Christmas present” that turned out to be a bomb. It went off while United Airlines Flight 629 was in the air, 35 miles outside of Denver. All 44 passengers and crew died.

2) Continental Airlines Flight 11 (May 22, 1962): Thomas G. Doty bought a couple of large insurance policies, purchased 6 sticks of dynamite and then got on Continental Airlines, Flight 11. Doty then committed suicide via explosion in hopes that his wife and child would receive the insurance money. All 45 passengers on the plane died when the bomb knocked the plane out of the sky.

1) The Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995): Timothy McVeigh, along with his co-conspirators Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were responsible for destroying a large section of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building with a truck bomb. They were motivated by anger at the government in general along with the heavy handed tactics used by the Clinton Administration during the Waco Siege and at Ruby Ridge. There were 169 people killed in the bombing and 675 were wounded.


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Comments:

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