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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601613

Herman LaRue Brown papers


Papers relating to Brown's work on behalf of civil liberties, legal services for the poor, and various political causes, his service as U.S. Assistant Attorney General, 1917-1919, and in other capacities for Massachusetts and the Federal Government during World War II, his education at Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, and his interest in alumni affairs.


  • Creation: 1890 - 1969

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for these papers has not passed into the public domain; this includes the transcript of the taped oral history interview of Larue Brown's reminiscences. Permission to publish is required.


23 boxes

The 2800 items in the papers of LaRue Brown (1883-1969) span the years 1890 to 1969.

The collection includes correspondence (both letters received and carbons of letters sent), reports, memoranda, minutes of meetings, legal documents, charts, statistical tables, newspaper clippings and other printed items, drafts, legislative documents, lists, photographs, and memorabilia.

The papers related to many facets of LaRue Brown's life and career: his association with educational institutions which he attended and his continued interest in them throughout his life; his professional career as an attorney; his commitment to his vision of equal justice for the poor, and to his staunch defense of civil liberties.

LaRue Brown was one of the founders of the Voluntary Defenders Committee in Boston, Mass., and his papers reflect his work with that Committee (1935-1969) and also his work with the Massachusetts Defenders Committee which he helped establish (1960-1969).

Another important group of papers relates to Brown's association with various civil liberties organizations and committees such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Civil Rights-Civil Liberties. Papers relating to these activities, and his involvement in specific cases, cover the period 1937 to 1969. Related to this group are the papers he retained while serving as president of the Boston Bar Association's Bill of Rights Committee (1956-1968).

Other activities of LaRue Brown as represented in his papers were his involvement with A.D.A., with political campaigns, civic institutions, and his service in various capacities during WWI and WWII and the post-war periods.

Biographical items are from his years at Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and of his alumni activities. Of particular interest is a typescript of his taped reminiscences, in fourteen segments, covering the span of his lifetime.

Correspondence is of a professional-personal nature. The only extended correspondence series is his correspondence with Charles C. Burlingham. There are scattered letters of James MacGregor Burns, Edward Duggan, Felix Frankfurter, Erwin N. Griswold, Manley O. Hudson, John F. Kennedy, William B. McAdoo, Elliot L. Richardson, John L. Saltonstall, Jr., Arthur M. Schlesinger, Upton Sinclair, John A. Volpe, and Raymond S. Wilkins.

Small segments of Mr. Brown's papers, particularly those relating to the suffrage movement, are included in the papers of his widow, Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, which are at the Schlesinger Library for the History of Women in America, at Radcliffe College. Mrs. Dorothy Kirchwey Brown died in 1981.

Historical/Biographical Information

Brown, [Herman] LaRue, lawyer and public servant.

  • December 17, 1883 b. Louisville, Kentucky. s. George Herman and Nelly (LaRue) Brown
  • 1896-1900 Phillips Exeter Academy
  • 1904 A.B. Harvard College; classmate and lifelong friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • 1906 LL.B. Harvard Law School, cum laude
  • November 23, 1915 m. Dorothy Browning Kirchwey; 1 daughter, Eleanor LaRue (dec.); Freda Kirchwey, sister of Dorothy, long-time editor of The Nation
  • 1906 - 1969 Member, Brown, Field & McCarthy, Boston, [originally Brown, Field, & Murray]
  • 1908 Assistant reporter of decisions, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • 1912-1914 Chairman, Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission,
  • 1914-1922 Special Counsel for the United States in Shoe Machinery and other Sherman Act and Clayton Act cases
  • 1917-1919 Assistant Attorney General of the United States
  • 1919-1921 General Solicitor, U.S. Railroad Administration
  • 1921-1925 Special Counsel for U.S. Railroad Administration
  • 1926-1933 Counsel, truck division, National Automobile Chamber of Commerce
  • 1932-1934 Counsel to the federal and state authorities in prosecution of banking frauds
  • 1936 Chairman, Laundry and Retail stores Minimum Wage Boards
  • 1941 Jewelry Minimum Wage Boards
  • 1941 Member, Hotel and Restaurant Boards
  • 1940 Member, Jewelry Industry Commission, Wages and Hours Act
  • 1942 Consultant, Office of Defense Transportation
  • 1942-1946 Special representative of the Attorney General of the United States and Special Assistant to the Ambassador, U.S. Embassy, London, England. LB worked out an agreement between the U.S. and Great Britain known as the "waiver," or "knock for knock" agreement.
  • ca. 1944-1948 Member, Power Committee of the Power Survey of the Twentieth Century Fund
  • 1947-1953 Vice-chairman, Regional Loyalty Boards
  • 1928 LB joined with other liberals in support of Al Smith's campaign for Presidency. Out of this campaign grew:

  1. Labor Injunctions in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Labor Bulletin No. 70,1909.
  2. "Massachusetts and the Minimum Wage," in The Cost of Living, ed. by the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences,1913. (First published in The Annals of the Academy, November, 1913.)
  3. "Bankers andTankers" in The New Republic, 25 November 1925.
  4. "Citizens and the Law:" TheWellesley Lectures of 1925.
  5. Also the author of otherarticles, speeches and editorials, most of which were published inlocal or national professional, political or generalpublications.

Series List

  1. Series I. Voluntary Defenders Committee

    To give practical effect to his vision of equal justice forthe poor, LaRue Brown, in June 1935, organized the Voluntary Defenders Committee with six otherdistinguished members of the Boston bar, Raynor Gardiner, Henry Channing, JacobKaplan, Daniel Lyne, Herbert Parsons, and Samuel Vaughan.He was elected president and continued in that officeuntil his death.

    The Committee was funded by privatecontributions, Community Fund and other charitable agencies, and in1953 received a grant from the Fund For The Republic.

    In the1950's L.B. proposed and supported legislation for a statewidedefender system financed by the Commonwealth, and in 1960 legislationcreating the Massachusetts Defenders Committeewas enacted. L.B. served as its first chairman and was anactive member until his death. The Voluntary DefendersCommittee continued to function, but stopped takingindigent cases after 1960; some parts of its grants it turned over tothe Massachusetts Defenders Committee.

    In the files beginning with 1960, records for both Committees wereinterfiled by Mr. Brown, and no attempt has been made to separatethem.

    The files in this Series consist mainly of annual reports of the operations of the tworespective Committees, of financial reports, surveys, statements ofthe president, statistical charts, correspondence,drafts, clippings, exhibits, andmaterial relating to specific cases and meetings. Dates covered bythese files are 1935 to1969.

  2. Series II. Civil Liberties

    ThisSeries consists of minutes of committeemeetings, clippings, printed material, draftsof legislation, memoranda and correspondence.

    This Series relates to L.B.'s activities in the civilliberties crusade during the 1950's and 1960's. Much of the materialdeals with incidents arising out of the activities of Joseph McCarthy's Senate Committee on GovernmentOperations.

    Included are letters to L.B. from formerMassachusetts senators John F. Kennedy and LeverettSaltonstall. Included also are papers dealing with L.B.'sactivities in the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Unionand the Attorney General's Advisory Committee onCivil Rights, 1958 - 1960.

    Arrangement is inapproximately chronological sequence, except for the Civil LibertiesUnion of Massachusetts material which was filed as one chronologicalunit.

  3. Series III. Bill of Rights Committee

    This Series includes correspondence;pleadings; drafts and printed copies of legislativebills; resolutions; memoranda; committee reportsand miscellaneous printed matter.

    LaRue Brown waspresident of the Bill of Rights Committee of the Boston BarAssociation from 1956 to 1968.

  4. Series IV. Other Activities

    ThisSeries consists of correspondence, printedmatter, holographic notes, typed speeches, minutesof board meetings. Among Brown's important correspondentswere Herbert Lehman, Arthur Schlesinger, and Charles Warren.

    The material relates toBrown's activities in the Massachusetts Chapter of theAmericans for Democratic Action and the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Committee on JewelryManufacturing Industry both of which he served aschairman, as well as his duties as Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1918,1919 and 1946, his duties as a member of the MassachusettsCommission on Minimum Wage Boards in 1912, 15, 26, and hisactivities as a member of the Boston BarAssociation.

  5. Series V. Correspondence

    AmongLaRue Brown's important correspondents were Upton Sinclair, FelixFrankfurter, Manley O. Hudson, Arthur M. Schlesinger and Charles C.Burlingham.

    The correspondence in these files ranges from 1890 to 1969. Alarge portion of it relates to World Wars I and II. Thecorrespondence relating to the Ratcliffe Fundindicates clearly Brown's humane and generouscharacter.

  6. Series VI. Biographical Miscellany

    The material in this series consists of clippings, correspondence, printed matter,holographic notes, typescripts, diplomas andcertificates.

    The material covers the years 1897 to 1969. Alarge number of the files pertain to L.B.'s years as a student atPhillips Exeter and Harvard and his subsequent alumni activities withExeter, Harvard College, and the Harvard Law School. In addition, there is a setof transcripts of taped reminiscences of L.B.

  7. Series VII. Addenda: Correspondence, Miscellany
  8. Series VIII. Paige Boxes

    Material inthis Series consists of printed briefs, records, arguments, and ofmaterial written by LaRue Brown alone or jointly, also hard-boundbooks (so - called "association copies") and a file of 3x5 indexcards. Dates covered are 1909 - 1951.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of [Herman] LaRue Brown were presented to the Harvard Law School Library as a gift in 1970 and 1974, respectively, by his widow, Dorothy Kirchwey Brown.

Processing Information

Prepared by Erika Chadbourn and John J. Feeney, Jr., 1970, 1974.

Brown, Herman LaRue. Papers, 1890-1969: Finding Aid.
Harvard Law School LibraryCambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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