Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall, 2008 Page: 32 of 68
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John Beaty and the Controversy
over Communism at SMU
BY PAUL SANTA CRUZ
he early years of the Cold War in the United
States were marked by a growing fear of
Communist influence in American life and institutions.
Although the United States came out of
World War II stronger and more powerful than
ever before, many feared that the Soviet Union
was intent on spreading its control-and with it,
Communist ideology-wherever it could in the
world. Nor was this fear limited only to foreign
affairs, for many were also convinced that Soviet
Communism was targeting American government,
Hollywood, labor unions, and education.
Schools large and small, private and public,
began taking steps during these years to reassure
the nation, their surrounding communities, and
their own students and university patrons that
their institution was coping effectively with the
threat. Communist subversion seemed to be
appearing at colleges and universities all over the
nation; Southern Methodist University was no
exception. In the mid 1950s, SMU experienced
its own internal debate following the publication
of a pamphlet by one of the school's faculty
members, alleging the "capturing" of the university
by anti-American influences. Those allegations
were made by Professor John O. Beaty in
1954 with the release of his pamphlet entitled,
"How to Capture a University."
Beaty (1890-1961)' received his Ph.D. in
philosophy at Columbia University in 1921; his
career at SMU had actually begun in 1919 with
his appointment to the English Department by
the university's first president, Dr. Robert Hyer.
Beaty served during World War II in the Army's
Military Intelligence Service, attaining the rank
of lieutenant colonel. He later resumed teaching
at SMU and retired in 1957; his main areas of
teaching included sophomore English, Old
English, and the history of the English language.
Beaty published more than ten books during his
career, and held membership in Phi Beta Kappa,
the Texas Institute of Letters, the American
Legion, and the Conference of College Teachers
of English, in which he served as president.2
Although it was the release of his 1954 pamphlet
that set off the controversy at SMU, and
which eventually led to his censure by the Board
of Trustees,3 he had begun to attract attention
(criticism certainly, but also support) with the
publication of his book The Iron Curtain Over
America in 1951. In that book, Beaty argued that
the United States had fallen victim to threatening
forces within the country; the growing
power of anti-American, Communist groups
meant that the nation was struggling to save its
Christian, democratic heritage. Citing President
30 LEGACIES Fall 2008
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Dallas Heritage Village. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall, 2008, periodical, 2008; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46806/m1/32/: accessed February 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.