Loyalty Case Records and Selection
There is no comprehensive list of federal employees whose investigations continued beyond the initial screening. The vast majority of the U.S. Civil Service Commission case files were destroyed in 1984 after a National Archives and Records Service study concluded they were not of sufficient research value to retain. Only the largest files, about 2,400 files more than an inch thick (the “oversize” files, totaling 1,200 cubic feet), were preserved, as Record Group 478 (RG 478). An estimated 1.72 million case files that were less than an inch thick (totaling 18,600 cubic feet) were destroyed.1 Few scholars have cited RG 478, the existence of which I discovered only after much communication with archivists. The record group does not include every case that generated a large volume of documentation; there is no file for Dorothy Bailey, for example, whose case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the record group thus is of limited use for sampling purposes, it contains rich data on at least some (and probably most) of the cases that generated files more than an inch thick.
What made files “oversize” was either exhibits submitted by the defendant, typically their own publications, or hearing transcripts. Hearings took place after a defendant replied to an interrogatory from a loyalty board. Sometimes the defendant requested a hearing, and sometimes the board required one because it was not convinced by the reply to interrogatory. Because high-level people were more likely to have publications and more likely to request hearings to clear their reputations, the oversize files disproportionately pertain to high-ranking employees. Low-level workers were less able to afford appeals, and they may have been less optimistic about their chances of success. Similarly, cases involving Communist Party members and cases involving gays and lesbians seem underrepresented in RG 478, perhaps because those individuals were more likely to resign or to be dismissed before their files became thick. The case records of the “lavender scare” probably were among those 1.72 million “thin” files that were destroyed.2
When I began my research, National Archives policy prevented me from seeing the list of 2,400 surviving case files that constitute RG 478. I had to guess who might have been a loyalty defendant, obtain an obituary