Ray Becker papers, 1919-1970  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Becker, Ray
Title
Ray Becker papers
Dates
1919-1970 (inclusive)
Quantity
.90 cubic feet, (2 document boxes)
Collection Number
Mss 2003
Summary
Papers collected by Julia Ruuttila pertaining to efforts to secure the release from prison of Ray Becker, who was involved in the "Centralia Massacre" of 1919. Includes: correspondence with Becker, papers of the Centralia Publicity Committee and the Free Ray Becker Committee, and newspaper and other published articles. Some photographs included.
Repository
Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
97205
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
libreference@ohs.org
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Languages
English.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Rayfield Becker, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the Pacific northwest, was born Ralph Burgdorf in New Orleans, around 1895, and grew up near Chicago. In 1919 the authorities imprisoned him for his part in the so-called "Centralia Massacre." This incident took place in Centralia, Washington, on Armistace Day of that year and involved the death of four American Legionnaires and one IWW man during a gunfight at the local IWW headquarters. Some witnesses said the veterans had attacked the building and that the IWW men had acted in self-defense. However, contemporary public opinion favored the veterans, and a jury convicted eight IWW members -- including Becker -- of murder in the case. After their conviction, sympathetic citizens -- including many church groups and the Communist Party -- began to campaign for the release of the men. By the mid-1930s, all the original convicts except Ray Becker had died or had been paroled, and around 1936 his supporters formed the Free Ray Becker Committee. A prominent member of the committee was political activist Julia Ruuttila (formerly Julia Godman), who had taken an interest in Becker's case in the early 1920s. Becker remained in Walla Walla State Prison until 1939, when Washington Governor Clarence Martin commuted his sentence. Becker then went to New York City, but he later returned to Portland, Oregon and operated a leather goods store in Vancouver, Washington. He lived until 1950, when he died while working in the yard near his home on SW Arnold Street in Portland.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection includes papers collected by Julia Ruuttila pertaining to efforts to secure Ray Becker's release from prison. Papers include correspondence with Becker, papers of the Centralia Publicity Committee and the Free Ray Becker Committee, newspaper and other published articles, and information on the Industrial Workers of the World. The collection also includes some photographs.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright holders.

Preferred Citation

Ray Becker papers, Mss 2003, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Alternative Forms Available

The collection is also available on two reels of microfilm, designated Mss 2003 Microfilm.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series A:  Letters from Ray Becker to Julia Ruuttila, 1923-1940Return to Top

Arranged chronologically.
Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/1
1923-1926
1/2
1930 February 12
1/3
1935
1/4
1936
1/5
Possibly written in 1919?
1936
1/6
Fragment.
1936
1/7
1937
1/8
1938-1939
1/9
1939-1940
1/10
undated

Series B:  Centralia Publicity Committee records, 1919-1952Return to Top

Arranged alphabetically by subject.
Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/11
Affidavits (general) secured by Centralia Defense Committee
1921-1940
1/12
Affidavits
1922-1924
1/13
Affidavits
1947
1/14
Bulletin
1927-1928
1/15
The Centralia Case, Elizabeth Attridge
1929
1/16
The Centralia Case, Edward P. Coll
undated
1/17
Correspondence of James Cummings
1925
1/18
Correspondence of Olympia Trades Council
1928 June
1/19
Correspondence between Becker and Elmer Smith
1923-1933
1/20
Correspondence between Elmer Smith and Edward Coll
1929
1/21
Correspondence from Elmer Smith
1929-1930
1/22
Correspondence from VFW, Kelso
1929 April 25
1/23
Centralia Chronicle lists
1919
1/24
Disbarment of Elmer Smith
1925
1/25
Exhibits
1919-1939
1/26
General information
1919-1920, undated
1/27
Longshoremen and Warehousemen International Union: LWIU (ILWU) meeting minutes
Includes a page from meeting minutes of United Mine Workers of America, undated
1924
1/28
Lynch suspects
List of men suspected of involvement with the lynching of one of the IWW men shortly after the Centralia incident in 1919.
1936
1/29
Notes and notebook of Elmer Smith
undated
1/30
Notes from Ruuttila trips to Washington
undated
1/31
Notes, miscellaneous
undated
1/32-33
Pamphlets and leaflets
circa 1925-1952
1/34
Petitions to Governor Hart
1922-1924
1/35
Petitions to Governor Hartley
1922-1929
1/36
Petition with exhibit
circa 1924
1/37
Petitions: Businessmen who signed petitions for release
undated
1/38
Witnesses at Montesano
undated

Series C:  Free Ray Becker Committee (FRBC), circa 1920-1939Return to Top

Arranged alphabetically by subject.
Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/1
Affidavits: Mrs. McAllister and P. N. Crinion
1924-1936
2/2
Affidavit: William McKenzie
Includes Schmidt telegram, 1939
1937
2/3
Affidavit: Clyde Tisdale
1939
2/4
Affidavits of jurors
circa 1937
2/5
Affidavits secured by the FRBC
1936
2/6
Affidavits secured by Roy Hewitt
1937-1939
2/7
Affidavits secured by Clifford O'Brien
1936-1937
2/8
Affidavits of jurors secured by Elmer Smith
1922-1930
2/9
Articles by Julia Godman Ruuttila
circa 1936
2/10
The Centralia Case
undated
2/11
Correspondence: Irvin Goodman
1936
2/12
Correspondence: Clifford O'Brien
1937
2/13
Correspondence: Herman Stuyvelaar
1937
2/14
Correspondence: Robertson Trowbridge
1936
2/15
Correspondence: Miscellaneous
Includes correspondence to Will Lanning
1937-1939
2/16
Financial ledger
1936-1937
2/17
Industrial Union Council, Portland, minutes
1939
2/18
Newspaper clippings
1939
2/19-2/20
Newspaper printing plates
One printing plate of a photograph and one of a drawing called "Stain of the Ray Becker Infamy."
undated
2/21
Photographs
Photographs of Ray Becker, Henry Minor Esterly, Irvin Goodman, George Hayes, Ralph Peoples, Julia Ruuttia, and S. S. Stevens.
circa 1920-1939
2/22
Strategy plan and draft resolution
undated

Series D:  Newspaper clippings, articles, minutes, 1936-1970Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/23
Contemporary newspaper clippings
The Timber Worker and the Daily People's World.
1936-1948
2/24
Ray Becker newspaper obituaries
1950
2/25
"The Freeing of Ray Becker" article by Albert Gunns
1967
2/26
Correspondence regarding Albert Gunns article
1936-1970
2/27
Proceedings of the First General Convention of the Federation of the Woodworking Industry
1936
2/28
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Convention minutes
1936

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Centralia Massacre, Centralia, Wash., 1919.
  • Riots--Washington (State)--Centralia--History.
  • Trials (Murder)--Washington (State)
  • Trials (Riots)--Washington (State)
  • Personal Names :
  • Attridge, Elizabeth
  • Becker, Ray.
  • Goodman, Irvin, 1897-1958.
  • Smith, Elmer.
  • Corporate Names :
  • Centralia Publicity Committee.
  • Free Ray Becker Committee.
  • Industrial Workers of the World.
  • Geographical Names :
  • Centralia (Wash.)--History.
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Ledgers (account books)
  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Photographs.
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Ruuttila, Julia, 1907-1991. (creator)