Ray Becker papers, 1919-1970 PDF
- Becker, Ray
- Ray Becker papers
- 1919-1970 (inclusive)19191970
- .90 cubic feet, (2 document boxes)
- Collection Number
- Mss 2003
- 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.
- Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open to the public.
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
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.
Ray Becker papers, Mss 2003, Oregon Historical Society Research Library
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
|1/2||1930 February 12|
Possibly written in 1919?
Series B: Centralia Publicity Committee records, 1919-1952Return to Top
Affidavits (general) secured by Centralia Defense Committee
The Centralia Case, Elizabeth Attridge
The Centralia Case, Edward P. Coll
Correspondence of James Cummings
Correspondence of Olympia Trades Council
Correspondence between Becker and Elmer Smith
Correspondence between Elmer Smith and Edward Coll
Correspondence from Elmer Smith
Correspondence from VFW, Kelso
|1929 April 25|
Centralia Chronicle lists
Disbarment of Elmer Smith
Longshoremen and Warehousemen International Union: LWIU (ILWU) meeting minutes
Includes a page from meeting minutes of United Mine Workers of America, undated
List of men suspected of involvement with the lynching of one of the IWW men shortly after the Centralia incident in 1919.
Notes and notebook of Elmer Smith
Notes from Ruuttila trips to Washington
Pamphlets and leaflets
Petitions to Governor Hart
Petitions to Governor Hartley
Petition with exhibit
Petitions: Businessmen who signed petitions for release
Witnesses at Montesano
Series C: Free Ray Becker Committee (FRBC), circa 1920-1939Return to Top
Affidavits: Mrs. McAllister and P. N. Crinion
Affidavit: William McKenzie
Includes Schmidt telegram, 1939
Affidavit: Clyde Tisdale
Affidavits of jurors
Affidavits secured by the FRBC
Affidavits secured by Roy Hewitt
Affidavits secured by Clifford O'Brien
Affidavits of jurors secured by Elmer Smith
Articles by Julia Godman Ruuttila
The Centralia Case
Correspondence: Irvin Goodman
Correspondence: Clifford O'Brien
Correspondence: Herman Stuyvelaar
Correspondence: Robertson Trowbridge
Includes correspondence to Will Lanning
Industrial Union Council, Portland, minutes
Newspaper printing plates
One printing plate of a photograph and one of a drawing called "Stain of the Ray Becker Infamy."
Photographs of Ray Becker, Henry Minor Esterly, Irvin Goodman, George Hayes, Ralph Peoples, Julia Ruuttia, and S. S. Stevens.
Strategy plan and draft resolution
Series D: Newspaper clippings, articles, minutes, 1936-1970Return to Top
Contemporary newspaper clippings
The Timber Worker and the Daily People's World.
Ray Becker newspaper obituaries
"The Freeing of Ray Becker" article by Albert Gunns
Correspondence regarding Albert Gunns article
Proceedings of the First General Convention of the Federation of the Woodworking Industry
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Convention minutes
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)
- Other Creators :
- Personal Names :
- Ruuttila, Julia, 1907-1991. (creator)