Inventory of the Thelma C. Furry Papers, 1911-1990

Thelma C. Furry Papers, 1911-1990
Archives and Special Collections, University Libraries, The University of Akron
Phone: 330-972-7670
Furry, Thelma C., 1910-2000
4.0 cubic feet (5 record boxes)
The Thelma C. Furry Papers consist of correspondence, legal documents, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook, publications and taped interviews relating to Mrs. Furry's career as an attorney as well as her private life. The papers provide valuable insight into political attitudes in postwar Akron and the struggle for civil rights in Ohio.
Archival Services
The records are in English

Biography of

Thelma C. Furry was born on January 22, 1910 in Louisville, Kentucky, the first child of Fred and Irene Seibert. In 1917, Mr. Seibert moved to Akron to seek employment in the rubber industry. He began work at the B.F. Goodrich Company, but disliked the working conditions there. Fred Seibert was a strong believer in Christian Science and the denomination's emphasis on human equality. Mr. Seibert was also a confirmed Socialist and supporter of Eugene V. Debs, an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and several times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. These convictions led him to become active in organizing a union among Akron's rubber workers. After going into business for himself, he remained politically active, being a charter member of the local Communist Party chapter in 1920 and continuously involved in the labor movement throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Thelma Furry was strongly influenced by her father's beliefs and the struggles of Akron's labor movement in the 1930s. It was during these years that she began accompanying her father to meetings and to the courthouse. Thelma testified as a defense witness in a particular case defended by Yetta Land, a woman lawyer from Cleveland. The two women eventually became good friends and Land encouraged Thelma in her decision to become a lawyer. Thelma's road to a law career was not an easy one. In 1927, at age 16, she dropped out of high school to marry Tom Osborn. At the end of that year her daughter, Jacqueline, was born. Tom and Thelma were divorced in 1929. Thelma began working in a local match factory to support herself and her child. In 1932, Thelma married James Furry, a machinist at the match factory, and soon afterwards she went back to school. In 1934, Thelma graduated from Kenmore High School and went on to The University of Akron, eventually entering the Akron School of Law in 1936. While in college, Thelma was politically active, joining the Communist Party in 1935 and working in support of the rubber workers strike the following year. This period was considered the "golden era" of the party in Akron and throughout the nation. The depression and its consequences-unemployment and disillusionment-drove many working people to seek the Communist Party as an alternative to the traditional political organization. An influential party organizer during the 1930s was Jim Keller. Keller came to Akron around 1934 and stayed on through the height of the rubber workers strike. During that time he and his wife, Evelyn, became close friends with Thelma. Throughout the years Thelma sought Jim Keller's advice on political and personal issues. In 1938 she began to supplement her income by working as an instructor in a Works Progress Administration program. Thelma divorced in 1939 and finished her law degree in 1940. In 1941, Thelma had a great deal of difficulty getting permission from the dean of the Law School to take the bar exam. In 1942 she was dismissed from her W.P.A. job because of her membership in the Communist Party. Likewise, she lost a position on the night shift at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Aircraft Division for her efforts to organize her fellow employees. Despite these difficulties, Thelma gained a reputation in her law practice as a defender of unpopular people and causes. She helped African-Americans with civil rights law suits, defended communists against state prosecution, and in the early 1950s stood against McCarthyism. In October of 1953, she and a number of other area activists were called before the Ohio Un-American Activities Committee. Thelma and the others refused to answer questions from the committee citing their constitutional rights against self-incrimination. A contempt case (Ohio v. Arnold, et al.) soon followed in which Thelma played a leading part, as both defendant and defense attorney. This case eventually went before the United States Supreme Court which ruled that the Ohio Un-American Activities Committee had no legal basis to conduct its hearings. This decision had important consequences for similar cases in Ohio and elsewhere. These years also saw important changes in Thelma's political activities. Disenchanted with the leadership of the Communist Party, she resigned from the organization in 1950. Her basic ideals, however, remained unchanged and throughout the 1960s and '70s she continued to represent the underdog. Among her more noteworthy cases are Townend v. Townend and Lewis v. Lewis, both child custody cases focusing on the suitability of lesbian mothers; Ohio v. Weissenberger, the defense of a student involved in the Kent State University disturbances in 1970; and Waitzkin, et al. v. Nixon, et al., the taxpayers' suit to stop the war in Vietnam.

Scope and Content

The Thelma C. Furry Papers consist primarily of material relating to her notable legal cases in support of civil liberties. The papers include legal briefs, documents, statements, notes, correspondence and newspaper clippings from selected court cases, plus other materials which document important events in Furry's life.

The papers would be of interest to those researching the patterns of change that have taken place in the Akron area and the nation in respect to civil liberties. It contains materials pertaining to discrimination against African-Americans, lower income Caucasians, members of the Communist Party and others who had beliefs or philosophies that differed from those of the accepted majority of the population. The correspondence and legal case files give insight into the practices and methods of discrimination that took place over a forty year period. In particular, these records document what occurred during the McCarthy era and are especially significant since they represent the perspective of those who were "victimized."

Statement of Arrangement

The papers are divided into eight series: Series I: Personal Papers, 1935-1980 is made up of correspondence, records, and publications relating to Thelma Furry's private life and activities. Materials within each folder are arranged chronologically. Of significant interest in this series are the copy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation file on Furry, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act; and correspondence with Jim Keller, which contains valuable insight into Furry's personal views as well as the Communist Party of Ohio. Series II: Legal Cases, 1939-1957 deals with cases tried from 1939 to 1957, excluding those cases concerning the Ohio Un-American Activities Committee, which are in a separate group. Virtually all of these cases pertain to civil liberties, and the following are of special interest: Ohio v. Thomas, involves a young African-American man accused of robbery, Nash et al v. Katsias and Stansit, consists of a series of suits by Akron African-Americans against the owners of a diner in which people of their race were refused service; and Ohio v. Hashmall, a case which the judge acted with prejudice toward both Furry and her client. In the appeal of this case, the Ohio Supreme Court reduced the sentence ruled on by Judge Wannamaker and reprimanded him for his conduct during the trial. Series III: The Ohio Un-American Activities Committee, Contempt Cases, 1953-1961 comprises cases stemming from the committee hearings. In Ohio v. Arnold, Furry was among the defendants, and in Ohio v. Morgan, some of the correspondence relates to dissention within the Ohio Communist Party. Series IV: Legal Cases, 1969-1976 contains files of cases dating from 1968 to 1976. Among the more important of these are: Ohio v. Weissenberger, Townend v. Townend, and Lewis v. Lewis. Series V: Foreign Estates, 1947-1972 consists of information on foreign estates, most of which involve a naturalized U.S. citizen who died leaving as heirs relatives in Eastern Europe. Folders listed as "closed" or "open" estates with little or no complication, while larger more complex estates are dealt with individually and are arranged alphabetically. Series VI: Publications, 1933-1968 consists of publications Furry collection on the subjects of Communism and law. Series VII: Oral Histories, 1980-1981 includes two taped interviews and transcripts of interviews conducted Furry in 1980 and 1981. The first interview deals primarily with Furry's background and her years as a member of the Communist Party, while the second is concerned with the McCarthy era in Akron and the Ohio Un-American Activities Committee cases, particularly Ohio v. Morgan. In both tapes, Furry explains her personal beliefs and philosophy. Series VIII: Subject Files, 1911-1990 includes printed material, other Court briefs, newspaper clippings regarding Furry's articles and speeches, and photographs.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Permission to reproduce or publish materials in this collection must be secured in writing from Archival Services, University Libraries, The University of Akron.

Restrictions on Access

No restrictions on access; except not available through interlibrary loan. Copyright restrictions may apply. Permission to reproduce or publish materials in this collection must be secured in writing from Archival Services, University Libraries, The University of Akron.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


Civil Rights
State Action--Ohio
Women Lawyers--Ohio--Akron


Furry, Thelma C. 1910-2000

Preferred Citation

[Identification of Item], Thelma C. Furry Papers, Archival Services, University Libraries, The University of Akron, Akron Ohio.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Thelma C.Furry, 1980

Processing Information

Terry S. Latour and Hampton Smith, June 26, 1981; re-housed by Adrienne Browning 2013, finding aid updated 2013

Detailed Description of The Collection


BOX 1 / Folder 1
College term paper, 1935

BOX 1 / Folder 2-3
F.B.I. file, Thelma C. Furry, 1941-1972

BOX 1 / Folder 4
Correspondence; Bar Exam; Works Progress Administration dismissal, 1940

BOX 1 / Folder 5
Radio speeches, legal cases, related correspondence, 1945

BOX 1 / Folder 6-7
General correspondence, 1937-1980

BOX 1 / Folder 8
Correspondence with Jim Keller, 1937-1977

BOX 1 / Folder 9
Newspaper clippings, 1941-1973

BOX 1 / Folder 10
Letters to the editor, 1942-1956

BOX 1 / Folder 11
National Association of Women Lawyers, 1947-1950

BOX 1 / Folder 12
National Lawyers Guild, 1953-1966

BOX 1 / Folder 13
National Lawyers Guild, Civil Liberties Docket, Vols. I-VI, 1955-1959

BOX 1 / Folder 14
National Lawyers Guild, Freedom of Information Act, August 1977-November 1977

BOX 1 / Folder 15
Civil Liberties, pamphlets and publications, ca. 1949-ca. 1956

BOX 1 / Folder 16
Civil rights, Nash incident, Milwaukee, WI, 1950

BOX 1 / Folder 17
Petition protesting the Cuban Invasion (Bay of Pigs), 1961

BOX 1 / Folder 18
Center for Constitutional Rights: Report on Grand Jury Abuse, 1977

BOX 1 / Folder 19
Munroe Falls Residents Association, 1966-1968

BOX 1 / Folder 20
Akron-Canton Memorial Society, undated

BOX 1 / Folder 21
Items of personal interest, poems, quotations, articles, etc., undated

BOX 1 / Folder 22
Weisenheimer v. Weisenheimer, divorce, 1965-1970

BOX 1 / Folder 23
Personal papers, 1929-1980

Series II: Legal Cases, 1939-1957

BOX 1 / Folder 24
Daily Worker v. Simmons, d.b.a. WADC Radio, 1939-1943

BOX 1 / Folder 25
Ohio v. Thomas, Emmett, 1941-1951

BOX 1 / Folder 26
Hinman, Ithamar B. v. Communist Party, Legal Documents, 1942-1945

BOX 1 / Folder 27
Hinman, Ithamar B. v. Communist Party, Correspondence, Notes, 1942-1945

BOX 1 / Folder 28
Nash et al. v. Katsias and Stansit (civil rights case), 1946-1947

BOX 1 / Folder 29
Ohio, ex rel. J. Herman Brown v. Anne T. Case (Paul Robeson appeal), Sept. 1949-Oct. 1949

BOX 1 / Folder 30
City of Bellaire v. Reinthaler, Eric J., 1950-1951

BOX 1 / Folder 31
Ohio v. Hashmall, Frank, Legal Documents, 1952-1953

BOX 2 / Folder 1
Ohio v. Hashmall, Frank, Legal Documents, Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts, 1953-1954

BOX 2 / Folder 2
Ohio v. Hashmall, Frank, Correspondence, 1952-1955

BOX 2 / Folder 3
Ohio v. Hashmall, Frank, statements, notes, 1952-1955

BOX 2 / Folder 4
Ohio v. Hashmall, Frank, newspaper clippings and articles, 1952-1957

Series III: The Ohio Un-American Activities Committee, Contempt Cases, 1953-1961

BOX 2 / Folder 5
Ohio v. Arnold, et al., Legal Documents, 1953-1959

BOX 2 / Folder 6
Ohio v. Arnold, et al., Correspondence, notes and briefs, 1953-1959

BOX 2 / Folder 7
Ohio v. Morgan, Anna H., Legal Documents, 1954-1956

BOX 2 / Folder 8
Ohio v. Morgan, Anna H., Legal Documents, 1956

BOX 2 / Folder 9
Ohio v. Morgan, Anna H., Legal Documents, 1956-1958

BOX 2 / Folder 10
Ohio v. Morgan, Anna H., Legal Documents, 1958-1959

BOX 2 / Folder 11
Ohio v. Morgan, Anna H., Correspondence, 1954-1959

BOX 2 / Folder 12
Ohio v. Morgan, Anna H., notes and miscellaneous, undated

BOX 2 / Folder 13
Ohio v. Slagle, Laverne, et al., Legal Documents, 1958-1960

BOX 2 / Folder 14
Ohio v. Slagle, Laverne, et al., Legal Documents, 1960-1961

BOX 2 / Folder 15
Ohio v. Slagle, Laverne, et al., Correspondence, notes and miscellaneous, 1958-1962

BOX 2 / Folder 16
Ohio v. Slagle; Ohio vs. Terrill, Correspondence, Motion to reverse judgment, 1959

BOX 2 / Folder 17
Ohio v. Raley, et al., Appeal to Ohio Supreme Court, 1956

BOX 2 / Folder 18
Ohio v. Raley, et al., Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, 1956

BOX 2 / Folder 19
U.S. v. Laurenti, Deposition of Mae E. Probst, 1956

Series IV: Legal Cases, 1969-1976

BOX 3 / Folder 1
Ohio v. Beggs, 1969

BOX 3 / Folder 2
Ohio v. Weissenberger, Ronald (Kent State Anti-War Protest), Legal Documents, 1970-1971

BOX 3 / Folder 3
Ohio v. Weisenberger, Ronald, Legal Documents, 1971-1973

BOX 3 / Folder 4
Ohio v. Weisenberger, Ronald, Correspondence and notes, 1970-1971

BOX 3 / Folder 5
Dellinger, David et al. and U.S.A. v. Seale, Bobby G., Amicus brief(Chicago Seven conspiracy and contempt case), 1971

BOX 3 / Folder 6
Waitzkin, et al. v. Nixon, et al., (Taxpayers War case), 1971-1972

BOX 3 / Folder 7
Townend, Kenneth L. v. Townend, Larraine, Correspondence, (child custody case, lesbian mother), 1974-1975

BOX 3 / Folder 8
Townend, Kenneth L. v. Townend, Larraine, Legal Documents, 1974-1975

BOX 3 / Folder 9
Townend, Kenneth L. v. Townend, Larraine, notes, news clippings and miscellaneous, 1964-1975

BOX 3 / Folder 10
Lewis v. Lewis, (child custody case, lesbian mother), 1976

Series V: Foreign Estates, 1947-1972

BOX 3 / Folder 11
Foreign Estates, Correspondence, 1947-1962

BOX 3 / Folder 12
Foreign Estates, Pleadings, Memoranda, Correspondence and Notes, 1951-1959

BOX 3 / Folder 13
Foreign Estates, Closed, 1953-1956

BOX 3 / Folder 14
Foreign Estates, Closed, 1956-1964

BOX 3 / Folder 15
Foreign Estates, Closed, 1959-1963

BOX 3 / Folder 16
Foreign Estates, Closed, 1965-1975

BOX 3 / Folder 17
Foreign Estates, Open, 1960-1963

BOX 3 / Folder 18
Foreign Estates, Open, 1963-1964

BOX 3 / Folder 19
Foreign Estates, Open, 1966-1971

BOX 3 / Folder 20
Foreign Estates, Briefs and Memoranda, 1958

BOX 3 / Folder 21
Mike Doransky Estate, 1963-1965

BOX 3 / Folder 22
Mike M. Dubinsky Estate, Correspondence, 1960-1966

BOX 3 / Folder 23
Mike M. Dubinsky Estate, Legal Documents, 1960-1966

BOX 3 / Folder 24
Nick George Estate, Correspondence, 1959-1972

BOX 3 / Folder 25
Nick George Estate, Legal Documents, 1959-1972

BOX 3 / Folder 26
Peter Grabijan Estate, 1967-1968

BOX 3 / Folder 27
Frances E. Gyory Estate, 1967-1968

BOX 4 / Folder 1
Joseph Hardi Estate, 1953-1956

BOX 4 / Folder 2
Peter Hromik Estate, 1948-1952

BOX 4 / Folder 3
Peter Hromik Estate, Correspondence, 1958-1971

BOX 4 / Folder 4
Peter Hromik Estate, Documents, 1937-1969

BOX 4 / Folder 5
Maria Jager Estate, 1955-1957

BOX 4 / Folder 6
Alexander Kovacs Estate, 1954-1961

BOX 4 / Folder 7
Kaitan Michaelovsky Estate, 1958-1961

BOX 4 / Folder 8
Maurer, John L. v. Mihalyne, Demeter (Estate of Stephen J.Muranyi), 1955-1956

BOX 4 / Folder 9
Maurer, John L. v. Mihalyne, Demeter (Estate of Stephen J.Muranyi), 1957-1969

BOX 4 / Folder 10
Steve Palinkas Estate, 1963-1964

BOX 4 / Folder 11
Jasper Petroff Estate, 1964-1967

BOX 4 / Folder 12
Mary Somogi Estate, 1950-1965

BOX 4 / Folder 13
John Streza Estate, 1954-1960

BOX 4 / Folder 14
Alexander Yakolvic Estate, 1964-1968

BOX 4 / Folder 15
Miscellaneous Foreign Estates handled with Joseph Zorman, 1963

Series VI: Publications, 1933-1968

BOX 4 / Folder 16
Adoratsky, V., Dialectical Materialism, 1934; Marx, Karl, Wage-Labor and Capital, 1933, 1933-1934

BOX 4 / Folder 17
Stalin, Joseph, Foundations of Leninism, 1939; Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1935, 1939

BOX 4 / Folder 18
Pamphlets: Marxist Study Courses (7 Vols.) and other materials relating to Marxism and the Communist Party, undated

BOX 4 / Folder 19
National Lawyers Guild, Referral Directories, 1958-1960

BOX 4 / Folder 20
The Lawyers Co-Operative Publishing Co., United States Supreme Court Reports, March, July, 1957; Case and Comment, January-February, 1962, 1957

BOX 4 / Folder 21
Kahn, Albert E., High Treason: The Plot Against the People, 1950, 1950

Series VII: Oral Histories, 1980-1981

BOX 4 / Folder 22
Oral History Tapes: Interviews with Thelma Furry, April 25, 1980

BOX 4 / Folder 23
Transcripts of tapes, 1980-1981

Series VIII: Subject Files, 1911-1990

BOX 5 / Folder 1
The Bill of Rights Journal, December 1975; Griswold, Erin N., The 5th Amendment Today, 1955, 1975

BOX 5 / Folder 2
Canton-Akron Memorial Society, 1972

BOX 5 / Folder 3
Closed Estates, 1948-1957

BOX 5 / Folder 4
Correspondence, 1942-1990

BOX 5 / Folder 5
Estate of Grabjan, 1968

BOX 5 / Folder 6
Jackson and Ferrell Un-American Committee (Duplicates), 1956

BOX 5 / Folder 7
Kostyuchik - Hromik, 1958-1959

BOX 5 / Folder 8
Michailovsky, Kaiton; Michailowsky, Kapitan (#51281; #42335), 1959-1965

BOX 5 / Folder 9
N.L.G. Material, 1955-1963

BOX 5 / Folder 10
Miscellaneous Papers, 1949-1970

BOX 5 / Folder 11
Nash - Civil Rights cases (Duplicates), 1946-1948

BOX 5 / Folder 12
Newspaper Clippings: Thelma Furry [articles written by her], 1976-1988

BOX 5 / Folder 13
Newspaper Clippings: Thelma Furry [announcement of speeches by her], 1985-1986

BOX 5 / Folder 14
Newspaper Clippings: Thelma Furry [personal and professional life], 1988-1990

BOX 5 / Folder 15
Open Estates, 1954

BOX 5 / Folder 16-18
Photographs, 1911-1980

BOX 5 / Folder 19
Pleadings, Foreign Estates, 1945-1948

BOX 5 / Folder 20
Personal Documents, 1962-1977

BOX 5 / Folder 21
Slagle Papers 25738, undated

BOX 5 / Folder 22
Slagle - U.S. Supreme Court Appeal, Briefs & Statements, 1959-1960

BOX 5 / Folder 23
Slagle - U.S. Supreme Court Appeal Dockets, Briefs, Assignments of Error, 1959-1960

BOX 5 / Folder 24
Braden, Carl v. Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals of Kentucky, 1956

BOX 5 / Folder 25
T.C. (Duplicates), 1956

BOX 5 / Folder 26
War Case (Duplicates #742), August 14, 1980

OVERSIZED: 1 Scrapbook: Newspaper clippings and memorabilia, 1937-1959