Hugh Baillie, Newspaper Reporter

During the two years that Clarence and Ruby were in Los Angeles they had few friendly acquaintances with whom they could spend time in a casual manner.

In addition to spies, each side had newspaper reporters upon whom they relied for confidential tidbits, as well as favorable news stories telling their side of the battle between organized capital and organized labor. At the time, Los Angeles had seven daily newspapers and three weeklies. Their role could be important in defending the brothers.

Because of Ruby’s former career as a newspaper columnist and Clarence’s love for being quoted in newspapers, the two of them easily struck up acquaintances with reporters. One young reporter with whom Darrow made a fruitful relationship shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles was Hugh Baillie of the Record. Though he was not a puppet for the defense, Baillie’s news stories proved to be valuable “first drafts of history” and his reporting reads as someone simply recounting events he had observed. Baillie was just one of several reporters Darrow wooed.

Early on, even before he had relented to Gompers’ pressure tactics back in Chicago, Darrow had advised people in the labor movement that they had to stay on message. He believed that the trial of the McNamara brothers would be a public relations battle, almost as much it would be a fight in the courtroom.  Darrow and labor had learned that truism during the Bill Haywood trial and hoped to put the lesson to use in developing the most effective public mind-set as they prepared for trial. But they weren’t in Idaho. General Otis and the Times were determined to dominate the public discussion.

It appears that Darrow not only tried to use Baillie but on occasion, let his guard down. Baillie was no ordinary “cub reporter” but rather a third-generation reporter with “ink in his veins.” By age 29, Baillie headed the Washington bureau of the United Press, and two decades later became president of that international news agency. In his memoir on a 50-year career, Baillie spoke candidly. “My impression was that he [Darrow] had few scruples about the procedure to be used in winning, so long as he personally believed that the cause was just…[.] In my opinion Darrow was guilty – on the evidence, which included his presence across the street, as a spectator, while Franklin was passing the money to Lockwood; on his attitude and appearance during the trials; and on the basis of my private conversations with him.”

Baillie also discussed the quickness of the Lockwood verdict. Shortly after the trial, “I ran into juror Golding. Who grabbed my hand and asked excitedly, ‘did you get my signal, little cub?’ I told him that I had indeed, and he went on to say that the verdict had been generally agreed on, a week before. Foreman Manly Williams said the jury had not debated the testimony at all, merely taken their vote and come back to report the results.” Finally, there is Baillie’s assessment of the two trials: “Only Earl Rogers in 1912 and four jurors in 1913 saved the Great Defender from ending his career prematurely.”

Harrison Gray Otis, “The General”

Ruby and Clarence had known their share of newspaper publishers, but no one quite like Harrison Otis, owner of The Los Angeles Times, the most influential newspaper in the city. Harrison Gray Otis was a leader among men. A survivor of two wars, the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War; he fought in 15 battles and was wounded twice in the first, and in 1898 at age sixty-one, he volunteered for the second. With good reason, Otis was quite proud of his wartime service. No one disputed his personal courage, patriotism, and passion for his hometown, which he hoped to transform into one of America’s leading cities.

Like many soldiers down through the ages, Otis’s military experience defined his place in the world. His home was “the Bivouac,” a military camp, and his key employees were “the Phalanx,” soldiers assembled and ready for combat. The architecture of the Los Angeles Times’ building resembled a medieval fortress. He was loyal to his Phalanx, and to his allies in the city’s business community and they returned his loyalty. Many viewed Otis as the leader of the city. Everyone -friends and enemies alike- referred to him as “the General.”

Sporting a sparkling white, walrus-like mustache and goatee, the General was a handsome man. In his prime, he stood 6’1” and weighed 215 pounds. Physically imposing, he cruised the streets of Los Angeles in his convertible limousine, equipped with a miniature replica of a cannon mounted on the hood. Men and women alike were attracted to his dynamism, personal history and ability to get things done. Otis was also an admirer of the writings of Frederick Nietzsche, the German philosopher known for his concept of the “Ubermensch,” the “Super Man.” The Ubermensch was thought to be a person of higher intellect, born to lead, knowing what was best for his followers.

Otis believed that he knew best when it came to the American Labor Movement. The General viewed unions as a plague on society that had to be eradicated. In running his newspaper, there was no pretense of impartial reporting on people and events in Los Angeles. Believing it was best for growth of his city, Otis had a pro-business agenda and was aggressive and combative, pursuing what serious news people and historians refer to as “fire-breathing journalism.” He had a bellicose prose style that blended politics and passion with half-truths and full-blown fiction. To General Otis, freedom of the press was an opportunity to mold public opinion in support of his notions of what was best for Los Angeles. Otis used his editorials to paint organized labor as the product of European socialists, “one of the most monstrous tyrannies that the world has ever seen.” This viewpoint not only generated both readers and enemies, but equally important to Otis, set the terms and tenor of the debate on most issues of the day in Los Angeles.

When the national labor movement helped instigate a city-wide general strike in the spring of 1910, the General was ready to wage war. The resistance which union organizers from San Francisco experienced prompted them to reach out to the Iron Workers Union for help of a different kind, help that led to violence, mayhem and death.