Lawrence “Mac” McGurty sat at his kitchen table, rolling a cigarette between his thumb and forefinger, watching it burn down to the filter. He heard the front door open and footsteps in the hall.
“Hey, Mac.” Said William “Red” Davis, appearing in the doorway. “Got your message from yesterday. What’s so important?”
Mac looked up at his brother-in-law with tired eyes. “I’m..we’re leaving. After the House Un-American Activities Committee hearing, after being in all those newspapers, no one will hire us. We need a fresh start.”
Red’s mouth tightened. “What about the cause?”
“What about me?” Mac snapped back, harsher than intended. “What about Millie? She’s your sister, Red. Do you want her tossed out on the street? Do you want her to starve? That’s where things are.”
“If you go, then we’ll be done, all of what we worked for, with the unions, with the negroes, it’ll all be over.”
“Then it’ll all be over.”
“You’ll still be a Communist.”
Mac had never heard him use the word like that. Like it was a brand Red was searing into his skin so he could never escape it.
“Yes. But I’ll be able feed my family.”
Lawrence McGurty, his wife Mildred Davis McGurty and her brother William Davis made up the core of the Communist Party’s leadership in Memphis after World War II. Before World War II, they were all militant pro-union organizers and civil rights advocates. But after war everything changed. The unions they used to support turned their backs on them, the federally wanted leader of the North Carolina Communist Party was arrested in Memphis, they were ordered to appear before two different Congressional committees. By the time it was done, they were financially ruined and utterly unable to be employed in Memphis because of all the negative press.