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Patterson, William L.locked

(27 August 1891–05 March 1980)
  • Barbara L. Ciccarelli


Patterson, William L. (27 August 1891–05 March 1980), writer, attorney, and leader of the American Communist party, was born William Lorenzo Patterson in San Francisco, California, the son of James Edward Patterson, a ship’s cook and dentist, and Mary Galt, a domestic. After his father left the family to become a missionary as a Seventh-day Adventist, his mother worked to support the family. Failure to pay the rent resulted in numerous evictions, but Patterson managed to attend Tamalpais High School in California by working first as a newsboy and later as a racetrack hand. He graduated from high school in 1911 and studied to be a mining engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but had to drop out because he could not afford tuition. No scholarships were available, and he objected to Berkeley’s compulsory military training. Later Patterson refused to participate in World War I because he felt it was being fought for a democratic tradition that did not extend to blacks. He was arrested and held for five days in Oakland for declaring it a “white man’s war.”...

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