Saturday, January 21, 2012

1937 House Bombing

Shortly after midnight on Oct. 29, 1937, a thunderous explosion ripped through the kitchen floor of Clifford Clinton's Los Feliz home as his three children slept in second-floor bedrooms. A tin can pineapple-type bomb attached to a floor joist blew a large hole in the outside wall of the house. Luckily, no one was hurt.

Clifford Clinton surveys the damage at his home.
Photo: USC Special Collections Library.
The blast was meant as a stern warning. As a member of a county grand jury investigation launched in January to investigate city and police corruption, Clifford was a target. The grand jury probe had become a thorn in the side of Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw. Clifford had formed a minority group of four of the 19 grand jury members to independently investigate vice and corruption. He believed the jury was stacked with Shaw loyalists.

In April, Clifford began documenting the locations and activity of brothels (known as "houses of ill fame"), bookmaking operations, tango parlors, pinball joints, and underground casinos run by the Los Angeles Syndicate. Police enforcement was often lacking, because cops took payoffs to look the other way.

Clifford began feeding information about the illegal activity to his friend Judge Harlan Guyant Palmer, the publisher of the Hollywood Citizen News. Palmer published the names and locations of these illegal operations, which caused them to close down. Clifford photographed police officers who protected these operations.

Los Angeles Police Chief James "Two Gun" Davis began to view Clifford's activities as a threat to the Shaw administration. The department's Metropolitan Special Investigation Unit (known as the "spy squad") began monitoring Clifford and installed listening devices on his home telephone.

On Oct. 3, Clifford met with Dave Hutton, the ex-husband of Aimee Semple McPherson (of Angelus Temple fame). Hutton then arranged a meeting between Clifford and Los Angeles radio evangelist Rheba Crawford to collect testimony about Crawford's connection to Mayor Shaw. When the two met in the Los Feliz home's office, spy squad investigators listened as the two discussed details of Clifford's findings.

Later it became clear that these recordings had been saved and used by the spy squad as they continued surveillance of Clifford and other private citizens without search warrants. Investigators later linked the house bombing to the spy squad when the conversation between Clifford and Hutton was played during the 1938 trial of LAPD Capt. Earle Kynette for the bombing of private investigator Harry Raymond.

In the aftermath of the bombing, Clifford sent his own message. He would not be intimidated by a violent act. "They are not going to stop me," he told the press. "They can blow up the entire house, but I will keep on."

No comments:

Post a Comment