55 years ago today - Apr 20, 1966

Stephen Hays Russell organized a dozen other Birch students in a room of BYU's Wilkinson Center. A non-student chapter leader of the Birch Society acted as guard for this organizing meeting of the BYU spy ring, the only time all would be together at once.

These student-spies included the president of BYU's Young Americans For Freedom, three other members of YAF, and also Cleon Skousen's nephew. Academically, their majors included economics, political science, history, Asian studies, math, and zoology. Stephen Hays Russell acknowledged choosing ten students to assist in the "monitoring," yet his reservation for the room was for twenty persons and chairs. Fellow-spy Ronald Ira Hankin consistently claimed that Russell selected fifteen to twenty students to monitor the BYU professors. However, less than fifteen student-spies have been identified. What linked all these student-spies was their participation in the Provo chapter of the John Birch Society.

The student-organizer of [the BYU] 1966 surveillance emphasized his association with Ezra Taft Benson. "On one occasion, the head of the John Birch Society in Utah County took me to the Church Office Building at Salt Lake City to meet Apostle Ezra Taft Benson," Stephen Hays Russell later wrote. "I was introduced to Brother Benson as a `key conservative student at Brigham Young University.'"

[Interview of Ronald Ira Hankin by Ray C. Hillam and Louis C. Midgley, 17 Sept. 1966, Provo, Utah, transcript, 4-5, signed at the bottom of each page by Ronald I. Hankin, folder 5, Hillam Papers, and box 34, Buerger Papers; "Birchers Spied On Professors, Hialeah Student Said," Miami Herald, 3 Mar. 1967, A-32; Bergera and Priddis, Brigham Young University, 208; Stephen Hays Russell, Personal History of Stephen Hays Russell (N.P., 1983), 99. From D. Michael Quinn, Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992), also in Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3.]

1 comment:

  1. Exactly 10 students were asked to monitor the classes of 8 professors. Most, but not all students returned written notes of what the professors said in class about President Wilkinson and about his speech. Russell characterized the repoted comments as "deregatory and explosive." This "spy" episode was a one-time undertaking.


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