Meeting Earl Warren: History of my novel, Friday 10:03 (Part 9)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

(This series begins here.)

I don’t have strong memories of actually writing the early sections of what I was not yet calling Friday 10:03 (I won’t even let slip the previous working titles I’d given it.) I do remember doing research. I also remember meeting someone who could have appeared in the book, but doesn’t.

Together, Steve and I worked as banquet waiters at UCLA. (Like so much else, he got there first, and I followed along.) One day, we were setting up the biggest hall we had for a crowd I remember at about one thousand luncheoners. We got everything set up, and enjoyed a lull while the crowd filed in. Back stage, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren was waiting to go on as keynote speaker. Warren had been Governor of California when Caryl Chessman first landed on Death Row, and during half the years Chessman spent there. Then he went to the Supreme Court to serve while Chessman submitted his appeals.

Warren fascinates me for a very different reason. Probably his crowning achievement was writing the Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He also wrote Miranda v. Arizona and had a hand in Gideon v. Wainwright, two cases I make mention of in Friday 10:03 . These were all dramatic advances for civil rights in our country. But Warren had also been a key figure in one of the worst civil rights miscarriages in our nation’s history. Certain business elements in California and out-and-out racists had been trying for many years to get rid of Japanese competition. When World War II broke out, Earl Warren (then Attorney General of California) served their interests by leading the effort to have the Japanese interned in relocation camps. In his autobiography he admitted that was a mistake. I have always wondered about the degree to which Warren’s regrets about his failures over Japanese relocation led to his civil rights boldness on the Supreme Court.

Fresh in our memory at the time was the commission led by Warren into the assassination of JFK, thought by many to be one of the biggest coverups in history.

There is no Earl Warren character in Friday 10:03 . But don’t be surprised if he shows up in a later novel.

Back stage at the banquet, five or six of us waiters stood around with Earl Warren.

We chitchatted. No one asked a serious question.


Earl abandoned his secret daughter when he was governor of california.

Anonymous said...
August 31, 2008 at 11:08 AM  

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