Herbert Arthur Philbrick
Born: 11 May 1915, Somerville, MA
U.S. Counterintelligence Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation
|Herbert Arthur Philbrick (May 11, 1915 - August 16, 1993) was a Boston area advertising executive who, acting as a citizen volunteer, successfully infiltrated the Communist Party USA between 1940 and 1949. His involvement began when he joined a Communist front group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Cambridge Youth Council. His suspicions aroused by the strange power structure and the positions taken by this group, Philbrick contacted the FBI. Encouraged by them, he began deepening his involvement in Communist activities, joining first the Young Communist League, and later, as a secret member, the Communist Party itself.
Philbrick was used by the Party for his advertising skills. After time spent in local party cells in Wakefield and Malden, Massachusetts, he received training in the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism and worked for the Party in a variety of front groups. Later he was removed from local party work and assigned to a cell of professionals where his main work consisted of working on the 1948 Progressive Party presidential campaign of former U.S. vice-president Henry A. Wallace.
Philbrick's Party career came to its end when the Justice Department decided to use him as a witness in the Smith Act prosecutions of the leadership of the Communist Party, United States v. Foster, et. al. On April 6, 1949 he was called as a witness, testifying about his career and training as a Party activist. His testimony was perhaps most useful in that he demonstrated from the content of the training which he had received that the intent of the Communist Party was to overthrow the government of the United States.
He went on to write an autobiographical book, I Led Three Lives: Citizen, 'Communist', Counterspy, which was made into a movie. In addition, a television series called I Led Three Lives, loosely based on his experiences, ran for three years during the 1950s.
Later in life, Philbrick retired to the home of his youth, in the seacoast region of New Hampshire. He remained active, giving speeches and encouraging youth and adult citizens to exercise their political rights and power, admonishing his listeners to be ever-watchful against those who would undermine the democratic form of government. Toward the end of his life, he owned and ran a variety store in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Shunning fame, he confided that he never stopped traveling under assumed names and watching for people following him.
Philbrick rarely discussed his time with the FBI and the Communist Party; his response to those who asked: "Read the book."