Pioneer Aviator William MacCracken Spent 10 Days in Jail; Historic Contempt of Congress

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WILLIAM PATTERSON MACCRAKEN, JR. (September 17, 1888-September 1969) became the first federal regulator of commercial aviation when then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover named him the first Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics in 1926.  He served as a flight instructor during World War I.

After helping to draft key safety standards and regulations, which became part of the 1930 Air Mail Act, MacCracken returned to his private law practice, where he continued to be involved in the growth of commercial aviation by representing many major airlines.  Consequently, Postmaster General Walter F. Brown asked him to preside over what was later scandalized as the Spoils Conference to work out an agreement between the carriers and the Post Office. Both sides were exposed to charges of favoritism.  When MacCracken refused later to testify before Congress, he was declared a lobbyist, found in contempt of Congress and spent 10 days in jail.  MacCracken filed a petition of habeas corpus to overturn his arrest but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the constitutional right to hold citizens in contempt and his case was dismissed.

One page, 8 ½ x 11, January 26, 1934, TLS to William J. McKenzie on his law office letterhead.

“Your letter of December 30th should have been acknowledged before, but the enclosed card will partially explain the reason for the delay.

“While I have not yet arrived at the point where “long pants” are a problem, you can see that I still have some problems on my hands.

“I certainly appreciate your well wishes and reciprocate them most heartily.

“Cordially yours,

“W.P. MacCracken Jr.”

Toning, folds, small staple hole in upper left, affecting nothing.

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