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Ex-Rep. Harold H. Velde; Led Anti-Communist Unit

September 08, 1985|From Times Wire Services

SUN CITY, Ariz. — Harold Himmel Velde, a former Illinois congressman who headed the House Un-American Activities Committee in the politically stormy 1950s, is dead at the age of 75.

Velde died Sunday at Boswell Hospital here.

A Republican, he was elected to Congress in 1948 and was named to the House committee largely because of his FBI service as an expert on sabotage and counterespionage during World War II. He was named chairman of the committee in 1953 at the height of investigations into suspected Communist infiltration.

Predecessor Jailed

Velde succeeded Rep. J. Parnell Thomas as chairman when that New Jersey Republican was sentenced to prison on a conviction of accepting kickbacks from members of his office staff.

During Velde's tenure as chairman, the committee launched a series of investigations into reported Communist infiltration of the government, the military, labor and the clergy.

At one point Velde had former President Harry S. Truman subpoenaed to testify before the committee about conspiracy charges made against Harry Dexter White, whom Truman had named American executive director of the International Monetary Fund. White denied the charges made by Whittaker Chambers, among others; Truman declined the subpoena and the furor eventually subsided.

Born on Farm

Velde was born on a farm in Tazewell County, Ill., and attended Bradley and Northwestern universities and the University of Illinois College of Law.

He enlisted in the Army in 1942, and was honorably discharged the next year to become an FBI agent. He left the FBI in 1946 to resume his law practice and to pursue a career in politics.

Velde, who decided not to seek reelection in 1956, moved to Arizona in 1974. In 1981, he was named a delegate to a White House Conference on Aging.

He is survived by his wife, Delores, a daughter, a son, a stepdaughter and a stepson.

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