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Maurice Sugar Papers

Identifier: LP000232
Part 1: Note should be taken that the clippings included in several different parts of the collection were the special effort of Maurice Sugar. Arranged on a day-to-day basis they were selected from Detroit and other newspapers and with a special discernment as to what would, at least later, constitute a matter of historial significance.

Important subjects: George Addes, Automobile Labor Board, Black Legion, Clippings of Interest, Conventions (UAW), Election Campaigns (Sugar's), Facitonalism, Foley Square Trial 1950-1951, Ford Motor Company Union Organizing, Injunctions, Legal Services to UAW, Homer Martin, Walter Reuther, Sit-Down Strikes, Songs by Maurice Sugar, Sugar Conspiracy Trial, Sugar Diary.

Important Correspondents: George Addes, George Crockett, Ernest Goodman, Homer Martin, Wyndham Mortimer, Lee Pressman, Walter P. Reuther, Bud Reynolds.

Series Description: Series 1: Book Files and Personal Subject Files Comprised of files including those selected by Maurice Sugar for his own writings.

Series 2: The United Automobile Workers Comprised of materials concerning Sugar's interst and work in the United Automobile Workers union.
Part 2: Part 2 of the Maurice Sugar Collection consists of a draft manuscript of his unpublished autobiography, correspondence with his wife, Jane Mayer Sugar, and friends and colleagues, and material relating to police and FBI investigations of Sugar and to radical politics in America in general.

Important subjects in the collection: Ford Hunger March House Un-American Activities Committee United States — Radical Politics

Important correspondents in the collection: Crockett, George W., Jr. Goodman, Ernest Reuther, Walter P.


  • 1907 - 1989

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


60.5 Linear Feet (117 MB, 2 SB)


Chief counsel for the UAW from 1937 to 1946, Mr. Sugar's career as a labor lawyer began in 1916. The items in this collection pertain to his song, Sit Down, a favorite of the sit-downers of the mid-1930's. Subjects include: UAW legal matters; UAW factionalism; Ford Hunger March; HUAC; radical politics.


Maurice Sugar was one of the first American lawyers to become what is now known as a "Labor Lawyer." Before he was made Chief Legal Counsel of the United Automobile Workers, a post he held between 1937 and 1948, he had practiced as a labor lawyer and defender of the poor since 1914.

Born in Brimley, Michigan in 1891, he was educated in the Detroit school system. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School where he was Editor of the "Michigan Law Review." In 1914 he and Jane Mayer were married. She later became Supervisor of Elementary School Physical Education for the City of Detroit.

Sugar's first client in 1914 was the Detroit Typographical Union (AFL, and before his work with the UAW he represented nearly all Detroit area unions including the Detroit and Wayne County Federations of Labor (AFL) and various AFL international unions. During the Tool and Die Makers Strike of 1913 he handled over two-hundred cases in the courts.

During World War I Sugar was indicted and convicted in a conspiracy trial (1917-1918), as he was a pacifist, but he was subsequently readmitted to the bar and pardoned. Active during his youth in the Socialist Party he later became an important psokesman for what were then consider "left wing" causes, including civil rights and racial equality. He was wone of the founders of the National Lawyers Guild and an early advocate of pensions, unemployment compensation, social security and other such measures. He was singled out for provocation and even death by the notorious Black Legion, a Michigan-Ohio organization similar to the Ku Klux Klan.

Sugar's work as UAW counsel saw him through many of the high points of the UAW history of which he was a part. These are also reflected in the collection. He represented executive board members whom Homer Martin tried to expel and was strongly involved in the local unions' litigation which was an important part of the factional power struggle. The sit-down strikes and the union organization of the Ford Motor Company, and litigation with it, were other important episodes of UAW history in which he participated in 1948, when he was dismissed.

He continued in private practice, and with his civil rights interests, and his life-long pleasure in writing songs until and even after his retirement. He died at the age of 82 in 1974.


Part 1: Arranged in 2 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-24), Series 2 (Boxes 25-117).

Related Materials

Part 1: Papers related to Sugar's interest in and work with the National Lawyers Guild may be found at the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institution in Berkeley, California. A partial list of those holdings (3.5 linear feet) is at the end of this guide.


Part 1: Publications and printed conventional materials and reports were transferred to the Archives' Library.

Photographs and display items were transferred to the Archives' Audiovisual department.
Part 2: A few photographs, a film, and an audio tape have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the Maurice Sugar Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA