SCOPE AND CONTENT
Title: Manuel Ruiz Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1931-1986
Collection number: Special Collections M0295
Creator: Manuel, Ruiz
13.25 linear ft.
Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain
permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.
Gift of Manuel Ruiz, Jr., 1978-1986.
[Identification of item] Manuel Ruiz Papers, M0295, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford,
Correspondence, minutes, agendas, reports, articles, notes, statements, newsclippings, financial records, and photographs.
The papers document Ruiz's participation in Cultura Panamericana, Inc. and the Coordinating Committee for Latin American Youth
during the 1940s, and the Mexican American Political Association and War on Poverty, Inc. during the 1960s. Also included
are subject files on civil rights, Mexican Americans and education, police-community relations, and administration of justice.
Primarily in English, with some material in Spanish.
Manuel Ruiz, Jr. was born in Los Angeles on July 25, 1905. He and his parents, who had come to Southern California from Mazatlan,
Mexico, resided in the Belvedere Gardens section of East Los Angeles. Ruiz graduated from Manual Arts High School in 1923
where he distinguished himself as captain of the track and debate teams, concert master of the school orchestra, and class
valedictorian. At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, he continued his participation in track and debate;
he also joined Sigma Phi Epsilon, a social fraternity, and Gamma Eta Gamma, a legal fraternity. He received the A.B. in law
in 1927 and the L.L.B. (graduate law degree) in 1930. Ruiz was admitted to the practice of law in California that same year.
In an interview conducted in 1972 (Box 1, Folder 9), Ruiz recalled that racial prejudice kept him from joining an established
Los Angeles firm, "Fortunately for me I was not acceptable in a regular law firm although I had good grades --I was almost
a straight A student --I had to start a law practice on my own." He rented a two-room, forty dollar a month office, and did
his own secretarial work. Ruiz pursued a specialty in international private law and was admitted to the Bar in Chihuahua,
Mexico, in 1932. Later his brother, Alexander, became a member of the firm. Ruiz sought to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation
to do undercover war work in Latin America, but instead he spent the World War II years in Los Angeles as a community organizer
and activist. The firm belief that friendship and solidarity among the American republics was integral to the Allied Forces'
war efforts led Ruiz to become a founding member and executive secretary of Cultura Panamericana, Inc. in 1940. The goals
of the 1,000 member group included the promotion of interest in inter-American culture and cultural exchange, support for
bicultural conferences and programs, and the establishment of a Pan-American cultural center and library in Los Angeles. The
war years witnessed a rising tide of California racism and xenophobia. Young Hispanics in their flashy zoot suits offered
convenient targets for racially-motivated violence by members of the military and blatant prejudice by the public at large.
In his capacity as chairman of the Citizens Committee for Latin American Youth (a group appointed by the Los Angeles County
Board of Supervisors to improve the living and working conditions of young Hispanics), Ruiz was involved in the defense of
members of the 38th Street Club, twenty-two of whom were convicted of criminal conspiracy in the death of Jose Diaz in a 1942
incident which came to be known as the Sleepy Lagoon Case. The Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, which included such prominent
community leaders as Luisa Moreno, Josefina Fierro de Bright, Bert Corona and Carey McWilliams, succeeded in obtaining a reversal
of the verdict by the District Court of Appeals in October, 1944, after the defendants had spent two years in prison. Ruiz
published his succinct analysis of the juvenile delinquency problem and suggested detailed steps to ameliorate it in "Latin-American
Juvenile Delinquency in Los Angeles: Bomb or Bubble!" (Crime Prevention Digest, vol. 1, no. 13, Dec., 1942). With Eduardo
Quevedo and others, Ruiz founded the Coordinating Council for Latin American Youth (CCLAY), a loose coalition of youth groups
which worked informally in clubs and sports teams to help teenagers improve their economic and educational situations and
cooperated with law enforcement and social agencies to prevent juvenile delinquency. Ruiz was active as secretary of, and
attorney for, CCLAY from 1941 to 1946. He was also appointed by Governor Earl Warren to the California Committee on Youth
in Wartime (later the California Youth Committee) in 1943 and served until 1947. Despite the efforts of CCLAY and similar
groups, zoot suiters and servicemen battled in the East Los Angeles barrio in early June, 1943. The press gave sensational
front-page coverage to the so-called Pachuco or Zoot Suit Riots and blamed Mexican American youths for
the fighting. Authorities, including Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Brown, acted slowly to end the violence. Mexican Americans,
Blacks and Filipinos were beaten, and more than 600 were arrested without cause before pressure by the Mexican government
and U.S. federal authorities brought an end to the inactivity of mayor Brown and the military police. In 1963 Ruiz joined
the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) which had been formed five years earlier in Phoenix, after the defeat of
Democratic candidate Henry P. Lopez in the California secretary of state contest. The founders realized that Mexican Americans
could not depend on either major party to champion their interests. The association assumed a more concrete form at a conference
in Fresno, California in April, 1960, and Congressman Eduardo Roybal of Los Angeles became its first president. Ruiz became
involved at the time of MAPA's incorporation on May 2, 1963, and he helped to draft the by-laws. MAPA was bipartisan and decentralized,
with chapters organized within state assembly districts for the purpose of electing Mexican American and sympathetic candidates,
registering voters, and sponsoring political education seminars and publications. The membership was predominantly young,
urban and middle class. MAPA organized VIVA Kennedy clubs to support John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential race, supported
an unsuccessful drive to incorporate East Los Angeles as a separate city in 1961, and played a major role in the election
of John Moreno and Phillip Soto to the state assembly in 1962. Ruiz assumed responsibility as a member of the MAPA Organizational
Committee and the Executive Board; he was also elected legal counsel for the California and Arizona state MAPA organizations.
In the mid-1960s he served as publisher and principal financial supporter of the short-lived newspaper The Voice of the Spanish-Speaking
People. Although Eduardo Quevedo, Bert Corona and most other members of the MAPA hierarchy were Democrats, Ruiz maintained
his membership in the Republican Party. In 1964 he accepted the position of National Chairman, Hispanic Division, of the Republican
National Committee during Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful bid for the presidency. From 1965 to 1968 Ruiz served as secretary
to the board of directors and as legal counsel to War on Poverty, Inc. This non-profit corporation was founded to stimulate
grass-roots community action to address urban and rural poverty and to initiate programs to raise the living standards of
low-income families. War on Poverty, Inc. was successful in attracting sizeable grants from the United States Department of
Labor to fund the Educational Resources Information Service (1966-1968) and the Manpower Opportunities Project (1966-1968).
The former, funded by a grant of $48,000, was designed to help low-income youth in Los Angeles County obtain jobs, loans,
and scholarship funds which would allow them to attend college. The Manpower Opportunities Project (MOP), based in Fresno
and serving the Stockton, San Jose, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Fresno areas, was funded by a Department of Labor grant
of $400,000. MOP's efforts were aimed toward a demonstration project to provide low-income Hispanics with assistance in job
placement and training. Both programs emphasized the need for counseling, higher education, on-the-job training, and placement
services in order to reduce the unemployment rate. Neither project was successful in attracting continued financial support
after federal funding ceased. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ruiz served as a member of the board of directors of the Legal
Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. In 1972 he authored (and privately printed) Mexican American Legal Heritage in the Southwest;
a second edition appeared in 1974. Ruiz's lifelong interest in education and law was recognized by President Richard M. Nixon
who appointed him to the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) in 1970. The Commission, an independent, bipartisan,
fact-finding agency created by Congress in 1957, studies legal
developments which infringe on citizens' constitutional rights. Although it lacks enforcement powers, it reports its findings
directly to Congress and the President. Ruiz was a commissioner-designate when the USCCR released its report "Mexican Americans
and the Administration of Justice in the Southwest" in April, 1970. The 135-page document censured police misconduct, underrepresentation
of Hispanics on juries and in law enforcement agencies, abuse of bail regulations, and inadequate legal representation of
defendants in the five Southwestern states. It proposed eighteen steps for solving these problems. J. Edgar Hoover, chief
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, vigorously defended the FBI against the Commission's critique. Ruiz was instrumental
in bringing about the USCCR's investigation into the death of Ruben Salazar, a prominent Los Angeles Times reporter who was
killed by police on August 29, 1970 in the aftermath of the Chicano Moratorium Day riots in East Los Angeles. Ruiz's particular
interests as a commissioner included police brutality, prison conditions, school desegregation, and bilingual education. He
served on the commission for ten years. Manuel Ruiz is married to the former Claudia Scipper; they have one daughter. He maintains
a law office on South Spring Street in Los Angeles as he has for more than forty years.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Manuel Ruiz, Jr. papers support research on such topics as organization of Hispanic communities, discrimination and segregation
in housing, employment and schooling, the administration of justice, police-community relations, and juvenile delinquency--each
topic important to an understanding of the Mexican American experience in Southern California during and following the Second
World War. The collection spans the years 1931 to 1984, with the bulk of the papers dating from 1940 to 1948 and 1963 to 1978.
There are almost no records from the decades of the 1930s and 1950s. The majority of the ten linear foot collection consists
of organizational records and subject files. There are minutes, agendas, reports, articles, correspondence, notes, statements,
newspaper clippings, financial records, by-laws and photographs. The collection is divided into six series: Personal and Biographical
Information, Writings of Manuel Ruiz, Jr., Political Files, Organizational Records, Subject Files, and Photographs.