Leo Frumkin has been a powerful and highly effective force for peace and for social economic and political justice for decades. Leo was born and raised in East Los Angeles and was greatly influenced by his older sisters, members of the Socialist Worker’s Party. While still a senior at Roosevelt High School, he helped organize and lead a student strike to protest an appearance by the fascist commentator, Gerald L.K. Smith.
At 19, Leo was elected President of a UAW Local, the youngest person ever to hold that position. During the Korean War, he became a merchant seaman. He was promptly drafted into the U.S. Army. Just as promptly, he was thrown out of the Army because of his socialist political beliefs and outspoken opposition to the war. His seaman’s papers were lifted and he was unable to go back to sea. He fought the Army it finally reversed itself and issued him an honorable discharge. Leo was then able to get GI Bill Benefits and he studied radio at LA City College.
However, his brief career as a disc jockey for a local Los Angeles radio station was cut short when refused to cross a picket line set up by the station’s engineers who were trying to form a union. Once again his political sympathies landed him on a blacklist. At the height of the McCarthy period, Leo became the Chairperson of the Wendell Phillips Academic Freedom Committee, which led a successful public campaign to reinstate this Fullerton Junior College instructor who had been fired for refusing to “name names.” Leo was also a founding member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee; helped organize and defend the massive mobilizations against the war in Vietnam. Leo is also a longtime board member of the ACLU of Southern California.
Along with his wife, Sherry, Leo has been able to support grassroots social justice issues with strategic philanthropy. Neither arrest nor lifelong government harassment has stifled the through line of his life – striving to support full social democracy, freedom of speech and peace for all people, citizen and aspiring immigrant alike.