November 25, 2014

Buried at Mt. Washington: George Creel

   In the first week after the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson created a government agency called the Committee on Public Information, with a mission to use the media of that era to rally support for the war and to quash dissent.  Basically  it was a propaganda machine, and at its head was a former Kansas City newspaper man, George Creel.    

   Creel's Committee on Public Information used writers, artists, actors, and every form of media available to stir up war support.  Though Creel had long been a critic of censorship, his agency was heavily involved in doing just that, helping Congress pass the widely criticized Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918.  Under the Sedition Act, it became a federal crime to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government."

   Ten years before the war, George Creel lived in Kansas City and published a local weekly political journal called The Independent.  His paper, which championed government reform and women's rights, began publishing in 1899 and continues to this day as "The Independent: Kansas City's Journal of Society."  

   In 1909 Creel gave his paper to two women publishers and took his calls for government reform to Colorado, writing for the Denver Post. He was appointed Police Commissioner of Denver in 1912, and the reforms he made in Denver were praised nationwide. Creel was active in Woodrow Wilson's re-election campaign, and when he heard that military commanders were calling for media censorship, he  called on President Wilson and suggested a different approach, "expression, not suppression" of the press."  Thus the Committee on Public Information was created.

   After the war George Creel devoted most of his time to writing and politics. He died in San Francisco on October 2, 1953, and is buried in Mt. Washington cemetery near his mother's grave.

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