of the civic center complex. “We don’t like his war record, and
we don’t want his name on our Veterans’ Memorial Building,”
W. P. Duhamel said at a supervisor meeting. “We think Wright
is a pacifist. From what I’ve heard, during World War II, he
had several conscientious objectors among his men [staff].
His name was mentioned in the 1948 report of the House
Un-American Activities Committee and I would say unfa-
vorably.” The supervisors ignored Duhamel and passed a
resolution restating their decision to draw up a contract with
Wright. Once again, Fusselman was the lone dissenter — an
opening salvo in an ugly campaign to impugn Wright’s patrio-
tism and loyalty as an American citizen.
At the next supervisor meeting, on August 2, Fusselman
brought out his big guns. The meeting was supposed to
finalize the decision to proceed with Wright’s plans and
be followed by a site inspection with Wright. Instead,
it turned into a three-ring circus. Bryson Reinhardt, an
American Legion member from Mill Valley, demanded to
file a seven-page report into the meeting record, accusing
Wright of having “a record of active and extensive support of
Communist views and enterprises.” The gathering erupted
into acrimonious debate. The report had been prepared by
J.B. Mathews, a former HUAC staff member and investigator
for Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The first person to respond was the architect himself. He
labeled the charges “ridiculous, and an unjustified insult
that had been buried long ago. There’s no substance in that.
I’m a loyal American, everybody knows it — I am what I am.
If you don’t like it, you can lump it. To hell with it all.” Then
he stood up and stalked toward the exit. Supervisor Castro
asked him, “Do you mind?” Wright responded angrily, “Yes,
I do mind being insulted like this!” He continued to the exit
doors, then paused, turned around, and waved his cane
toward the audience. “This is an absolute and utter insult —
and I won’t be subject to it!” he thundered and disappeared
through the chamber doors.
After Wright left, Schultz declared that Marin County
had been “humiliated” by the accusations: “This county does
not look into the political beliefs of any of its employees. It
is certainly inappropriate that we should subject a man of
Mr. Wright’s caliber to the reading of such unfounded and
unsubstantiated charges.” Only Fusselman demanded that
the report be read into the record, so it never was. When
the meeting adjourned, the other four supervisors drove
to Santa Venetia to join Wright in inspecting the site. The
architect was already walking briskly up and down the
hillsides despite his 90 years, scurrying all over the hilly
terrain, ducking between the strands of a barbed-wire fence
and climbing over another. When the supervisors caught
up with him he was on one of the hilltops talking to several
reporters and local citizens.
“Splendid!” Wright declared to the assembled group. “It’s
as beautiful as California can have.” Two 15-year-old girls
asked him to pose for a picture, and he obliged.
Vera “Bobbie” Schultz, Marin’s first female supervisor, was a visionary ahead
of her time. Her fervent and successful effort to enlist Frank Lloyd Wright as
civic center designer was only one of many achievements still
directly affecting today’s residents.
Schultz moved from Nevada to Marin in 1928,
became the first female Mill Valley City Council mem-
ber in 1946, and in 1952 was the first woman elected
to the county Board of Supervisors. As supervisor
Schultz advocated for a modern hospital, which led to
the opening of Marin General. Schultz is also cred-
ited with pioneering a development agency in
the late ’50s responsible for the low-cost
housing in Marin City and with helping to
establish several parks, the county public
health department, and the Parks and
Recreation Department in Mill Valley.
And her efforts helped open Marin’s
first school for disabled children.
These activities predictably
drew severe criticism from the
mostly male, affluent members
of government at the time. In one
famous incident at a supervisors’
association meeting, Schultz was
advised to honor the “No Women
Allowed” sign on the door and con-
sider attending the wives’ fashion
luncheon instead. She tore the sign in
half and took her seat.
“When I came to Marin in 1928, I just
loved this place, so full of the beauty that
I used to long for when I was growing up in
the desert,” Schultz said of Marin. “I thought
I was in heaven here. I have been in heaven
here.” RHEANNA BAGLEY
A True Pioneer
Marin’s first female supervisor’s impact went even beyond
creation of one of the area’s most important buildings.
“Are you going to knock down these hills?” one of them asked.
“Not a single hill,” he replied, smiling enthusiastically.
Another citizen asked him if he planned to make any fur-
ther site visits before drawing his plans.
“I don’t have to drink a tub of dye to know what color it
is,” he replied.
Two hours later, Wright returned to the courthouse
to sign the contract as the new civic center designer. It
called for a projected budget of $8 million. (In the end the
final cost for the entire project, including the Veterans’
Memorial Auditorium and the fairgrounds, came to
$19,532,000.) Wright had to sign a carbon copy because
clerk Jones had failed to show up with the contract