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Thomas v. Collins



Roland J. Thomas


Collins, Sheriff of Travis County, Texas

Appellant's Claim

That Texas law requiring union organizers to obtain a special license was an invalid restriction of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Chief Lawyers for Appellant

Lee Pressman, Ernest Goodman

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Fagan Dickson

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William O. Douglas, Frank Murphy, Robert H. Jackson, Wiley Blount Rutledge (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

Owen Josephus Roberts, Harlan Fiske Stone, Stanley Forman Reed, Felix Frankfurter


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

8 January 1945


Reversed Supreme Court of Texas decision upholding the contempt conviction of Thomas for ignoring a restraining order aimed at preventing him from making a union organizing speech without an organizer's license.


Although the balance of power between unions and employers has shifted repeatedly in the decades since Thomas v. Collins, the case ushered in a period of relative strength for organized labor during the postwar economic boom in the United States. In classifying union organizing as a protected form of expression rather than an economic activity, the Court played a part in creating what was one of the best periods for working-class America in the nation's history.

Related Cases

  • Martin v. Struthers, 319 U.S. 141 (1943).
  • Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951).
  • Staub v. City of Baxley, 355 U.S. 313 (1958).

Further Readings

  • Business Week, January 13, 1945.
  • Emerson, Thomas I. The System of Freedom of Expression. New York: Random House, 1970.
  • Mason, Alpheus Thomas. The Supreme Court from Taft to Burger, Louisiana State University Press, 1979.
  • New Republic, January 22, 1945.
  • Time, January 22, 1945.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953