When Lee Pressman, the C.I.O.'s sharply tailored legal eagle, walked out of Phil Murray's Washington officeand out of his jobone day last week, he was lugubriously blowing his nose and drying his eyes. Behind him, Phil Murray was so overcome with emotion that he could not even step outside for a news picture.
But the parting was inevitable. Lee Pressman and his Communist line are no longer popular in the C.I.O., where Walter Reuther's right wing is in ascendancy. Sorrowful, aging Phil Murray had found he could no longer straddle the edges of his union's ideological schism. Pressman had seen the writing on the wall. When the C.I.O.'s Executive Board voted last month against supporting Henry Wallace, Pressman knew he was through.
He began his Washington career 15 years ago in the legal department of Henry Wallace's AAA. Wallace had to bounce him and some 20 other AAA employees because too many people complained that the group was trying to change the world too fast. Pressman bobbed up again in Harry Hopkins' WPA, then in Rexford Tugwell's Rural Resettlement Administration. In 1936 John Lewis, then playing footie with the leftists in labor, made him counsel of the rebel C.I.O.
Murray inherited him from John. In the law courts and at negotiations, Pressman gave sharp and valiant service. He established the principle of portal-to-portal pay. He helped save Harry Bridges from being deported. He wrote an analysis of the Taft-Hartley Act which President Truman unabashedly used as a source for many ideas in his veto message last summer.
After giving his nose another blow, Lee Pressman, 41, announced that he would open his own law office in Manhattan. He would also campaign for Henry Wallace.