Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker came from Yoakum, Tex. The son of a Methodist minister, he studied at minuscule Southwestern University, spent a few months in the army as a telegraph operator on the Mexican border, went north in 1919 to study medicine at Columbia. But all he could afford was a course in journalism, so he took that.
In 1923, still hoping to become a doctor, Knickerbocker went to Germany, matriculated at the University of Munich. To pay his way, he took a job as occasional correspondent for United Press. He was in Munich when Adolf Hitler set forth with a handful of followers from the Bürger-bräukeller (where last November's bomb exploded) on his first unsuccessful Putsch to seize the Government.
For ten years H. R. Knickerbocker covered Central Europe. For a series of 24 articles on The Red Trade Menace, in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, he won a Pulitzer Prize. Edged out of Germany after Hitler came to power, Knickerbocker colorfully reported wars in Ethiopia, Spain and China for Hearst's International News Service, saw German troops march into Austria, then into Czecho-Slovakia.
Later, after one month on the Allied front, covering World War II, he got a new urge, took leave of absence from I. N. S., flew back to the U. S. by Atlantic Clipper to lecture on Europe.
Said he, at his 71st lecture in Minneapolis last week: "If one were an international bookmaker, he would be busy now changing the odds in favor of Germany and Russia against the British and French. Until the Finnish peace, odds were 55-to-45 for an ultimate Allied victory. Now they are reversed."
The urge which drives slight, bespectacled Lecturer Knickerbocker, with his shock of wavy, flame-red hair (balding on top), is his belief that this is very much a U. S. war. He makes no secret of his Franco-British sympathies, believes the war may last six years or longer, end in a Soviet Europe. In his first lectures he called for outright U. S. intervention. Now he no longer flatly advocates intervention in his lecture; but in the question period that follows, he generally makes his conviction amply clear. So far he has told an estimated 70,000 people his belief that:
1) The Treaty of Versailles was too lenient, not too hard.
2) If Hitler wins, the U. S. will be not much better off than Czecho-Slovakia was in 1938, will have to face the combined fleets of Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, England, France.
3) The U. S. should throw its whole weight behind the Allies, send no troops, but arms and money, an air force, the U. S. Navy.
With 17 more speaking dates before his tour ends next month, with Finland defeated, last week Knickerbocker's voice took a more urgent tone as he talked with isolation-loving students at the University of Minnesota.
Said he: "Why all this talk about not being emotional? What did God give us emotions for? To protect us from fear, of course. . . ."