From: Greegor on

The Daily Mirror
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, March 8, 1960
March 8, 2010 | 2:00 pm
Archive photostat of story from 1960.

Then, per my custom, without reading any of the text, I turned the

And that's when I read the story about Alice Marie Combs.

It was an AP wire story out of New Jersey, and it related how the
State Board of Child Welfare was trying to take the 4-year-old girl
away from her foster parents.

The couple, Richard Combs, a 25-year-old $120-a-week sheet metal
worker, and his wife, stood accused by the state of being "too common"
to be entrusted with the care of Alice.

This the state decided after letting them raise the girl from
infancy and letting the girl grow to know them as her parents.

I had to read the story a couple of times before I felt the full
impact of its astonishing stupidity.

Four-year-old Alice, a state spokesman pointed out, had a near-
genius IQ of 138. The Combses, he said, couldn't give the girl the
proper "opportunities for intellectual and cultural development."

That the Combses gave their foster daughter love and security
apparently didn't enter into the state's decision to try to take the
girl away. That the girl loved her parents didn't sway the officials,

The board didn't look upon Alice Marie Combs as a human being.

She was more of a machine. Kind of baby Univac whose commercial
possibilities should be exploited to the fullest -- and to hell with
the kid's personal feelings in the matter.

This kind of logic might be acceptable in a Chinese commune, or
under the eye of "Big Brother," where human values are shuffled into
the background for the glorification of the state.

But in a democracy like the United States, we don't work that way.

At least, we didn't -- until the New Jersey State Board of Child
Welfare decided to take Alice away from the young couple she knew as
her natural parents to relocate her with other "parents" more
prepared, financially and intellectually, to develop her genius.

It's the basic right of any American to rise above his parents.
We've been doing it for years. And getting along just fine.

I don't say this to belittle Mr. and Mrs. Combs, who- from what
I've been able to learn about them- are a pretty typical couple.

They're not geniuses. But how many of us are?

I've never read any reports that Abe Lincoln's parents were.

What Could Have Been

But nobody bothered to evict him from his log cabin and stick him
in a mansion where the candle-power was a little brighter. If they
had, I get the feeling that American history books would be in for a
big rewrite job.

In a "better environment," Lincoln might have become a millionaire

Now that the story of Alice Marie Combs has been made public, I
doubt very much if the New Jersey State Board of Child Welfare will
have the courage to back its odd convictions.

But it has already proved, beyond any doubt, that the "child
welfare" part of its title is an unfortunate misnomer.
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