Ramsey Clark, who was attorney general in the Johnson administration before becoming an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of American politics, has died. He was 93 years old.
Clark, whose father, Tom Clark, was attorney general and supreme court judge, died Friday at his Manhattan home, a relative announced.
After serving in the cabinet of President Lyndon B Johnson in 1967 and 1968, Clark established a private law practice in New York in which he championed civil rights, fought racism and the death penalty, and represented avowed enemies of the United States, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
New York civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, who worked with Clark on numerous cases, said his death was “very, very sad in a season of losses.”
“The progressive legal community has lost its dean and senior statesman,” Kuby said. “For many generations, Ramsey Clark was a voice of principle, a conscience and a fighter for civil and human rights.”
Clark defended the pacifist activists. In the court of public opinion, he accused the United States of militarism and arrogance, beginning with the Vietnam War and continuing with Grenada, Libya, Panama, and the Gulf War. When Clark visited Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to accuse the United States of war crimes, Newsweek dubbed him the Jane Fonda of the Gulf War.
Clark said he just wanted America to live up to his ideals. “If you don’t insist that your government obey the law, what right do you have to demand it from others?” he said.
The lanky, soft-spoken Texan left for Washington in 1961 to work for John F. Kennedy’s Justice Department. He was 39 when Johnson appointed him attorney general in 1967, the second-youngest in history: Robert Kennedy was 36 years old.
Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, Harry Truman’s attorney general before joining the high court in 1949, swore in his son and later withdrew to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.
Ramsey Clark said his work led him into the civil rights revolution, which he called “the noblest pursuit of the American people in our time.” He also maintained his opposition to the death penalty and wiretapping, defended the right to dissent, and criticized FBI Director J Edgar Hoover when no one else dared to confront him.
As Johnson’s attorney general, Clark had the job of prosecuting Dr. Benjamin Spock for advising young people of the Vietnam era to resist conscription, a position with which he was sympathetic.
“We won the case, that was the worst part,” he said years later.
Dallas-born Clark, who served in the US Marine Corps in 1945 and 1946, moved with his family to New York in 1970 and established a targeted pro bono practice. He said he and his partners were limiting his personal annual income to $ 50,000, a figure he did not always achieve.
“The money is not in my interest,” she said, but at the same time she was meeting the high medical bills for her daughter, Ronda, who was born with severe disabilities. He and his wife, Georgia, who married in 1949, also had a son, Thomas, a lawyer.
Clark had a shot at elective office, losing a 1976 Democratic Senate primary to Daniel P Moynihan.
Clark’s client list included peace and disarmament activists like the Harrisburg Seven and the Plowshares Eight. Abroad, he represented dissidents in Iran, Chile, the Philippines, and Taiwan, and hijackers from the sky in the Soviet Union.
He was an advocate for Soviet and Syrian Jews, but outraged many Jews by other clients. He defended a Nazi prison camp guard fighting extradition and the Palestine Liberation Organization in a lawsuit over the murder of a cruise ship passenger by kidnappers.
Typically, there were two to three dozen active cases on Clark’s legal calendar, and about 100 more in the background. Capital punishment cases were a staple.
“We are talking about civil liberties,” he said. “We have the largest prison population per capita on Earth. Is the world’s greatest jailer the freest country on Earth?
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism