Joseph N. Welch
|Joseph N. Welch|
|Born||Joseph Nye Welch
October 22, 1890
Primghar, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||October 6, 1960
Cape Cod Hospital,
Hyannis, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||Grinnell College (1914)
Harvard Law School (1917)
|Known for||Army–McCarthy hearings|
|Spouse(s)||Judith Lyndon (c. 1890–1956)
Agnes Rodgers Brown
Joseph Nye Welch (October 22, 1890–October 6, 1960) was the head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities, an investigation known as the Army–McCarthy hearings.
Welch was born in Primghar, Iowa, on October 22, 1890, the seventh and youngest child of English immigrants Martha (Thyer) and William Welch. He attended Grinnell College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1914, then attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 1917, magna cum laude, with the second highest grade point average in his graduating class. Welch married Judith Lyndon on September 20, 1917. They had two sons, Joe and Lyndon.
On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, McCarthy accused Fred Fisher, one of the junior attorneys at Welch’s law firm, of associating while in law school with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a group that J. Edgar Hoover sought to have the U.S. attorney general designate as a Communist front organization. Welch had privately discussed the matter with Fisher and the two agreed Fisher should withdraw from the hearings. Welch dismissed Fisher’s association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion and attacked McCarthy for naming the young man before a nationwide television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so:
- Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.
When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:
- Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:
- Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further. I will not ask Mr. Cohn any more questions. You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness.
His wife, Judith Lyndon, died on December 21, 1956, and he married Agnes Rodgers Brown in 1957. After remarrying, he moved to Harwichport, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, where he lived until his death.
Welch played a criminal court judge in northern Michigan in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959). He said he took the role “because it looked like that was the only way I’d ever get to be a judge.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor—Motion Picture and a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer for the role. He also narrated the television shows Omnibus and Dow Hour of Great Mysteries.
- The documentary film Point of Order! (1964) includes excerpts from the Army–McCarthy hearings.
- In the 1977 NBC biopic Tail Gunner Joe, Welch was played by Burgess Meredith.
- R.E.M. sampled some of the audio in the song “Exhuming McCarthy” (1987).
- In the 1992 HBO film Citizen Cohn, Welch was played by Ed Flanders.
- The 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck, which dramatized the work of television journalists Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly at CBS, uses footage of the Army–McCarthy hearings, including Welch’s challenge to the senator.
- "Died.". Time (magazine). October 17, 1960. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Joseph Nye Welch". Jrank. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Awards for Anatomy of a Murder". IMDB.
- "Joseph N. Welch, Army Counsel In McCarthy Hearings, Is Dead". New York Times. October 7, 1960. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Treblezine: "R.E.M.: Document, 1987". Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Video of famous exchange with McCarthy
- Joseph N. Welch at the Internet Movie Database
- McCarthy–Welch exchange: "Have You No Sense of Decency" (transcript and sound file)
- History of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr
- Joseph Welch on the cover of Life Magazine