Ramsey Clark

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Ramsey Clark
Ramsey Clark at the White House, 28 Feb 1968.jpg
Ramsey Clark at the White House in February 1968.
66th United States Attorney General
In office
March 10, 1967 – January 20, 1969
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
Succeeded by John N. Mitchell
6th United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
January 28, 1965 – March 10, 1967
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
Succeeded by Warren M. Christopher
Personal details
Born William Ramsey Clark
(1927-12-18) December 18, 1927 (age 87)
Dallas, Texas, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Georgia Welch Clark
(m. 1949 - 2010, her death)[1]
Children Ronda Kathleen Clark
Tom Campbell Clark, II
Parents Thomas Campbell Clark
Mary Jane Ramsey Clark
Alma mater University of Texas (B.A.)
University of Chicago (M.A., J.D.)
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1945-1946

William Ramsey Clark (born December 18, 1927) is an American lawyer, activist and former public official. He worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, which included service as United States Attorney General from 1967 to 1969, under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He supervised the drafting and played an important role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968. Since leaving public office Clark has led many progressive activism campaigns, including opposition to the War on Terror, and he has offered legal defense to controversial figures such as Charles Taylor, Slobodan Milošević, Saddam Hussein, and Lyndon LaRouche.

Early life and career[edit]

Clark was born in Dallas, Texas on December 18, 1927. His father, Tom C. Clark,[2] was also a United States Attorney General and was a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His mother, Mary Jane (née Ramsey), was the daughter of a prominent Texas judge and lawyer, William Franklin Ramsey.[3]

Clark served in the United States Marine Corps in 1945 and 1946, then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1949, and a Master's and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Chicago in 1950. While at the University of Texas, he was the member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity.[4]

He was admitted to the Texas bar in 1950, and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1956. From 1951 to 1961, Clark was an the associate and partner in the law firm of Clark, Reed and Clark.

Kennedy and Johnson's administration[edit]

Clark served in the Department of Justice and was the Assistant Attorney General of the Lands Division from 1961 to 1965, and was the Deputy Attorney General from 1965 to 1967.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him to be Attorney General of the United States. He was confirmed by the Senate and took the oath of office on March 2. There is speculation by Clark's detractors that Johnson made the appointment on the expectation that Clark's father, Associate Justice Tom C. Clark, would resign from the Supreme Court to avoid a conflict of interest.[5] Johnson wanted a vacancy to be created on the Court so he could appoint Thurgood Marshall, the first African American justice. The elder Clark resigned from the Supreme Court on June 12, 1967, creating the vacancy Johnson apparently desired.

Clark served in the Attorney General until Johnson's term as President ended on January 20, 1969.

Clark played an important role in the history of the American Civil Rights movement. During his years at the Justice Department, he

As Attorney General during part of the Vietnam War, Clark oversaw the prosecution of the Boston Five for “conspiracy to aid and abet draft resistance.” Four of the five were convicted, including pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock and Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr.

In addition to his government work, during this period Clark was also director of the American Judicature Society (in 1963) and national president of the Federal Bar Association in 1964–65.

International activism[edit]

Following his term as Attorney General Clark worked as a law professor and was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. He visited North Vietnam in 1972 as a protest against the bombing of Hanoi. He was also associated with the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before resigning to run for political office.

In 1974, Clark was nominated in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator from New York defeating the party's designee Lee Alexander, but losing the election to the incumbent Jacob K. Javits. In 1976, Clark again sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, but was a distant third in the primary behind Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Congresswoman Bella Abzug.

Attorney General Clark & President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967.

More recently, Clark has become controversial for his left-wing political views and publications. He has described the War on Terrorism as a war against Islam.[6]

In 1991, Clark's Coalition to Stop US Intervention in the Middle East opposed the US-led war and sanctions against Iraq.[7] Clark accused the administration of President George H. W. Bush, J. Danforth Quayle, James Baker, Richard Cheney, William Webster, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and "others to be named" of "crimes against peace, war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" for its conduct of the Gulf War against Iraq and the ensuing sanctions;[8] in 1996, he added the charges of genocide and the "use of a weapon of mass destruction".[9] Similarly, after the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Ramsey charged and "tried" NATO on 19 counts and issued calls for its dissolution.[10]

Clark has been criticized by both opponents and supporters for some of the people he agreed to defend; this criticism has been exacerbated by some statements Clark has made in defense of his clients.[11]

In 2004 Clark joined a panel of about 20 prominent Arab and one other non-Arab lawyers to defend Saddam Hussein in his trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal.[12] Clark appeared before the Iraqi Special Tribunal in late November 2005 arguing "that it failed to respect basic human rights and was illegal because it was formed as a consequence of the United States' illegal war of aggression against the people of Iraq."[13] Clark said that unless the trial was seen as "absolutely fair", it would "divide rather than reconcile Iraq".[14] Christopher Hitchens claimed that Clark was admitting Hussein's guilt when Clark reportedly stated in a 2005 BBC interview: "He [Saddam] had this huge war going on, and you have to act firmly when you have an assassination attempt".[15]

Ramsey Clark visiting Nandigram, India. November 2007

Clark was not alone in criticizing the Iraqi Special Tribunal's trial of Saddam Hussein, which drew intense criticism from international human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch called Saddam's trial a "missed opportunity" and a "deeply flawed trial"[16],[17] and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the trial to be unfair and to violate basic international human rights law.[18] Among the irregularities cited by HRW, were that proceedings were marked by frequent outbursts by both judges and defendants, that three defense lawyers were murdered, that the original chief judge was replaced, that important documents were not given to defense lawyers in advance, that paperwork was lost, and that the judges made asides that pre-judged Saddam Hussein.[19] One of those outburst occurred when Clark was ejected from the trial after passing the judge a memorandum stating that the trial was making "a mockery of justice". The Chief Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman shouted at Clark, "No, you are the mockery... get him out. Out"![20]

On March 18, 2006, Clark attended the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. He declared: "History will prove Milošević was right. Charges are just that: charges. The trial did not have facts." He compared the trial of Slobodan Milošević with the one of Saddam Hussein by stating: "both trials are marred with injustice, both are flawed." He characterized Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein as "both commanders who were courageous enough to fight more powerful countries."[21]

Ramsey Clark speaks to the March 20, 2010, anti-war protest in Washington, D.C.

In June 2006, Clark wrote an article criticizing US foreign policy in general, containing a list of 17 US "major aggressions" introduced by "Both branches of our One Party system, Democrat and Republican, favor the use of force to have their way." (the list includes the Clinton years) and followed by "The United States government may have been able to outspend the Soviet Union into economic collapse in the Cold War arms race, injuring the entire planet in the process. Now Bush has entered a new arms race and is provoking a Second Cold War..."[22]

On September 1, 2007, in New York, Clark called for detained Filipino Jose Maria Sison’s release and pledged assistance by joining the latter’s legal defense team headed by Jan Fermon. Clark doubted Dutch authorities’ validity and competency, since the murder charges originated in the Philippines and had already been dismissed by the country's Supreme Court.[23]

In November 2007, Clark visited Nandigram in India[24][25] where conflict between state government forces and villagers resulted in the death of at least 14 villagers.[26][27]

In April 2009, Clark spoke at a session of the Durban Review Conference where he accused Israel of genocide.[28]

In September 2010, Clark's essay was published in a three-part paperback entitled The Torturer in the Mirror (Seven Stories Press).[29]

Clark was a recipient of the 1992 Gandhi Peace Award, and also the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award. He also traveled to Belgrade to receive an honorary doctorate from Belgrade University.[30][31]

Advocating the impeachment of George W. Bush[edit]

Founded 2002
Dissolved Jan. 20, 2009, converted to IndictBushNow.org
Type Political advocacy
Focus Impeachment of Bush Administration members
Area served
United States
reported over 1,000,000 signatories[citation needed]
Key people
Ramsey Clark (founder)
Website http://www.IndictBushNow.org

In 2002, Clark founded "VoteToImpeach", an organization advocating the impeachment of George W. Bush and several members of his administration. For the duration of Bush's terms in office, Clark sought, unsuccessfully, for the House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment against Bush. Clark was an opponent of both the 1991 and 2003 Persian Gulf Wars. He is the founder of the International Action Center, which holds significant overlapping membership with the Workers' World Party.[32] Clark and the IAC helped found the protest organization A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).[33]

As early as March 19, 2003, the New Jersey newspaper and website The Independent took note of Clark's efforts to impeach Bush and others, prior to the start of the Iraq War. The paper noted that "Clark said there is a Web site, www.votetoimpeach.org, dedicated to collecting signatures of U.S. citizens who want President George W. Bush impeached, and that approximately 150,000 have signed to impeach, he said."[34] A conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, stated in an article dated February 27, 2004, "...Ramsey Clark's VoteToImpeach.org is a serious operation", and noted the group had run full-sized newspaper advertising on both coasts of the U.S. though the Standard also went on to describe them as also being a "angry petition stage."[35]

Clark's speech to a counter-inauguration protest on January 20, 2005 at John Marshall Park in Washington D.C. was broadcast on the radio/TV program Democracy Now hosted by Amy Goodman, with Clark stating that "We’ve had more than 500,000 people sign on “Vote to Impeach.”[36] The San Francisco Bay Guardian listed the website as one of three "Impeachment links", alongside afterdowningstreet.org and impeachpac.org [37] and The Bangor Daily News took note of the organization's website on March 17, 2006.[38]

The organization, under Clark's guidance, drafted its own articles of impeachment against President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Attorney General John Ashcroft. The document argues that the four have committed, "...violations and subversions of the Constitution of the United States of America in an attempt to carry out with impunity crimes against peace and humanity and war crimes and deprivations of the civil rights of the people of the United States and other nations, by assuming powers of an imperial executive unaccountable to law and usurping powers of the Congress, the Judiciary and those reserved to the people of the United States." Votetoimpeach.org (as of 8 February 2007) claimed to have collected over 852,780 signatures in favor of impeachment.

After the Bush Administration left office in January 2009, Clark was the website was changed to IndictBushNow.org. That website is subtitled "Hold Bush & Co. Accountable for Their Crimes" and solicits donations for this purpose.

Notable clients[edit]

As a lawyer, Clark has also provided legal counsel and advice to prominent figures, including many controversial[39] accused persons. Regarding his role in the defense team of Saddam Hussein, for example, he stated that, "A fair trial in this case is absolutely imperative for historical truth".[40] Clark has stated that by the time he decided to join Hussein's defense team, it was clear that "proceedings before the Iraqi Special Tribunal would corrupt justice both in fact and in appearance and create more hatred and rage in Iraq against the American occupation..affirmative measures must be taken to prevent prejudice from affecting the conduct of the case and the final judgment of the court..For there to be peace, the days of victor's justice must end."[41] A partial listing of persons who have reportedly received legal counsel and advice from Ramsey Clark includes:

Personal life[edit]

Clark married the former Georgia Welch, on April 16, 1949. They had two children, Ronda Kathleen Clark and Tom Campbell Clark II. His wife, Georgia, died on July 3, 2010, at the age of 81.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Deaths CLARK, GEORGIA WELCH". NYTimes.com. July 6, 2010. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  2. ^ Ancestry of Ramsey Clark
  3. ^ Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, A Life of Service by Mimi Clark Gronlund, Ramsey Clark, pg. 21
  4. ^ The Rainbow, vol. 132, no. 2, p. 10,
  5. ^ Time Magazine, "The Ramsey Clark Issue", October 18, 1968
  6. ^ Dam, Marcus (December 17, 2007). "Interview: Consumerism and materialism deadlier than armed occupation". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Archived from the original on April 17, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Peace activists express concern about anti-semites in movement". The Boston Globe. 
  8. ^ War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal, by Ramsey Clark and others
  9. ^ The Wisdom Fund, "Former US Attorney General Charges US, British and UN Leaders", November 20, 1996
  10. ^ CJPY, "NATO found guilty", June 10, 2000
  11. ^ John B. Judis, "The Strange Case of Ramsey Clark," The New Republic, April 22, 1991, pp. 23-29.
  12. ^ "US rebel joins Saddam legal team", news.bbc.co.uk, December 29, 2004
  13. ^ "Arguments for Removal of Case to UN (in English & Arabic)"
  14. ^ "Chaos mars Saddam court hearing", news.bbc.co.uk, December 5, 2005
  15. ^ "Sticking up for Saddam", Slate.com
  16. ^ "Iraq's Shallow Justice" Human Rights Watch, December 29, 2006
  17. ^ "Hanging After Flawed Trial Undermines Rule of Law" Human Rights Watch, December 30, 2006
  18. ^ "Final Opinion of UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention"
  19. ^ "Saddam trial 'flawed and unsound'" news.bbc.co.uk, November 20, 2006
  20. ^ [1], San Diego Union Tribune, November 5, 2006
  21. ^ [2] Daily Times of Pakistan, March 19, 2006
  22. ^ The People vs. George Bush : Iraq War Crimes Tribunal
  23. ^ Inquirer.net, Ex-US attorney general calls for Joma release
  24. ^ Ramsey Clark visits Nandigram
  25. ^ Nandigram says 'No!' to Dow's chemical hub
  26. ^ "NHRC sends notice to Chief Secretary, West Bengal, on Nandigram incidents: investigation team of the Commission to visit the area". 
  27. ^ "CPM cadres kill 3 in Nandigram". 
  28. ^ The U.N.'s Anti-Antiracism Conference, Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2009.
  29. ^ The Torturer in the Mirror
  30. ^ http://www.oocities.org/hebdo99/dossier/ramseyclarkenbelgrado.htm "Ramsey Clark Adresses Serbian Academic Community on the occasion of receiving Honorary Doctorate of Belgrade University"
  31. ^ http://www.salon.com/1999/06/21/clark/ "Ramsey Clark, the war criminal's best friend"
  32. ^ Kevin Coogan, "The International Action Center: 'Peace Activists' with a Secret Agenda," Hit List, November/December 2001.
  33. ^ Coogan, "The International Action Center," Hit List, Nov/Dec 2001.
  34. ^ Ramsey Clark speaks out against war at college | independent.gmnews.com | Independent
  35. ^ Impeach Bush? | The Weekly Standard
  36. ^ Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark Calls For Bush Impeachment
  37. ^ San Francisco Bay Guardian | News
  38. ^ CounterPunch: "America's Best Political Newsletter"
  39. ^ Dennis J. Bernstein, 9 March 2013, consortiumnews.com, Ramsey Clark’s Long Trek for Justice
  40. ^ CNN, November 27, 2005, Lawyer: Ex-U.S. attorney general to join Saddam defense
  41. ^ Why I'm Willing to Defend Hussein

Further reading[edit]

  • Wohl, Alexander. Father, Son, and Constitution: How Justice Tom Clark and Attorney General Ramsey Clark Shaped American Democracy (University Press of Kansas, 2013) 486 pp.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Warren M. Christopher
Preceded by
Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Lyndon B. Johnson

Succeeded by
John N. Mitchell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul O'Dwyer
Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate from New York (Class 3)
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Holtzman