Donald Hiss

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Donald Hiss
Donald hiss arrives to testify before grand jury.jpg
Born(1906-12-15)December 15, 1906
DiedMay 18, 1989(1989-05-18) (aged 82)
EducationJohns Hopkins University
Harvard Law School
Occupation(s)lawyer, government official
Employer(s)Agricultural Adjustment Administration (1933–1935), U.S. Department of State (1936–1945), Covington & Burling (1945–1976)
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseCatherine G. Jones (1929–1996)
RelativesBosley Hiss, brother
Alger Hiss, brother
Anna Hiss, sister

Donald Hiss (December 15, 1906 – May 18, 1989), also known as "Donie"[1][2] and "Donnie",[3] was the younger brother of Alger Hiss. Donald Hiss's name was mentioned during the 1948 hearings wherein his more famous and older brother, Alger, was accused of spying for the Soviet Union, and two years later convicted of perjury before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Early life[edit]

Donald Hiss was born on December 15, 1906, in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School.[4]


Early career: government[edit]

In 1932, he was a law secretary to Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the United States Supreme Court. From 1933 to 1935, he was employed by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration of the United States Department of Labor.[4] In 1934, he was also attached to a special U.S. Senate committee investigating the munitions industry. In 1935, he was employed as a special attorney by the United States Department of Justice.[citation needed]

On September 18, 1936, he was appointed an assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State and worked in the State Department throughout World War II. In 1945, he joined the law firm of Covington & Burling.[5]

Hiss Case[edit]

Alger Hiss, brother of Donald Hiss, circa 1950

On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers included the name of Donald Hiss along with his brother Alger and more than half a dozen other former Federal officials as members of the Ware Group and of the Communist Party when testifying under subpoena to HUAC.[6]

On August 7, 1948, Chambers stated to the committee, "I can give you the general impression. He was much less intelligent than Alger. Much less sensitive than his brother."[6][7]

Hiss retained Nebraskan Hugh Cox as counsel. Cox was famous as Thurman Arnold's chief deputy," as an early partner at Root Clark & Bird[8] (later Root, Clark, Buckner & Ballantine; later Dewey Ballantine, later Dewey & LeBoeuf) and fellow attorney with Hiss at Covington & Burling, where he was called the "perfect advocate"[9]) during the Hiss-Chambers Case."[10][11][12]

On August 13, 1948, like his brother and Harry Dexter White, Hiss denied the allegation, stating:

I flatly deny every statement made by Mr. Chambers with respect to me. I am not, and never have been, a member of the Communist Party or of any formal or informal organizations affiliated with, or fronting in any manner whatsoever for, the Communist Party. In fact, the only organizations and clubs to which I have belonged are the local Y.M.C.A., the Miles River Yacht Club of Maryland, the old Washington Racquet Club, the Harvard Law School Association, the American Society of International Law, and college fraternities and athletic clubs.

I have no recollection of ever having met any person by the name of D. Whittaker Chambers, nor do I recognize his photograph which I have seen in the public press. I am not and never have been in sympathy with the principles of the Communist Party ... I have never known that man by the name of Chambers, Carl, or any other name...
If I am lying, I should go to jail, and if Mr. Chambers is lying, he should go to jail."[6][7]

Unlike his brother Alger, Donald was never indicted.[5][13][14]

Later career: private law[edit]

Donald Hiss spent the remainder of his career in private law practice with Covington & Burling. His expertise lay in international trade and tariff law.[5] He taught international law at Catholic University and at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.[5]

He retired in 1976.[5][13][15] Dean Acheson, who famously defended the reputation of Alger Hiss, was also a member of Covington & Burling.


Hiss died of lung cancer on May 18, 1989, in St. Michaels, Maryland.[4][5][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marbury Jr., William L. (1981). "The Hiss-Chambers Libel Suit". Maryland Historical Magazine. 70 ("Donie") (1): 74 (Georgetown), 76 (UN job). Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  2. ^ Marbury Jr., William L. (1988). In the Catbird Seat. Maryland Historic Society. p. 261. ISBN 9780938420316. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  3. ^ Weinstein, Allen (1977). Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case. Random House. ISBN 9780817912260. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Fowler, Glenn (May 20, 1989). "Donald Hiss, 82, Ex-U.S. Official And Lawyer in Washington Firm". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-28. Donald Hiss, a retired Washington lawyer and Government official, died of lung cancer Thursday at his home in St. Michaels, Md.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Donald Hiss Dies at 82; Trade, Tariff Law Specialist". Washington Post. May 19, 1989. Archived from the original on May 24, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. pp. 418, 469, 543, 552, 568–571 (quote 570), 576 (testimony 576–577), 624, 633fn, 646, 689, 765. LCCN 52005149.
  7. ^ a b "Hearings regarding Communist espionage in the United States Government. Hearings". Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  8. ^ Meyer, Martin (1968). Emory Bruckner. Harper & Row. p. 141. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  9. ^ "A Brief Historical Note". Covington Burling. 2006. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  10. ^ Wing, Ky P. (2006). Competition Rules for the 21st Century: Principles from America's Experience. Kluwer Law International. pp. xxi. ISBN 9789041124777. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  11. ^ Marbury, William L. (1981). "The Hiss-Chambers Libel Suit". Maryland Law Review. University of Maryland - Francis King Carey School of Law. 41 (1): 83. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  12. ^ Gesell, Gerhard A. (August 1984). My 'Jealous Mistress': 1932–1984 (PDF). (unpublished memoir). p. 32. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  13. ^ a b c "Donald Hiss, Brother of Alger, Was Accused of Spying". Associated Press. 20 May 1989.
  14. ^ "Donald Hiss, 82, Brother of Alger, Was Accused..." Orlando Sentinel. May 22, 1989.
  15. ^ "Donald Hiss, 82; accused as a spy with brother Alger". Chicago Sun-Times. May 21, 1989. Archived from the original on May 24, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. pp. 799 (total). LCCN 52005149.
  • Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey (1999). Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press

External links[edit]