Hamilton Fish V

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See Hamilton Fish (disambiguation) for others with the same name

Hamilton Fish (born September 5, 1952) (also known as Hamilton Fish V, Hamilton Fish, Jr., or "Ham") is a publisher, social entrepreneur, environmental advocate, and film producer in New York City. He was born in Washington, D.C. to Hamilton and Julia MacKenzie Fish. He attended schools in New York City and Massachusetts, where he graduated from Harvard University in 1973. He is currently the publisher and editorial director of the monthly independent political periodical, The Washington Spectator, edited by Lou Dubose.[1]

The Nation[edit]

Fish is perhaps best known for his work revitalizing The Nation magazine, and its sister foundation, the Nation Institute. In 1977, Fish teamed up with Victor Navasky and began the work of recruiting investors to acquire The Nation. Together with the help of a group of limited partners that included E.L. Doctorow, Norman Lear, Alan Sagner, and Dorothy Schiff, Fish and Navasky began a decade-long partnership as Publisher and Editor of the country's oldest political weekly. During their stewardship, The Nation experienced steady growth, modernized its publishing operation, prospered in many respects during the Ronald Reagan years, and caused a measure of mayhem worthy of an independent political journal. The magazine waged an honorable if lonely battle over the history of the Cold War, lost a landmark lawsuit[2] over the protection of copyright in the Supreme Court of the United States, and convened large scale conferences including the 1981 Writers' Congress, which examined the status of writers and their representation (and spawned the National Writers Union); as well as the Dialogo de Todas Las Americas,[3] to establish a cultural and political discourse between north and south as a counter to the interventionist doctrine of the Reagan years. In 1987, Fish transferred his interest in the magazine to Arthur Carter, a New York investor who had started the Litchfield County Times and who succeeded Mr. Fish as The Nation's Publisher.

From 1995 to 2009 Fish served as President of The Nation Institute, the foundation associated with The Nation magazine. With support from donors including the Lannan Foundation and Paul Newman, he developed a journalism fellowship program to provide support for progressive writers, a roster that would eventually include Eric Alterman, Max Blumenthal, Tom Engelhardt, Chris Hedges, Scott Horton, Naomi Klein, Katha Pollitt, Jeremy Scahill, and Jonathan Schell. He also created the Alfred Knobler Fellowships, named for a benefactor and longtime friend of The Nation, specifically to support journalists of color. Recipients have included Pamela Newkirk, New York University Journalism Professor and author; Gary Younge, the US-based columnist for The Guardian and The Nation; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, author, blogger, and senior editor for The Atlantic. With the help of the Lear Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the Puffin Foundation, Fish created an investigative journalism division to fund and oversee long-form investigative projects that were usually too expensive for independent publications to undertake; with Tom Engelhardt he developed tomdispatch.com http://www.tomdispatch.com/, an important source of progressive commentary on the web; with Randy Fertel he developed the Ridenhour Prizes, which annually recognize whistleblowers, investigative reporters, and others who persevere in courageous acts of truth-telling; and with Victor Navasky he founded Nation Books, which under Editor Carl Bromley and in association first with Avalon and then Perseus Books, grew into a leading independent non-fiction imprint. During these years, Fish also worked as a political advisor to George Soros, and with Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte he helped to develop a lobbying effort on behalf of U.S. support for the International Criminal Court, an initiative which President Bill Clinton endorsed on the last day of December, 2000. In 2009 and 2010, Fish assisted Lewis H. Lapham with development of the literary magazine Lapham's Quarterly.

At the invitation of The Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, he is overseeing preparations for the celebration of The Nation's 150th anniversary in 2015, including the production of a feature documentary directed by Barbara Kopple.


In 1975 Fish established a partnership with Marcel Ophüls, who had gained world-wide acclaim for The Sorrow and the Pity, his 1969 documentary on resistance and collaboration in Vichy France. Ophüls had been forcibly separated from his then current project, a film on the legacy of Nuremberg and its application to the American intervention in Vietnam. With the backing of California financier Max Palevsky and the support of Paramount Pictures, Fish embarked on a two-year odyssey to complete The Memory of Justice and to arrange its distribution. The four and a half hour film premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 1976,[4] and appeared in the United States for the first time at the New York Film Festival later that same year. Writing in the New York Times, Vincent Canby declared that the film had set a new standard for documentaries, stating "...The Memory of Justice expands the possibilities of the documentary motion picture in such a way that all future films of this sort will be compared to it."[5]

Fish later renewed his association with Ophüls, and together with his producing partner, John Friedman, they commenced production of the third film in the Ophüls trilogy on the evolving legacy of the Holocaust.[6] Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie would take several years to finish, as the filmmakers followed the trail of SS officer Klaus Barbie from his home in Bolivia to Lyons, France, where he was tried for crimes against humanity. The film was distributed domestically in 1988 by Samuel Goldwyn Films, and by Orion worldwide. Hotel Terminus received the 1989 Academy Award for Feature Documentary.[7]

With John Friedman and Eric Nadler, Fish produced Stealing the Fire,[8] a documentary that traced the development of the uranium atom from the failed experiments in the World War II labs of Nazi Germany through the successful invention of the centrifuge in the Black Sea labs of the former Soviet Union, to the eventual piracy of the separation technology and its transfer to Pakistani and Iraqi agents. Stealing the Fire was distributed nationally in theaters by Avatar and broadcast on the Sundance Channel.


While at Harvard University in 1971, Fish co-founded the National Movement for the Student Vote with Morris Abram, Jr. Conceived in response to the passage of the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting eighteen year-olds the right to vote, the organization was designed to assist prospective college-age voters whose efforts to register to vote on or near their campuses was resisted by local authorities.[9]

Following graduation, Fish worked as chief fundraiser for the Ramsey Clark for Senate campaign in New York. Ramsey Clark, a former Attorney General of the United States in the Johnson Administration, ran as an anti-war candidate and reinforced his opposition to the influence of money in electoral politics by imposing a per person limit of $100 on contributions to his campaign.[10] Clark won the Democratic primary that year but lost to Jacob Javits in the general election. Victor Navasky, with whom Fish later joined forces at The Nation, was Clark's campaign manager, and Mark J. Green, whose many subsequent campaigns Fish worked on, was director of policy and issues research.

After leaving The Nation magazine in 1987, Fish entered a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for the United States Congress in a Westchester County district held by Republican Representative Joseph DioGuardi. The national media took note of the race when his 100-year old grandfather, Hamilton Fish III, described his grandson as a communist and contributed $100 to the Republican in the race. The elder Fish, himself a staunch Republican, served in Congress from the Hudson Valley from 1920-1945. Famously memorialized in Roosevelt's enduring refrain, "Martin, Barton, and Fish,"[11] a phrase the President used to deride his most persistent adversaries, the elder Fish was still active in conservative circles well into his late nineties. In 1988, the younger Fish lost in a closely contested three-way Primary to Nita Lowey, who went on to defeat the incumbent.

In 1994 his father, Hamilton Fish IV, announced his retirement from the United States Congress for health reasons, and Fish again entered a Democratic Congressional primary, in the largely Republican Mid-Hudson Valley district that his father had represented for 26 years. Fish won the Democratic primary handily, and although his father crossed party lines to endorse his son, he lost in the general election to Republican Sue Kelly.

Fish family[edit]

The Hamilton Fish family represents one of the oldest traditions in American political life. Nicholas Fish, a Major in the American Revolutionary War, and his wife Elizabeth Stuyvesant, a great-great-granddaughter of Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch mayor of early New York City, named their son Hamilton Fish after their friend Alexander Hamilton. Born in 1808, the first Hamilton Fish became a Senator and New York Governor and later served from 1869-1877 as Secretary of State in the Grant administration. Four Hamilton Fishes have served as Republican representatives in Congress from New York.

Personal life[edit]

In 1989, Fish moved with his partner Sandra Harper to Hudson, New York and started an organic truck farm, where they grew heirloom produce and culinary and decorative herbs. They sold these items at the Union Square Greenmarket and to restaurants and farm stands upstate. Fish also returned part-time to the public interest sector, commuting several days a week to New York City where he worked as Managing Director of Human Rights Watch, under then Executive Director Aryeh Neier. During this period, Fish was most prominently associated with the launch of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival and the opening of HRW's European office in Brussels. Their first child, Eliza, was born in 1991. In 1992, they moved to Garrison, NY, where Sophia, their second child, was born in 1993. Fish eventually moved his family to lower Manhattan in 1997, where he entered his daughters in the local elementary school. The 2001 attack on the World Trade Center forced Fish to move his family out of the city temporarily and back up the Hudson River to Garrison, NY, in search of some measure of peace and the opportunity for his children to heal.

In 2005, Fish and his wife Sandra, who was raised in Houston, acquired an adobe home in Marfa, Texas. Harper developed another garden at this new location and went on to create Farm Stand Marfa, a regional farmers' market serving the towns and communities situated on the Marfa plateau. Fish partnered with Ballroom Marfa, a center for contemporary art and culture, to create the Marfa Dialogues, a cross-disciplinary program of politics, culture, and the arts, with programs in Marfa and New York City.

Today, he manages a strategic consulting practice for clients engaged in socially conscious businesses, and is currently developing several new for-profit ventures based on socially responsible business models. Fish serves as President of the Alice Curtis Desmond and Hamilton Fish Library[12] in Garrison, New York, and is on the boards of Riverkeeper, the Hudson River and clean water advocates, where he is currently helping to lead a campaign to close the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant; the Gomez Foundation, which maintains and develops the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro, New York, the earliest known Jewish Homestead in North America;[13] the Merchant Ivory Foundation, which preserves the archive of the work of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory and develops new independent film and cultural projects; and the Fund for Constitutional Government, which develops and sustains organizations that protect and reinforce basic constitutional principles.


  1. ^ "About WS". The Washington Spectator. February 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ http://supreme.justia.com/us/471/539/case.html
  3. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1985-05-15/news/vw-8743_1_american-writers
  4. ^ http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/2152/year/1976.html
  5. ^ http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF173DE56EBC4D53DFB667838D669EDE&scp=1&sq=%22memory%20of%20justice%22&st=cse
  6. ^ http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/boston/access/61405636.html?FMT=ABS&date=Jan%2029,%201989
  7. ^ http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/23299/Hotel-Terminus-Klaus-Barbie-His-Life-and-Times/details; NY Times
  8. ^ http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B0CE4D91F3AF935A25753C1A9649C8B63
  9. ^ http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1972/2/28/drive-to-enlist-young-voters-to/
  10. ^ http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/testimony-executive-director-ira-glasser-campaign-finance-reform-legislation-senate-comm
  11. ^ http://livefromthetrail.com/about-the-book/speeches/chapter-6/president-franklin-delano-roosevelt
  12. ^ http://dfl.highlands.com/
  13. ^ http://www.gomez.org/archivedsite/news01.html

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