Ramsey Clark

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Ramsey Clark
Ramsey Clark portrait.jpg
66th United States Attorney General
In office
March 10, 1967 – January 20, 1969
Acting: November 28, 1966 – March 10, 1967
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byNicholas Katzenbach
Succeeded byJohn N. Mitchell
8th United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
January 28, 1965 – March 10, 1967
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byNicholas Katzenbach
Succeeded byWarren Christopher
Personal details
William Ramsey Clark

(1927-12-18) December 18, 1927 (age 92)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Georgia Welch
(m. 1949; died 2010)
RelationsWilliam F. Ramsey (grandfather)
ParentsTom Clark
Mary Jane Ramsey
EducationUniversity of Texas at Austin (BA)
University of Chicago (MA, JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Marine Corps
Years of service1945–1946

William Ramsey Clark (born December 18, 1927) is an American lawyer, activist and former federal government official. A progressive, New Frontier liberal,[2] he occupied senior positions in the United States Department of Justice under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, notably serving as United States Attorney General from 1967 to 1969; previously he was Deputy Attorney General from 1965 to 1967 and Assistant Attorney General from 1961 to 1965.

As attorney general, he was known for his vigorous opposition to the death penalty, his aggressive support of civil liberties and civil rights, and his dedication in enforcing antitrust provisions.[3] Clark supervised the drafting 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.

With the death of Alan Boyd,[4] Clark is the last surviving member of the Cabinet of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Early life and career[edit]

Clark was born in Dallas, Texas, on December 18, 1927,[5] the son of prominent jurist Tom C. Clark and his wife Mary Jane (née Ramsey). Clark's father served as United States Attorney General from 1945 to 1949 under President Harry S. Truman and then became a Supreme Court Justice in August 1949.[6] His maternal grandfather was William Franklin Ramsey, who served on the Supreme Court of Texas,[7][8] while his paternal grandfather, lawyer William Henry Clark, was president of the Texas Bar Association.[7]

Clark attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., but dropped out at the age of 17 in order to join the United States Marine Corps, seeing action in Western Europe in the final months of World War II;[7] he served until 1946. Back in the U.S., he earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin in 1949, and obtained a Master of Arts in American history from the University of Chicago and a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1950 and 1951, respectively.[9] While at the University of Texas, he was a member of the Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity.[10]

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 practiced law as an associate and partner at his father’s Texas law firm, Clark, Reed and Clark.

Kennedy and Johnson administrations[edit]

In the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Clark occupied senior positions in the Justice Department; he was Assistant Attorney General, overseeing the department's Lands Division from 1961 to 1965, and then served as 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. Clark was one of Johnson's popular and successful cabinet appointments, being described as "able, independent, liberal and soft-spoken" and a symbol of the New Frontier liberals;[2] he had also built a successful record, especially in his management of the Justice Department's Lands Division; he had increased the efficiency of his division and had saved enough money from his budget so that he had asked Congress to reduce the budget by $200,000 annually.[2]

However, there also was speculation that one of the reasons that contributed to Johnson's making the appointment was the expectation that Clark's father, Associate Justice Tom C. Clark, would resign from the Supreme Court to avoid a conflict of interest.[11] 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 as the attorney general until Johnson's term as president ended on January 20, 1969.

Clark played an important role in the history of the 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.

Private career[edit]

Following his term as Attorney General Clark taught courses at the Howard University School of Law (1969–1972) and Brooklyn Law School (1973–1981). He was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and visited North Vietnam in 1972 as a protest against the bombing of Hanoi. From 1969 to 1973, he was associated with the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before resigning to run for political office.

Clark received one delegate vote for the presidential nomination at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

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 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 and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967

More recently, Clark has been praised by some progressives and criticized by some conservatives in equal measure for his political views and publications. He has described the War on Terrorism as a war against Islam.[12]

International activism[edit]

In 1991, Clark's Coalition to Stop US Intervention in the Middle East opposed the US-led war and sanctions against Iraq.[13] Clark accused the administration of President George H. W. Bush, Dan Quayle, James Baker, Dick 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;[14] in 1996, he added the charges of genocide and the "use of a weapon of mass destruction".[15] 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.[16]

As a lawyer, Clark has been criticized by both opponents and supporters for some of the people he agreed to defend, such as foreign dictators hostile to the US; Clark has stood beside and defended his clients, regardless of their own admitted actions and crimes.[17]

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.[18] 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."[19] Clark said that unless the trial was seen as "absolutely fair", it would "divide rather than reconcile Iraq".[20] 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".[21]

In another article Hitchens would describe Clark as "From bullying prosecutor he mutated into vagrant and floating defense counsel, offering himself to the génocideurs of Rwanda and to Slobodan Milosevic, and using up the spare time in apologetics for North Korea. He acts as front-man for the Workers World Party, an especially venomous little Communist sect, which originated in a defense of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956."[22]

Sociologist Paul Hollander would write of Clark "It is likely that well before Clark took his bizarre positions in support of highly repressive, violent, and intolerant political systems and their leaders, he came to the conclusion that the United States was the most dangerous and reprehensible source of evil in the world. This overarching belief led to the reflexive sympathy and support for all the enemies and alleged victims of the United States. They include dictators of different ideological persuasion noted above, whose inhumane qualities and policies Clark was unable to discern or acknowledge, let alone condemn. It was sufficient for Clark's moral accounting that if these dictators were opposed to (and allegedly victimized by) the United States, they deserved and earned his sympathy."[23]

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"[24],[25] and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the trial to be unfair and to violate basic international human rights law.[19] 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.[26] 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"![27]

On March 18, 2006, Clark attended the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. He commented that: "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 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."[28]

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..."[29]

Clark's List of "Major Aggressions" by the United States of America

(1) Regime change in Iran (1953), the Shah replacing democratically elected Mossadegh; Eisenhower (R)

(2) Regime change in Guatemala (1954), military government for democratically elected Arbenz; Eisenhower (R)

(3) Regime change in Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville) (1961), assassination of Patrice Lumumba; Eisenhower (R)

(4) the Vietnam War (1959–1975); Eisenhower (R), Kennedy (D), Johnson (D), Nixon (R)

(5) Invasion of the Dominican Republic (1965); Johnson (D)

(6) The Contras warfare against Nicaragua (1981–1988), resulting in regime change from the Sandinistas to corrupt capitalists; Reagan (R)

(7) Attack and occupation of Grenada (population 110,000)(1983–1987); Reagan (R)

(8) Aerial attack on the sleeping cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya, (1986); Reagan (R)

(9) Invasion of Panama (1989–1990), regime change; George H. W. Bush (R)

(10) Gulf War (1991); George H. W. Bush (R)

(11) "Humanitarian" occupation of Somalia (1992-1993), leading to 10,000 Somali deaths; George H. W. Bush (R) and Bill Clinton (D)

(12) Aerial attacks on Iraq (1993–2001); Bill Clinton (D)

(13) War against Yugoslavia (1999), 23,000 bombs and missiles dropped on Yugoslavia; Bill Clinton (D)

(14) Missile attack in Khartoum (1998), (21 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles) destroying the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory which provided the majority of all medicines for Sudan; Bill Clinton (D)

(15) Invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (2001–present), regime change; George W. Bush (R)

(16) War of aggression against Iraq and hostile occupation (2003-present); George W. Bush (R)

(17) Regime change in Haiti (2004), deposing the democratically elected Aristide for years of chaos and systematic killings; George W. Bush (R)

On September 1, 2007, in New York City, 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.[30]

In November 2007, Clark visited Nandigram in India[31][32] where conflict between state government forces and villagers resulted in the death of at least 14 villagers.[33][34]

Ramsey Clark visiting Nandigram, India. November 2007

In April 2009, Clark spoke at a session of the Durban Review Conference where he accused Israel of genocide.[35]

In September 2010, Clark's essay was published in a three-part paperback entitled The Torturer in the Mirror (Seven Stories Press).[36]

Clark was a recipient of the 1992 Gandhi Peace Award, and also the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for his commitment to civil rights, his opposition to war and military spending and his dedication to providing legal representation to the peace movement, particularly, his efforts to free Leonard Peltier. He also traveled to Belgrade to receive an honorary doctorate from Belgrade University.[37][38]

Advocating the impeachment of George W. Bush[edit]

DissolvedJan. 20, 2009, converted to IndictBushNow.org
TypePolitical advocacy
FocusImpeachment of Bush administration members
Area served
United States
Reported over 1,000,000 signatories[citation needed]
Key people
Ramsey Clark (founder)

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.[39] Clark and the IAC helped found the protest organization A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).[40]

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."[41] 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."[42]

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."[43] The San Francisco Bay Guardian listed the website as one of three "Impeachment links", alongside afterdowningstreet.org and impeachpac.org [44] and The Bangor Daily News took note of the organization's website on March 17, 2006.[45]

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 changed the website to IndictBushNow.org.

Notable clients[edit]

As a lawyer, Clark has also provided legal counsel and advice to prominent figures, including many controversial individuals.[46][47]

Regarding his role as a defense lawyer in the trial of Saddam Hussein, Clark said: "A fair trial in this case is absolutely imperative for historical truth."[48] 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."[49]

A partial listing of persons who have reportedly received legal counsel and advice from Ramsey Clark includes:

In popular culture[edit]

In Aaron Sorkin's 2020 film The Trial of the Chicago 7, Clark was portrayed by Michael Keaton.

Personal life[edit]

Clark married the former Georgia Welch, a classmate from the University of Texas, 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.[60] His son, Tom, died on November 23, 2013, from cancer.[61] Clark and his wife lived in Greenwich Village in New York City.[62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Deaths Clark, Georgia Welch". NYTimes.com. July 6, 2010. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Company, Johnson Publishing (8 June 1967). "Jet". Johnson Publishing Company – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Incorporated, Facts On File (1 January 2009). "Encyclopedia of the American Presidency". Infobase Publishing – via Google Books.
  4. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (October 19, 2020). "Alan S. Boyd, Nation's First Transportation Chief, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Ramsey Clark (1967–1969)". Miller Center. 4 October 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Ancestry of Ramsey Clark".
  7. ^ a b c "Ramsey Clark". www.justice.gov. 13 April 2015.
  8. ^ Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, A Life of Service by Mimi Clark Gronlund, Ramsey Clark, pg. 21
  9. ^ "Diverse Notable Alumni – Diversity & Inclusion". diversity.uchicago.edu.
  10. ^ The Rainbow, vol. 132, no. 2, p. 10.
  11. ^ Time Magazine, "The Ramsey Clark Issue", October 18, 1968
  12. ^ Dam, Marcus (December 17, 2007). "Interview: Consumerism and materialism deadlier than armed occupation". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on May 1, 2011.
  13. ^ "Peace activists express concern about anti-semites in movement". The Boston Globe.
  14. ^ War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal Archived 2013-02-15 at the Wayback Machine, by Ramsey Clark and others
  15. ^ The Wisdom Fund, "Former US Attorney General Charges US, British and UN Leaders", November 20, 1996
  16. ^ CJPY, "NATO found guilty", June 10, 2000 Archived September 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ John Judis, "The Strange Case of Ramsey Clark," The New Republic, April 22, 1991, pp. 23-29.
  18. ^ "US rebel joins Saddam legal team", news.bbc.co.uk, December 29, 2004
  19. ^ a b "Cases". Archived from the original on 2008-09-07.
  20. ^ "Chaos mars Saddam court hearing", news.bbc.co.uk, December 5, 2005
  21. ^ "Sticking up for Saddam", Slate.com
  22. ^ "Sticking up for Saddam", Slate.com
  23. ^ Paul Hollander. From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship. p. 272.
  24. ^ "Iraq's Shallow Justice" Human Rights Watch, December 29, 2006
  25. ^ "Hanging After Flawed Trial Undermines Rule of Law" Human Rights Watch, December 30, 2006
  26. ^ "Saddam trial 'flawed and unsound'" news.bbc.co.uk, November 20, 2006
  27. ^ [1], San Diego Union Tribune, November 5, 2006
  28. ^ [2] Daily Times of Pakistan, March 19, 2006
  29. ^ uno, kathy. "Ramsey Clark's Indictment of George W. Bush on June 15th, 2006".
  30. ^ "Ex-US attorney general calls for Joma release". Archived from the original on 2007-09-03.
  31. ^ "Ramsey Clark visits Nandigram". 30 November 2007 – via The Hindu.
  32. ^ "Nandigram says 'No!' to Dow's chemical hub".
  33. ^ "NHRC sends notice to Chief Secretary, West Bengal, on Nandigram incidents: investigation team of the Commission to visit the area".
  34. ^ "CPM cadres kill 3 in Nandigram". Archived from the original on 2008-04-17.
  35. ^ The U.N.'s Anti-Antiracism Conference, Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2009.
  36. ^ "The Torturer in the Mirror". Archived from the original on 2011-07-12.
  37. ^ "Ramsey Clark Adresses Serbian Academic Community". www.oocities.org. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  38. ^ "Ramsey Clark, the war criminal's best friend". Salon. 1999-06-21. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  39. ^ Kevin Coogan, "The International Action Center: 'Peace Activists' with a Secret Agenda," Hit List, November/December 2001.
  40. ^ Coogan, "The International Action Center," Hit List, Nov/Dec 2001.
  41. ^ "Ramsey Clark speaks out against war at college". Archived from the original on 2005-12-17.
  42. ^ "Impeach Bush?". 26 February 2004.
  43. ^ "Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark Calls For Bush Impeachment".
  44. ^ "San Francisco Bay Guardian".
  45. ^ "Impeachment Movement Gains National Momentum". Archived from the original on 2009-08-22.
  46. ^ Dennis J. Bernstein, Ramsey Clark's Long Trek for Justice, Consortium News (March 9, 2013).
  47. ^ a b Josh Saunders, Ramsey Clark's Prosecution Complex: How did Lyndon Johnson's attorney general come to defend dictators, war criminals, and terrorists?, Legal Affairs (November/December 2003).
  48. ^ CNN, November 27, 2005, Lawyer: Ex-U.S. attorney general to join Saddam defense
  49. ^ "Why I'm Willing to Defend Hussein". Archived from the original on 2007-01-15.
  50. ^ Lori Berenson returning to U.S. after 20 years in Peru, Associated Pres (November 30, 2015).
  51. ^ Christopher Reed, Obituary: Philip Berrigan, Guardian (December 12, 2002).
  52. ^ American Charged in El Salvador, Associated Press (December 6, 1989).
  53. ^ Casolo Retains Ramsey Clark, Los Angeles Times Wire Services (November 28, 1989).
  54. ^ Josh Getlin, Ramsey Clark's Road Less Traveled: the Former Attorney General Took a Hard Left and Hasn't Looked Back, Los Angeles Times (April 15, 1990).
  55. ^ Michael Hirsley, Saint or Sinner? Jennifer Casolo, Freed From El Salvador, Is Now On The Tour Circuit, Chicago Tribune (March 17, 1990).
  56. ^ Hope Viner Samborn, Ruling Could Lead to More Human Rights Tort Cases, ABA Journal (December 1995), p. 30.
  57. ^ Sam Howe Verhovek, 5 Years After Waco Standoff, The Spirit of Koresh Lingers, New York Times (April 19, 1998).
  58. ^ Jury clears US over Waco deaths, BBC News (July 15, 2000).
  59. ^ Lizzy Ratner, Ramsey Clark: Why I'm Taking Saddam's Case, Observer (January 10, 2005).
  60. ^ 'Death Notices: Georgia Welch Clark,' The New York Times, July 6, 2010
  61. ^ 'Tom C. Clark II, environmental lawyer, dies at 59,' The Washington Post, Bart Barnes, December 23, 2013
  62. ^ 'Trying to figure out Ramsey Clark was never easy,' The Villager (New York City, New York, December 27, 2005

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
Perry W. Morton
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division
Succeeded by
Edwin L. Weisl Jr.
Preceded by
Nicholas Katzenbach
United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Warren Christopher
United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
John N. Mitchell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul O'Dwyer
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Elizabeth Holtzman