NEW YORK – Ramsey Clark the attorney general in the Johnson administration, who became an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a severe critic of US policy, he died. He was 93 years old.
Clark, whose father, Tom Clark, was Attorney General and the US Supreme Court justice, died on Friday in his Manhattan At home, a family member, Sharon Welch, announced to the media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
After serving in President Lyndon Johnson Enclosure in 1967 and 1968, Clark established a private law practice in New York in which he defended civil rights, fought against racism and the death penalty, and represented outspoken enemies of the United States, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
New York civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby, who has worked with Clark on several cases, called the death “very, very sad in a time of loss”.
“The progressive legal community has lost its oldest dean and statesman,” said Kuby. “For many generations, Ramsey Clark has been a voice of principles, conscience and a fighter for civil and human rights.”
‘Jane Fonda of the Gulf War’
In courts across the country, Clark defended anti-war activists. In the court of public opinion, he accused the United States of militarism and arrogance, starting with the Vietnam War and continuing with Grenada, Libya, Panama and the Gulf War.
When Clark visited Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to accuse the United States of war crimes, Newsweek nicknamed him Jane Fonda of the Gulf War.
Clark said he just wanted the United States to live up to his ideals. “If you don’t insist that your government abide by the law, what right do you have to demand it from others?” he said.
The slender, soft-spoken Texan went to Washington in 1961 as a New Frontiersman in President John F. Kennedy’s Department of Justice.
He was 39 when Johnson appointed him attorney general in 1967, the second youngest of all time – Robert Kennedy was 36.
Supreme Court Judge Tom Clark, who had been Harry Truman’s attorney general before entering the high court in 1949, swore his son as attorney general, then retired to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Ramsey Clark said his work in court led him to the civil rights revolution, which he called “the noblest pursuit of the American people in our time”.
He also maintained opposition to the death penalty and wiretapping, defended the right to dissent and criticized FBI director J. Edgar Hoover when no one else in the government would dare stand up to him.
But as Johnson’s attorney general, Clark had the job of prosecuting Dr. Benjamin Spock for advising Vietnamese-era youth to resist recruitment, a position he sympathized with.
“We won the case, that was the worst part,” he said years later.
Marine Corps Veteran
Dallas-born Clark, who joined the Marine Corps in 1945-46, moved with his family to New York in 1970 and established a professional practice focused on pro bono work. He then said that he and his partners were limiting his annual personal income to $ 50,000, an amount he did not always reach.
“Money is not in my interest,” he said, but at the same time he was paying dearly for the medical bills of his daughter, Ronda, who was born with serious disabilities. He and his wife, Georgia, who married in 1949, also had a son, Thomas, a lawyer.
Clark attempted an elective office, losing the 1976 Democratic Senate primaries to Daniel P. Moynihan.
Clark’s client list included peace and disarmament activists like Harrisburg 7 and Plowshares 8. Abroad, he represented dissidents in Iran, Chile, the Philippines and Taiwan, and hijackers in the Soviet Union.
He was an advocate of Syrian and Soviet Jews, but he outraged many Jews because of other customers. He defended a guard at a Nazi prison camp who was fighting extradition and the Palestine Liberation Organization in a lawsuit over the kidnappers’ murder of a cruise ship passenger.
There were usually two to three dozen active cases on Clark’s legal calendar and about 100 more in the background. Capital punishment cases were a staple.
“We talked about civil liberties,” he said. “We have the largest prison population per capita on Earth. Is the largest jailer in the world the most free country on Earth?”