Clark, Ramsey

Clark, William Ramsey, 1927–2021, attorney general of the United States (1967–69), b. Dallas, Tex., Univ. of Texas-Austin (BA, 1949), Univ. of Chicago (MA, 1950; JD, 1951); son of Tom Campbell Clark. Admitted to the bar in 1951, Ramsey Clark practiced law in Dallas. After serving in the federal government as assistant attorney general in charge of the lands division (1961–65), deputy attorney general (1965–66), and acting attorney general (Oct., 1966–Feb., 1967), he was appointed by President Johnson to succeed Nicholas Katzenbach as attorney general. Clark proved to be a vigorous defender of civil liberties and civil rights; he opposed the use of government wiretaps and initiated the first Northern school desegregation case. After leaving the government, he taught law and later became active in the anti–Vietnam War movement, visiting North Vietnam in 1972. In 1974 he was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from New York but was defeated by Jacob Javits; he also failed in a second Senate run in 1976.

Subsequently he practiced as a defense lawyer in New York and continued his political activism. He founded the International Action Center (associated with the Trotskyite Workers' World party), which, like Clark, has opposed positions taken by the United States government, including military actions, the death penalty, and globalization. Clark defended or supported Philip Berrigan (see Berrigan brothers), Slobodan Milošević, Bosnian Serb leader and accused war criminal Radovan Karadžić, Rwandan clergyman and convicted genocide instigator Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, and Saddam Hussein (acting as a defense attorney at his trial in Iraq beginning in 2005). Clark wrote numerous books, including Crime in America (1970) and The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf (1992).

For an account of his career as attorney general, see Justice by R. Harris (1970); A. Wohl, Father, Son, and Constitution (2013); Citizen Clark: A Life of Principle (2018, documentary film).

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