Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark: A Life of Service

By Mimi Clark Gronlund | Go to book overview
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Cold War Fever

You cannot lose sight of the constitutional questions which
inevitably arise in attempting to curb the activities of those with
whom we disagree and whose actions we deplore.

Tom Clark, 1948

BY THE LATE 1940S, an issue had emerged that would dominate the country’s foreign and national security policies for decades to come: the Cold War. As attorney general, my father found himself in the middle of a historic battle to protect the nation from communist subversion without sacrificing the civil liberties that are guaranteed to people in a free society. It was not an easy task!

The threat of communism had been an issue for many years, and reached a height with the “Red Scare” that occurred soon after World War I. In response to the perceived danger to the country, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer established the Justice Department’s Intelligence Division for the purpose of hunting down radicals, and appointed twentyfour-year-old J. Edgar Hoover to head it. The rampage of arrests and deportations that resulted—known as the Palmer Raids—became infamous, regarded by most historians as a “wholesale violation of civil liberties.”1 The Red Scare ended, but the specter of communism continued, and in 1938, Congressman Martin Dies of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (a special investigating committee), claimed that “there are not less than two thousand outright Communists and Party-liners still holding jobs in Washington.”2 The rhetoric subsided during World War II when the USSR and the United States were allies, but even during the war years, communism remained a political issue. In the 1944 election campaign, the Delaware Republican Commit


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