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

By Mimi Clark Gronlund | Go to book overview
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Epilogue

His great distinction… is his reflection that it is wrong to live life
without some deep and abiding social commitment.

William J. Brennan, 1977

THE WORLD HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY since my father, Tom Clark, died, more than thirty years ago. Many of the changes would excite him, some would disturb him, and a few are the results of his own efforts.

The Supreme Court is a prime example. Even the appearance of the building has been altered by the installation of protective barriers designed to prevent a terrorist attack. No more the easy access that I enjoyed as a young girl. An elaborate security system is now in place and scrupulously enforced. Tom Clark might think these safeguards necessary, but he would hate them! The makeup of the Court is totally different and reflects the drift to the right that the country has experienced during the last three decades. Tom Clark was viewed as a conservative during his years as a justice—incorrectly, I believe, for his opinions defy any ideological label. Today, he would be tagged as a liberal, and that, too, would be incorrect, and for the same reason. But the issues have also changed. The Cold War is over, but peace has not been attained, and the world is as dangerous today as it was during Tom Clark’s lifetime—perhaps more so. International terrorism has supplanted the fear of communism and concern over civil unrest. Though it is perhaps unwise to speculate, I have no doubt that Tom Clark would be appalled by some of the policies that have been employed in the name of “the war on terrorism” and would view them as unconstitutional.

The current justices still deal with some of the same issues that were debated when my father was on the Court—school prayer, individual

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