Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

Case and Harry Dexter White resentments into a condemnation through which the ex-President declared that, as a Justice, Clark had not made "one right decision that [he] could think of." 195

Yet, given Truman's and Clark's long and seemingly affectionate relationship, both before and after the Miller interviews, the former President may well have gone on to regret a denunciation of the Justice. 196 Surely his tributes to Clark in the ensuing years, while in no way echoing his 1949 prediction of Clark's judicial greatness, never so much as hinted that the Justice's appointment had been "the worst mistake" of his presidency.

But, given the tremendous emphasis that Truman placed upon what he viewed as loyalty, 197 as well as the great vulnerability and anguish he must have experienced during the Steel Seizure Case and the White controversy, his castigation of Clark might also have come from the very depths of his being. It this were so, then perhaps his "friendship" with the Justice existed on two levels. On one, Clark was the ever-kind and well-meaning man whom he so very much valued. And, on the other, he was "[t]hat damn fool from Texas" who advised his President to act and then provided no support for it--indeed, betrayed Truman on it--when a Justice.

Assuming the accuracy of the Miller interviews, at least sometime during the early 1960s, Harry Truman characterized Clark's Supreme Court appointment as "the worst mistake" of his presidency. But it is unlikely that many historians would agree with him. Ironically, Clark's judicial career has been undergoing a reassessment similar to the one he so perceptively predicted for Truman's presidency. 198 And the result, along the lines that he prophesized for his President, is a significantly greater appreciation of his contribution to the nation's policy- making. 199


NOTES
1.
G. Howard McGrath certainly expressed surprise! In an impolitic interview in the Providence Journal published two days later, he related that he thought he had been summoned to the White House to be told whether he would be appointed to the Court. Clark's being the appointee, he stated, had not even occurred to him! See Frederic W. Collins , "Truman Discards Religion as a Test for Court Choice--McGrath Discloses the President Wants the Most Qualified for Supreme Bench," Providence Journal, July 30, 1949, p. 6.
2.
Truman was making dramatic departure from the tradition, which had begun in 1894, of an ongoing "Catholic seat."
3.
This account is derived from "National Affairs--The Presidency: Mr. Justice Clark," Newsweek, August 8, 1949, p. 13 and Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: January 1 to December 31, 1949 ( Washington, D.C., 1964), pp. 402-5.
4.
Richard Kirkendall, "Tom C. Clark" in Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, eds., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 1789-1969 ( New York, 1969), p. 2667.
5.
Cabell Phillips, The Truman Presidency: History of a Triumphant Succession ( New York, 1966), p. xi.

-355-

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