William Ramsey Clark

William Ramsey Clark

William Ramsey Clark was born in Dallas, Texas, on 18th December, 1927. His father, Tom C. Clark, was a civil district attorney.

Ramsey Clark served in the United States Marine Corps during the Second World War. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1949, and an M.A. and a J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1950.

Harry S. Truman appointed Tom C. Clark as the Attorney General of the United States (1945-1949) and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court (1949-1967).

Ramsey Clark was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1950 and the following year he became an associate and partner in the law firm of Clark, Reed and Clark. In 1961 Clark was appointed as the Assistant Attorney General of the Lands Division. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy he worked in a liaison capacity with the Warren Commission. In 1965 Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as his Deputy Attorney General.

Ramsey Clark played an important role in the history of the American Civil Rights movement. During his years at the Justice Department, he supervised the drafting and executive role in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and supervised federal enforcement of the court order protecting the march from Selma to Montgomery.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him to be Attorney General of the United States, he was confirmed by congress and took the oath of office on 2nd March. Later that day District Attorney Jim Garrison announced the arrest of businessman Clay Shaw on charges of conspiring to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. The new Attorney General stated that the FBI had already investigated and cleared Shaw "in November and December of 1963" of "any part in the assassination".

As Jim Garrison pointed out: "However, the statement that Shaw, whose name appears nowhere in the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission, had been investigated by the federal government was intriguing. If Shaw had no connection to the assassination, I wondered, why had he been investigated?" Within a few days of this statement Clark had to admit that he had published inaccurate information and that no investigation of Shaw had taken place.

In an interview on Face the Nation on 12th March, 1967, CBS correspondent, George Herman, asked Clark about the death of David Ferrie. Herman asked Clark why documents concerning Ferrie had been classified by the FBI and the Justice Department. Clark replied: "No, those documents are under the general jurisdiction of the General Services Administration." According to Bernard Fensterwald, this was untrue as the Ferrie documents had specifically been classified under orders from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

In 1968 Attorney General Ramsey Clark appointed a panel of four medical experts to examine various photographs, X-ray films, documents, and other evidence pertaining to the death of President John F. Kennedy. The Clark Panel argued that Kennedy was struck by two bullets fired from above and behind him, one of which traversed the base of the neck on the right side without striking bone and the other of which entered the skull from behind and destroyed its upper right side.

Ramsey Clark was also the subject of criticism a year later when he announced that there was "no sign of conspiracy" in the assassination of Martin Luther King, several weeks before James Earl Ray, the alleged assassin, had been arrested. Ramsey Clark later admitted he suspended Cartha DeLoach from his position as FBI liaison, as a result of his behaviour over the arrest of James Earl Ray.

On 25th January, 1969, Ramsey Clark's final day as Attorney General, he ordered the Justice Department to withhold from Jim Garrison, the X-Rays and photographs from the autopsy of John F. Kennedy.

After leaving office he worked as a law professor and was active in the Anti-Vietnam War movement. He visited North Vietnam in 1972 as a protest against the bombing of Hanoi. In 1974, he was nominated in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator from New York but lost the election to the incumbent Jacob K. Javits.

In 1991, Clark accused the administration of President George H. W. Bush and "others to be named" of "crimes against peace, war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" for its conduct of the Gulf War against Iraq.

in 1999 he condemned NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He also defended Slobodan Milošević and argued that : "History will prove Milošević was right. Charges are just that: charges. The trial did not have facts."

Ramsay Clark joined a panel of lawyers to defend Saddam Hussein in his trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal. He appeared before the tribunal in November 2005 arguing "that it failed to respect basic human rights and was illegal because it was formed as a consequence of the United States' illegal war of aggression against the people of Iraq." Clark has also described the War on Terrorism as a War against Islam.

Primary Sources

(1) Manny Goldstein, The Mysterious Ramsey Clark: Stalinist Dupe or Ruling-Class Spook (1999)

Ramsey Clark was born to power. In 1945, the Clark family made its leap from Dallas to DC when Ramsey's dad Tom Clark, a lobbyist for Texas oil interests, was appointed Attorney General by President Harry Truman. In his Texas days, the politically ambitious elder Clark was cultivated as a useful connection by New Orleans mafia kingpin Carlos Marcello, and many feared Clark's new job would afford organized crime access to higher levels of power.

AG Clark was repeatedly mired in corruption scandals. In 1945, he was accused of taking a bribe to fix a war profiteering case. In 1947, after he had four convicted Chicago mob bosses sprung from prison before their terms were complete, Congress appointed a committee to investigate - and was effectively roadblocked by Tom's refusal to hand over parole records.

Truman admitted to a biographer that "Tom Clark was my biggest mistake." But he insisted: "It isn't so much that he's a bad man. It's just that he's such a dumb son of a bitch."

AG Tom Clark played along with the post-war anti-communist hysteria, approving federal wiretaps on Alger Hiss, the State Department official accused being a Soviet mole. In 1949, he moved over to the Supreme Court. Carlos Marcello biographer John Davis asserts that the kingpin continued to funnel money to Clark when he sat on the high court...

An embittered casualty of the 1960s, Clark assumed a leftist posture after leaving the Justice Department. He became the lawyer for anti-war protestor Philip Berrigan, headed a private probe into the FBI killings of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and travelled to Vietnam to condemn the bombing.

In a 1974 bid for Senate in New York, he played the centrist in the Democratic primary, with Bella Abzug on the left and Daniel Moynihan on the right. Moynihan won. Clark, now 46, appeared to burn his bridges with the establishment at this point.

(2) The Associated Press (2nd March, 1967)

Clark said today the Federal Bureau of Investigation already has investigated and cleared Clay L. Shaw - a businessman arrested in New Orleans - of any part in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy...

Clark said the Justice Department knows what Garrison's case involves, and does not consider it valid.

Clark said Shaw "was included in an investigation in November and December of 1963."

"On the evidence that the FBI has, there was no connection found between Shaw and the assassination of the President in Dallas on November 22,1963," Clark said.

(3) William Ramsey Clark, Face the Nation (12th March, 1967)

We'd been searching for James Earl Ray, the assassin of Dr. King, and I had been in daily contact with them about it. I'd go over and see the evidence and hear what they had and they'd send me reports... They were showing me everything...

The day of Bob Kennedy's funeral I went up to St. Patrick's ... When I came out of the church, an agent said, "Mr. Attorney General, Mr. DeLoach says that it's urgent that you call him immediately." When I called them, they said that they had captured James Earl Ray in London and that he had tried to hold it up until after the funeral but he couldn't hold it up because Scotland Yard or somebody was saying, "We can't do that," and so they released the story apparently during the church service. I was a little puzzled by that... I got back to Washington and some of my people were really upset because they said there had been this long typed announcement of the arrest, that it had been laid on their desk either the night before or that morning...

I never have understood why. I mean, it's too bizarre for me to understand, but for some reason they decided they'd remind everybody the FBI was still on the job about that time of day and they did. I think I could have taken that. I mean, it's an idiosyncrasy and kind of a petty one, but the thing I couldn't take was that I believed that I'd been lied to, and you can't function that way. I'd been told with some elaboration that they'd tried to hold up and couldn't do it when in fact it had been just the opposite, that they had held up just to release it at that time.

(4) Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (1988)

When we arrested Shaw, the United States government awakened like an angry lion. Whoever in my office was the government's contact had been caught napping by our unheralded apprehension of the man. There followed roars of outrage from Washington, D.C. and shrill echoes from the news media.

From Ramsey Clark, the attorney general of the United States, there came the pronouncement that the federal government already had exonerated Shaw from any involvement in President Kennedy's assassination. This high-level revelation, and the attorney general's subsequent friendly colloquy with Washington reporters, seemed to leave no doubt that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had investigated Clay Shaw and given him a clean bill of health. One newsman asked Clark directly if Shaw was "checked out and found clear?" "Yes, that's right," replied the attorney general. Needless to say, this tableau did not exactly make me look like District Attorney of the Year.

However, the statement that Shaw, whose name appears nowhere in the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission, had been investigated by the federal government was intriguing. If Shaw had no connection to the assassination, I wondered, why had he been investigated? The implications of Clark's statement apparently raised similar questions in Washington, and Clark soon beat a strategic retreat. "The attorney general," a justice Department spokesman announced, "has since determined that this was erroneous. Nothing arose indicating a need to investigate Mr. Shaw."

Shortly after Clark's pronouncement, however, an unnamed Justice Department official announced that the department had been well aware that Clay Shaw and Clay Bertrand were one and the same individual and that the F.B.I. had indeed investigated Clay Bertrand. This confirmed the facts as we had found them. Nonetheless, despite the backpedaling by the justice Department, the attorney general's initial pronouncement was the one that got all the headlines. It had struck a serious blow at the integrity of our investigation.

(5) James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed (1992)

One point man for the Johnson Administration in damaging Garrison's case was Ramsey Clark. In March of 1967, right after his confirmation as Attorney General by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Clark made an extraordinary intervention into the case: he told a group of reporters Garrison's case was baseless. The FBI, he said, had already investigated Shaw in 1963 and found no connection between him and the events in Dallas. When pressed on this, Clark insisted that Shaw had been checked out and cleared.

But in his haste to discredit Garrison, Clark had slipped. The obvious question, though not pursued by the Washington press corps, was why back in 1963 the upstanding citizen Shaw had been investigated concerning the assassination at all. Shaw and his lawyers realized the implication of Clark's gaffe even if the Attorney General did not. When one of Shaw's attorneys, Edward F. Wegmann, requested a clarifi¬cation of Clark's statement, a Clark subordinate tried to control the damage by asserting that the original statement was without foundation: "The Attorney General has since determined that this was erroneous. Nothing arose indicating a need to investigate Mr. Shaw."

Things got even worse for Clark. The same day he made his original announcement, a New York Times reporter, Robert Semple, wrote that the Justice Department was convinced that "Mr. Bertrand and Mr. Shaw were the same man." Semple had gone to the National Archives seeking Warren Commission references to Clay Shaw. Finding zero, he was told that the Justice Department believed that Bertrand and Shaw were actually the same man, and that this belief was the basis for the Attorney General's assertion.

Clark had come to praise Shaw but instead had implicated him. However, Clark was not through trying to aid Shaw and sandbag Garrison. The AG would have a surprise for the DA at the upcoming trial...

In July of 1967, Garrison had tried to expedite matters by filing for an early trial date. For one thing, he wanted to stop Phelan and Sheridan from tampering with, intimidating, and making offers to witnesses. But when he saw that the defense was determined to drag out the pre-trial phase, he decided to use the interval to secure more evidence from the government. Here, Ramsey Clark, his nemesis, blocked his path.

After the Attorney General had bungled his first attempt to discredit Garrison's case, he secretly tried another method. Garrison had been trying to secure the original JFK autopsy photos and x-rays to exhibit at the trial. They would form an important part of his case, since, to prove a conspiracy, he had to present evidence against the Warren Report, which maintained there was no conspiracy and that Oswald had acted alone. In 1968, Clark convened a panel of experts - which did not include any of the doctors who had performed the original examinations - to review what was extant of the photos and x-rays. In early 1969, just a few days before he left office and on the eve of the trial, Clark announced that this panel had endorsed the findings of the Warren Report. The panel released its findings, but none of the original evidence on which it was based. And when Garrison again requested the autopsy materials, he was turned down by Clark's Justice Department.