Alger Hiss (1904 - 1996)

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Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Death: Died in New York City, New York, United States
Managed by: Hugh Barber
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Immediate Family

    • Priscilla

About Alger Hiss

Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904 – November 15, 1996) was a U.S. State Department official involved in the establishment of the United Nations. He was accused of being a Soviet spy in 1948 and convicted of perjury in connection with this charge in 1950.

On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist Party member, testified under subpoena before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that Hiss had secretly been a Communist while in federal service, despite the fact that Chambers had previously testified under oath that Hiss had never been a Communist. Called before HUAC, Hiss categorically denied the charge. When Chambers repeated his claim in a radio interview, Hiss filed a defamation lawsuit against him.

During the pretrial discovery process, Chambers produced new evidence indicating that he and Hiss had been involved in espionage, which each had denied under oath to HUAC. A federal grand jury indicted Hiss on two counts of perjury; Chambers admitted to the same offense, but as a cooperating government witness he was never charged. Although Hiss's indictment stemmed from the alleged espionage, he could not be tried for that crime because the statute of limitations had expired.

After a mistrial due to a hung jury, Hiss was tried a second time. In January 1950, he was found guilty on both counts of perjury and received two concurrent five-year sentences, of which he eventually served 44 months. Arguments about the case and the validity of the verdict took center stage in broader debates about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the extent of Soviet espionage in the United States. Although a variety of evidence has been added to the debate since his conviction, the question of Hiss's guilt or innocence remains controversial. Some reliable sources have suggested that those who believe in Hiss's innocence are in the minority of scholarly opinion.

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Alger Hiss's Timeline

November 11, 1904
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
November 15, 1996
Age 92
New York City, New York, United States