Tom C. Clark, U.S. Attorney General, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

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Thomas Campbell "Tom" Clark

Birthdate: (77)
Death: June 13, 1977 (77)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Henry Clark and Virginia Maxey "Jennie" Clark
Husband of Mary Jane Ramsey
Father of Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General

Managed by: Private User
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About Tom C. Clark, U.S. Attorney General, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

Thomas Campbell Clark (September 23, 1899 – June 13, 1977) was United States Attorney General from 1945 to 1949 and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1949–1967).

Early life and career

Clark was born in Dallas, Texas to Virginia Maxey Falls and William Henry Clark. A graduate of Dallas High, he served as a Texas National Guard infantryman in 1918; afterward he studied law, receiving his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1922. He was a brother of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, and later served as their international president. He set up a law practice in his home town of Dallas from 1922 to 1937, but resigned from private practice for a period to serve as civil district attorney for the city from 1927 to 1932.

Clark, a Democrat, joined the Justice Department in 1937 and served as civilian coordinator for the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans during the opening months of World War II. Later, he headed the antitrust and criminal divisions at Justice.

Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice

Appointed Attorney General by President Harry Truman in 1945, Clark was appointed to the Court in August 1949, filling the vacancy left by the death of Frank Murphy. See, Harry S. Truman Supreme Court candidates. The New York Times called Clark "a personal and political friend [of Truman's] with no judicial experience and few demonstrated qualifications."

Truman later came to regret his choice; he remarked to a biographer many years later that "Tom Clark was my biggest mistake." The change in Truman's attitude stemmed from Clark's vote to strike down as unconstitutional Truman's seizure of the nation's steel mills to end a strike in 1952's Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer.

Justice Murphy, Clark's predecessor, had made a 5 to 4 majority on the Supreme Court for those justices who viewed the Court as a possible instrument of social change. But Clark, along with Truman's other conservative appointees, would change that. While on the Supreme Court, Clark was generally a conservative who nonetheless proved a key vote in some Warren Court cases expanding the scope of individual rights. He is noted for writing the majority opinion in the landmark cases Mapp v. Ohio, applying the Fourth Amendment "exclusionary rule" to the states, and Abington School District v. Schempp, invalidating daily Bible readings in public schools. Clark supported the end of racial segregation, joining the unanimous decisions in Brown v. Board of Education and Sweatt v. Painter.


In 1946, fearing for his life, Chicago organized crime leader James M. Ragen contacted Clark through newspaper columnist Drew Pearson to obtain the protection of federal agents in exchange for information. A dozen FBI agents were sent to Chicago to interrogate Ragen. After checking and confirming the details of mob activity provided by Ragen, Tom Clark withdrew Ragen's FBI protection for lack of federal jurisdiction to prosecute the suspects Ragen named. Almost immediately, Ragen was seriously wounded by gunfire. Several suspects were arrested but no one was prosecuted due to the disappearance of some witnesses and the lack of cooperation of others. Ragen's condition was improving after the shooting, but he died suddenly in the hospital of mercury poisoning. Drew Pearson hinted in his syndicated column in October 1963 that Clark had told him that the FBI confirmed Ragen's accusations of Chicago mob control by leading businessmen and politicians. This was confirmed in the posthumous publication, eleven years later, of Drew Pearson's Diaries, 1949–1959; Tom Clark had told Pearson that Ragen stated that Henry Crown, the Hilton Hotels chain, and Walter Annenberg controlled the mob.

Despite the disturbing information about Henry Crown, et al., Drew Pearson claimed was provided to him by Clark in 1946, Justice Tom Clark appointed Crown's son, John, as one of two of his 1956 Supreme Court session law clerks. In December 1963, Chief Justice Earl Warren, acting as head of the newly formed Presidential Commission investigating the death of President Kennedy, suggested that Henry Crown's attorney, Albert E. Jenner, Jr., who also, at that time employed Crown's son, John at Jenner's Chicago law firm, be appointed as a senior assistant Warren Commission counsel. Warren gave his fellow commissioners the names of two men who approved of Jenner's appointment, Tom C Clark and Dean Acheson.

The appointment of Jenner to investigate whether either Oswald or Ruby acted alone or conspired with others remains controversial.

Henry Crown and his close friend, Sam Nanini, were reported in March 1977 to have had relationships with organized crime.

As Attorney General, Tom Clark was accused of impropriety in the early parole of convicted Chicago crime boss, Louis Campagna and three others. Sam Nanini wrote a letter in 1947 to the federal bureau of prisons advocating parole for Campagna.

Later life

Clark retired from the Supreme Court on June 12, 1967, to avoid a conflict of interest when his son, Ramsey Clark, was appointed Attorney General. He was succeeded on the Court by Thurgood Marshall. Lyndon Johnson was said[according to whom?] to have appointed Ramsey Clark as Attorney General precisely to force Tom Clark off the bench, leaving a vacancy so that LBJ could appoint Marshall as the first African-American Justice on the Supreme Court. After Clark's retirement he served as a visiting judge on several U.S. Courts of Appeals,[26] as director of the Federal Judicial Center, and as Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Judicature Society.

Clark died in New York City and is buried in Restland Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas. Tom C. Clark High School of the Northside Independent School District of San Antonio, Texas is named in honor of him. Also named after him is the Tom C. Clark Building, an office building of the Texas Judiciary in Austin. His former law clerks honored him by creating the Tom C. Clark award given to the outstanding Supreme Court Fellow each year. Winners of this award include Professor Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Professor Barbara A. Perry, Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs and former Carter Glass Professor of Government at Sweet Briar College. In 1977, Clark became the first recipient of the Distinguished Jurist Award at Mississippi State University.

An extensive collection of Clark's papers, including his Supreme Court files, is housed at the University of Texas in Austin. The law school also maintains the "Tom C. Clark" fellowship, entitling selected students with a sizable tuition subsidy. The main student lounge in the school is named after Clark as well. A smaller collection, primarily relating to Clark's years as Attorney General, is located at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

Clark became an Eagle Scout in 1914 and was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

Clark was a member of Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity and served as the fraternity's International President from 1966 to 1968.

Justice Clark's personal papers, consisting of 524 linear feet (869 boxes, 20 scrapbooks, around 1,000 photographs, and approximately 100 oversize items) are in the care of the University of Texas School of Law.

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Tom C. Clark, U.S. Attorney General, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court's Timeline

September 23, 1899
December 18, 1927
Age 28
June 13, 1977
Age 77