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Ramsey Clark, Attorney General under Johnson, dies at 93

NEW YORK (AP) – Ramsey Clark, the attorney general in the Johnson administration who has become an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of American politics, has died. He was 93 years old.

Clark, whose father, Tom Clark, was U.S. Attorney General and Supreme Court justice, died at his Manhattan home on Friday, family member Sharon Welch told media including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

After serving in President Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet in 1967 and 68, Clark established a private law firm in New York City in which he defended civil rights, fought racism and the death penalty, and represented avowed enemies of states. -United, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan. Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

New York civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, who has worked with Clark on numerous cases, called the death “very, very sad in a season of losses.”

“The progressive legal community has lost its former dean and statesman,” Kuby said. “For many generations, Ramsey Clark was a principled voice, conscience and fighter for civil and human rights.”

In courtrooms across the country, Clark has defended anti-war activists. In public opinion, he accused the United States of militarism and arrogance, starting with the Vietnam War and continuing with Grenada, Libya, Panama and the Gulf War.

When Clark traveled to Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to charge the United States with war crimes, Newsweek dubbed him the Jane Fonda of the Gulf War.

Clark said he only wanted the United States to live up to its ideals. “If you do not insist that your government obey the law, then what right have you to demand it of others?” he said.

The skinny, soft-spoken Texan traveled to Washington in 1961 as the New Frontiersman in President John F. Kennedy’s Justice Department.

He was 39 when Johnson appointed him Attorney General in 1967, the second youngest ever – Robert Kennedy was 36.

Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, who had served as Harry Truman’s Attorney General before joining the High Court in 1949, swore his son as Attorney General and then retired to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Ramsey Clark said his work at Justice had drawn him into the Civil Rights Revolution, which he called “the noblest pursuit of the American people in our time.”

He also maintained his opposition to the death penalty and wiretapping, defended the right to dissent, and criticized FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover when no one else in government dared take him on.

But as Johnson’s attorney general, Clark was tasked with prosecuting Dr Benjamin Spock for advising Vietnamese-era youth to resist the project, a position he sympathized with.

“We won the case, it was the worst,” he said years later.

Born in Dallas, Clark, who fell into the Marine Corps in 1945-46, moved his family to New York City in 1970 and established a pro bono practice. He said then that he and his partners limited their annual personal income to $ 50,000, a figure he did not always reach.

“I’m not interested in money,” he said, but at the same time he was paying high medical bills for his daughter, Ronda, who was born with a severe disability. He and his wife, Georgia, who married in 1949, also had a son, Thomas, a lawyer.

Clark took a hit at elected office, losing the 1976 Democratic Senate primary to Daniel P. Moynihan.

Clark’s client list included peace and disarmament activists like Harrisburg 7 and Plowshares 8. Abroad, he represented dissidents in Iran, Chile, the Philippines and Taiwan, and skyjackers in the Union. Soviet.

He was an advocate for Soviet and Syrian Jews, but outraged many Jews over other clients. He has defended a Nazi prison camp guard fighting extradition, and the Palestine Liberation Organization in a trial for the murder of a cruise ship passenger by hijackers.

There were typically two to three dozen active cases on Clark’s legal calendar, and about 100 more in the background. Capital punishment cases were a staple.

“We are talking about civil liberties,” he said. “We have the largest per capita prison population in the world. The world’s greatest jailer is the freest country in the world? “

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