Clark Clifford was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, on 25th December, 1906. After graduating from Washington University worked as a lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri (1928-1943).
During the Second World War Clifford joined the US Navy and served as assistant naval aide and naval aide to President Harry S. Truman. In 1947 Truman appointed him general counsel and in this post he helped draft the National Security Act.
After leaving the government in 1950 Clifford practiced law in Washington. Over the next few years Clifford represented several large corporations. His main role was to help them to navigate their way through laws and regulations. One of his major clients was Howard Hughes.
A member of the Democratic Party, he worked as an adviser to leading politicians such as Stuart Symington and John F. Kennedy. May 1961 Kennedy appointed Clifford to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Two years later he became its chairman.
Clifford remained in this post after Lyndon B. Johnson became president. In 1967 Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor went on a fact-finding tour of Vietnam. During this period Clifford was seen as a foreign policy hawk and advised Johnson that he could win the war if he increased the number of American troops to Vietnam.
Clifford replaced Robert McNamara as Secretary Defense in March 1968. McNamara had been urging the president to gradually disengage from the conflict in Vietnam. In contrast, Clifford advocated an escalation of the war. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that his main objective was to guarantee to the South Vietnamese people the right of self-determination.
McNamara had been against increasing American involvement in Vietnam. Clifford changed this policy and one of his first actions was to send 24,500 more troops to Vietnam. This increased the number to a new high of 549,500. However, he soon saw the futility of this policy and like McNamara before him, began to talk of disengagement. This brought him into conflict with Dean Rusk who argued that the war "would be won if America had the will to win it."
In order to get peace talks under way, Clifford supported Johnson's decision to end bombing north of the 20th parallel, an area comprising almost 80 percent of North Vietnam's land area. In May, 1968, North Vietnam and the United States began peace talks in Paris. On 31st October, Clifford announced the end to all bombing in North Vietnam.
Clifford returned to private practice after President Richard Nixon was elected to office and was senior partner in Clifford & Warnke. One of Clifford's clients was the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). The bank was chartered in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands and had offices in 70 countries. In 1981 Clifford became chairman of BCCI. Later it was called First American Bankshares and became the largest bank in Washington.
In July, 1991 BCCI was accused of fraud, laundering drug money and bribing bank regulators and central bankers in 10 developing countries. It was reported to have $20 billion in assets shortly before the shutdown, but liquidators were unable to find many of its assets. However, it was discovered that Clifford had made about $6 million in profits from bank stock that he bought with an unsecured loan from BCCI. As the New York Times reported: "A New York grand jury handed up indictments, as did the Justice Department. Clifford's assets in New York, where he kept most of his investments, were frozen."
Clifford and his law partner, Robert A. Altman, eventually reached a $5 million settlement with the Federal Reserve Board. Charges of bank fraud against Clifford had been set aside because of his failing health. Clifford told a journalist that he considered his role in extricating the United States from what he called that "wretched conflict in Vietnam" to be his finest moment; the day he was indicted and fingerprinted like a common criminal, he said, was "the worst."
Clark Clifford died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland on 10th October, 1998.
In mid-1965, the legendary Major-General Edward Lansdale - 'legendary' for having thoroughly militarised the Philippine Government in the name of 'counterinsurgency' - was asked to return to Vietnam as special assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. After hearing Lansdale talk in Washington, Ellsberg asked to join his team. He transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of State at the same civil service grade, and set off for Saigon, still very much with the outlook of a Cold Warrior and a Marine infantry officer. Lansdale assigned him the job of visiting every province of South Vietnam and reporting on the 'pacification' efforts.
To do this, Ellsberg associated himself with another legendary figure, John Paul Vann, then working as an adviser to the US Agency for International Development. With Vann at the wheel of a jeep, they drove all over South Vietnam. Vann taught the neophyte Ellsberg many tricks of the trade: always drive fast because that makes it much harder for guerrillas to detonate a mine under your car, and always travel in the morning, after the previous night's mines have been blown but before they have all been replaced.
During these inspection tours, Ellsberg went on patrol with American units and often found himself in combat. Even though he was technically a civilian, he could not go along as a simple observer. He got a Swedish K submachine-gun from the CIA and revived his skills as an infantryman. He was surprised to discover that, with a little experience, you can usually tell from the sound when a bullet is coming directly at you. From walking around up to his neck in flooded marshes he caught hepatitis. In mid-summer 1967, after he had recovered somewhat, he left Vietnam and returned to Rand.
This tour of duty was very important to Ellsberg's political development. There was no pacification, since our South Vietnamese allies simply had no stomach for fighting their fellow Vietnamese. He discovered that the conflict was not a civil war, as so many academics around the world believed. One side, the South, was entirely equipped and paid for by a foreign power. As he writes, 'we were not fighting on the wrong side; we were the wrong side.'
Back in the US, Ellsberg was particularly incensed by the daily drumbeat of official statements from the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the high command in Vietnam, all of them insisting that the US was making great 'progress' in winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people.
Then came the Tet Offensive of 29 January 1968 - simultaneous Vietcong attacks in almost every province of South Vietnam as well as in Saigon itself. The scale of the offensive strongly suggested that American leaders were either incompetent or lying. On 10 March, the New York Times published a leak from inside the Pentagon to the effect that General William Westmoreland, the commanding officer in Vietnam, was asking for 206,000 more troops. Neil Sheehan and Hedrick Smith reported this leak, which was accurate and had a devastating effect on Congress and the American people.
It did not come from Ellsberg, but 'as I observed the effect of this leak,' he recalls, 'it was as if clouds had suddenly opened. I realised something crucial: that the President's ability to escalate, his entire strategy throughout the war, had depended on secrecy and lying and thus on his ability to deter unauthorised disclosures - truth-telling - by officials.' It dawned on Ellsberg that, in the wake of Tet and the leak, President Johnson could not get away with his deceptions any longer.
Ellsberg was recalled from Rand to Washington to join a high-level working group evaluating the full range of options on Vietnam for the incoming Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford. In the capital he learned that McNamara had ordered John McNaughton to organise the writing of an internal historical study of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to the present based on top secret documents. McNaughton assigned the project to his deputy, Morton Halperin, who in turn delegated leadership of the work to his deputy, Leslie Gelb. At the time neither Halperin nor Gelb had ever been to Vietnam.
They, in turn, hired Ellsberg to write one of the projected 47 volumes, and he chose to work on JFK and the year 1961. One of the first things he did was to obtain from the CIA all the National Intelligence Estimates for Indochina from 1950 to 1960. 'What was evident in each one of the years of major decision was that the President's choice was not founded upon optimistic reporting or on assurances of the success of his chosen course.' Ellsberg thus began to ask himself a forbidden question: why did every one of the Presidents from Truman to Johnson 'mislead the public and Congress about what he was doing in Indochina?' He had discovered part of the answer: it was not because the President's subordinates deceived him.
A secretary of defense for one president, friend and confidant of three others, Clifford frequently played the role of capital wise man in inner-sanctum crises, helping President Harry S. Truman find peace with labor and warning President Lyndon B. Johnson about the folly of the Vietnam war.
With a gentle drawl and an insider's run of the halls of power, Clifford was consulted as well by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, bridging the nation's postwar political era until he ran into legal troubles in high-finance brokering.
For all the roles he played in presidential history, Clifford faced a rigorous ordeal in his final years, insisting on his innocence to the end as he faced charges of fraud, conspiracy and taking bribes in the biggest banking scandal in history, the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
An Exclusive Interview With Clark Clifford
The article beginning on the preceding pages was read by Mr. Clifford to a joint session of the American Historical Association and the American Jewish Historical Society in Washington, D.C., on December 28, 1976. Shortly afterward, Bernard A. Weisberger, a Contributing Editor of this magazine, interviewed Mr. Clifford for AMERICAN HERITAGE to elaborate on some of the details of his article. A transcript from Mr. Weisberger’s notes (no tape recording was made) follows:
Mr. Clifford, why didyou write this article at this particular time?
For three reasons, essentially. First of all, I had been in a “slow burn” for some time over the appearance of works by some so-called “revisionist” historians which made me out to be something of a Machiavellian figure in this episode, but whose authors had never taken the trouble to come and talk to me. These works had two tendencies which concerned me. By suggesting that the recognition of Israel was simply a partisan political gesture, they unfairly denigrated Harry S. Truman. They also tended to cheapen and degrade the circumstances surrounding the birth of the state of Israel, and I detected a note of anti-Semitism in them. Both these aspects of the “revisionist” works disturbed me.
Then, in November, the State Department issued its volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States series which covered these 1948 events. That made part of the story public, but I knew that the records in the volume did not tell the entire story and were in some cases incomplete.
And then, while I was brooding about this topic, I received the invitation to address the American Historical Association. The invitation went right to the heart of my concern by asking me specifically to deal with the allegations of political motivation in the recognition. I welcomed the opportunity, and undertook a thorough and exhaustive research effort. I had research assistance, and not only were my own files examined, but also the relevant papers in the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence. The paper is the result of an enormous amount of digging.
You say that there are documents supportive of the President’s views which do not appear in the 1948 Foreign Relations volume. Do you think that there were deliberate efforts at suppression?
No, I could not make such an accusation. In preparing these records for publication, the department always makes some omissions. They argue that in the evolution of a department action, many hypothetical alternatives are considered, until the official department position emerges. And they say that to publish all of the preliminary materials which appear to contradict that position would be both impossibly cumbersome and misleading. I can see something ofthat argument, but all I can say is that it’s not quite good enough. It simply is not quite enough.
You quote one State Department official in a telephone conversation of May 11, 1948, as saying that the Jews’ running their own affairs was “not according to plan. “What plan doyou think was meant?
It was pretty clearly the State Department’s plan to prevent the establishment of an independent Jewish state. They were against partition and in favor of a UN trusteeship. In the statements made by Ambassador Austin on February 24 and March 19, 1948, they were trying to end United States support for partition and to destroy the concept before the mid-May deadline of the British withdrawal. The fact that the Jews were taking control of the situation upset that course of action.
When did you find out that the State Department Legal Adviser believed that partition was a legitimate option, and that the department ‘s Division of International Security Affairs recommended the arming of a Jewish militia?
Not until the review of the record undertaken for this article.
Why was General Marshall so firmly opposed to recognition?
Well, the general was reflecting the view of his senior advisers. He was a military man, after all, without any special expertise in diplomatic and particularly Near Eastern affairs, and he needed to rely on the opinions of his specialists. Those who were closest to him were able to see to it that he did not get advice contrary to their own. Like other men in such positions, he became the prisoner of his staff.
The President had enormous respect for General Marshall. He must have found the general’s opposition rather difficult for him. Did he ever express any feelings on this matter to you?
The President did, it is true, have an almost deferential attitude toward General Marshall—perhaps the feeling of a former captain in the Artillery toward a four-star general. But it did not prevent him from following his own course when he chose. I well remember that at the meeting of May 12, the general became very angry at my presence there. He literally grew red in the face, and pointing to me, asked: “What’s Clifford doing here? This is not a political matter.” The President answered quietly: “General, he is here because I asked him to be here.”
Mr. Clifford, canyon tell me a bit more about that meeting?
Well, let me go back over that meeting, and note that the account of it in Jonathan Daniels’ The Man From Independence is substantially correct. The President and I had, of course, discussed this matter frequently. Three or four days before that May 12 meeting, he asked me to prepare a statement. “I want you to get ready for this,” he said, “as if you were presenting a case to the Supreme Court. You will be addressing all of us present, of course, but the person I really want you to convince is Marshall. ”
The President opened the meeting by saying that in two days there would be an independent Jewish state in Palestine. Incidentally, we knew that it would not be called Palestine, but were unaware that the Jewish leaders were going to call their new country Israel. My information was that they were going to give it the name of Judaea. Anyway, the President asked for views on what we should do. Marshall and Lovett responded, as I indicate in the article, and then I spoke.
The Jonathan Daniels account, which relies on an interview with you, says that at the end of the meeting, the President indicated clearly that he would adopt Marshall’s view. Yet you say that he was “inclined to side with A4arshall” and thoughtyou all should sleep on it. Why the discrepancy?
Well, in fact he did seem to express a more direct support for the general’s view than I may now have indicated. But it seems clear to me that he simply did not want to embarrass General Marshall in front of the others, because as soon as they left, I began to gather up my papers and he said to me: “Clark, don’t feel too bad about this.” I answered: “Mr. President, I was a trial lawyer for many years, and I’ve lost cases before and I’ll lose them again. It’s all right.” And he said: “You haven’t lost this case yet.”
And you hadn ‘t. But what changed Lovett ‘s mind?
I simply think what he had heard and seen at the meeting. Later that afternoon he called me up and said : “Clark, I’m concerned about this matter. Let’s have a drink at my house and talk it over.” And we did, and eventually he did change his viewpoint.
The President must have been very upset at the State Department’s efforts to counteract his policies.
Well, he certainly was annoyed, and some of his private comments could only be reproduced with a lot of “bleeps,” if you follow me. And he was trying, without interfering with his own Secretary of State, to implement his policies, but it was hard going. For example, as I noted in the article, he emphasized very clearly before Austin’s March 19 speech that if the General Assembly was asked to consider a trusteeship, it could only be with the three caveats that I mention [ i.e. , that the Security Council exhaust its conciliation efforts, reject partition entirely, and call for another solution]. Well, not one of those qualifications appeared in the actual speech. Now that was an end run by the State Department if ever I saw one.
What do you think were the motives of those in the State Department who fought so hard against the Jewish state? It has been suggested in some quarters that anti-Semitism was involved.
I would not make that charge. The motives, I might suggest, were twofold. To begin with, at that time the British influence on the State Department, particularly when it came to Near Eastern affairs, was very strong. The British had been the mandatory power for all those years, they knew the personalities and the issues and the geography, and they were listened to. Of course, the original British intent under the Balfour Declaration had been to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. But in 1948 that declaration was “old stuff” to the British foreign office, a policy shaped before some of its members were even born. They were not influenced by it, and as a result, neither was our own State Department.
Then, too, our military advisers, with rather unusual prescience, looked twenty-five years ahead and foresaw our coming great dependence on oil. It was rather foresighted of them, in fact. But they assumed that the only possible way to secure the oil was to placate the Arabs, because the Arabs were going to win any conflict with the Zionists. I remember Jim Forrestal [first Secretary of Defense, 1947-49] telling me once: “Look, Clark, it’s simple arithmetic. There are 450,000 Jews out there, and thirty-five million Arabs. The Arabs are going to push the Jews into the sea.”
You see, both the State Department and the military leaders were thinking in purely strategic terms, for which they can’t be blamed. But they were totally ignoring humanitarian and moral considerations. The President understood the strategic problems involved, but he always approached the issue with a deep concern for the fate of the Jews who had suffered so terribly during the war, and with an urge to do something for the survivors. He was always a great fan of the underdog, you must remember, because he identified himself with underdogs. And his own reading of ancient history and the Bible made him a supporter of the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, even when others who were sympathetic to the plight of the Jews were talking of sending them to places like Brazil. He did not need to be convinced by Zionists. In fact, he had to work hard to avoid the appearance of yielding to Zionist pressure, and that was one of the reasons why some Zionist tactics which were blatant and clumsy were actually counterproductive. All in all, he believed that the surviving Jews deserved some place that was historically their own. I remember him talking once about the problems of repatriating displaced persons. “Every one else who’s been dragged away from his country has someplace to get back to,” he said. “But the Jews have no place to go.”
Did he ever talk toyou about the role of his friend and former business partner Eddie Jacobsen, who is said to have influenced him in this direction?
Yes, he did. But of course it’s important to emphasize that Eddie Jacobsen did not in any way influence Harry Truman’s decision on the recognition of Israel. He did, in fact, as the President stated in his memoirs, come to visit the White House, and he urged the President to see Chaim Weizmann, which he did. The President was glad to see him as an old friend, but he was perfectly aware that Jacobsen was not familiar with the overall situation, and that he had been sent to see him by the Zionists, who naturally would use every conceivable channel to the President. He didn’t mind, but he told me that he said to him, in effect: “Eddie, don’t get involved in this. It’s more complicated than you understand.”
One final question about politics. By the spring of 1948, Henry Wallace was in the presidential race the Dixiecrat walkout hadn’t happened but was in the offing. Surely some of the President’s advisers must have thought of the political impact of any decision on the Jewish state.
By that spring we had polls showing that Wallace was doing very well in New York—that he was murdering us, in fact. He didn’t have a majority, but he was going to get many, many votes—he did wind up with about 500,000—and they would all come from our camp, not from Dewey’s. So, frankly, we had written off New York. We knew Wallace was going to cost us the state, and the President therefore had no possible motive for recognition of Israel that was based on a bid for the “New York Jewish vote. “That was simply not a factor.
Clark Clifford - History
American Secretary of Defense
Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford was born on December 25, 1906, in Fort Scott, Kansas, and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He obtained a law degree in 1928 and practiced law in St. Louis, joining the Naval Reserve during World War II. He became assistant naval aide to President Truman in 1945. After the war, Truman appointed him general counsel, in which position he helped draft the legislation which created the Department of Defense in 1947.
In 1950, Clifford left the White House to establish a private practice, representing many large corporations and continuing to advise government officials. He was President-Elect Kennedy's liaison with the Eisenhower administration, and performed many special assignment duties for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations before he was appointed Secretary of Defense in 1968. When Clifford became Secretary of Defense, he supported US involvement in the Vietnam War, advising Johnson against a moratorium on bombing North Vietnam. Once he became Secretary of Defense, however, he publicly called for an end to American involvement in the war, backing Johnson's bombing halt in November of 1968. In 1969, he returned to private legal practice in Washington. Clifford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians.
Clark Clifford was born December 25, 1906, in Fort Scott, Kansas. Clifford attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and upon graduation attended Washington University Law School. He remained a lawyer in the St. Louis area, and married Margery Kimball in 1931. In 1944 he joined the Navy where he worked as a naval aide to President Harry Truman during World War II. After the war Clifford became a part of the second White House council who advised Truman. Clifford eventually established a law practice in Washington where he advised businesses on governmental policies and resources. Although he had his own law practice, Clifford continued to advise presidents through the 1960s and during the Vietnam War. Clifford served as chairman of the President&rsquos Intelligence Advisory Board for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
On February 29, 1968, Clifford became the ninth Secretary of Defense to President Johnson. The Vietnam War was a major focus during his time in office. Clifford supported a quick end to the war. Although Clifford was only Secretary of Defense for 11 months, he often references those months as the proudest in his life.
After his time as Secretary of Defense, Clifford returned to his life as a lawyer and political advisor in Washington D.C. In 1982 Clifford became the chairman of First American Bankshares, of Washington D.C. In 1991 Clifford was charged in an international scandal involving the bank, but he claimed that he was not aware of the illegal activities. He was in failing health and not indicted in the scandal. Clifford died October 10, 1998, in Bethesda, Maryland, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Entry: Clifford, Clark
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Date Modified: July 2016
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Clifford resigned from government service in January of 1950 in order to open a private law practice. The firm of Clifford and Miller opened up across the street from the White House. The firm represented many large corporations and continued to advise government officials. John F. Kennedy (1917–1963 served 1961–63 see entry) used Clifford as his personal lawyer when Kennedy was elected president in 1960, he put Clifford at the head of his transition team. Kennedy frequently enlisted Clifford's help and in 1961 appointed him to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The board was put in charge of supervising the CIA after the CIA botched a top-secret invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Clifford became the chairman of the board in 1963. After Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson called on Clifford to reorganize the White House staff.
Clark Clifford, a Major Adviser To Four Presidents, Is Dead at 91
Clark M. Clifford, the silver-haired Brahmin of the nation's political establishment who advised Presidents across half a century of American history, died yesterday morning at the age of 91 at his home in Bethesda, Md.
A Secretary of Defense for one President, friend and confidant of three others, Mr. Clifford frequently played the role of capital Wise Man in inner sanctum crises, helping President Harry S. Truman keep peace with labor and warning President Lyndon B. Johnson about the folly of the Vietnam War.
With a gentle drawl and an insider's run of the halls of power, Mr. Clifford was consulted as well by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, bridging the nation's postwar political era until he ran afoul of legal troubles in high-finance brokering.
For all the roles he played in Presidential history, Mr. Clifford faced a rigorous ordeal in his final years, insisting on his innocence to the end as he faced charges of fraud, conspiracy and taking bribes in the biggest banking scandal in history, the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
It was only earlier this year that Mr. Clifford and his law partner, Robert A. Altman, reached a $5 million settlement with the Federal Reserve. Just last month, they settled the last of several civil lawsuits brought in the case.
Mr. Altman was acquitted in 1993 in New York state court of charges of bank fraud indictments against Mr. Clifford had been set aside because of his failing health.
Mr. Clifford considered his role in extricating the United States from what he called that ''wretched conflict in Vietnam'' to be his finest moment the day he was indicted and fingerprinted like a common criminal, he said, was the worst.
Few people in Washington, let alone Clark Clifford himself, could have imagined so inglorious an end to so glorious a career. From the time in World War II when he went to Washington as a naval aide to Truman, Mr. Clifford was a highly respected lawyer and public servant about whom scarcely an unkind word was ever uttered.
He was a symbol of elegance -- 6 feet 2 inches tall, trim, wavy-haired, his French cuffs always a precise half-inch longer than the sleeves of his impeccably tailored double-breasted suits.
There were a few who saw in him a little too much smoothness, a touch of the riverboat gambler, perhaps. But to most people who knew Mr. Clifford, he was a symbol of probity, even a legend in his own time. Except for Spiro Agnew and a lone article in Ramparts magazine, nobody had a bad word to say about him in public, at least not until the B.C.C.I. scandal.
Whether in the White House or in his law offices across the street from the White House, Mr. Clifford was the man politicians and business leaders turned to for advice. Johnson, beleaguered by the Vietnam War, asked him to be his Secretary of Defense, and President Carter called on him to be a White House adviser. Kennedy asked him for legal help and put him at the head of his transition team, and Truman appointed him special counsel.
Few people in Government were as familiar with as many of the nation's problems as Clark Clifford. He helped articulate the policies for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. He wrote the basic legislation establishing the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department. On the domestic front, he wrote some of Truman's most important speeches and helped keep labor peace in the postwar period.
With a thriving private law practice, Mr. Clifford liked to think of himself as a bridge between business and government. But he was more than that. Like many lawyers who made up the Washington establishment, he advised corporations on how to navigate their way through laws and regulations.
For each new client he had the same well-rehearsed speech that he offered to one of his first clients, Howard R. Hughes. As Mr. Clifford recounted it in his memoir, 'ɼounsel to the President'' (Random House, 1991), he said his firm had no influence and would not represent anyone before the President or any of his staff.
''If you want influence you should consider going elsewhere,'' he would tell prospective clients. ''What we can offer you is an extensive knowledge of how to deal with the Government on your problems. We will be able to give you advice on how best to present your position to the appropriate departments and agencies of the Government.''
He gave the same speech to the Arab investors who came to see him in 1978, the same investors who, it turned out, were front men for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The bank, which was chartered in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands and had offices in 70 countries, was shut down in July 1991 in a worldwide swoop by banking regulators.
B.C.C.I. was accused of fraud, laundering drug money and bribing bank regulators and central bankers in 10 developing countries.
The Importance Of Credibility
In an interview in the mid-1980's, Mr. Clifford said his concept of the practice of law ''is that through the years you conduct yourself in such a manner that the staffs of the Government agencies have confidence in your integrity and your credibility.'' He added, ''I've never contended that I have influence, felt I had influence or attempted to use influence.''
It was precisely his reputation for integrity and credibility that led the group of Arab investors to seek Mr. Clifford's help in the late 1970's when they wanted to acquire an American bank. The Federal Reserve Board approved the takeover in 1981, reassured by Mr. Clifford that there would be no control by B.C.C.I., which he also represented. The fact that Mr. Clifford himself was to become chairman of the bank further reassured the regulators. The bank, with Mr. Clifford as its chairman, was called First American Bankshares and became the largest in Washington.
Ten years later, Robert M. Morgenthau, the District Attorney in Manhattan, disclosed that his office had found evidence that the parent company of Mr. Clifford's bank was secretly controlled by B.C.C.I. The District Attorney convened a grand jury to determine whether Mr. Clifford and his partner, Mr. Altman, had deliberately misled Federal regulators by assuring them that B.C.C.I. would have no control.
Mr. Clifford's predicament worsened when it was disclosed that he had made about $6 million in profits from bank stock that he bought with an unsecured loan from B.C.C.I. A New York grand jury handed up indictments, as did the Justice Department. Mr. Clifford's assets in New York, where he kept most of his investments, were frozen.
Mr. Clifford said the investigation caused him pain. If the regulators had been deceived about any secret ownership by B.C.C.I., he said, he, too, had been deceived.
But if he was deceived, it would have been an aberration. While Washington lawyers like Mr. Clifford say they do not ''sell'' influence, what they do offer is sophistication, experience and knowledge of the mechanics of government. That is why it was so difficult for people to believe that Mr. Clifford, who was so experienced at seeing around corners and anticipating problems for his clients, could have been duped by front men for B.C.C.I.
''It's easy to say I should have known, but a client tells his lawyer what the client wants the lawyer to know,'' Mr. Clifford said. ''I have to admit that they came to me because of my standing and reputation. If you think of that, then youɽ understand better that Iɽ be the last person theyɽ divulge this stuff to. I gave them standing. Why would they jeopardize that? They knew if they told me Iɽ be out the door.''
A 'Wretched' War: Pride and Regrets
Although he spent a total of only six years in Government service, those were the years that he liked to dwell upon. Looking back one day in the mid-1980's as he was preparing to publish his memoirs, he said in his customary measured tones, ''I believe the contribution I made to reversing our policy in that wretched conflict in Vietnam is very likely the most gratifying experience I have had.''
There was no sense of self-congratulation. ''I was part of the generation that I hold responsible for our country's getting into that war,'' he said. ''I should have reached the conclusion earlier that our participation in that war was a dead end.''
Mr. Clifford added: ''I've been quite severe with myself that I didn't make a greater issue of it with President Johnson. I permitted myself to be lulled into a false sense of optimism over reports that came back from Vietnam.''
But in the nine months that he headed the Defense Department, succeeding Robert S. McNamara in 1968, Mr. Clifford used everything he had ever learned about the levers of power, all his skill as an advocate and all his political capital to persuade the President not to further escalate the role of American ground troops in South Vietnam. United States military involvement in Southeast Asia, Mr. Clifford argued, was sapping the nation's strength as a world power.
In his later years, no longer in Government service, he sought to end the arms race as he once tried to end America's participation in the Vietnam War. When he began in Government, the world had two atomic bombs. Within four decades the world had 24,000 nuclear bombs, and that awesome fact continued to preoccupy him long after he left public office.
In the Truman years, Mr. Clifford wrote that military power was the only language the Soviet Union understood. He was nevertheless a consistent advocate of finding a way to coexist with the Russians, and urged the adoption of arms agreements and a nuclear freeze. He often said he was haunted by a remark Winston Churchill had made about the superpowers and the arms race: 'ɺll they're going to do is make the rubble bounce.''
Old World Grace, Midwest Openness
Trim and disciplined -- he kept his weight at 180 pounds and allowed himself dessert only when he fell below that, and he smoked one cigarette a day, proving to doubters that he could do it -- Mr. Clifford was the personification of Old World grace combined with a kind of Midwestern openness.
To close the door on entering Mr. Clifford's office meant to close out the hurried pace of the 20th century and to return to the more measured rhythm of the 19th. In the cauldron of the Vietnam-era Pentagon or in the paneled luxury of his Connecticut Avenue office, there was always time for the niceties of conversation. He would inquire after one's spouse, and ask whether the children were writing from college.
The quintessential insider, Mr. Clifford had access to the corridors of power and to the private clubs that were the marks of success. He tried to play golf at Burning Tree Country Club in Maryland every weekend, but he liked to take his lunch at the People's Drugstore around the corner from his office. He said he could have a sandwich and a glass of skim milk in 22 minutes at the lunch counter there, while his occasional visits to the Metropolitan Club meant an hour and 22 minutes.
His office kept a car and chauffeur at his disposal but, until his health declined, he liked to drive himself to work from his 150-year-old house on Rockville Pike in Bethesda.
No one can recall a time when Mr. Clifford raised his voice. What Washington veterans do remember was his ability, even into his 80's, to speak, seemingly extemporaneously and without notes, for 40 minutes. In fact, Mr. Clifford prepared every statement carefully and then memorized it. ''The mind is a muscle,'' he said. ''The more I use it the better it gets.''
Mr. Clifford had a way of taking his listeners step by step through an argument, pausing now and then to ask rhetorically, 'ɽo you see?'' as he ushered them along with him with carefully reasoned logic.
'ɼlark was so smooth that when you lost with him, you thought youɽ won,'' said Phil G. Goulding, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Mr. Clifford.
His Father's Words: 'To Live Is to Work'
Clark McAdams Clifford was born in Fort Scott, Kan., on Dec. 25, 1906. He was named for his mother's brother, Clark McAdams, a crusading editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His mother, Georgia McAdams Clifford, was, as her son remembered her, a great storyteller, very dramatic and '𧯪utiful beyond belief.'' His father was an official of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, a man who, Mr. Clifford said, ''instilled in me the precept that to live is to work.''
''He developed in me habits of industry -- too much, my wife thinks sometimes,'' Mr. Clifford said.
He was given chores to do when he was a boy, and as he got older the tasks increased. When the family moved to St. Louis he was a delivery boy for a grocery store and, in the summertime, was a night delivery boy for a drugstore. He also remembered earning $30 a month for singing in a choir.
''I had an extremely happy childhood it was ideal,'' Mr. Clifford said. ''I thought everybody loved his mother and father and would go to the wall for his sister. Boy, was I naive!''
Mr. Clifford attended college and law school at Washington University in St. Louis. On graduating in 1928 he entered law practice there. In the summer of 1929, while traveling in Europe, he met a Boston woman, Margery Pepperell Kimball. They were married on Oct. 3, 1931. In addition to his wife, he is survived by their three daughters, Faith Christian of Chico, Calif., Dr. Joyce Burland of Halifax, Vt., and Randall C. Wight of Baltimore 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
From Naval Aide To Truman Adviser
Although Mr. Clifford was over the draft age and already a father when the United States entered World War II, he volunteered for the Navy in 1943 and was accepted as a lieutenant junior grade. After an assignment to assess the state of readiness at naval bases on the West Coast, he was drawn into the White House in 1944, where he began a career, as the columnist James Reston once put it, of rescuing American Presidents from disaster.
In July 1945, when Truman attended the Potsdam Conference near Berlin, Mr. Clifford found he did not have enough to do. ''You're kind of a potted plant when you're a naval aide,'' he recalled. ''So I offered to be helpful to Judge Samuel I. Rosenman, the special counsel, who had more work than he could handle.'' When the President returned, Mr. Rosenman said, ''Let's keep that young fellow here.''
As a speechwriter, and later as special counsel to Truman, Mr. Clifford helped articulate the Truman Doctrine, a program proposed in 1947 to help Greece and Turkey resist potential Communist expansionism, and related innovative programs for assisting underdeveloped countries.
Mr. Clifford also participated in the creation of the Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of Western Europe and in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
It fell to Mr. Clifford to be Secretary of State George C. Marshall's adversary on the issue of recognition of Israel. ''President Truman said he would like me to prepare the case for the formation of a Jewish homeland as if it were a case to be presented to the Supreme Court,'' Mr. Clifford said.
Marshall, who opposed recognition, became almost apoplectic at a White House meeting when Mr. Clifford made his points -- points that he could still reel off in detail 40 years later. When Truman decided in favor of immediate recognition of Israel, Mr. Clifford said, there were some tense days until Marshall relented.
Mr. Clifford insisted that Truman acted out of conviction and humanitarian considerations, and not for domestic political advantage, as Marshall had suggested.
In his years in the Truman White House, Mr. Clifford was a poker-playing regular of the kitchen cabinet he even played a hand or two with Churchill.
Mr. Clifford was an important architect of the President's ''give ɾm hell Harry'' whistle-stop campaign in 1948, when Truman won an upset victory over the Republican nominee, Thomas E. Dewey.
Mr. Clifford was also one of the principal architects of the National Security Act of 1947, which unified the armed services and established the Central Intelligence Agency. Amendments that he framed two years later greatly strengthened the authority of the Secretary of Defense.
In his memoirs, he expressed regret that he had not made a greater effort to kill the loyalty program instituted to root out Communist subversives. But he has been criticized for contributing to the climate of fear -- the proposition that ''the United States must be prepared to wage atomic and biological warfare if necessary.''
Mr. Clifford left the White House in 1950 to open a law firm in Washington, hoping to repair his personal finances, which had been tattered by his years in the Government, most of them at an annual salary of $12,000.
When Truman discussed with him the possibility of a seat on the Supreme Court, Mr. Clifford told him he would not be happy there. In 1949 he turned down an offer from a group of prominent Missouri Democrats to run for the Senate.
''Iɽ been in the Navy and the White House for almost seven years,'' he said, looking back at that period. ''I had three growing daughters reaching the age when daughters become expensive, and going through this economic ordeal again that Iɽ been through was an obstructing factor I could not overcome at that time.''
After leaving the Government, Mr. Clifford overcame his economic problems so quickly that within four months he was able to move his family from a rented house in Chevy Chase, Md., to the historic house on three acres outside Bethesda that was his home for the rest of his life.
Clients lined up outside his door. One of the first was Mr. Hughes, who asked Mr. Clifford to be the Washington counsel for Trans World Airlines. There followed a clientele that represented blue-chip America and included General Electric, A.T. & T., I.T.T, the RCA Corporation, ABC, Du Pont, Hughes Tool, Time Inc., Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and El Paso Natural Gas.
In time, the man whose early ambition was to be the finest trial lawyer in St. Louis became the first Washington lawyer to make a million dollars a year, a Washington superlawyer -- highly paid, it was thought, because he could fix things for his clients. Mr. Clifford said he always found that concept deeply disturbing.
But the legend of his influence had grown so that a favorite story around Washington was that whenever Mr. Clifford had occasion to go to a Government office on behalf of a client, the meeting would be interrupted by the announcement that the President was calling Mr. Clifford.
''That happened exactly once,'' he protested. The President, he said, was Kennedy, and there was a genuine emergency at the White House.
In the Eisenhower years Mr. Clifford was not called by the White House, but he remained active in Democratic politics. He was also the personal lawyer for Kennedy, then a young Senator from Massachusetts.
In 1960, when Kennedy won the Democratic nomination for President over Stuart Symington, whom Mr. Clifford had supported, Kennedy asked Mr. Clifford to prepare an analysis of the problems Kennedy would face in taking over the executive branch. Mr. Clifford wrote a detailed assessment and, after the election, was named to head the transition team.
At a dinner shortly after his election, Kennedy paid tribute to Mr. Clifford for all the work he had done and for asking nothing in return. 'ɺll he asked was that we advertise his law firm on the back of one-dollar bills,'' the President-elect quipped.
After the abortive invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, an operation supported by the C.I.A., Kennedy again turned to Mr. Clifford, who in 1947 had written the legislation establishing the agency. The President asked him to become a member, and then chairman, of the newly created Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Kennedy also turned to Mr. Clifford a year later, when the nation's major steel companies refused to honor an agreement that the President thought he had with them not to increase prices. The companies backed down several days later, after Mr. Clifford convinced them that it would be in their best interest to rescind the increases.
President Johnson was hardly in office 24 hours when he called for Mr. Clifford. Faced with the sudden and enormous task of running the country after Kennedy's assassination, Johnson talked with Mr. Clifford for two hours, then three, then four. It was late in the evening, Mr. Clifford remembered, when Lady Bird Johnson entered the Oval Office and reminded her husband, ''Just because you're President now doesn't mean you don't have to eat dinner.''
Mr. Clifford's warm relationship with Johnson became strained and almost broke over Vietnam in 1967, when Johnson asked him to be Secretary of Defense. Mr. Clifford's first assignment was to determine how to meet Gen. William C. Westmoreland's request for 206,000 more American troops in Vietnam. The special panel Mr. Clifford set up to study the issue soon became a forum for debating the rationale for the war.
Because he then had the complete confidence of the President, whom he had known for more than 20 years, and because he had the luxury of not being bound to previous official positions on Vietnam, Mr. Clifford was able to ask the difficult questions. He did not like the answers. No one could say whether the 206,000 troops would be enough. No one could say whether the war would take another six months, a year, two years or more.
Mr. Clifford finally came to the conclusion that there was no plan for military victory in Vietnam and that the United States was in what he called 'ɺ kind of bottomless pit.'' He said he realized that ''we could be there year after year, sacrificing tens of thousands of American boys a year, and it just didn't add up.''
When Mr. Clifford began to oppose Johnson on the war, a rift opened. Mr. Clifford remembered a ''sense of personal hurt that I was doing this to him.'' To help heal the breach, Mr. Clifford asked Johnson to have lunch at his home on his final day in Washington, the day Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated as President. Johnson accepted and, as one of his last official acts, awarded Mr. Clifford the Medal of Freedom with Distinction, the highest award given to civilians in the United States.
Having persuaded Johnson to cut back the bombing and negotiate an end to the war, Mr. Clifford spent the next years trying to urge President Nixon to end the war. His efforts led Vice President Agnew to accuse him of being 'ɺ late-blooming opportunist who clambered aboard the rolling bandwagon of the doves when the flak really started to fly.''
Except for Mr. Agnew's comments and a broadside from Ramparts magazine at the other side of the political spectrum, Mr. Clifford's more than 40 years in Washington passed with a relative absence of criticism, until the bank scandal broke. At the time, no one paid much attention when Ramparts called Mr. Clifford a 'ɼurious hybrid of Rasputin, Perry Como and Mr. Fix,'' in an article that depicted him as an architect of United States economic imperialism and linked that role to his legal work representing major multinational corporations.
Only once in his long career did he step out of character, and that was when he referred to President Ronald Reagan as an 'ɺmiable dunce.'' The remark was made at a private dinner party but, unknown to Mr. Clifford, a tape recording had been made so that the hostess, who was ill with the flu and unable to come to her own party, could hear what was expected to be some sparkling conversation. Excerpts from that tape were published out of context.
Mr. Clifford explained his remark this way: ''In the fall of 1982, President Reagan said he would cut taxes by $750 billion, substantially increase defense expenditures and balance the budget in the 1984 fiscal year. Those were public promises. I made a comment that if he would accomplish that feat, heɽ be a national hero. If, on the other hand, it did not work out after such a specific and encouraging promise and commitment, I thought the American people would regard him as an amiable dunce.''
Given the opportunity some time later to retract his remark, however, Mr. Clifford declined to do so.
In time, even President Carter, who kept his distance from the Washington establishment, turned to Mr. Clifford for advice when Mr. Carter's budget director, Bert Lance, came under attack for his banking practices in Georgia. A former Kennedy aide later remarked, ''They ran against Washington, but when the water comes up to their knees they call for Clark Clifford.''
A New Challenge In His Later Years
It was Mr. Lance who introduced Mr. Clifford to the Arab investors who sought to take over the bank in Washington that was to become known as First American Bank. Mr. Clifford and his young partner, Mr. Altman, structured the deal that led to the takeover of the bank and, according to prosecutors, the success of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International in the United States. Mr. Clifford said to the end that he did not know that B.C.C.I. had been behind the purchase of the bank.
For him, the bank became a new challenge for his later years. He looked at his contemporaries and did not like what he saw, he said in an interview in The Washington Post.
''Some of them would go with their wives each morning to the market and help with the marketing, pushing those carts and all,'' he told the interviewer. ''Well, I didn't find that very appealing.''
And so he accepted the clients who are now known to have been associated with B.C.C.I., and agreed to become the chairman of First American Bank. In itself, some lawyers saw his wearing of two hats as a conflict of interest.
Mr. Clifford was called before Congressional committees and had his lawyers send reams of material to the prosecutors in an effort to show that his work for B.C.C.I. and First American was proper.
How will history judge Clark Clifford, he was asked by a visitor to his office several months before he was indicted. ''It depends on the ultimate result,'' he said. ''If it comes and goes and nothing else happens, gradually it gets swallowed up in history. If it turns out badly, as far as history is concerned I've taken a bad tumble.''
The Clark M. Clifford Page
Truman's Sep. 6, 1945 message to Congress, reportedly the first to address health, was a reflection of the influence of Mary Lasker and Florence Mahoney. Truman's 1948 presidential campaign "received direct input from Mahoney and Lasker through their friendship with Clark Clifford. " "The three often dined together, making up what Clifford jokingly called 'our exclusive club.' By then he had replaced Rosenman as the president's special counsel. Mahoney and Lasker continually sent him material from the Nation's Health Committee, facts that he could use in speeches for the president." When Truman won the election, Clifford's chaffeur delivered a celebration basket of champaign and cheese from Florence Mahoney to the White House. (From: Noble Conspirator. Florence S. Mahoney and the Rise of the National Institutes of Health. By Judith Robinson. The Francis Press 2001.)
The Brown Shoe Company
Clark Clifford was brought to Washington through his connections to James K. Vardaman Jr., who had been a banker and owned a shoe company in St. Louis. He was Vardaman's lawyer as well as a social friend. The likely suspect is the Brown Shoe Company, established circa 1888, which owns the Famous Footwear, Buster Brown, Carlos, LifeStride, Dr. Scholl's, and Naturalizer lines. This company has a history of anti-tobacco fanaticism including refusing to employ smokers. On its Board of Directors are members of the family of J. Michael McGinnis, who is co-author of the health fascists' key source for the lie that lifestyle is the leading cause of death in the US (McGinnis & Foege, Journal of the American Medical Association 1993). Principal holders of the company's stock are Dimensional Fund Advisors Inc, 8.78% FMR Corp. of Boston, 6.46% (controlled by Edward C. Johnson 3d and Abigail P. Johnson, this fund has over $1 trillion in assets and is the largest stockholder in Philip Morris as well) Mellon Financial Corporation and certain of its subsidiaries, 5.59% and Fleet National Bank of Boston, 5.39%.
James K. Vardaman Jr. of St. Louis was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Apr. 4, 1946, and resigned Nov. 30, 1958. According to an oral history interview with Eben A. Ayers, a seventeen year veteran of the Associated Press and editor of the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal-Bulletin who was a press officer on the staff of President Truman, Vardaman's father was James K. Vardaman, a US Senator from Mississippi who was notorious for his racism.
James K. Vardaman Sr., from: The Ancestors of George & Hazel Mullins, by Philip Mullins. Chapter 14 - The Revolt of the Rednecks, 1903-1931.
Brown Group Inc.: W. L. Hadley Griffin, Chm. B. A. Bridgewater Jr, Pres. & CEO-Brown Group J. Carr Gamble Jr., Exec. V. Pres.-Brown Group. Richard W. Shomaker, Pres.-Brown Shoe Co. Ben Peck, Chm.-Wobl Shoe Co. Robert N. Stone, Pres.-Regal Shoe Shops (Large Employers of the St. Louis Region 1984-1985. St. Louis Regional Commerce & Growth Association, p. 34.)
The National Security Act of 1947
Israel and Palestine
"Corporate attorney Clark M. Clifford. was the Washington, DC insider who first put his thumb on the scale of U.S. Middle East policy to tilt it decisively toward Israel. Clifford's behind the scenes White House intervention in 1948 on Israel's behalf for domestic political purposes made him at least as responsible as any other American for the half-century of Middle Eastern turmoil and the hundreds of thousands of deaths that followed. One of Truman's decisions was to put the full diplomatic backing of the United States behind the November 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine. The UN plan gave 53 percent of the former British Mandate of Palestine to the one-third of its inhabitants who were Jewish and who owned only 7 percent of the land, and 47 percent of Palestine to the two-thirds who were Muslim and Christian Arabs. As predicted by the US foreign affairs establishment, this grossly unfair award of more than half of Palestine to its Jewish minority population precipitated bloody fighting almost as soon as the plan was announced." (Special Report. Insider Clark Clifford's death recalls two Mideast scandals: Premature recognition of Israel and BCCI. By Richard H. Curtiss, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 1998 Dec. pp 49-50.)
Paul Hoffman and The Marshall Plan
"[Dean] Acheson persuaded Navy secretary James Forrestal and domestic fixer Clark Clifford to show Truman how he could elevate a political scam like foreign aid into a mighty ideological struggle on the global stage."
RJ Reynolds Tobacco and Clifford, Warnke, Glass, McIlwain, and Finnay
"Clark Clifford: Advisor to Senator Muskie, advisor to Truman, handled transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy, Secretary of Defense under Johnson -- November 1967 to January 1969 -- originated White House Historical Association for Kennedy. Paul Warnke was a Covington and Burling partner from 1957 to 1966, when he went to the Pentagon, first as general counsel, then Assistant Secretary for Intenational Security Affairs. He came into Clifford's firm in 1969. Samuel D. McIlwain was in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Justice Department under Truman, and then counsel for the Senate Finance Committee in 1957-58. Larry L. Williams was an anti-trust trial lawyer for Justice Department 1958-1965. Carson M. Glass also spent a decade in the Justice Department. It has been said that Clifford hires only from the government. He says, 'We have to because we are specialists in dealing with the government.'" John F. Kevin, Harold D. Murry Jr., and Paul C. Warnke were attorneys for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. (Report prepared "Upon request of the Director of the National Commission on Smoking and Public Policy (created by the American Cancer Society)" for its forum in Atlanta, June 14, 1977 by Louis U. Fink, Mar. 14, 1977, p. 8.) Clifford, Warnke, et al represented RJR in the FTC cigarette labeling litigation between 1975 and 1982 (in which another suspicious firm, Arnold and Porter represented Philip Morris), and in billboard litigation by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Paul C. Warnke, Esq., of Clifford & Warnke was a member of the Board of Directors of Georgetown University during 1987-88.
Food for Peace Council
Clark Clifford, Mary Lasker, and Florence Mahoney were members of the Food for Peace Council, circa 1961 George S. McGovern was its Director before he ran for the Senate in 1962. (Information from: Noble Conspirator, Florence S. Mahoney and the Rise of the National Institutes of Health. By Judith Robinson. The Francis Press 2001.)
The "Bank of Crooks and Criminals International"
(The BCCI Affair. A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, by Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Hank Brown, Dec. 1992.) The name of John Vardaman, a partner at Williams and Conolly, appears in Part 17, "BCCI's Lawyers and Lobbyists." [John W. Vardaman Jr. also filed a brief of amicus curiae urging affirmance on behalf of the American Tort Reform Association.]
"Clifford was the Chairman of First American Corporation from 1981 to August 1991 and was the Chairman of First American Bankshares from 1982 through August 1991. Clifford was also the Managing Director of CCAI and CCAH. Robert Altman was a Director and President of First American Corporation from 1981 to August 1991, and an officer of CCAI and CCAH. Both Clifford and Altman were legal counsel to BCCI and the record shareholders of FGB/CCAH." (Memorandum order, First American Corp. v. Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Naryan, March 26, 1996.)
Clark Clifford biographies
Clark McAdams Clifford was named for his mother's brother, Clark McAdams, "a crusading editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch." He attended college and law school at Washington University at St. Louis. "Clifford was also one of the principal architects of the National Security Act of 1947, which unified the armed services and established the CIA. After leaving the government, Clifford overcame his economic problems so quickly that within four months he was able to move his family from a rented house in Chevy Chase, Md., to the historic house on three acres outside of Bethesda that was his home for the rest of his life. Clients lined up outside his door. One of the first was [Howard] Hughes, who asked Clifford to be the Washington counsel for Trans World Airlines. There followed a clientel that represented blue-chip America and included General Electric, AT&T, ITT, RCA Corp., ABC, DuPont, Hughes Tool, Time Inc., Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and El Paso Natural Gas." His career was built upon the belief that "he could fix things for his clients as a result of his political connections," which Clifford denied. Like his Lasker Syndicate connections, he had a pass from the media, and "no one paid much attention when Ramparts called Clifford 'a curious hybrid of Rasputin, Perry Como and Mr. Fix,' in an article that depicted him as an architect of U.S. economic imperialism and linked that role to his legal work representing major multinational companies." He was President John F. Kennedy's personal lawyer and headed his presidential transition team and Secretary of the Defense Department for nine months at the end of the Johnson administration. Clifford structured the deal by which the Bank of Credit and Commerce International took over First American Bank. Depositors in third world countries lost billions when BCCI collapsed, while US deposits were insured by the FDIC. (Clark Clifford, Key Advisor to Four Presidents, Dies," by Marilyn Berger. New York Times 1998 Oct 11.)
"[H]e played a leading if often behind the scenes role in an estimated 11 presidential campaigns. In addition to his work for Truman and Johnson, he served Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter in a variety of sensitive and important special assignments. Clifford was known as a lawyer who was supremely urbane, intelligent and extraordinarily well connected at the highest levels of government. He was all but universally described as among the most effective and richest of Washington lawyers in the decades that followed World War II." (Washington Insider Clark Clifford Dies. By Bart Barnes, Washington Post 1998 Oct. 11, p A1.)
His biography at the Arlington National Cemetary website notes that "Clifford was director emeritus of Knight-Ridder Newspapers." His wife Margaret ("Marny"), who was a corporal in the US Army, is buried there also. Florence Mahoney's papers include correspondence with her from 1959, 1970, and 1973.
Clark M. Clifford Oral History, Interview 1, by Joe B. Frantz, Mar. 13, 1969 (although the date spoken is March 17, 1969).
Clark Clifford's partner Robert Altman
"While Clifford concentrated on cultivating Democrats, Altman developed friendships with members of both parties. His social success owed much to his wife, the actress Lynda Carter. She was known for her starring role in the 1970s television show Wonder Woman, based on the comic book character. In Washington, a city full of drab bureaucrats, she represented style and glamour, and the Altmans became prominent socialites. Their mansion in suburban Potomac, Maryland - purchased for $2.6 million 1987 - was the site of many opulent parties attended by the cream of official Washington. Lynda Carter has been nothing less than a magnet for several senior Republicans. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah displays a picture of himself with the actress in his office and frequently refers to her husband as 'my good friend.' The Altman's social circle also includes a large number of people close to George Bush.
". Altman has also been a generous donor. In 1991, it was reported that he had made about $23,872 in federal contributions since 1987. He gave $500 to two Democratic candidates during the 1988 presidential race, Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts and Congressman Gephardt. Altman's wife contributed $4,000 to candidates for federal office in 1987-88, including $1,000 to the presidential campaign of the Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. She also gave to Congressman John Dingell of Michigan." (From: False Profits. By Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin. Houghton Mifflin 1992.)
ON THE WATER WITH: CLIFFORD CLARK Taking the Straight Path on the Shelter Island Ferry
TO say that Clifford D. Clark's company has been a fixture on Shelter Island is a severe understatement, as severe as the weather the Clarks have at times been forced to endure.
For 200 years, through six generations, the Clarks have owned and operated the South Ferry, shuttling farmers and tourists, commuters and heavy equipment, even soldiers and animals, across the narrow but treacherous Shelter Island Sound separating the island from North Haven.
The founder, Samuel Clark, made the run in a rowboat. In those days, Shelter Island Sound, which can be a raging, multicurrented animal, was more shallow and narrow than today. Mr. Clark said that a government edict in the late 1600's ordered residents to restrain their horses and cattle from walking across it. Now the sound is a half mile wide and 45 feet deep.
By the late 1800's the Clarks were using sailboats, sometimes towing a scow to accommodate a horse and carriage. The name of each boat, its history and skippers, are faithfully recorded in family archives and often referred to in conversation. It is as if each craft has a place in the family tree, and each boat is recognized along with each newborn child.
With such a heritage, it might be safe to assume that Clifford Clark, 54, the latest in a long line to run the business, knew early on how heɽ spend his life. As it turns out, though, Mr. Clark related in a recent interview that he was never pressured into taking the job and for a good part of his life never intended to.
''It was not part of my career path,'' he said. '𧶭 never pressured any of us, but he let us know how big a part of our heritage it was.''
Instead, Mr. Clark was a young track star with his eye on the United States Olympic team. He joined the Air Force after high school, but turned down a chance to become a fighter pilot because ''I knew if I went to flight school Iɽ have no chance to make the team.''
In 1972 he finished fifth in the national trials in the steeplechase, his best event, missing the team by one-half second. When he finished ninth in the 5,000-meter run, his dream was ended.
''It really started setting in on me when we had our first daughter,'' he said of the ferry. ''Shelter Island is a great place to raise a family, and my dad was getting on. I started thinking about the family.'' He came back to Shelter Island in 1976.
Mr. Clark kept alive his love for running by teaching local youngsters. Over the next two decades he turned out scores of dedicated long-distance runners. Janelle Kraus, whom Mr. Clark coached, is now at Wake Forest University and is one of the top performers in the country.
He also immersed himself in another long-time love -- the Bible. ''We are a very deep Bible-based family,'' he said. ''Our corporate behavior is based on loving ourselves and our neighbors. We feel privileged in serving our neighbors and the Lord.''
Coming from someone in the heathen-filled Hamptons such a statement might seem trite or passe, but his friends and acquaintances -- he's known by virtually everyone on Shelter Island -- say Mr. Clark lives the life he preaches.
''There are certain values and principles he carries to work that are protective to everyone around him,'' said Jason Green, a longtime employee of the South Ferry. ''His beliefs are handed down -- to greet everyone with a smile. That's his tradition. A lot of the passengers become friends. We travel together, and we pray and sing together.''
Mr. Clark is, by all accounts, the most reliable weather forecaster on the East End. Last year, he accurately predicted no significant snowfall the entire winter. A few years back, he accurately forecast a record snowfall.
Mr. Clark said he has been right 20 years in the previous 22, and ''half-right'' once. In any case, when he says the winter will be unseasonably warm or exceptionally rainy, or that it's time to buy a snowplow or to leave the cabbage in the ground, people around here listen.
''It's very simple,'' Mr. Clark said of his forecasting ability. ''I'm not a complicated man. I like simple things. The answers are all in our logbooks.''
Generations ago, one of his ancestors -- he doesn't know which -- came to the conclusion that Dec. 21, the first day of winter, was pivotal as far as East End winters go. Each skipper would faithfully log the weather conditions on that date, with special attention to the exact time of the winter solstice, the moment when the North Pole is pointed farthest away from the sun.
''Typically on that day there are changing conditions,'' Mr. Clark said. ''Right around the time the sun is passing the equator, the wind will lock in.'' (His calculations evidently do not depend on the sun passing the equator, which happens at the equinox, not the solstice.)
The closer the wind is to the north, he said, the colder it will be. If it is snowing a lot then, it will be a snowy winter. If it's raining and the wind is not out of the north, it will be a wet winter.
His forecast for this winter, based on his observation of conditions at 8:56 P.M. on Dec. 21, a dry evening when the wind was from the south-southwest at 10 to 15 miles per hour: unseasonably warm, with little precipitation. '➺sically we're going to have no winter,'' he said, adding that it's the most powerful indication of mild weather he had seen in 22 years.
Mr. Clark has assumed the day-to-day running of the operation from his father, William Y. Clark. But Dad still keeps a hand in things.
''I've been around longer than anyone on the crew,'' said the elder Mr. Clark, 86. ''I have the obligation to go in and shake things up occasionally, to correct something being done that if continued will hurt the company.''
Is his greatest concern carelessness or some other onboard safety lapse that could endanger the passengers and crew? The heavy summertime boat traffic through Shelter Island Sound? The company's balance sheet? No, the elder Mr. Clark's No. 1 priority is something his crews must always wear when dealing with passengers: smiles.
Now William Jr., Clifford's 57-year-old brother, has also returned home to work on the ferry after an extended stint in the Coast Guard. The brothers have four offspring -- Paige and Michelle belong to Cliff and William 3d and Briton belong to William Jr. -- and local tongues are already wagging about which child will be the next to take the helm.
''If I had to guess, it will be Paige,'' Mr. Green said.
Paige, 23, currently works on the ferry part time, and Michelle, 22, works onboard during the summer. Neither has committed thus far and that's fine with the family, though not with all Shelter Island residents.
''I don't feel pressure from the family at all,'' Paige said, 'ɻut on the ferry people say stuff to me. One guy said, ɽon't let your family down -- there's a legacy.' ''
She acknowledged that ''it's unusual, how far back we go,'' but said she hasn't decided on her future beyond studying Greek mythology at New York University next year.
The business has not made its owners wealthy. But it is reliable work, and population growth on the East End bodes well for a steadily increasing clientele. Mr. Clark won't discuss the company's finances except to recite the fare structure -- $7 one way, $8 for same-day round trip, $18 for a weekly commuter pass -- and note that the company has a franchise from New York State, renewed in 15-year contracts.
Mr. Clark said his oddest passenger never paid a cent. Three years ago, he said, a doe calmly walked down the platform on the North Haven side, boarded the ferry and refused to be shooed off, standing quietly as the gates closed and the boat went across. Once on Shelter Island, she waited for the gate to open and walked off. Two hours later, he said, the same doe boarded for the return trip, but disembarked and swam across.
His most dangerous trip, he said, was during a nor⟪ster in 1984. The ferry had to close because of blizzard conditions and flooding. But when an elderly Shelter Island resident suffered a heart attack, Mr. Clark volunteered to get her to the hospital there are no medical facilities on the island.
''It was 93 miles per hour out there,'' he said. 'ɻut the people of this island have to know they can get off the island in an emergency.''
''I got my best men,'' he said. ''The water was up over the pilot house, but we made it.'' The woman lived.
Mr. Clark said a new ferry, which will be the largest and most powerful ever to run on the line, will be completed shortly. The new boat, to be christened the Southern Cross, will give the company four ferries, though only three operate at any one time. The Cross can take 20 regular-sized vehicles the smallest, the North Haven, only 9.
Each craft can make four or five round trips an hour, as many as 85 a day. Service begins at 6 every morning and lasts until 11:45 P.M. on weekdays and until 1:45 A.M. on weekends.
Though it could easily zip across the half-mile channel in a straight line from terminal to terminal, the new boat, as all the others do and have done, will ride the currents and tides in a curving journey that follows the contours of the water. Mr. Clark acknowledged that the habit is a means of conserving fuel, but said it is also a tip of the hat to his forefathers.
The future may hold another surprise. After operating exclusively on the south side of Shelter Island for two centuries, Mr. Clark said the company has been approached by a small resort community hundreds of miles away. Apparently that lakeside community has been watching South Ferry for quite some time and, smitten with the way it communicates with passengers, has asked if the Clarks would consider operating a commuter ferry for them.
''They checked us out,'' Mr. Clark said. ''With my brother back and a new ferry it's a possibility we'll run a ferry service somewhere else.''
There's another ferry on Shelter Island, of course: the North Ferry, between Shelter Island Heights and Greenport. But it has nothing to do with Mr. Clark's outfit, and he will say nothing about it operation.
He does point out that at holiday time the cabins of his ferries are crammed with cookies and cakes, presents and other goodies, gifts from passengers.
''I had another ferry owner on board, and he looked at me and said, 'Where did all this come from?' '' Mr. Clark said.
Mr. Clark believes in treating his 22 employees well. Many, like Mr. Green, have been with the company for a decade of more.
''They are very loyal,'' Mr. Clark said. ''The way I look at it, I'm the coach and they are the players. No matter what, what the passengers see when they roll down the window is really who we are.''
Clark Clifford - History
advisor to four Presidents Secretary of Defense
Clark McAdams Clifford was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, on December 25, 1906. He received both his bachelor and law degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and practiced as a trial lawyer in that city for fifteen years. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1945, including an assignment as assistant naval aide and naval aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1945, Clifford landed a job in the White House. Quickly earning President Harry Truman's trust, he was named counsel to the President. Despite having no experience in politics or public affairs, Clifford participated in the development of the Truman Doctrine on the containment of Communism, the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe after World War II, and the building of the national security apparatus that eventually became the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Council. He also participated in Truman's 1948 re-election campaign, advising Truman to "be controversial as Hell" during the campaign.
In 1950, Clifford launched a unique law practice in Washington, specializing in advising clients on how to deal with the government. His client list included such big-names as General Electric, Standard Oil, DuPont, Phillips Petroleum, and Howard Hughes.
Following the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961, Clifford advised President John F. Kennedy to create an independent presidential board to oversee the intelligence community, which had been accused of misleading the White House. In May 1961, Kennedy appointed him to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which he chaired beginning in April 1963. Clifford continued his advisory role after Lyndon Johnson succeeded to the presidency, and even undertook short-term official duties, including a trip with General Maxwell Taylor in 1967 to Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
In 1968, President Johnson named Clifford to replace Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense he took office on March 1 of that year. Having previously turned down Johnson's offers of ambassador to the United Nations, National Security Adviser, CIA Director and Undersecretary of State, Clifford said in his memoirs that he felt he could not refuse the Defense position because he had drafted the legislation that created the department. During his eleven months in office Clifford managed the initial de-escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict. He left office upon the end of Johnson's term, on January 20, 1969.
With Republican Richard M. Nixon taking over the White House, Clifford returned to his private law practice, after being rewarded for his years of public service with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. He returned to the role of presidential adviser during President Jimmy Carter's administration, helping win Senate ratification of the Panama Canal treaties.
Clifford would have stayed out of the public eye during the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan except that he was caught up in one of the largest (if not the largest) banking scandals in history. In July 1992, Clifford and his former law partner, Robert Altman, were indicted on charges of fraud and accepting bribes from the foreign-owned Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). The men were charged with concealing from federal regulators BCCI's secret ownership of First American Bankshares, Inc., a major bank holding company in Washington that they headed. Both Clifford and Altman denied the charges and claimed that they had been duped by BCCI's executives. Although criminal charges against Clifford were finally dropped in 1993, his health suffered greatly during the months of grueling court appearances, and he all but disappeared from public view afterwards.