Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark — who was one of Lyndon Johnson’s soldiers in the 1960s civil rights movement and later ran for U.S. Senate from New York — died Friday at age 93, media reports said.
Clark, the son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, practiced law in Dallas early in his career and became a federal assistant attorney general in 1961.
When courts ordered the integration of the University of Mississippi in 1962, Clark led civilian federal workers there, and went on to work on other civil rights cases in the South.
Clark was the federal official responsible for protecting marchers in the 1965 march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. The first night of the march, “I felt like we were in the Civil War,” Clark told an interviewer.
President Johnson appointed Clark as attorney general in February 1967. Clark was involved in writing LBJ-era civil rights legislation, and made fighting organized crime a priority. He also pushed gun control laws and imposed new guidelines for the use of wiretaps by federal law enforcement.
After he left the government in 1969, Clark practiced and taught law in Manhattan, and loudly opposed the Vietnam War.
He ran unsuccessfully in 1974 for the New York U.S. Senate seat held by liberal Republican Jacob Javits, and gained attention for limiting campaign contributions at $100. Javits defeated him by seven percentage points.
Later, Clark was a lawyer for terrorists and war criminals like Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. An interviewer for the American Bar Association Journal asked him in 2018 what advice he had for lawyers who represent widely reviled clients.
“The worse the public perception, the more important the effective defense is,” Clark said. “That’s where you really measure whether our rights are applicable in the most hateful circumstances.”
Asked in the same interview interview about today’s civil rights activism — including the Black Lives Matter movement — Clark said: “I am not involved anymore. ... But I am all for its aspirations.
“I don’t think we’ve overcome our history of racism, which involves human slavery,” he said. “It’s incredible that a country that talks so much about freedom would come from a country that practiced human slavery for so long. It’s up to each generation to do better.”
Reports did not give a cause for Clark’s death.
Rest in peace