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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 Statesmarker (1949–1967).


Clark was born in Dallas, Texasmarker, to Virginia Maxey Falls and William Henry Clark. A graduate of Dallas High, he served as a Texasmarker National Guard infantryman in 1918; afterward he studied law, receiving his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1922 and setting up practice in his home town of Dallasmarker from 1922 to 1937. He 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 Departmentmarker 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.

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. 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 avert a strike in 1952's Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer after having advised Truman as attorney general that he had legal authority to do so.

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. Clark also took a decidedly anti-Communist stance during the "Red Scare."
Tom C.
Clark State Office Building
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 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, 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 Citymarker and is buried in Restland Memorial Park, Dallas, Texasmarker. 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, 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 Texasmarker 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.marker Truman Librarymarker 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 at the fraternity's International President from 1966–1968.

See also


  1. Ancestry of Ramsey Clark
  2. Rumbley, Rose-Mary. A Century of Class. Austin TX: Eakin Press, 1984.
  3. Eisler, Kim Isaac (1993). A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the decisions that transformed America. Page 76. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671767879
  4. The Government and Politics of the United States: Second Edition By Nigel Bowles, page 191.
  5. Eisler, 76


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