Clark Clifford

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Clark McAdams Clifford (December 25, 1906 — October 10, 1998) was a highly influential American lawyer who served United States Presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter, serving as United States Secretary of Defense for Johnson.


Early life and career

Clifford was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. He attended college and law school at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and built a solid reputation practicing law in St. Louis between 1928 and 1943.

He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, reaching the rank of captain and serving as assistant naval aide and then naval aide to President Truman, for whom he became a trusted personal adviser and friend.

Presidential advisor

Clifford went to Washington, D.C., first to serve as Assistant to the President's Naval Advisor, after the naming of a personal friend from Missouri as the President's Naval Advisor. Following his discharge from the Navy, he remained at Truman's side as White House Counsel from 1946 to 1950, as Truman came rapidly to trust and rely upon Clifford.

Clifford was a key architect of Truman's campaign in 1948, when Truman pulled off a stunning upset victory over Republican nominee Thomas Dewey. Clifford encouraged Truman to embrace a left-wing populist image in hope of undermining the impact on the race of third-party Progressive candidate Henry A. Wallace, who had served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Vice-President from 1941 to 1945. Clifford also believed that a strong pro-civil rights stance, while sure to alienate traditional Southern Democrats, would not result in a serious challenge to the party's supremacy in that region. This prediction was foiled by Strom Thurmond's candidacy as a splinter States' Rights Democrat, but Clifford's strategy nonetheless helped win Truman election in his own right and establish the Democratic Party's position in the Civil Rights Movement.

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