NEW YORK — Ramsey Clark, who championed civil rights as U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson, died Friday in New York. He was 93.
Clark later was a critic of U.S. foreign policy, devoting much of the rest of his life to defending unpopular causes and infamous people, including Saddam Hussein and other people accused of war crimes, the Times reported.
Clark was the son of Tom C. Clark, a conservative Supreme Court Justice, the Post reported. He served for 22 months in Johnson’s cabinet, then spent the remainder of his life as a voice of dissent against the government, the newspaper reported.
Clark’s appointment prompted his father to resign from the Supreme Court to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, the Times reported. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, the first Black to serve on the nation’s highest court, as the elder Clark’s replacement.
Days after taking office, Ramsey Clark filed the first lawsuit to force the school district in Dale County, Alabama, to desegregate or else lose its federal school aid, the Times reported. Clark also filed the first voting rights and school desegregation suits in the North.
He oversaw the drafting of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, which addressed housing discrimination, and sued to prevent discrimination in employment, the Times reported.
Clark also prosecuted pediatrician and author Benjamin Spock for conspiracy to aid draft resisters during the Vietnam War, according to the Post. But within three years of leaving his post as attorney general, Clark flew to Hanoi in 1972 to denounce U.S. aggression and later defended Philip Berrigan and other leading anti-war activists, the newspaper reported.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter asked Clark to try and negotiate the release of 53 U.S. hostages in Iran, but Clark was denied entry into the country, the Post reported.
Clark called the seizure of hostages “understandable” but wrong, the newspaper reported, and urged the United States to apologize for its wrongdoings in Iran. Carter threatened to prosecute the former attorney general for violating the U.S. ban on travel to Iran.
“If you really love your country, you work very hard to make it right,” Clark later told the Los Angeles Times. “Anything else is an extreme act of disloyalty and an extreme failure of courage.”
In 1986, Clark sued the U.S. government for bombing Libya in 1986. He traveled to Panama after the 1989 American invasion to document what he said was the U.S. military’s coverup of a “physical assault of stunning violence,” the Post reported. Clark also opposed U.S. war efforts against Iraq in 1990 and 2003.
William Ramsey Clark was born on Dec. 18, 1927, in Dallas, the Times reported. He served in the Marines as a courier in Europe during World War II and graduated from the University of Texas. He earned a law degree and a master’s in history from the University of Chicago.
In 1949, he married Georgia Welch, a classmate at Texas. She died in 2010, the newspaper reported.