Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington


Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington

Access Type

Online access to this book is restricted to the University of Kentucky community.


Access this book

Download Full Text


Although not a household name, Clark Clifford (1906–1998) advised Democratic presidents from Harry S. Truman to Lyndon B. Johnson. The author, American History Professor at William Paterson University, has absorbed a mass of material and delivers an insightful if not always flattering biography. Fiercely ambitious, Clifford was a successful St. Louis lawyer when Truman, a fellow Missourian, became president in 1945. A senior colleague invited Clifford to Washington, where within a year his organizational skills won him promotion to Truman's special counsel. Happy to take credit for Truman's spectacular 1948 election upset, Clifford kept his reputation as a political genius for the next 20 years, although his opposition to sending troops to Vietnam put him in Johnson's doghouse until 1968, when—thanks to the possibility of peace talks and his own deft maneuvering—he replaced Robert McNamara as secretary of defense. This political biography concentrates on Washington infighting, position papers, memos, debates, and quarrels on subjects ranging from the trivial to the world-shaking. Clifford comes across as a clear-eyed political strategist with genuinely noble ideals, but who looked after his own interests, often claiming others' ideas as his own and parlay[ing] his government service into a lucrative private legal career.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY




978-0-8131-7346-7 (pdf version)


978-0-8131-3925-8 (epub version)



Clark Clifford, Democratic presidents, Harry S. Truman, Secretary of Defense, Legal career, William Paterson University, Lyndon B. Johnson, Biography


Military History | United States History

Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington
Read Sample