Sunday, October 09, 2005

Fathers, Sons, Cronies...

...and LBJ.

On today's Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: A historical note, how it came to be that Justice Tom Clark retired from the Supreme Court at the relatively young age of 67. His departure was masterfully engineered by President Lyndon Baines Johnson himself. L.B.J. wanted the chance to appoint the first African-American to the Court, namely Thurgood Marshall. But there were no Court openings, so he cleverly set in motion a scheme to create one. You can hear L.B.J. laying the groundwork in this telephone conversation with Justice Clark's son, Ramsey, on January 25, 1967.

(Audiotape, January 25, 1967):

PRES. LYNDON JOHNSON: Do you think you could be attorney general with your daddy on the Court?

MR. RAMSEY CLARK: Well, I think that--I guess other people ought to judge that, really. I know as far as I'm personally concerned, that that would not affect my judgment. I don't think it would affect Dad's judgment. I'd hate to see Dad get off the Court. I think he's at the height of his judicial power...

PRES. JOHNSON: My judgment is that if you became attorney general, he'd have to leave the Court, for no other reason than the public appearance of the old man sitting on his boy's case and you tell me that the old man can judge it fairly when his own boy's sending them up?

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Just four weeks later, Ramsey Clark was named attorney general of the United States, and as predicted, his father, Justice Tom Clark, announced his resignation from the Supreme Court that same day. L.B.J. then nominated Thurgood Marshall to fill the Clark vacancy, becoming the nation's first black Supreme Court justice.

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