Tom C. Clark

Tom C. Clark Biography

Supreme Court Justice, Judge, Lawyer (1899–1977)
Lawyer and judge Tom C. Clark served as U.S. attorney general under Harry S. Truman's administration and was later appointed to the Supreme Court.


Born on September 23, 1899, in Dallas, Texas, Tom C. Clark pursued a career in law and eventually joined the U.S. Justice Department. Forming allegiances with Harry S. Truman, Clark was appointed U.S. attorney general upon Truman becoming president. Clark would later be appointed as a Supreme Court justice, serving on the court from 1949 to 1967. He died in New York City on June 13, 1977.

Background and Early Career

Thomas Campbell Clark was born on September 23, 1899, in Dallas, Texas. Raised in a family of lawyers, he went on to attend the University of Texas, where he earned his B.A. and law degree by 1922. He worked with his father's legal practice for a while before joining the district attorney's office for his home city, where he remained for several years.

Joins Justice Department

In 1937, Tom C. Clark started work for the U.S. Justice Department, and eventually became a political ally of Harry S. Truman. In conjunction with a committee backed by the future president, Clark worked on uncovering corruption in America's World War II efforts. He also served as a coordinator for the forced relocation and internment of Japanese-American citizens, an act which he later acknowledged as a mistake.

From Attorney General to Supreme Court Justice

In 1945, President Truman appointed Clark as U.S. attorney general, with Clark remaining in the position for around four years. He was then appointed to the Supreme Court in the summer of 1949, and as such would help to shape some of the country's landmark legal decisions. (Clark implemented both conservative and liberal actions as a jurist, not always following presidential lines in his decisions. Truman later spoke out vehemently against his appointee.)

In the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer in 1952, Clark sided with the Court's ruling that Truman's seizure of the steel mill industry to avert striking was unconstitutional. Clark would also be part of the Court's unanimous 1954 decision to end public school racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, as he had also voted to end segregation in his law school alma mater years earlier.

The next decade saw Clark writing the Court's opinion in its 1961 ruling (Mapp v. Ohio) that enforced particular regulations in search and seizure protocols. He also supported later rulings that ended the New York State Regents prayer and the recitation of the Bible in public schools.

Steps Down

Clark stepped down from the Supreme Court in June 1967 when his son, William Ramsey Clark, was appointed U.S. attorney general by President Lyndon B. Johnson, thereby avoiding a conflict of interest. The elder Clark continued to serve on the Federal Court of Appeals and worked as the initial director of Congress' Federal Judicial Center during the late 1960s.

Clark died on June 13, 1977, at the age of 77, in New York City. Years later, his daughter Mimi Clark Gronlund penned the 2010 book Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark: A Life of Service, with a foreword by Ramsey Clark.

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