Ramsey Clark, who championed civil rights and liberties as attorney general in the Johnson administration, then devoted much of the rest of his life to defending unpopular causes and infamous people, including Saddam Hussein and others accused of war crimes, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan He was 93.
His niece Sharon Welch announced the death.
In becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official, Mr. Clark was part of an extraordinary father-and-son trade-off in the federal halls of power. His appointment prompted his father, Justice Tom C. Clark, to resign from the United States Supreme Court to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest involving cases in which the federal government might come before that bench.
To fill Justice Clark’s seat, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.
Mr. Clark, a tall, rangy man who shunned a government limousine in favor of his own beat-up Oldsmobile, set an ambitiously liberal course as attorney general. Days after taking office, he filed the first lawsuit to force a school district — Dale County, Ala. — to desegregate or else lose its federal school aid. He went on to file the first voting rights and school desegregation suits in the North.
Lyndon LaRouche, the perennial presidential candidate and conspiracy theorist.
He went beyond lawyering. In 1972, with the war in Vietnam dragging on, Mr. Clark met with Communist officials in Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, and publicly criticized American conduct of the war. That began a pattern: In 1980, months after Iranian revolutionaries had attacked the United States Embassy in Tehran and taken Americans hostage, he went to that city with nine other Americans, in violation of a travel ban, to help resolve the crisis and participate in a conference in which he criticized the United States for having supported Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi before he was deposed.
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya and denounced United States airstrikes against that country.
In November 1990, as the United States prepared for the Persian Gulf war, Mr. Clark, who had criticized the American deployment of forces in the gulf, consulted with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The next year he filed a complaint with the International War Crimes Tribunal accusing President George Bush of war crimes.
In 2011, he condemned NATO’s bombing campaign against Qaddafi’s government. In 2013, he said Iran had no intention of building a nuclear bomb and denounced sanctions against that country. Later, he protested lethal attacks by unmanned American drone aircraft on other nations.
Criticized in Turn
Mr. Clark defended these trips and these statements, saying that a citizen’s “highest obligation” was to speak up when his government had violated its own principles and “not point the finger at someone else.”