Clifford, Clark M. Papers

Dates: 1900-1980. Bulk Date Span: 1946-1950

Assistant Naval Aide to the President, 1945-1946; Naval Aide to the President, 1946; Special Counsel to the President, 1946-1950

The papers of Clark M. Clifford primarily document his service as Special Counsel to President Truman from 1946 to 1950, and include material relating to such topics as labor policy, U.S.-Soviet relations, the Marshall Plan, the unification of the armed forces, the founding of the state of Israel, and the 1948 election. There is also some material in the collection concerning Clifford's relations with Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Truman. The papers consist of correspondence, memoranda, reports, speeches and speech drafts, newspaper clippings, printed material, and other items.

See also Clark M. Clifford Files and Oral History

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]


Size: About 17.5 linear feet (approximately 35,000 pages).
Access: Open.
Copyright: Clark M. Clifford donated his literary property rights in all of his writings in this collection, and in other collections deposited at the Truman Library, to the United States government. Documents created by U.S. government officials in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in other writings in this collection is assumed to remain with the authors of the documents or their heirs.
Processed by: Mary Ann Blaufuss (1968); Erwin J. Mueller, Raymond H. Geselbracht, Dennis Bilger, Sharie Simon, and Mary Jo Colle (1990); Randy Sowell, Dennis Bilger, Sharie Simon, and Janice Davis (2000).

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


1906 (December 25)


Born, Fort Scott, Kansas



LL.B., Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri



Attorney, St. Louis, Missouri

1931 (October 3)


Married Margery Pepperell Kimball



Officer, U.S. Naval Reserve



Assistant Naval Aide to the President



Naval Aide to the President



Special Counsel to the President



Attorney, Clifford & Miller, Washington, D.C., and unofficial adviser to Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson



Secretary of Defense



Attorney, Clifford & Warnke, Washington, D.C.; unofficial adviser to President Carter; Chairman, First American Bankshares



Author, Counsel to the President (with Richard Holbrooke)

1998 (October 10)


Died, Bethesda, Maryland

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


The papers of Clark M. Clifford mostly relate to his service as Special Counsel to the President from 1946 to 1950. An attorney from St. Louis and an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Clifford came to the Truman White House in 1945 to serve as Assistant to the Naval Aide to the President, James K. Vardaman, Jr. He succeeded Vardaman as Naval Aide in 1946 and became the President's Special Counsel a few months later. For the next four years, until he resigned in 1950 to resume his career as a private attorney in Washington, Clifford was probably the most influential and prominent member of Truman's White House staff. His papers document his role as a presidential speechwriter, his involvement in crises both foreign and domestic, and his contributions as a political strategist.

The collection contains information relating to such Truman-era topics as labor unrest and the Taft-Hartley Act; the developing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union; economic aid to Europe under the Marshall Plan; unification of the armed forces under the National Security Act; the crisis in Palestine that led to the founding of the state of Israel; and the hard-fought 1948 election campaign. A relatively small amount of material documents the relationship between Clifford and Mr. and Mrs. Truman after the end of the Truman Presidency. Clifford's papers consist of correspondence, memoranda, reports, speeches and speech drafts, newspaper clippings, printed material, press releases, and other items.

The papers are divided into five series. The first and largest series, the Subject File, contains memoranda, correspondence, speeches and speech drafts, reports, press releases, and other items documenting some of the major events and policies of the Truman administration during Clifford's tenure as Special Counsel. Much of this material reflects his involvement in foreign policy and national security issues: the development of the U.S. atomic energy program; the Economic Cooperation Administration and its implementation of the Marshall Plan; the controversy over Palestine, in which Clifford played a significant role as an advocate of extending U.S. diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel; and the unification of the armed forces through the creation of the National Military Establishment in 1947. Among the materials relating to Russia in this series are documents compiled by Clifford and his assistant, George M. Elsey, in the course of preparing their top secret 1946 report to the President, "American Relations With the Soviet Union" (also known as the Clifford-Elsey Report.). On the domestic front, the series contains information about the coal strike of 1946, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, and other contentious labor issues. A substantial amount of material in the Subject File documents Clifford's work in drafting presidential speeches, messages, and statements.

The second series, the Political File, contains printed material, newspaper clippings, memoranda, correspondence, press releases, and other items relating to national politics during the Truman years, with particular emphasis upon the 1948 election. Some of the material in this series reflects Clifford's role as a White House political strategist in 1947 and 1948. Of particular interest is a lengthy memorandum that Clifford submitted to the President on November 19, 1947. Originally drafted by James Rowe, Jr., a Washington attorney, this "Clifford-Rowe Memorandum" summarized the major features of the campaign strategy that Truman would pursue in achieving his upset victory in the 1948 presidential election. Other memoranda by Clifford and by William Batt, Jr., Director of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee, also document high-level planning for that campaign. The Political File also includes a variety of Democratic Party campaign publications. Some correspondence with Clifford and other materials in the series relate to the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, after Clifford had left the White House.

The Presidential Speech File includes speeches and speech drafts, press releases, memoranda, printed material, newspaper clippings, correspondence, itineraries and schedules, drafts of legislation, and other items mostly documenting the drafting of President Truman's speeches and other public messages. In addition to the drafts themselves and accompanying research materials, the series contains samples of press reaction and some memoranda relating to political strategy. Among the major speeches that Clifford helped write during this period were several State of the Union addresses, the Truman Doctrine speech of 1947, a number of 1948 campaign speeches, and the 1949 Inaugural Address, with its proposal of a "Point Four" program of aid to underdeveloped nations. One notable item in the series is Mr. Truman's own handwritten draft of a speech on the 1946 railroad strike. In this proposed speech, which he never actually delivered, the President strongly denounced the leaders of the striking railroad unions, and called for volunteers to help "hang a few traitors" and defend the Constitution. The Presidential Speech File contains much information about the 1948 "Whistlestop" campaign, including train schedules for the President's trips.

The Miscellaneous Speech File mostly contains speeches and speech drafts, press releases, memoranda, and other items pertaining to speeches delivered by Cabinet members, other Truman administration officials, members of Congress, and other prominent individuals. Clifford apparently compiled this material in connection with his speechwriting duties as Special Counsel. The speeches relate for the most part to U.S. domestic politics and foreign affairs during this period.

The last series, the Harry S. Truman File, contains material donated by Clifford's estate to the Truman Library in 1999. Most of this material consists of photocopies of personal correspondence between Clifford and Truman, and between Mrs. Clifford and Mrs. Truman, dating from the years after Clifford left the Truman administration in 1950. Many of the letters from Mr. and Mrs. Truman in this series are handwritten. In addition, the Harry S. Truman File contains some photocopied correspondence between Clifford and others regarding Mr. Truman and his legacy, and several original souvenir cards bearing Clifford's name and handwritten inscriptions by the President. With the exception of these cards, the originals of all the documents in this series were retained by the Clifford estate, and apparently will be donated to the Library of Congress as part of that institution's collection of Clifford Papers.

Additional information about Clark Clifford and his service in the Truman administration may be found at the Truman L