(b. Fort Scott, Kansas, 25 Dec. 1906; d. Bethesda, Maryland, 10 October 1998)
US; Special Counsel to the President 1946–50, Secretary for Defense 1968–9 A St Louis lawyer, Clifford became assistant to James Vardaman, naval aide at the White House and part of a coterie of Missourians around President Harry Truman. Clifford succeeded Vardaman and then served as Special Counsel to the President 1946–50.
The relationship with Truman was a close and personal one (he regularly played poker with the President) and it enabled him to influence policy and strategy in a variety of fields. He developed a close interest in security matters, helping to write the 1947 National Security Act and serving from 1961 to 1968 on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. His role in Truman's surprise election victory over Thomas Dewey in 1948 further strengthened his influence with Truman on civil rights and anti-Communism. Although Clifford left the White House in 1949 his pragmatic approach to politics and his legal skills were called upon by subsequent presidents, especially John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.
Although Clifford served as the director of Kennedy's transition team, he took no formal office in the administration. Under Johnson, however, he took over from Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, and helped to begin the de-escalation of war in Vietnam. Under Carter as well as being a special envoy to Greece, Turkey, and India, Clifford helped defend Bert Lance, Carter's budget director who was forced to resign as a result of his involvement in a banking scandal. Ironically, Clifford himself became more closely involved in banking issues in the 1980s and became the target of congressional investigation as a result of his association with the BCCI and First American Bankshares, an episode which undermined Clifford's reputation.
In 1991 Clifford's insights into successive presidencies were published in his memoirs Counsel to the President which he wrote with Richard Holbrooke.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence.