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Corliss Lamont

Born: 28-Mar-1902
Birthplace: Englewood, NJ
Died: 26-Apr-1995
Location of death: Ossining, NY
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist, Philanthropist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Millionaire socialist

Civil rights activist Corliss Lamont was the scion of J. P. Morgan chair Thomas W. Lamont, but eschewed Wall Street for a life of radical dissent. He founded Marxist Quarterly, campaigned for Soviet-American friendship, and staunchly supported the Soviet Union even after Stalin's genocidal atrocities became known in the West (though late in life he conceded that he had "been oversold on Stalinism"). He never joined the Communist Party, and even wrote a pamphlet explaining Why I Am Not A Communist, but he hailed communist Cuba after Fidel Castro took power there. He studied under John Dewey, and at Oxford he roomed with Julian Huxley. A millionaire by heredity, he taught at several colleges, and was an outspoken opponent of nuclear testing, the Vietnam War, and the 1991 Gulf War.

Through most of the 1950s he was denied a US passport, until he sued and won his case against the State Department. In 1954, working with I. F. Stone and others, he co-founded the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee to fight the red-hunting tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy and others in government. Subpoenaed by McCarthy, Lamont stood on his First (not Fifth) Amendment rights, citing his freedom of association in refusing to answer questions, and for this he was convicted of contempt of Congress -- though on appeal the conviction was overturned. He took legal action after the US Post Office refused to deliver his subscription copy of Peking Review, winning a Supreme Court ruling in 1966 that nullified a 1961 law forbidding "propaganda mail". Using the Freedom of Information Act, he discovered in 1973 that the FBI had been tapping his phone and logging his activities for thirty years, and his lawsuit led to a ruling that increased citizens' privacy rights. After his 1995 death, per his request, his funeral service was followed by a debate on "civil liberties and the role of religion in public life."

Father: Thomas W. Lamont (Chairman of J.P. Morgan & Co.)
Mother: Florence Haskell Corliss Lamont (b. 1873, m. 1895, d. 1952)
Brother: Thomas Stilwell Lamont (Morgan Guaranty Trust executive)
Wife: Margaret Hayes Irish Lamont (author, m. 1928, div. 1960, three daughters, one son)
Daughter: Anne Lamont Jafferis
Daughter: Florence Lamont Antonides
Son: Hayes Lamont
Daughter: Margot Lamont Heap

    University: Phillips Exeter Academy (1920)
    University: BS, Harvard University (1924)
    Scholar: Oxford University (1924)
    University: PhD Philosophy, Columbia University (1932)
    Teacher: Philosophy, Columbia University
    Teacher: Philosophy, Cornell University
    Teacher: Philosophy, Harvard University
    Teacher: Philosophy, New School for Social Research

    Humanist of the Year 1977
    Contempt of Congress 1954, conviction reversed on appeal 1956
    National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee Co-Founder & Chairman (1954-84)
    American Civil Liberties Union Director (1932-54)
    American Humanist Association Past President
    NAACP
    Phi Beta Kappa Society
    Assisted by the ACLU 1952)

Author of books:
Russia Day by Day (1933, with Margaret Lamont)
The Illusion of Immortality (1935)
The Peoples of the Soviet Union (1944)
Freedom Is as Freedom Does: Civil Liberties in America (1956)
Dialogue on John Dewey (1959)
Dialogue on George Santayana (1959)
The Philosophy of Humanism (1962)
Freedom of Choice Affirmed (1967)
Remembering John Masefield (1970)
Voice In the Wilderness: Collected Essays of Fifty Years (1974)
Yes to Life: Memoirs of Corliss Lamont (1981, memoir)
A Lifetime of Dissent (1988, memoir)
Dear Corliss: Letters from Eminent Persons (1990)


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