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Ex-Presidential Aide Clifford Dies

October 10, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Clark M. Clifford, the consummate Washington insider and a top adviser to four Democratic presidents, died early this morning. Clifford, who was 91, had been in ill health in recent years _ a period that saw his once distinguished reputation tarnished by an international banking scandal.

No one in Washington, no one in the country, operated so close to power for so long. Clifford, defense secretary in the Johnson administration, was a powerful attorney and an adviser who whispered into the ears of Harry S. Truman, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

They were long gone from the scene when Clifford became embroiled in a scandal that dragged his name into headlines again from mid-1991 until late 1993 in the BCCI banking case. Criminal charges were dropped in 1993 because of his age and ill health, and the last of several civil suits prompted by the case were settled last month.

His health had been deteriorating for some time, and he died at 2 a.m. this morning, his daughter, Randal Wight, said.

Clark McAdams Clifford, born in Fort Scott, Kan., on Christmas Day 1906, got his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and practiced law there for 15 years. In World War II, he joined the Navy, then came to Washington as assistant to Truman’s naval aide, a St. Louis friend. One of his jobs was to help unescorted women to their seats at ceremonial occasions; another was redesigning the presidential seal.

It wasn’t long, however, before he headed for bigger things. A Clifford memo, which reached Truman, argued that ``the Democratic Party is an unhappy alliance of Southern conservatives, Western progressives and Big City labor.″ Clifford said Democratic success depended on the ``ability to lead enough members of these three misfit groups to the polls.″

Clifford’s idea was that Truman be ``controversial as hell″ in the 1948 campaign. Clifford has been credited with inventing Truman’s innovative whistle-stop campaign in which he rallied farmers to his side, but in truth no one knows whose inspiration it was.

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