The Shadow of McCarthyism
Much of Michael Tigar’s student activism took place on the heels of the McCarthy era. He was a harsh critic of McCarthyism and its ongoing effects. Fond of satire, Tigar wrote a radio script in 1960, “The Appearance of William Shakespeare Before the House Committee on Un-English Activities” and a magazine piece in 1962 entitled “A Cable Karl to the Top o’ the Marx”.
In an interview conducted in the 1990s, Tigar highlighted his longtime interest in “the leap that the government wants to take in so many cases, a leap across this line between dissent and disloyalty.” At the beginning of his law career, Tigar became intimately acquainted with this leap when he found himself accused of such disloyalty, in part due to his student activities and writing, which led to him being followed by the FBI.
In 1966, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. hired Tigar to serve as his law clerk at the United States Supreme Court for the term following his graduation. Justice Brennan rescinded the offer at the last minute, however, after pressure from J. Edgar Hoover and a campaign by columnists and lawmakers on the right, who painted Tigar as part of a “communistic infiltration” of the Supreme Court.
Several of the documents included here are essays that demonstrate Tigar’s incredulity toward America’s fascination with, and fear of, communism. Where many saw a foreign threat, Tigar perceived infringements of civil liberties.
The section also includes news clippings and correspondence related to the Brennan clerkship withdrawal. Tigar received many letters of support at the time of the incident. Decades later, Justice Brennan wrote Tigar a letter about the affair, expressing that he may have “overreacted.”