Joseph Raymond McCarthy

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McCarthy, Joseph Raymond,

1908–57, U.S. senator from Wisconsin (1947–57), b. near Appleton, Wis. He practiced law in Wisconsin and became (1940) a circuit judge. He served with the U.S. marines in the Pacific in World War II, achieving the rank of captain. In 1946, McCarthy defeated Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr., for the Republican senatorial nomination and then overwhelmed his Democratic opponent in the election. His career in the Senate was undistinguished and obscure until Feb., 1950, when he won national attention with a speech at Wheeling, W.Va., in which he charged that the State Dept. had been infiltrated by Communists. Although a Senate investigating committee under Millard TydingsTydings, Millard Evelyn
, 1890–1961, American politician, b. Havre de Grace, Md. He was admitted (1913) to the bar, soon built a successful law practice, and became (1916) a member of the Maryland legislature. In World War I he saw action in France.
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 exonerated the State Dept. and branded the charges a fraud and a hoax, McCarthy repeated his claims in a series of radio and television appearances. Challenged to produce his evidence, he refused and instead made new accusations. When the Republicans assumed control of Congress in 1953, McCarthy, who had been reelected in 1952, became chairman of the Senate permanent investigations subcommittee (Government Operations Committee), a post in which he wielded great power; he used his position to exploit the public's fear of Communism.

Through widely publicized hearings, the use of unidentified informers, and reckless accusation, McCarthy doggedly pursued those whom he classified as Communists and subversives. Careers were ruined on the flimsiest evidence, and his methods came under increasing attack by the press and his colleagues. In Apr., 1954, McCarthy accused Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens and his aides of attempting to conceal evidence of espionage activities that McCarthy and his staff had allegedly uncovered at Fort Monmouth, N.J. The army, in turn, accused McCarthy, his chief counsel, and a staff member of seeking by improper means to obtain preferential treatment for a former consultant to the subcommittee, then a private in the army. After widely publicized hearings McCarthy and his aides were cleared (Aug., 1954) of the army's charges. However, in December the Senate, acting on a motion of censure against him, voted to "condemn" McCarthy for contempt of a Senate elections subcommittee that had investigated his conduct and financial affairs in 1952, for abuse of certain senators, and for insults to the Senate itself during the censure proceedings. After this rebuke, and with the Democrats again in control of Congress after the 1954 elections, McCarthy's influence in the Senate and on the national scene steadily diminished until his death. McCarthy's indiscriminate attacks gave rise to the term "McCarthyism," which denotes similar assaults characterized by sensationalist tactics and unsubstantiated accusations.


See biographies T. C. Reeves (1982, repr. 1997) and D. Oshinsky (1983); studies by R. H. Rovere (1960, repr. 1973), M. P. Rogin (1967), A. J. Matusow (1970), R. Griffith (1970), F. J. Cook (1971), R. Feuerlicht (1972), R. C. Goldston (1973), D. Oshinsky (1973), T. C. Reeves (1982, repr. 1989), M. Landis (1987), E. W. Schrecker (1988), and A. Herman (1999); D. A. Nichols, Ike and McCarthy (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

McCarthy, Joseph Raymond


Born Nov. 14, 1908, near Appleton, Wis.; died May 2, 1957, in Bethesda, Md. US politician.

McCarthy was educated as a lawyer. After graduating in 1935 from Marquette University, he was a lawyer and a judge; from 1942 he served in the US Marines. From 1946 to 1957, McCarthy was a Republican senator from the state of Wisconsin. McCarthy became linked with the extremely reactionary trend in US political life in the early 1950’s, a trend that came to be called McCarthyism. Beginning in 1953 he was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and of its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; he fiercely advocated the intensification of the cold war, and the adoption of antidemocratic and antilabor legislation. He engaged in warmongering and whipped up anticommunist hysteria. By their activities McCarthy and his followers discredited the ruling circles of the USA to such a degree that the Senate on Dec. 2, 1954, passed a resolution condemning his conduct.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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