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Rest in peace, Ramsey Clark … memories

Ramsey Clark

By Henry Stoever

The great Ramsey Clark, attorney general to Lyndon Johnson, died April 9, 2021, at age 93. Rest in peace, man of peace! Ramsey stayed at our home overnight in 2012, before traveling to Jefferson City, MO, for the federal trespassing trial at Jefferson City, MO, concerning a drone warfare protest at Whiteman Air Force Base. Those arrested were Brian Terrell, Ron Faust (see his poem, following this story), and Mark Kenney, who came to trial June 6, 2012, before US Magistrate Judge Matt Whitworth. Ramsey’s obit appeared in the New York Times April 11.

We had a gathering with Ramsey in Kansas City the night before the trial. Ramsey stayed at our home. I drove Ramsey to Jefferson City, so we had almost three hours together in the car, filled with stories of his being in Berlin at the end of World War II; his acquiring the sculpted head of Hitler, and later returning it to a German museum; starting law school at the University of Texas, and then transferring to the University of Chicago Law School; learning from a law professor who had raced to his apartment to tell Ramsey that his Dad had been nominated to the US Supreme Court; his working in the US Department of Justice, issuing the writ to have Dr. Benjamin Spock, MD, and Rev. William Sloane Coffin arrested, and then greatly regretting this; his knowledge of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, etc.

In Jeff City, we stopped at a coffee shop on the main drag operated by an Arab man who had posted on the wall his photo with the leader of his country, and Ramsey immediately knew the leader and commented about him. The restaurant owner soon came over to our table to joke that the leader was with the coffee shop owner, not the owner with the leader.

We wanted to use Ramsey as an expert witness in the trial, as well as Law Professor Bill Quigley and perhaps retired Col. Ann Wright, to testify to relevance and application of international law and how it applied to this federal prosecution, and the weaponry at Whiteman that sent stealth bombers worldwide, and Whiteman’s training of drone operators to unleash drones on targets worldwide. Magistrate Whitworth refused to even allow us to make an offer of proof on these issues, so Ramsey just sat there throughout the trial.  Prof. Quigley got to speak briefly on some issue of the chain of command at a military base. I tried to raise issues of proper proof of real estate ownership of the military base, which Whitworth ignored. Brian Terrell received the severest sentence of six months, the maximum for a trespass charge. Matt Whitworth, federal magistrate judge, died at 61 years of age, on Oct. 14, 2019.

After a brief post-trial rally outside the federal courthouse in Jeff City, I drove Ramsey to a humble bar-b-que joint at the south end of Warrensburg, MO, and a group of us had a wonderful time eating together. Ramsey called it a juke-joint, with music and burnt meat.

Ramsey never wanted to be gone long from his disabled daughter, Rhonda, so he wanted to catch the earliest flight back to New York City, and as a result Jonnie Long drove Ramsey to her home up near the KCI airport for the earliest flight home to New York City. Ramsey was working on his autobiography, and I never saw that book out, but I hope it is finished or will be finished and shared with the world.

I had a prior encounter with Ramsey following the adverse decision of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in US v. Kabat (Carl Kabat was one of four persons who, in 1984, went into an active nuclear missile site 45 miles east of KC, MO, with a jackhammer and compressor and other tools and did damage to the top of a nuclear missile silo). Perhaps in 1986, Ramsey urged me to file a Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court, asking them to take the case, in order to force them (US Supreme Court justices) to know of this nuclear issue, as an educational tool.

From being a very young marine in World War II to becoming an international legal scholar and conscience of great merit, a great soul has left us. We will miss you, and be inspired by your example, Ramsey.

Note: After reading Henry’s tribute to Ramsey, Brian Terrell wrote a reply: Thank you, Henry, for your memories of Ramsey Clark and his generosity shown to us in Jefferson City. Thanks for the memory of the barbecue joint—Ramsey, a Texan, was satisfied with its authenticity. Ramsey was not allowed to testify, but he did speak at an event in KC the evening before; his talk is on youtube at and he also spoke outside the court in a press conference, Ramsey also testified at trials for drone resisters in Nevada and in New York—an international campaign to outlaw war drones started April 9, 2021, that might interest you, I note on the website one of Ramsey’s contributions: “On Nov. 5, 2011, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark was permitted to testify on international law on behalf of 31 activists who had been arrested for trespass at Hancock Airfield in Syracuse, NY, the spring before. Judge Gideon, after listening to Mr. Clark speak of the Nuremberg Principles and other laws as they apply to drone warfare at length, leaned over the bench and asked him, ‘This is all interesting, but what is the enforcement mechanism? Who is responsible for enforcing international law?’ ‘They are,’ responded Mr. Clark, pointing to the 31 defendants, ‘and so,’ he said to Judge Gideon, ‘are you!’”

–Lawyer Henry Stoever is a co-chair of PeaceWorks-KC.

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