Senator Joe McCarthy Dies; McCarthyism Lives On
Senator Joe McCarthy, whose name has become synonymous with the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War, died on this day. Because of his reckless and unreasonable attacks on people for being Communists or Communist sympathizers, typically without any factual basis, Senator Joe McCarthy (R–Wisconsin) added the word “McCarthyism” to the American political vocabulary. (The noted cartoonist Herblock [for Herblock] is credited with coining the term “McCarthyism” in a cartoon published in the Washington Post on March 29, 1950.)
McCarthy burst onto the American political scene with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950. In that speech and later, he claimed he had a “list” of Communists employed by the federal government. When he finally named someone, on March 8, 1950, it was Dorothy Kenyon, who proved to be an active New York liberal with no Communist associations. He dominated American politics and culture until the Senate finally condemned his tactics on December 2, 1954.
Interestingly, Senator Joe McCarthy and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, two of the most famous anti-Communists, died on the same day exactly 15 years apart. Hoover died on May 2, 1972.
Although the term “McCarthyism” is commonly used as shorthand for publicly making accusations for disloyalty or treason without evidence, the practice actually preceded his arrival on the political scene, beginning with President Truman’s Loyalty Program, on March 21, 1947, and lived on for many years after his death.
Read a biography of McCarthy: David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense (1983)
View pictures of McCarthy’s funeral at the Appleton, Wisconsin, Public Library: http://apl.org/community/hist/mccarthy/photographs/funeral
Learn more. The Senator Joe McCarthy Timeline at Marquette University:
Watch Point of Order, a documentary on McCarthy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EhOdSSI8n4
Learn more about McCarthyism: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/joseph-mccarthy