1957 May 2

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

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!