McCarthy, Joseph R(aymond)

McCarthy, Joseph R(aymond)

biographical name


Joseph McCarthy.—National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(born Nov. 14, 1908, near Appleton, Wis., U.S.—died May 2, 1957, Bethesda, Md.) U.S. politician. He was a Wisconsin circuit judge (1940–42) before enlisting in the Marine Corps in World War II. In 1946 he upset Robert La Follette, Jr., to win election to the U.S. Senate. He remained little known until 1950, when he publicly charged that 205 communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. Reelected in 1952, he obtained the chairmanship of the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations, and for the next two years he investigated various government departments and questioned innumerable witnesses about their suspected communist affiliations. To his supporters, McCarthy was a dedicated patriot and a guardian of genuine Americanism; to his detractors, he was an irresponsible witch-hunter who was undermining the nation's traditions of civil liberties. The persecution of innocent persons on the charge of being communists and the forced conformity that this practice engendered in American public life came to be known as McCarthyism. His influence waned after 1954, when exposure of his truculent interrogative tactics in nationally televised hearings helped to turn public opinion against him. Later that year he was censured by the Senate for conduct “contrary to Senate traditions.”

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