At the height of his railing against “cancel culture” earlier this summer, President Trump issued an executive order creating the Interagency Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes and asked state and local leaders to make recommendations on historical figures who should be honored with a monument or statue to be featured in his proposed National Garden of American Heroes.
State Sens. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) and Justin D. Ready (R-Carroll) have answered the call. They announced Wednesday that they are submitting the name of Whittaker Chambers, the anti-Communist crusader who lived in Westminster, for consideration.
Chambers was a controversial figure in American history.
A journalist and former member of the U.S. Communist Party, Chambers famously fingered Alger Hiss, a former U.S. government official and also a Marylander (born in Baltimore), as a Soviet spy during 1948 hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Those hearings — and especially the campaign to expose Hiss — catapulted a young California congressman named Richard M. Nixon to national prominence.
Hiss filed a $75,000 slander suit against Chambers. During pre-trial proceedings, Hiss’ lawyers demanded Chambers show evidence against their client. Chambers produced documents that he had been hiding in a hollowed-up pumpkin on his Westminster farm, several of which contained Hiss’ handwriting and others that had been produced on Hiss’ typewriter. These later became known as “The Pumpkin Papers.”
Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury, and after his trial, remarked, “Until the day I die, I shall wonder how Whittaker Chambers got into my house to use my typewriter.”
In nominating Chambers for consideration, Hough said, “Whittaker Chambers came to personally understand the horrors of the communist system and spent his life fighting communism and working to spread freedom. His work not only exposed Soviet spies working in our government, but inspired millions of Americans to fight against communism.”
“It’s hard for us to imagine now, but in the 1930’s and 40’s, there was a legitimate communist espionage ring in a number of U.S. Government institutions,” Ready added. “Whittaker Chambers showed incredible courage in shrugging off what he correctly called the ‘absolute evil’ of Communism and became a beacon of moral clarity to our nation.”
The Chambers Farm has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Chambers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Reagan in 1984.
Given Trump’s fealty to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it’s fair to wonder how he’ll respond to the senators’ recommendation.