Whittaker Chambers’ Family Says No Thanks to ‘American Heroes’ Monument

    Earlier this year, two Republican state senators answered President Trump’s call for nominees to a proposed “National Garden of American Heroes” by suggesting that Whittaker Chambers, a renowned anti-Communist who spent much of his life in Carroll County, deserved a place there.

    In a letter to the editor of The Carroll County Times over the weekend, Chambers’ grandsons said thanks, but no thanks.

    “Thank you, Senators, for your high esteem for Whittaker Chambers, but we request that you withdraw his name,” Joseph Chambers and David Chambers of Westminster wrote.

    “Whittaker Chambers sought a simple life of farming the Pipe Creek Farm. He was a Quaker. His beliefs ran toward austerity and self-effacement. Quaker meeting houses stand unadorned, without monuments or statues. He would not have liked such fanfare.

    “The best way to remember our grandfather is to read his books. They are his memoir ‘Witness’ (1952) and his later writings in ‘Cold Friday’ (1964). Rather than a monument, he left testimony to read.”

    A journalist and former member of the U.S. Communist Party, Chambers famously accused Alger Hiss, a former U.S. government official and also a Marylander, as a Soviet spy during 1948 hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee.

    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-out pumpkin on his Westminster farm, several of which contained Hiss’ handwriting and others that had been produced on Hiss’ typewriter.

    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.”

    Chambers was a controversial figure in American history, but Sens. Michael R. Hough (R-Frederick) and Justin Ready (R-Carroll) cast him as a hero.

    “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,” Ready said when he and Hough nominated Chambers for a space in Trump’s imagined National Garden of American Heroes in South Dakota.

    Chambers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Reagan in 1984.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.