WILLIAMSBURG -- Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark said here Wednesday that he hoped there was no obstruction of justice on the part of President Nixon during the Watergate affair.
Talking to reporters following a program at the College of William and Mary, Clark said that obstruction of justice "is one of our gravest offenses, because it destroys the very system we live by."
He said that he had not read all the details of the Watergate tape transcripts. His comments on Watergate were made in response to a question regarding Nixon and discussions with aides about hush money for Watergate defendant E. Howard Hunt.
"I'm not saying there was any kind of obstruction of justice," Clark emphasized, "I'm just saying that I hope it didn't occur."
Clark was on the Supreme Court from 1949 until he retired in 1967.
The recent trial of former Atty. Gen. John N. Mitchell and former Commerce Secretary Maurice H.Stans showed the "strength of our judicial system in that 12 people have the courage to stand up and make important decisions," he said.
Clark was on the W&M campus Wednesday as part of Law Day 1974 program sponsored by the Marshall-Wythe School of Law here, the W&M Student Bar Association and the Norfolk-Portsmouth Bar Association.
During the ceremony, Clark was recognized as one of the nation's "most successful and illustrious jurists" by Dean James P. Whyte of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, who presented Clark with the school's Marshall-Wythe medallion, an award reserved for "selected leaders of the legal profession."
As another part of the Law Day observance, Judge John A. MacKenzie, federal district judge for the eastern district of Virginia, presided over a special session of Federal District Court convened here to naturalize 124 persons from the Tidewater area as U.S. citizens.
Following the ceremony, Clark spoke to about 400 persons. He said that the "great test of democracy is what it puts in the hearts, minds, and purposes of its citizens."
Richmond Times-Dispatch at B-11 (May 2, 1974)
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Clark Praises Judicial System" (1974). 1969–1975: James P. Whyte, Jr. (Acting Dean 1969-1970). 10.