Adrian S. Fisher

Infobox Person
name = Adrian S. Fisher

image_size = 250px
caption = Adrian S. Fisher
birth_date = January 21, 1914
birth_place = Memphis, Tennessee
death_date = March 18, 1983
death_place = Washington D.C.
education = Princeton, BA, 1934, Harvard LLM 1937
occupation = Gov't Attorney, Diplomat, Law School Dean
spouse = Laura Graham Fisher

Adrian Sanford Fisher (January 21, 1914 – March 18, 1983) was an American lawyer and federal public servant, who served from the late 1930s through the early 1980s. He was associated with the United States War Department and United States State Department throughout his professional career, and participated in the U.S. Government's decision of Japanese-American internment, the Nuremberg Trials, State Department Cold War activities during the Harry S. Truman Administration, and acted as a senior legal advisor to United States Secretary of State Dean Acheson. During the John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter administrations, Fisher was directly involved in the negotiations of international nuclear testing and non-proliferation agreements.

Early life and early government career

Fisher was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and attended elite schools such as Groton School, Princeton University (BA 1934) and Harvard Law School (LLM 1937). [cite web |author= John Woolley and Gerhard Peters |title="U.S. Representative to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament Nomination of Adrian S. Fisher for the Rank of AmbassadorMay 13, 1977" |work= The American Presidency Project|url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007] Fisher was known throughout his life by his nickname "Butch", from his early days as a football player for Princeton, lettering in 1933. [cite web |title="Princeton Letter Winners" |url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007]

Fisher was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1938, and had the distinction of clerking for two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Louis Brandeis (1938-39) and Felix Frankfurter (1939-40). [cite web |year= 1969-70 |title="Oral History Interview with James H. Rowe, page 72" |work= Harry S. Truman Library|url= |accessdate= May 13|accessyear=2007] Fisher began his legal career with his appointment as Law Clerk to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who was then 82 years old. In early 1939, Brandeis announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, and Fisher was invited to transfer to the chambers of the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Following his term as Frankfurter's clerk in 1940, Fisher joined the United States Department of State as the assistant chief of the Foreign Funds Control Division of the State Department, where he served until shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. [cite web |author= Paige Mulhollan, Interviewer |year= 1968 |title="Transcript, Adrian S. Fisher Oral History Interview I, 10/31/68" |work= Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum |url=|accessdate= April 1|accessyear=2007]

World War II government and military service

In early 1942, Fisher and John J. McCloy were assigned to assist implementation of the United States War Department's legal activities for the Japanese American internment programs shortly after the United States entered World War II.cite web |author= Malick W.Gachem and Daniel Gordon |title="From Emergency Law to Legal Process: Herbert Wechsler and the Second World War" |url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007] In late 1942, Fisher received an officer's commission, and trained as a bomber navigator in the United States Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1943, with missions over France, Belgium and Germany. In 1944, he returned to Washington, D.C. as an assistant to the Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy.

Korematsu Supreme Court Case

In 1944, Fisher again was required to become involved in the U.S. 1942-43 internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast of the United States upon his return from Europe. At that time, the case of "Korematsu v. United States", challenging the U.S. government’s power to exclude citizens of Japanese ancestry from military zones, came before the United States Supreme Court. While the Department of Justice's Herbert Wechsler (Assistant U.S. Attorney) was in charge of defending the government's position before the Supreme Court, significant consultation with Fisher was required, as he was again with the legal affairs section of the War Department. During this period, Fisher was involved in critical drafting of the government's brief submitted to the Supreme Court.

Nuremberg trials

In 1945 and 1946, Captain Fisher served as legal advisor to Judge Francis Biddle, the United States Judge to the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg Trials). Fisher assisted in the drafting of the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, which created the legal basis for the Nuremberg trials,cite web |author= Paige Mulhollan, Interviewer |year= 1968 |title="Transcript, Adrian S. Fisher Oral History Interview I, 10/31/68" |work= Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum |url=|accessdate= April 1|accessyear=2007] and later was the principal drafter of the Tribunal's memorandum on the Nazi leadership's "conspiracies to engage in crimes against peace." This document covered the period from 1920 to November 1937, where he demonstrated that the pace of re-armament under Adolf Hitler showed that the Germans "were developing an economic system which was only sensible only if there should be a war." [ Telford Taylor, "The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials" (Little Brown & Co. 1992)pp553-4]

Return to Washington, D.C. and service with Dean Acheson

Upon his return from Europe and exit from the Army Air Force, Fisher served as Solicitor for the U.S. Department of Commerce from 1947 to 1948. Thereafter, Fisher became general counsel of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1948-49. He then served as legal advisor (with the rank of Assistant Secretary of State) to the Department of State (serving in the office of Secretary of State Dean Acheson) from 1949 to 1953. [cite web |title="Legal Advisors to U.S. Department of State" |url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007] During 1952, Mr. Fisher also served as legal advisor to the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations in Paris.

In 1952, Fisher was also appointed by President Harry S. Truman as an original commissioner to the President's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization. The Commission was established in the Executive Office of the President by Executive Order 10392 "Establishing the President's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization". [3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 896] [cite web |title="Statement by the President Upon Issuing Order Establishing a Commission on Immigration and Naturalization: Presidential Paper Historical Series"|url=,1201-truman.shtm |accessdate= May 8|accessyear=2007] The specific context for the 1952 commission was the enactment of the McCarren-Walter Act, which was passed over President Truman's veto. Truman's main disagreement with the Act was its retention of the quota system that began in 1924. After Congress passed the Act over his veto, he formed the Commission and charged it with looking into new options for immigration and naturalization policy.

Secretary of State Acheson's appointment of Fisher as the State Department's Legal Adviser was unique at the time, because of the closeness of the Acheson/Fisher professional relationship. Fisher's role as Acheson's legal adviser was explained by Michael H. Cordozo, the State Department's Assistant Legal Adviser for Economic Affairs, 1950-52:

(Acheson) insisted on having, as a legal adviser, a lawyer whose ability as a lawyer and whose judgment in politics and statesmanship could be greatly respected. He got Adrian Fisher for that, and he involved him in all of the political and other activities that he himself was involved in. The Secretary of State always is involved in a lot of controversial things, and here we had the McCarthy era, the attack on the whole concept of Foreign Service and the State Department, and a terrific controversy over what to do about China, who had "lost China." Fisher was always at Acheson's right hand when he was dealing with other people about these things. Wherever he went, Fisher's office was backstopping him, getting all the necessary background information so he'd be prepared for any kind of question that came up. Of course, Acheson's own approach to being Secretary of State was such that when you took an agreement to him to be signed, his chief question was "By what authority do I sign this?" And whoever brought it to him to get it signed, had to be ready with the answer that would satisfy a lawyer -- "by what legal authority" -- as well as what it provides and so forth. [cite web |title="Truman Library Oral History of Michael H. Cordozo, pages 52-53." |url= |accessdate= May 5 |accessyear=2007]

Building the H-bomb

In late 1949, President Truman asked Dean Acheson to concentrate on the question of whether the United States should develop the hydrogen bomb. Acheson formed a working group under the United States National Security Council (NSC) executive secretary Sidney Souers, consisting of R. Gordon Arneson, Paul Nitze and Fisher, who served as the State Department's legal adviser on the project.cite web |title="Truman Library Oral History of R. Gordon Arneson, page 62." |url= |accessdate= May 5 |accessyear=2007] It was Arneson's view that each member of the working group were of one mind. He said, "The four principals in the State Department were Acheson, Nitze, Fisher and myself. I don't think it was necessary for any one of us to persuade anybody else; we all were of a mind that there really wasn't any choice."

Fisher was part of this same working group which recommended that an internal NSC study be conducted on the overall U.S. foreign policy as it pertained to the newly developing "Cold War". This classified study (declassified in 1977) called NSC-68, was the blueprint for the Truman Doctrine for containment of communism, which provided the overall policy concepts for the U.S. participation in the Cold War throughout the 1950s. [cite web |title="NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security" |url= |accessdate= May 5 |accessyear=2007]

Congressional Hearings on the firing of General Douglas MacArthur

On April 11, 1951, President Truman announced the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur from his duties as Allied Commander of United Nations forces in the Far East. Following MacArthur's firing and the subsequent public outcry, the Joint Committee on Armed Services and Foreign Relations of the United States Senate conducted an inquiry into removal of MacArthur. Fisher was assigned the responsibility for the coordination of the State Department Congressional testimony regarding the firing of General MacArthur. [cite web |title="Oral History Interview of Judge Theodore Tannenwald, Jr." (Truman Museum and Presidential Library) |url= |accessdate= May 6|accessyear=2007 ] [cite web |title="Oral History Interview of Ben Hill Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations, 1949-55" (Truman Museum and Presidential Library) |url= |accessdate= May 6|accessyear=2007 ]

Fisher and the Acheson Capitol Hill fist-fight

In August 1950, Fisher was involved in an incident between Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Senator Kenneth S. Wherry, Nebraska Republican and minority whip of the United States Senate, during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the hearing, Senator Wherry began to harangue Acheson about events in Korea. Suddenly, Acheson jumped out of his chair towards Wherry, with fists raised. Fisher was required to physically hold Acheson back from striking Wherry. As the incident was told by eye-witness John H. Ohly, then the Assistant Director, Office of International Security Affairs, Department of State,

"The next day the administration threw in its big guns -- Secretary Acheson, Louis Johnson, and, from ECA, William Foster. This time the going was really rough from the Republican side of the table and Acheson consciously lost his temper over some of Wherry's remarks and got up and tried to slug him. Adrian Fisher, State Department Legal Adviser and a close friend of Acheson, caught his arm, fortunately, because Acheson would have missed Wherry by about three feet and probably fallen flat on his face on the floor. It was a great show." [cite web |title="Truman Library Oral History of John H. Ohly, page 134." |url= |accessdate= May 5 |accessyear=2007]

This scene was portrayed in the film "The Manchurian Candidate", with Frank Sinatra (as Major Marco) taking on Fisher's role of restraining (in that instance) the United States Secretary of Defense. [cite web |author=Carol Bundy |year= 2005 |title="How Close to the Truth Was the Manchurian Candidate?" |work= George Mason University's History News Network |url=|accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007]

Nuclear arms control and disarmament activities

From 1961 to 1968, Fisher served as the Deputy Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in which he took a primary negotiations role during the Atomic Test Ban Treaty of 1963 between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. At that time he was Deputy to John J. McCloy, Adviser to the President on Disarmament. In 1968, Fisher served as one of the chief U.S. negotiators of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and 59 other countries on July 1, 1968. [Testimony of Eldon Greeberg on Assessing "Rights" Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty before the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation of the House Committee on International Relations, Washington, D.C., March 2, 2006,] A collection of letters from Adrian Fisher to President Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk regarding his perception and activities on arms control and disarmament is maintained by the Federation of American Scientists. [cite web |title="FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES 1964-1968, Volume XI, Arms Control and Disarmament" |url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007]

Return to private law practice and academics

In 1968, Fisher re-entered private law practice, again with Covington & Burling (during the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration (1953-60) Fisher joined the Covington firm, with Dean Acheson, for the first time) and became General Counsel to the "Washington Post". [cite web |author= Paige Mulhollan, Interviewer |year= 1968 |title="Transcript, Adrian S. Fisher Oral History Interview I, 10/31/68" |work= Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum |url=|accessdate= April 1|accessyear=2007] Fisher's connection with the Washington Post arose because of his close friendship with the Post's then-owner Phillip Graham since his early days in Washington, D.C. Both Fisher and Graham had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and had shared a rented house (belonging to future Secretary of State Dean Acheson), together with Donald Hiss (brother of Alger Hiss). [ Unpublished interview with former Fisher Law Clerk Scott Clarkson,June 1, 2007.] From 1969 to 1975, Fisher served as Dean of Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C. [cite web |title="Georgetown Law Center Campus Completion Project - Construction Notes" |url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007] Dean Fisher was installed as the first occupant of the Francis Cabell Brown Chair in International Law of the center on January 25, 1977, and served as law professor from 1977 to 1980. [cite web |title="Harvard University Library - Papers of Raoul Berger, 1921-2000" |url= |accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007]

U.S. Disarmament Representative

President Jimmy Carter nominated Fisher for the rank of Ambassador while serving as the U.S. Representative to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in 1977, where he served through 1981. [cite web |title="John Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project" |url=
accessdate= April 7|accessyear=2007
] With the United States represented by Fisher, the first Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly was held in 1978 and led to the established in 1979 of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. [cite web |title="Disarmament in Geneva" |url=
accessdate= May 6|accessyear=2007

Return to academics

In 1981, Fisher joined the faculty of George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, teaching various seminars on negotiation tactics. The George Mason University Law Review named its annual award for best student article in honor of Mr. Fisher. From 1981 to 1982, Mr. Fisher also served as an advisor to John J. McCloy during the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (established by Congress in 1980). This commission reviewed the impact of Executive Order 9066 on Japanese-Americans and determined that they were the victims of discrimination by the Federal government. Fisher died on March 18, 1983, aged 69, from cancer at his home in Washington, D.C. [cite news|title=OBITUARY; ADRIAN S. FISHER, 69, ARMS TREATY NEGOTIATOR|publisher=New York Times|date=1983-03-19, Saturday|url=]


External links

* [{48511AB3-7A2C-4E60-8585-7C76CA85EBE2}&type=Image/ Adrian S. Fisher and others with President Kennedy signing Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, October 7, 1963 (JFK Library)]
* [ Adrian S. Fisher nominated with rank of Ambassador while serving as the U.S. Representative to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (John Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project)]
* [ Federation of American Scientists - Letters From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Fisher) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk]
* [ Group photograph of President Truman with undersecretaries and aides of various executive departments including Adrian S. Fisher, January 6, 1953 (Truman Museum and Presidential Library)]
* [ LBJ Library Oral History of Adrian S. Fisher]

NAME=Fisher, Adrian S.
SHORT DESCRIPTION=American Lawyer and State Department Official
DATE OF BIRTH=January 21, 1914
PLACE OF BIRTH=Memphis, Tennessee
DATE OF DEATH=March 18, 1983
PLACE OF DEATH=Washington, D.C.

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