– Life History Essay, Research Paper
Who was Joseph McCarthy?
Joseph R. McCarthy was born in 1908 on a family farm in Wisconsin. He went to a country school and decided he was done with his education at the young age of 14. After that, he explained to his family that he was finished with his studies and wanted to become a farmer like his father.
Joe began a profitable business of raising chickens after borrowing a plot of land from his father. Unfortunately, Joe became very ill and his business perished. Joe decided that he would go to work. At age 19 he became the manager of a grocery store in Manawa, a town thirty miles away. Some friends of his convinced him to go back to high school. He was a very smart man and, at the age of 20, managed to finish four years of high school in just one year. In 1930 he enrolled in Marquette University in Milwaukee where he soon succeeded in getting his law degree in 1935. He ended up moving north to Waupaca. There he ran and won the judgeship for the Tenth District of the Wisconsin Curcuit Court.
In 1942, Joe enlisted in the Marine Corps even though he was exempt for the draft due to his public position. In his first two years as a lieutenant, he went on many flying missions, broke his leg on a ship during a party and gained a lot of attention from the press along the way. Although later he claimed that his injured leg was caused by ten pounds of sharpnel that he was carrying at the time. There is also a dispute about exactly how many flying missions he actually went on.
Sometime in 1944, McCarthy attempted to beat Alexander Wiley for a senitorial seat in Wisconsin but was defeated. But that wasn’t all. He was already planning to run against Robert La Follette (a senator who’s seat was up for re-election in just two years).
La Follette would be a difficult one to beat because he was a pretty well known man. But Joe fought hard and spent a lot of money to win. He attacked La Follette and his views relentlessly and spent all of his time campaigning. He was lucky though, because La Follette decided that he would not try to hard and only campaigned for a few weeks. After all of his hard work, Joe won the election and got the chair for Junior Senator from Wisconsin. Joseph R. McCarthy was now on the road to the beggining of his senetorial career.
His early years in the senate were unimpressive, but in 1949, with an increasingly anti-communist political atmosphere at home, McCarthy found a cause. This cause was discovered on the night of January 7, 1950. McCarthy was having dinner at a resturant when one of his dinner guests brought up the issue of communism. McCarthy loved this idea right from the start and vowed to bring down all of the communists in the United States Government.
In February of 1950, in Wheeling, West Virginia, McCarthy delivered a speech where he made the first of a series of claims that he had the names of 205 “known communists” who were employed by the State Department. This fueled one of the many controversies, over McCarthy, because there wasn’t one reliable copy of the speech. The dispute was over how many names McCarthy said he actually had. He later claimed that he had only said 57. Although, now there is substantial proof that he had actually said 205. This was the beggining of a personal witch hunt that lasted more than five years.
Even though McCarthy never provided any solid evidence to back up his claims, in that particular time in political history, his accusations and subsequent investigations ended many careers and damaged a lot of innocent lives.
After winning re-election in 1952, McCarthy became chairman of the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, a position he used to launch many of his investigations of government officials and agencies. He did not shy away from questioning the integrity of people such as George C. Marshall or even President Eisenhower. The President disliked McCarthy intensely but refused to “get in the gutter with him” and never denounced the senator publicly.
However, by 1953 a seemingly out of control McCarthy was making a ot of enemies. His investigation of the activities of an Army Dentist, Major Irving Peress, eventually led to his downfall. In 1954, the army launched a counter attack, charging that McCarthy was seeking treatment for a consultant, David Schine, who in 1953 had been drafted into the army. Eventually, McCarthy’s own subcommittee decided to hold hearings on the matter (The Army-McCarthy hearings). The televised hearings fully exposed McCarthy as irresponsible and dishonest. In December, 1954 the senate voted to censure him. McCarthy never regretted it, but quickly became an insignificant alcoholic. He died of a liver ailment in Bethesda, Maryland, on May 2, 1957 at age 47.