Whittaker Chambers

Chambers, Whittaker, 1901–61, U.S. journalist and spy, b. Philadelphia. He joined the U.S. Communist party in 1925 and wrote for its newspaper before engaging (1935–38) in espionage for the USSR. He left the party in 1939 and began working for Time magazine. In 1948 he testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, accusing Alger Hiss, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Dept. official, of being a Communist party member. Hiss sued for libel, and Chambers then accused him of having been part of an espionage ring. Chambers, now being promoted by Congressman Richard Nixon, led investigators to his Maryland farm, where he produced from a hollowed-out pumpkin State Dept. documents he alleged Hiss had given him. Hiss was indicted for perjury, and after two trials was found guilty (1950) and imprisoned. The case was extremely controversial, and both men were vehemently attacked and defended.

See Chambers's autobiography, Witness (1952, repr. 1983); A. Cooke, A Generation on Trial (1950, 2d ed. 1952); R. Seth, The Sleeping Truth: The Hiss-Chambers Affair Reappraised (1968); A. Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (1978); S. Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers (1997).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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