We Remember Alger

Hiss Tucson, ca. 1985

Alger Hiss on vacation in Tucson, Arizona, in the 1980s.

Many people who had close encounters with Alger Hiss himself at some point during his life, or with others who knew him well, wrote down their thoughts about him. A number of those essays and reflections are included here. In addition, a posthumous oral history project in the early 2000s collected more informal recollections of Alger from friends and acquaintances during his later years. Together,  this material enriches our understanding of Alger Hiss’s character, personality and life, and of his perspective on the Hiss case, the New Deal and the Cold War years.

This section begins with seven recollections and appraisals and concludes with excerpts from the collected oral histories:

  • Dr. Gilbert R. Cherrick recalls a dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt where the subject of Alger Hiss was discussed.
  • Maxwell Geismar, a literary critic and biographer, discusses his friendship with Alger Hiss and the Cold War’s impact on the nation’s literary elite.
  • Jeff Kisseloff, Alger Hiss’s former legal researcher, and managing editor of this site, recalls how the Hiss case became a personal issue for him.
  • Kenneth Simon, one of Alger Hiss’s appellate attorneys, offers some frank comments on the unsuccessful strategy pursued by Hiss’s legal team.
  • Frank Wilkinson, who worked to abolish HUAC and was imprisoned for refusing to testify before the Committee, recounts the triumph that occurred after meeting several of Alger Hiss’s former friends at the Lewisburg penitentiary.
  • Michael Zak, an entrepreneur and early-stage venture capital investor, recalls his encounter with Alger Hiss at Cornell University in the 1970s.
  • Victor Navasky writes an obituary of Alger Hiss for The Nation magazine.
  • Friends and acquaintances describe personal encounters with Alger Hiss toward the end of his life in oral history interviews recorded in the decade after Hiss’s death. The twenty-five participants include Tille Novick, Alger’s boss in the stationery and printing business; Arthur and Peggy Penn; Edith Tiger, longtime director of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee; and Joe and Shirley Wershba of CBS News.