Alexander M. Campbell (1948-1949)
Early History: Alexander Morton Campbell was born in 1907 in Coldwater, Ohio. He grew up in Indiana and attended Olivet College in Michigan. In 1930, he received his LL.B. from Indiana University. In 1933, Mr. Campbell joined a law firm in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Over the next several years—indeed, throughout his adult life—Mr. Campbell was active in politics. He became Chair of the Allen County, Indiana Democratic Party in 1934 and served in that capacity until 1936 when he became the principal deputy to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana James R. Fleming.
In the spring of 1941, U.S. Attorney Fleming stepped down to return to private practice and Mr. Campbell was named Acting U.S. Attorney. He served in this capacity until November 1941, when President Roosevelt formally nominated Mr. Campbell as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. In this position, Mr. Campbell was known for his “open door policy” whereby law enforcement agents, attorneys and journalists were welcome to visit him at any time.
Tenure: In the spring of 1948, Mr. Campbell was asked to come to Washington, D.C. to become Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, taking over for T. Vincent Quinn, who had resigned to run as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives for New York’s 5th Congressional District. Mr. Campbell was formally nominated as Assistant Attorney General in August 1948.
During his tenure, Mr. Campbell continued to oversee the Department’s prosecution of suspected communists. He had a small hand in a number of the most sensational cases of the day—including the prosecutions of “Tokyo Rose” and “Axis Sally,” as well as the cases brought against Alger Hiss and Judy Coplin.
Mr. Campbell also appeared before the United States Supreme Court while Assistant Attorney General, arguing the government’s position in Christoffel v. United States. Harold Christoffel, a Wisconsin labor organizer, had been vilified in the press for his purported communist sympathies and was brought before the House Education and Labor Committee in 1947. There, two freshmen congressmen—John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon—led several days of hearings focused on communism in the labor movement. Before the Committee, Christoffel testified that he was not a member of the Communist Party. For these statements, he was subsequently indicted and convicted of perjury. The Supreme Court reversed Christoffel’s convictions in 1949, finding the jury had been incorrectly instructed about the need for the government to prove that a quorum of the Committee had been present during Christoffel’s purportedly perjurious testimony.
While Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Campbell also oversaw the creation of a dedicated “lobbying investigation unit,” whose purpose was to identify violations the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946, which followed the earlier Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 that sought to limit the influence of foreign agents and foreign-sponsored propaganda on American public policy.
Later Career: Mr. Campbell resigned as Assistant Attorney General on December 20, 1949, in order to run for the Democratic nomination to compete in the 1950 election for one of Indiana’s seats in the U.S. Senate. Although his candidacy was endorsed by several national politicians and local newspapers, Mr. Campbell lost the election to incumbent Republican Senator Homer Capehart.
After this loss, Mr. Campbell remained active in politics, and in 1956, he was one of Indiana’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. That convention resulted in the nomination of Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. Senator Stevenson and his running mate, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, would go on to lose the election to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and his running mate, Richard Nixon. He died in 1968 in El Paso, Texas.
This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Criminal Division, please contact the Division.