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Thomas J. Dodd Collection

Identifier: 1997-0004

Scope and Content

The collection contains photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, speeches, political memorabillia, campaign memorabillia, correspondence, and personal memorabillia donated by individuals and organizations which are representative of the life and career of Thomas J. Dodd.


  • Creation: 1935-1996

Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.


Thomas Joseph Dodd, the third generation of his family to reside in Connecticut, was born in Norwich on 15 May 1907. Young Thomas received consistent training in Roman Catholicism, a regimen that significantly shaped his world view as an adult. He attended Norwich public schools and graduated from St. Anselm's Preparatory School in 1926. The future two-term Democratic senator earned a bachelor's degree from Providence College in 1930 and received a law degree from Yale University in 1933. He served as the president of the Yale Democratic Club and led a group of young liberals, the "Flying Wedge", to speak on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

In 1934 Dodd married the former Grace Murphy of Westerly, Rhode Island, and the couple proceeded to raise a family of six children: Thomas J., Jr., Carolyn, Jeremy, Martha, Christopher, and Nicholas.

In the same year U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings, another Connecticut native, was so impressed with Dodd's work at Yale that he convinced the young attorney to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Dodd became a Special Agent and participated in the apprehension of such notorious criminals as John Dillinger, "Babyface" Nelson, and the Bremer kidnappers.

In 1935, Dodd was appointed Director of the National Youth Administration for Connecticut, a position future president Lyndon B. Johnson held for Texas. The NYA aimed to create educational and employment opportunities for young people struggling through the Great Depression. Dodd served as a delegate to the 1936 Democratic National Convention. His meteoric rise continued in 1938 with entry into the U.S. Justice Department as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General. He played a pivotal role in the creation of the department's first Civil Rights Division. Dodd's more noteworthy cases included prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina and defending labor's right to organize and bargain collectively in Georgia.

During World War II, Dodd handled cases involving espionage and sabotage that helped cripple Nazi fifth column efforts to destabilize the United States war effort. His work led to the convictions of Reverend Kurt Molzahn, Wilhelm Kunge, Otto Willimanti, and Count Anostase Vonsiatsky on spying charges. Dodd also helped uncover industrial fraud by American firms supplying military hardware, including such New England companies as Anaconda Wire and Cable, Collyer Insulated Wire, Arrow Machine Tool, and Lincoln Machine.

As the war ended, the Allied Powers prepared to convene a military tribunal to prosecute accused Nazi war criminals. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the American legal team, requested that Dodd join the jurists assembling at Nuremberg, Germany. Dodd served as Vice-Chairman of the Review Board and Executive Trial Counsel. The latter position rendered Dodd the second ranking U.S. lawyer and supervisor of the day-to-day management of the U.S. prosecution team. He shaped many of the strategies and policies through which this unprecedented trial took place and frequently dealt with other Allied legal notables such as Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe of Great Britain and Lieutenant General Roman Rudenko of the Soviet Union. Dodd concentrated upon proving the charge of conspiracy to wage aggressive war and consequently cross-examined German industrialists as well as military and political leaders. He reconstructed the will of the last president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, to reveal that the Nazis had falsified this document to help justify Chancellor Adolph Hitler's consolidation of power.

Dodd presented portions of virtually every aspect of the prosecution's case. He developed a degree of notoriety for displaying the shrunken head of a concentration camp inmate during the trial. Some attorneys deemed such behavior grandstanding and they did not appreciate Dodd's flair for the dramatic. As one of the few civilian lawyers among the U.S. prosecutors, Dodd privately expressed an acute self-consciousness of his unique status. He also experienced the intense loneliness common among Nuremberg staffers separated from their families.

Dodd's Nuremberg work enhanced his stature and visibility back in the United States. He received a Presidential Citation, the U.S. Medal of Freedom, and the Czechoslovakian Order of the White Lion for his outstanding efforts. In 1949 the Polish government, then dominated by Moscow, offered him a prestigious award for service at Nuremberg. Dodd responded with a scathing, public denunciation of Communism in which he refused to accept honors from a regime that he perceived as barely distinct from National Socialism.

Upon his return to America in 1946, Dodd began the private practice of law in Hartford and entered Connecticut politics. He sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1948 against a better-known candidate, Chester Bowles, without ever formally announcing his candidacy. Democratic State Chairman John M. Bailey threw his support behind the more liberal Bowles for fear that the potential third party presidential bid of Henry Wallace would splinter Democrats through the People's Party in Connecticut. Bailey then began a "Draft Dodd" movement for lieutenant governor, but Dodd refused to join what he perceived as a sellout to Communist sympathizers. He focused instead upon civic, charity, and service work. In 1950 Dodd returned to public life to campaign vigorously on behalf of Connecticut Senator Brien McMahon against Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy's efforts to unseat him. Despite his ardent anticommunism, Dodd resisted the overly zealous red-baiting of the Cold War. McMahon triumphed in the ensuing election and Democrats encouraged Dodd to pursue a political career.

Dodd won election to Congress from the First Congressional District in 1952 and was reelected two years later. He was the only Connecticut Democrat to sit in the U.S. House during this period. Dodd served on the Government Operations and Foreign Affairs Committees, as well as the Select Committee to Investigate Communist Aggression. After unsuccessfully running for the U.S. Senate in 1956 against Republican incumbent Prescott Bush, Dodd ran again and defeated Republican William A. Purtell in 1958. Earlier that year he had received the Commander of the Order of Merit award from the President of Italy for counsel provided to help prevent a Communist seizure of power.

Dodd served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chaired its Internal Security Subcommittee. He sat on the Judiciary Committee and chaired its Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee. A brief tenure on the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee completed Dodd's legislative assignments.

Dodd championed a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's gun control legislation long before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with a mail-order rifle. He eventually secured passage of a firearms bill in 1968, legislation that fell far short of his initial expectations. He ardently supported the civil rights legislation of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, particularly with respect to anti-lynching and voting rights laws. Dodd strove to protect children through measures such as curbing the violence on television and stemming the traffic of illegal drugs.

Dodd vigorously opposed Soviet Communism, which he considered the moral equivalent of German Nazism. He similarly warned against admitting Communist China to the United Nations and advocated the formation of "freedom academies" to raise anticommunism to a scholarly level. Although an early and ardent supporter of the United Nations, Dodd grew increasingly disillusioned with this organization as it gradually became more representative of Third World interests. In 1968 he called for the resignation of U.N. Secretary General U Thant for opposing the U.S. presence in Vietnam.

President Johnson briefly considered naming Dodd as his vice-presidential running mate in 1964, but opted instead for Senator Hubert Humphrey. The publicity surrounding the vice-presidential selection may have served as a reward for Dodd's support of Johnson during the 1960 presidential campaign. In 1964 Johnson enthusiastically endorsed Dodd during a campaign swing through Connecticut and Dodd won his second Senate term with a landslide victory over former Republican governor John D. Lodge. Dodd evolved into a sort of unofficial foreign policy spokesman in the Senate for the Johnson administration. When the President authorized an incursion into the Dominican Republic in 1965, Dodd emerged as one of the administration's most outspoken defenders. Such behavior exacerbated a growing feud between Dodd and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The two exchanged condemnatory press releases and subsequently clashed over Vietnam.

Dodd consciously cultivated an image of himself as a party maverick. In part this stance reflected his poor relationship with John M. Bailey. He championed electoral reform during his 1958 Senate campaign in order to, in effect, "democratize" the nomination process against better known candidates such as Abraham Ribicoff. His proposals included a direct primary for all major state offices, the election of the party chairman by the state convention, a binding presidential preference primary, public hearings before creating a party platform, court reform, and reduction of patronage. Dodd's independence from his party extended beyond the state level. In the Senate, he displayed a relatively low degree of partisanship as measured against his Democratic colleagues. Dodd did not hesitate to criticize the Kennedy administration for waging what he perceived as an ineffective campaign against the Castro regime in Cuba. He provided strong support to the Nixon administration over Vietnam at a time when the Democratic Party experienced deep divisions over this and other issues. He never enjoyed particularly amiable relations with Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield because Dodd often publicly questioned his party's leadership and policies.

In 1966 allegations of financial impropriety surfaced against Thomas Dodd. The Senate began holding hearings the following year to investigate Dodd for his alleged transgressions. Senator Russell Long (D-La.) conducted a vigorous and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to clear Dodd's name. The Senate voted 92-5 to censure him for diverting public funds for private use (primarily through the use of testimonial dinners). He escaped censure on the charge of double billing the government by a vote of 51-45.

In 1970 Dodd withdrew his name from consideration by the Democratic State Convention after learning that he would not receive renomination for the Senate. He proceeded to mount an unsuccessful independent campaign against Republican Lowell Weicker and Democrat Joe Duffy. Dodd retired from public life following Weicker's triumph. He died in his Old Lyme home on 24 May 1971, at the age of 64.


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Language of Materials



The collection contains materials about Thomas J. Dodd that have been donated by individuals other than the Dodd Family.

Acquisition Information

Items in this collection were donated by individuals and organizations beginning in 1997. Additional donations have been made periodically.

Related Material

Archives & Special Collections has a substantial collection of materials pertaining to Connecticut politics. For detailed information about this collection please contact the curator or ask at the reference desk.

Thomas J. Dodd Collection
Under Revision
Archives & Special Collections staff
2014 May
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

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