Alger Hiss could really make smoking a pipe look hot. He may or may not have hidden some film in a pumpkin. I don’t think that’s the best place to hide film, but what do I know?
A State Department official, Hiss faced-off with former Russian spy Whittaker Chambers at the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings in 1948, with Chambers accusing Hiss of being a member of the Communist Party while serving the U.S. government. A federal grand jury indicted Hiss with two counts of perjury in 1950; it did not indict him for espionage. He received two five-year sentences and served three and a half years in federal prison. Chambers was never charged with any crime.
Was Hiss a spy for the Russians? Many of relevant files from his case are still sealed and unavailable. After the indictment,at a press conference, Secretary Of State Dean Acheson emotionally stated that he still stood by his man, affirming: “I do not intend to turn my back on Alger Hiss.” He quoted Jesus: “I was a Stranger and ye took me in; Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came unto me.” Acheson’s remarks sent California Representative Richard M. Nixon, serving on the HUAC, into a sweaty tizzy. Nixon accused him of blasphemy.
The Hiss case made the public all nervous about Russian espionage penetrating the U.S. Government in the 1950s. Of course, the public in that era were nervous about any sort of penetration. As a well-educated and highly connected government official from an old American family, Hiss did not fit the profile of a typical spy. Who knew? A Russian spy might be living across the street from you!
Publicity surrounding the Hiss case thrust Nixon into the public spotlight. He won a seat in the Senate in 1950, and became Vice President in 1952, and finally POTUS in 1968. We know how that worked out.
Hiss always maintained his innocence, but he was guilty of being handsome.