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State senators nominate Westminster resident Whittaker Chambers for federal honor

Whittaker Chambers, shown in this Aug. 3, 1948 file photo testifying before a House investigation committee in Washington, alleged that he had been given State Department secrets by Alger Hiss. (AP Photo/file)
Whittaker Chambers, shown in this Aug. 3, 1948 file photo testifying before a House investigation committee in Washington, alleged that he had been given State Department secrets by Alger Hiss. (AP Photo/file) (Kenneth Koons Jr / Carroll County Times)

A pair of state senators who represent Carroll County have nominated former Westminster resident Whittaker Chambers to be honored by the federal government.

Sens. Justin Ready, R-5, and Michael Hough, R-4, in a joint news release, announced that they have nominated Chambers pursuant to an executive order by President Trump. The Interagency Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes has asked state and local leaders to make recommendations on historical figures who should be honored with a monument, statue or featured in the proposed National Garden of American Heroes.

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Hough and Ready called Chambers an anti-Communist hero.

A one-time member of the U.S. Communist Party and a Soviet spy, Chambers became disillusioned with communism. A writer and editor for Time magazine, he moved to Carroll County in the late-1930s, establishing Pipe Creek Farm.

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Accompanied by his children, Ellen and John, ex-communist Whittaker Chambers looks over the snow-covered western Maryland farm, Dec. 30, 1948, where he spends his time when not testifying before federal probers of spy activities in he United States. (AP Photo
Accompanied by his children, Ellen and John, ex-communist Whittaker Chambers looks over the snow-covered western Maryland farm, Dec. 30, 1948, where he spends his time when not testifying before federal probers of spy activities in he United States. (AP Photo (Kenneth Koons Jr / Carroll County Times)

He testified before the House Un-American Activites Committee in 1948 against U.S. official Alger Hiss, who had been part of the same spy ring as Chambers. Hiss, a former State Department official who had been a key figure in the founding of the United Nations, denied ever having been a communist or a spy.

The evidence Chambers produced became known as the Pumpkin Papers, because Chambers hid five canisters containing microfilm of sensitive documents that implicated Hiss inside a hollowed-out pumpkin. The so-called trial of the century put Carroll County into the national spotlight and helped propel HUAC committee member Richard Nixon to higher office. Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury and served time.

Following his testimony against Hiss, Chambers wrote “Witness,” which served as a powerful warning about the dangers of communism. According to the release, the book inspired Ronald Reagan’s political transformation from New Deal Democrat to a conservative Republican.

“Whittaker Chambers came to personally understand the horrors of the communist system and spent his life fighting communism and working to spread freedom. His work not only exposed Soviet spies working in our government, but inspired millions of Americans to fight against communism,” Hough said.

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The Chambers Farm has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, the only site in Carroll County so designated.

At the time of his death, Chambers had resumed academic studies at then-Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), according to the release.

John Chambers, son of the late Whittaker Chambers, receives for his father the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Monday, March 26, 1984 from President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan at a White House ceremony in Washington. Chamber, the late ex-Communist helped convict Alger Hiss, who passed official secrets while acting as a Soviet spy. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)
John Chambers, son of the late Whittaker Chambers, receives for his father the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Monday, March 26, 1984 from President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan at a White House ceremony in Washington. Chamber, the late ex-Communist helped convict Alger Hiss, who passed official secrets while acting as a Soviet spy. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty) (Bob Daugherty / Carroll County Times)

Chambers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Reagan in 1984.

“It’s hard for us to imagine now, but in the 1930s and ’40s, there was a legitimate communist espionage ring in a number of U.S. government institutions,” Ready said “Whittaker Chambers showed incredible courage in shrugging off what he correctly called the ‘absolute evil’ of Communism and became a beacon of moral clarity to our nation.”

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