Obituary: Corliss Lamont
Dr. Corliss Lamont, author, teacher, and defender of civil liberties, passed away at his
home in New York this past May. He was 93.
For many years, Lamont supported scholars in collecting and editing manuscripts of the
classical American philosophers, and he specifically assisted Columbia University in
purchasing many Santayana manuscripts. He also provided annual funding for The
Works of George Santayana through 1993. In his pamphlet, '"The Enduring Impact of
George Santayana," Lamont writes, **I believe that his [Santayana's] name, and
influence will indeed be lasting, for three main reasons: first, because of the
wide-ranging nature and general excellence of his work; second, because he gives a
sound, telling and comprehensive presentation of one of the great living philosophies
— Naturalism or Humanism, and third, because his superb literary style makes him a
joy to read and will continue to attract people whose specialty is not necessarily
philosophy." He wrote to Herman Saatkamp in 1984 pledging annual support for the
Santayana Edition for "as long as I am alive.'* With characteristic humor and goodwill
he wrote to Saatkamp in 1991 saying, "I did not realize I would live so long. I am
now almost 90." Without his intellectual and financial support, the project could not
Educated at Harvard and Columbia, Lamont obtained his Ph.D. in philosophy from
Columbia in 1932. During an active career that spanned nearly a century, he authored
16 books and hundreds of pamphlets, and taught at Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia.
In one of his many works, Lamont describes himself as, "a teacher of philosophy ana*
a worker for world peace." This sequence is important since Lamont believed that
teaching the proper philosophy was the only way to begin the long straggle toward
peace. This 'proper philosophy' according to Lamont was Humanism: a philosophy
that is naturalistic, scientific, and democratic: a philosophy which traces its strands of
influence from Aristotle to Santayana and Dewey.
Corliss Lamont is perhaps best remembered, though, for his strong and persuasive
championing of civil liberties. He not only wrote and spoke on behalf of the liberties
guaranteed by the Bill of Rights but endured the harassment of the McCarthy hearings
and withstood the CIA's illegal perusal of his private mail. Dr. Lamont battled
government agencies mat destroyed basic liberties, often achieving victories in court.
Lamont also served as the clirector of the American Civil liberties Union for 22 years
and was chairman of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee for 30 years.
Among his many honors is the Gandhi Peace Award which he received in 1981.
Texas A&M University