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Corliss Lamont (1902-1995) is a 20th century American hero whose independent thinking challenged prevailing ideas in philosophy, economics, religion, patriotism, world peace and the exercise of our cherished civil liberties.
Corliss Lamont was born to Wall Street wealth, yet he championed the cause of the working class, and was derided as a "Socialist" and a "traitor to his class".
Corliss Lamont's Humanist belief that earthlings have evolved without supernatural intervention and are responsible for their own survival on this planet caused traditionalists to label him a "godless atheist".
Corliss Lamont's patriotic insistence that the United States maintain a productive relationship with the Soviet Union in the face of prevailing rabid anti-communist hysteria earned him the accusation by Senator Joseph McCarthy of being "un-American". [See Philip Wittenberg (ed.), The Lamont Case: History of a Congressional Investigation, Corliss Lamont and the McCarthy Hearings (New York: Horizon Press, 1957) for details.]
Corliss Lamont was a philosopher, author and poet who carried several landmark cases to the courts successfully, including a suit [381 U.S. 301 (1965)] against the United States Postmaster General which was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court's decision was in Dr. Lamont's favor.
He taught a course in Humanism at Columbia University. Upon his death, the Columbia Record published this notice. A tribute to his life was held at Columbia on September 18, 1995. He endowed a chair in Civil Liberties at Columbia Law School, currently occupied by Prof. Vincent A. Blasi. He contributed to the construction of the Corliss Lamont Rare Book Reading Room at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University and helped to create, through donations of letters, papers, and works of art, the Julian Huxley, John Masefield, George Santayana, and Rockwell Kent collections held there. He also played a major role in the creation of the Spinoza Collection. The Corliss Lamont Papers reside in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University.
Located in the Corliss Lamont Room in the Class of 1945 Library, one of the Special Collections at Phillips Exeter Academy, is the John Masefield Collection, part of the Lamont Poets Collection. The Lamont Poetry Fund supports the Lamont Poetry Series and the Lamont Younger Poets Prize at Phillips Exeter.
Dr. Lamont provided a portion of the funding for The Santayana Edition, The Works of George Santayana, as published by The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, and supported by The National Endowment for The Humanities, and others, currently hosted by the Institute for American Thought at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indiana. Written by Clay Splawn of Texas A&M University, an obituary was published in the No. 13, Fall 1995, issue of the Bulletin of the Santayana Society, then edited by Angus Kerr-Lawson of the Department of Pure Mathematics, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
During his lifetime he was honored with many awards, including the Gandhi Peace Award in 1981. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Urban League.
The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University stands on a 125-acre estate in Palisades, N.Y. which was donated by his mother, Florence Lamont, who also endowed the Florence Corliss Lamont Professor of Divinity and Professor of Old Testament, Harvard University Divinity School, currently held by Paul D. Hanson, Ph.D. His father, Thomas W. Lamont, who was Chairman of J.P. Morgan, was a major donor toward the creation of the Lamont Library at Harvard.
New interest is sparked in the lifestance of Corliss Lamont because his Great Nephew Ned Lamont was the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate from the state of Connecticut in the 2006 election. Ned's Grandfather, Thomas S. Lamont and Corliss were brothers, sons of Florence Corliss and Thomas W. Lamont, a partner of J.P. Morgan.
Frederick Edwords, then Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, authored an excellent article for the July/August 1995 issue of the Humanist magazine on the life of Corliss Lamont entitled Requiem for a Freedom Fighter, which has been included on this website.
Below is a listing of books authored or co-authored by Dr. Lamont.
- A Humanist Funeral Service *
(revised by Beth K. Lamont and J. Sierra Oliva and republished in a Fourth Revised Edition in 2011 as
A Humanist Funeral Service and Celebration)
- A Humanist Wedding Service *
- A Lifetime of Dissent
- Freedom Is As Freedom Does: Civil Liberties in America * **
- Freedom of Choice Affirmed *
- Lover's Credo: Poems of Love *
- Remembering John Masefield *
- Russia Day by Day: A Travel Diary (Co-authored with Margaret Lamont)
- Soviet Civilization
- The Illusion of Immortality *
(originally published in 1932 as Issues of Immortality: A Study in Implications)
- The Independent Mind: Essays of a Humanist Philosopher
- The Peoples of the Soviet Union
- The Philosophy of Humanism
(originally published in 1949 as Humanism as a Philosophy)
- Voice in the Wilderness: Collected Essays of Fifty Years
- Yes To Life: Memoirs of Corliss Lamont *
- You Might Like Socialism: A Way of Life for Modern Man ***
Below is a listing of books edited or co-edited by Dr. Lamont.
- Albert Rhys Williams, September 28, 1883 - February 27, 1962: In Memoriam
- Collected Poems of John Reed (Edited and with a Foreword by Corliss Lamont)
- "Dear Corliss": Letters from Eminent Persons
- Dialogue on George Santayana (Edited by Corliss Lamont with the assistance of Mary Redmer)
- Dialogue on John Dewey (Edited by Corliss Lamont with the assistance of Mary Redmer)
- Helen Lamb Lamont: A Memorial Tribute
- Letters of John Masefield to Florence Lamont (Edited by Corliss Lamont and Lansing Lamont)
- Man Answers Death: An Anthology of Poetry
- Studies on India and Vietnam (Written by Helen B. Lamb and Edited by Corliss Lamont)
- The Thomas Lamonts in America
(originally published in 1962 as The Thomas Lamont Family)
- The Trial of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn by the American Civil Liberties Union (Edited and with an Introduction by Corliss Lamont)
* The Corliss Lamont Bookshelf page, located on this website, contains additional information on these eight featured titles, seven of which are still in-print and currently available for purchase new direct from Amazon.com.
** The full text of the First Edition (1956) of Freedom Is As Freedom Does: Civil Liberties Today is available on the Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections website via the link below. The book is available for online reading as well as in the form of a downloadable PDF file. This link opens in a new tab/window.
Read online or download:
*** The full text of You Might Like Socialism: A Way of Life for Modern Man is available on the Internet Archive website via the links below. The book, which is part of the American Libraries, is offered in multiple formats including PDF, DjVu, plain ASCII text, JPEG and JPEG 2000 image files, and flip book. These links open in a new tab/window.
Direct download of all available formats:
In late 2008, Beth K. Lamont began work on a new introduction to You Might Like Socialism: A Way of Life for Modern Man. This effort was completed in April 2009 and this new book, entitled Lefties Are In Their Right Minds, was published in a trade paperback edition by Half-Moon Foundation on May 18, 2009 and is now available for purchase from Amazon.com. More information about the book, including audio promos and news and press releases, can be found on the Lefties Are In Their Right Minds page.
The Eighth Edition of The Philosophy of Humanism (420 pages, illustrated and indexed, with Reference Notes and Selected Bibliography) was published in 1997 in trade paperback format by Humanist Press. We are pleased to offer an electronic text version for free downloading from this website.
For further information, follow the link to our download page.
The Eighth Edition of The Philosophy of Humanism is in-print and available for purchase new direct from Amazon.com.
The full text of the revised and re-issued 1994 edition of Lover's Credo: Poems of Love, containing all 31 poems, is now available for viewing in HTML format on this website by following this link. A "no frames" version is available here.
Lover's Credo: Poems of Love is also available for purchase from third-party sellers on Amazon.com.
The Affirmative Ethics of Humanism, a magazine article by Corliss Lamont, in which the author stresses the joy of life and working for the good of the community, using reason and scientific method for the solution of ethical problems, has been published here.
Over the course of more than a half-century, Corliss Lamont authored approximately three dozen pamphlets on a variety of subjects. Information about many of these pamphlets, including the well-known Basic Pamphlets series, as well as a downloadable PDF version of On Understanding Soviet Russia, can be found on the Pamphlets by Corliss Lamont page.
One of Corliss Lamont's favorite organizations was the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC), of which he was Chairman. On our Bill of Rights and NECLC page you'll find excerpts from their publication, Bill of Rights Journal, describing their activities over the years, starting with a statement of purpose and including descriptions of the organization's many civil liberties triumphs in the courts. You'll also be able to view the U.S. Bill of Rights and download a copy suitable for printing.
Bob Dylan and the NECLC
At its annual Bill of Rights Dinner on December 13, 1963, the NECLC presented its Tom Paine Award for recognition of distinguished service in the fight for civil liberty to singer/song writer Bob Dylan. You'll find more information about this, including Mr. Dylan's acceptance speech and the controversy it caused on our Bob Dylan and the NECLC page.
Below are links to a series of multimedia files — Corliss Lamont singing the old Irving Berlin show tune "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody", a six-minute video clip from a film shot by his grandson several years ago entitled "Corliss Lamont: Renegade Patriot", a MIDI song file, "Here And Now", complete with musical notation and lyrics, dedicated to Corliss Lamont, and four hours of raw, unedited video of a Civil Liberties Forum held at Columbia University Law School on April 5, 2002. This event, which featured a debate entitled "Must our Civil Liberties be Relinquished Under the Threat of Terrorism?", was conducted in honor of the centenary of the birth of Corliss Lamont.
- "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" [streaming audio]
- "Corliss Lamont: Renegade Patriot" [MPEG-4 video]
- "Here And Now", A Humanist Song [MIDI]
The video of the "Must our Civil Liberties be Relinquished Under the Threat of Terrorism?" debate held at Columbia University Law School is available in the form of four one-hour segments in MPEG-4 format.
- Corliss Lamont Centenary Civil Liberties Forum [MPEG-4 videos]
Video of Corliss Lamont and Dr. Herbert A. Tonne discussing the subject of immortality, taken from a 1986 New York public access cable television show.
- Corliss Lamont and Herbert Tonne [MPEG-4 video with downloadable MPEG-4 AVC/AAC video file]
Video of Corliss Lamont and Pete Seeger, taken from an unpublished 1992 film shot by Jonathan Heap, filmmaker and grandson of Corliss Lamont.
- Corliss Lamont and Pete Seeger [MPEG-4 video with downloadable MPEG-4 AVC/AAC video file]
Historic 45-minute 1986 promotional film entitled "Humanism: Making Bigger Circles" narrated by Isaac Asimov and including a definition of Humanism by Corliss Lamont.
- Humanism: Making Bigger Circles [YouTube Video & downloadable MPEG-4 AVC/AAC video files]
Streaming audio of Dr. Helen B. (Boyden) Lamb, second wife of Dr. Corliss Lamont and author of Vietnam's Will to Live: Resistance to Foreign Aggression from Early Times Through the Nineteenth Century, along with Prof. Tran Van Dinh of the Asian Studies Department at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, interviewed by Casper Citron at the Algonquin Hotel, former home of the Algonquin Round Table, originally broadcast on WQXR radio in New York, March 22, 1973.
- Helen Lamb on the Casper Citron Show from the Algonquin Hotel [streaming audio]
Recently added: Streaming video of Dr. Corliss Lamont interviewed on the CBS television network in 1952.
- Corliss Lamont Television Interview [MPEG-4 video with downloadable MPEG-4 AVC/AAC video file]
Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard & MIT
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This page last revised: May 29, 2021.