accuser, an accomplished writer, editor, and
translator, was born Jay Vivian Chambers in
Philadelphia in 1901.
his own account, Chambers had a difficult childhood.
His father, an illustrator, abandoned the family
when Chambers was a boy. Chambers' brother committed
suicide at the age of 23. Chambers said he attempted
suicide several times during the course of his
the Hiss trials, the defense demonstrated that
Chambers had repeatedly embellished details
and invented incidents in his life. His first
biographer, Dr. Meyer A. Zeligs, a psychiatrist,
years later pointed to a recurring pattern in
Chambers' life of befriending and then betraying
people he felt drawn to.
1925, Chambers joined the Communist Party and
said that in the 1930s he had served in the
"underground." The date of his departure remains
a subject of dispute. Journalists such as William
A. Reuben have delved into Chambers' life and
questioned the whole basis of his story that
he committed espionage for the Soviet Union.
Chambers, who in the 1930s translated a number
of German books, including "Bambi",
was hired by Time magazine in 1939. He
was a Senior Editor at Time when he publicly
testified against Alger Hiss in 1948. Chambers'
autobiography, "Witness," was a best
seller in the 1950s. He died in 1961.
posthumously received the Medal of Freedom award
from President Ronald Reagan, under whose administration
Chambers' farm in Westminster, Maryland - the
site of the pumpkin patch where Chambers dramatically
hid the "Pumpkin Papers" in 1948 - became a
National Historic Landmark.
more on Chambers' charges against Hiss, click
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