In the 1950s, freshman students who gathered,
sleepily, for an 8 a.m. Elements of Economics
class in room 101 of Homewood's Mergenthaler Hall would
never have guessed that their professor
would become a well-known U.S. congressman. They would have
been astonished to know that he would
be portrayed by actor Ned Beatty in the 2008 hit movie
Charlie Wilson's War.
The professor was Clarence D. Long, a member of the
Political Economy Department from 1946
to 1963, and a specialist in labor economics. Long held his
students' attention with his direct, blunt
style, a characteristic that followed him to Washington
after his election in 1962 to the House of
Representatives from Maryland's Second Congressional
Long remained in Congress for 11 terms, mainly as a
reward for his legendary outreach and
constant availability to his constituents.
But it was his chairmanship of the House's powerful
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations that
gave him enormous influence. He supervised the nation's
foreign aid budget. And it was from that
position in the early 1980s that he helped a Texas
congressman, Charlie Wilson, provide funds
(estimated by some at $600,000 a year) to the Afghan
rebels, the Mujahideen, who were engaged in a
desperate war with the occupying Soviet army. It was a war
the Afghans seemed close to losing until
Long and Wilson made it possible for them to receive modern
Professor Long, known as "Doc Long" in Congress and in
the movie, received some advice about
the situation in Afghanistan from an experienced military
officer, his son, Clarence D. Long III, a
1965 Johns Hopkins ROTC graduate.
The younger Long, a decorated infantryman in Vietnam,
a war his father opposed, recalled
recently that he discussed with his father the Afghans'
need for an inexpensive, mobile, accurate
missile to destroy Soviet aircraft that were decimating
their ranks. "When we handed them
[American-made] Stingers, the Russian air force began to
fall out of the sky," he said.
Congressman Long was defeated for re-election in 1984
by Helen Delich Bentley. He returned to
the university, and then President Steven Muller provided
him an office at Evergreen House.
In a Dec. 27, 1984, Baltimore Sun interview with
Robert A. Erlandson (a 1953 graduate of Johns
Hopkins), now on file in the Hamburger Archives of the
Eisenhower Library, Long called politics "a
messy business." He said, "You have the problem of truth.
There are many shades of truth and you
have to ask yourself constantly: Am I an honest man? I
thought I was. You can't tell the absolute
truth and stay in politics, but the honest guy is the one
who tells the truth by his own light and
Professor Long died in September 1994 at age 85. After
returning from Vietnam, his son was
treated for severe wounds at Walter Reed Army Hospital,
graduated from law school and became a
judge advocate general officer. After retirement, he became
an assistant general counsel to the Air
Force. One of his five children, Andrew, is a medical
doctor and will pursue a fellowship at Johns
Hopkins next year.