Though Pack claims his goal was to produce ""a complete and objective biography"" of a ""complex, colorful and fascinating...

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EDWARD BENNETT WILLIAMS FOR THE DEFENSE

Though Pack claims his goal was to produce ""a complete and objective biography"" of a ""complex, colorful and fascinating individual,"" the result (perhaps because Williams ""cooperated"" with Pack's efforts) is a lengthy, largely flattering, fact-filled but unilluminating chronicle of Williams' public career--without an iota of insight into what makes the man tick. Still, the public career alone makes for not-uninteresting reading: in the early 1950s, Williams represented several HUAC Hollywood witnesses (all of whom named names); he defended Joe McCarthy before the Watkins Committee on Senate censure charges (Williams insists that McCarthy could have avoided censure if he had kept his mouth shut and let Williams carry the ball) and against a libel suit by Drew Pearson; he acted as counsel for various mobsters, including Frank Costello in his denaturalization case (Williams found him a ""very pleasant fellow""), for Congressman Adam Clayton Powell in his tax-evasion case (where Williams poleaxed the prosecutors by also showing up as counsel for their chief witness, who then lost her memory), for influence peddler Bobby Baker (a rare loss), for former Treasury Secretary John Connally in the milk-pricing corruption case, and, last but not least, for Jimmy Hoffa (which cancelled, for a long time, Williams's friendship with RFK). His clients must meet three criteria, says Williams: they must give him total control of the case, they must tell him the truth, and they must be able to pay his fees. Even so, there are people he won't represent. Williams claims he was approached by Rabbi Korff to defend Nixon, but declined (if he'd been Nixon's lawyer, he'd ""have had him. . .destroy the tapes, instantly""). He also refused to represent Dr. Speck and his antiwar associates (""Those fuckers don't need a lawyer, they need a toastmaster""). Pack devotes one chapter to Williams the sports entrepreneur (Redskins, Orioles), which includes a good blow-by-blow recap of Williams's rocky relationship with controversial Redskins' ex-coach George Allen. (""I gave him an unlimited budget and he exceeded it,"" said Williams.) All in all: a pedestrian recap of some flashy doings.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983