Philosopher Lamont Dies at Age 93

Photograph: Corliss Lamont.

Corliss Lamont, the author, philosopher, civil libertarian, Columbia benefactor and former lecturer in philosophy, died Apr. 26 at his country home in Ossining, N.Y. He was 93 years old and lived in New York City.

He died of heart failure, his family said.

Lamont was born on May 28, 1902, in Englewood, N.J., and grew up in Palisades, N.Y., overlooking the Hudson River. He graduated from Phillips Exeter in 1920 and from Harvard in 1924 with a bachelor's degree and high honors.

After a year of study at Oxford, Lamont returned to the U.S. and earned his Ph.D. at Columbia in 1932. He taught philosophy at Columbia from 1928 to 1932 and from 1947 to 1959. He also taught, at other times, at Cornell, Harvard and the New School for Social Research.

Lamont, whose lifelong fight for civil liberties involved legal action against Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, the C.I.A. and other representatives of authority, served for 22 years as director of the American Civil Liberties Union and 30 years as chairman of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. In 1982, he donated $1 million to Columbia's School of Law to establish a professorship in civil liberties.

He also gave generously throughout his life to the University libraries. He established major literary research collection that include the Julian Huxley Collection, the George Santayana Collection, the Spinoza Collection, the John Masefield Collection and the Rockwell Kent Collection. In 1974, in recognition of his generosity, Columbia awarded Lamont its University Libraries Citation for Distinguished Service.

In 1952 and again in 1958, he ran for the U.S. Senate as a candidate for the American Labor Party and the Independent Socialist Party, respectively.

He is the editor or author of some 30 works, including The Philosophy of Humanism, Freedom of Choice Affirmed, The Illusion of Immortality, Voice in the Wilderness, and his autobiography, Yes to Life.

The Lamont family's ties with Columbia predate Corliss Lamont's birth in 1902. His mother, Florence Corliss Lamont, earned the M.A. in philosophy from Columbia in 1898. The estate that houses the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., was a gift to Columbia from her.

Lamont's first marriage, to writer Margaret Hayes Irish, ended in divorce, and his second wife, Helen Lamb, died in 1975. His third wife, Beth Keehner, whom he married in 1986, survives him.

He is also survived by a son, Hayes, of Newton, Mass.; three daughters, Margot Heap of Greenwich, Florence Antonides of Avon, Conn., and Anne Jafferis of New Haven; and six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; 14 step-children of his last two marriages and 50 step-grandchildren.

Columbia University Record -- May 5, 1995 -- Vol. 20, No. 27