Ordeal of Living

Time Magazine, December 6, 1954

Early one frosty, sunny morning at Lewisburg, Pa. last week, a mother led her 13-year-old son into the Federal Penitentiary's Administration Building. She went up to a handsome, 50-year-old man who kissed her and said: "Priscilla." Wrapping his arms around the body, the man greeted him with a "Hiya, Tony." Then Priscilla, Anthony and Alger Hiss walked into the sunlight.

After serving three years, eight months and five days in prison for perjury, Alger Hiss was paroled (until next September). Outside the prison a throng of more than 70 newsmen surged around him as he intoned his careful words: "I am very glad to use this chance--the first I have had in nearly four years---to reassert my complete innocence of the charges that were brought against me by Whitaker Chambers . . . I have had to wait in silence while in m absence, a myth has been developed. I hope that the return of the mere man will help to dispel the myth. . . I shall renew my efforts to dispel the deception that has been foisted on the American people." He said he hoped to "allay" the "fear and hysteria of those these times." Asked if he planned to write a book, he replied: "I certainly intend to do some writing." A box wrapped in Manila paper, said to contain Hiss's notes and papers, was loaded into a red Chevrolet convertible. Then , with his family and two lawyers, Hiss drove off in the red convertible to freedom..

In New York City, Hiss will live in a third-floor Greenwich Village walkup apartment that his wife and son have called home. While on parole, he must avoid "evil companions" and report his activities monthly to a parole officer. Confined to New York's Southern District, he may travel upstate almost to Albany, but not to Brooklyn or New Jersey. Being disbarred, he may no longer practice law.

The outlook for Hiss was the subject of some reflection by Whitaker Chambers. On his Maryland farm, where he is also doing some writing, Chambers, who is now much thinner than he was before his two major heart attacks in the last two years, observed: "Alger Hiss will be passing from the ordeal of prison to the ordeal of daily living, which may well prove more trying. His is approaching the most difficult moment of his life." Next day, a reporter relayed this thought to Hiss as he arrived at his Greenwich Village home. Asked HIss tersely: "Was that his hope or a statement?"

When another reporter appeared at the Chambers farm, Esther Chambers sat him down in front of the kitchen fireplace to wait while Chambers went to his typewriter, put a piece of yellow paper in it and wrote:" "The saddest single factor about the Hiss case is that nobody can change the facts as they are known. Neither Alger Hiss nor I however much we might wish to do so, can change these facts. They are there forever. That is the inherent tragedy of this case."

Alger Hiss leaves prison, November 27, 1954, with
son Tony and Priscilla. From The Alger Hiss Story website.

Priscilla Hiss
The Lantern
Alumnae Registry
Prison Visitor
Letter to Editor