NEW YORK — Frederick G. Fisher, who as a young lawyer became a target of Joseph R. McCarthy but whose boss' spirited defense helped turn the tables on the senator, has died of a heart attack. He was 68.
Fisher died Thursday while attending a lecture sponsored by the Israeli Bar in Tel Aviv. He was a senior partner in the Boston firm of Hale & Dorr, which he joined shortly after his graduation from Harvard Law School.
Fisher played an inadvertent part in the dramatic 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings that grew out of a dispute between the senator and Army officials, whom McCarthy had accused of "coddling Fifth Amendment Communists."
A special counsel for the Army at the hearings before McCarthy's investigations subcommittee was Joseph N. Welch, a partner in Hale & Dorr, in which Fisher was then an associate.
McCarthy accused Fisher of having been a member of the National Lawyers Guild "long after it had been exposed as the legal arm of the Communist Party."
Welch, near tears, responded: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I had never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. I fear he shall always bear a scar, needlessly inflicted by you.
"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" he said to McCarthy.
The exchange on national television was considered a pivotal point in turning public opinion against the senator, who subsequently was censured by his colleagues.
Fisher later became a partner at the firm in 1958 and organized its commercial law department.
He also served as president of the Massachusetts Bar Assn. and as chairman of many committees of the American and Boston bar associations.