WASHINGTON -- President Reagan will award the presidential Medal of Freedom next month to 14 Americans, including one posthumously to Whittaker Chambers, the controversial former communist whose accusations led to the 1950 conviction of State Department official Alger Hiss.
The White House announced Tuesday that among those to be honored are Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, promoter of 'positive thinking,' and singer Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Posthumous awards also will be made to baseball great Jackie Robinson and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
The medals, the nation's highest civilian honor, will be presented at a White House lunch March 26.
They are awarded at the president's discretion under terms of an executive order signed by President Kennedy in 1963 to honor people 'who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interest of the United States, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.'
So far, about 200 have been given.
A White House announcement said Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of the late president, is being honored for her work with the mentally retarded. She is a leading figure in the special Olympics for retarded children.
Sadat, who was assassinated in October 1981, is being cited for his contributions to world affairs and peace.
Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball, breaking the sport's 'color line' when he took the field in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Baker, Senate Republican leader, is retiring at the end of this year.
James Cagney is being honored for his contribution in the field of entertainment and the arts.
For author Louis L'Amour, whose immensely popular novels chronicle cowboy life, the presidential medal follow his receipt in September of a congressional gold medal.
Chambers, a journalist and author of the Cold War era, raised accusations that helped convict State Department official Hiss of perjury for denying he gave secret documents to a communist spy ring.
Chambers joined the Communist Party in the United States in 1924 and worked as an editor and writer at 'The Daily Worker' and 'The New Masses.' In 1938 he quit the party and a year later joined the staff of Time magazine. He stayed with Time until 1948.
Chambers publicly accused Hiss of being a communist spy in 1948. Hiss was indicted on a charge of perjury for denying Chambers' charge and was convicted in 1950 after his second trial. He served three years and eight months of a five-year prison sentence for perjury.
During the Hiss case, Chambers said that he and Hiss had been close friends and that he had collected Hiss's Communist Party dues for several years. Hiss denied the allegations and said he had known Chambers under another name in years past as a man to whom he sublet an apartment and who borrowed money from him without repaying it. Hiss said he concluded that 'I had been a sucker and he was sort of a deadbeat.'
Because of his testimony, Chambers became something of a symbol of the Cold War era. Richard Nixon was a congressman on the House Committee on Un-American Activities at the time and played an active role in the case against Hiss. It was the beginning of his rise to prominence.
Chambers died in 1961.
Also being honored are:
-Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, former commander in chief of NATO.
-Dr. Denton Cooley, the pioneer in heart transplant surgery.
-Leo Cherne, an economist who has served as a government adviser on intelligence matters.
-Dr. Hector Garcia, for his contribution in the field of humanitarianism.
-Lincoln Kirstein, for his contribution in the field of dance and the arts.