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Urban League Decides Not To Oppose Thomas Appointment To Supreme Court With PM-Thomas’ Coach,

July 22, 1991

Urban League Decides Not To Oppose Thomas Appointment To Supreme Court With PM-Thomas’ Coach, Bjt

ATLANTA (AP) _ The Urban League has become the first major civil rights group to announce it will not oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, but it also will not actively support him.

″I think it is important that we have a racially diverse Supreme Court, even if he is not my candidate,″ the group’s president, John E. Jacob, said at a news conference Sunday.

The position, arrived at after a daylong debate by the Urban League’s representative assembly Saturday, reflects the ambivalence liberal civil rights advocates feel about the nomination of Thomas, he said.

An estimated 15,000 people are attending the convention of the 81-year-old social service organization.

Bush named Thomas, a conservative, Republican federal appeals judge, to succeed retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall, a liberal who is now the court’s only black member.

″I compliment the president on the shrewdness of the appointment,″ Jacob said. ″I think the president checkmated the African-American community with the appointment.″

Among other civil rights groups, the Congressional Black Caucus opposes the nomination, while the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have postponed taking a position.

The urban league’s position, Jacob said, ″is not to oppose him, not to be his advocate, not to be his defender, to simply let the Senate do its job.″ The group took a similar neutral position last year on the appointment of Justice David Souter.

Jacob said he would not testify for or against Thomas in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings in September because he was not willing to take a stronger stand.

The liberal civil rights community must cope with the loss of the Supreme Court as its most powerful ally in the fight to resolve injustices against minorities, Jacob said.

″Traditionally, we always had as the court of last resort the Supreme Court. That is no longer available to us,″ he said.

Jacob spoke to reporters before the official opening Sunday evening of the four-day annual conference.

Some league members say they think Thomas, the grandson of a sharecropper who was reared in rural Pinpoint, Ga., would be fair on issues of concern to minorities, based on his upbringing alone.

″I don’t think anyone should not support him because he is a conservative black,″ said Reginald Barner, 28, of Greenville, S.C. ″If we go the liberal route all the time, put all of our eggs in one basket and don’t ever get anything out of it, we’re still lost.″

″Knowing what his roots and his background are, he probably will justify himself,″ said Derek East, 36, a member of the league’s Atlanta chapter.

6EDT

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