Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Some recess appointment history

Joe’s Dartblog reminds us of a recess appointment of the past, starring Robert Byrd in the role now played by Ted Kennedy:

In 1961, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was at the very beginning of his term. But the reforms had already begun. State-sponsored segregation was under attack from not only the executive branch but also from firebrand upstarts situated just north and south of the Mason-Dixon line. One of these- the most successful- was a black man named Thurgood Marshall. He was barely out of Howard University in 1933 when the civil rights movement swept him up and carried him to national renown.

Beginning out of his small private practice in Baltimore and then, in 1940, as chief counsel of the NAACP, Marshall took on keystone civil rights cases. The "little man's lawyer" was immensely successful, winning 29 out of his 32 Supreme Court cases. (Later, as America's first black Supreme Court justice, Marshall's record would be even more sterling as he wrote over 150 opinions, 98 of which were majority ones, of which none were reversed by subsequent Courts.)

The tipping point was Brown v. Board of Education (1954). After winning that landmark case, the national radar, where he figured prominently, owed him. And so, in 1961, JFK announced that he had nominated Thurgood Marshall to be a justice on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. But remnants of the Solid South would have none of that. They opposed, in essence, a black man's elevation to such an influential position. And so Marshall could not gain confirmation in the Senate, despite very strong support from Senators and an enviable track record.

President Kennedy was abraded by the obstructionism, and waited for Congress to go into recess. He appointed Thurgood Marshall to the bench then, bypassing the Senate and the vociferous racists in the Senate who had held things up. The leading senator whose obstructionism caused the recess appointment was Robert Byrd (D-WV), who would go on to conduct his famous filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It is unintentionally veracious that Robert Byrd's website, in its meta tag description seen in this Google search, calls the Senator "the West Virginian of the 20th Century."


Post a Comment

<< Home