Monday, May 14, 2012

Nicholas Katzenbach

Photo credits:  Wikimedia Commons; Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report Magazine
In case you missed it last week, civil rights icon Nicholas Katzenbach passed away at the age of 90.  Various reflections appeared in the media over the weekend, including a column by Amy Schapiro, whose forthcoming biography Leading Justice:  The Life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach is due out next year.  Who can forget the image of Katzenbach, as Robert Kennedy’s deputy attorney general, in his historic confrontation with George Wallace over integration of the University of Alabama.  As Schapiro writes, Katzenbach was one of the key architects behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill of 1965.  Schapiro’s column provides a preview of her forthcoming biography, including reflections by Attorney General Eric Holder.  Read the column here.


Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

An utterly remarkable public servant. I look forward with relish to Schapiro's biography. (I don't read too much in this genre, the last one being Urofsky's wonderful work on Brandeis).

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

I might have mentioned one of the darker moments in Katzenbach's career involved his attempt to discredit the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) with some all-too-familiar red-baiting in 1965, as opposition to the Vietnam War was beginning to gain momentum (ironically, at the same time, the SDS was actually beginning to play a less prominent or coordinating role, at least nationally). The Justice Dept. initiated a national investigation of groups behind the anti-draft and anti-war movement, although in fairness to Katzenbach, his statements were selectively quoted from and therefore somewhat distorted, still, the implication that Communists were at the helm of SDS was simply not true and reinforced mass media distortions and political libel from the Right.