Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr., chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (CCR), dies of an apparent heart attack in San Diego, California, at age fifty-seven.
1988 (Jun 5)
Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr., chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (CCR), died of an apparent heart attack in San Diego, California, at age fifty-seven. Pendleton was born on November 10, 1930, in Louisville, Kentucky, but grew up in Washington, D.C., where his father was the first swimming coach at Howard University and an assistant director of the District of Columbia's recreation department. He received a bachelor of science degree from Howard in 1954 and worked briefly for the D.C. recreation department before joining the U.S. Army. After his release from the Army in 1957, Pendleton returned to Howard and became an instructor of physical education. In 1970, Pendleton became a director of the urban affairs department of the National Recreation and Parks Association. Two years later he moved to San Diego to take a position as director of the Model Cities program there. By 1975, Pendleton had become head of the San Diego Urban League. He was the only one of more than 150 officers in the League to support the presidential candidacy of former California governor Ronald Reagan. By 1980, Pendleton had abandoned what he called his "bleeding-heart liberalism" and switched to the Republican party. On November 16, 1981, President Reagan appointed him chairman of the CCR. As CCR chairman, Pendleton followed Reagan's desires and led the commission toward a "color-blind" approach to matters of civil rights. He opposed busing to achieve school desegregation and called affirmative action a "bankrupt policy." Civil rights leaders, some political leaders, and even some members of the CCR itself expressed shock at the stances that the commission's first Black chairman took. Congress responded by cutting the CCR's budget from $11.6 million in 1985 to only $7.5 million in 1986. These cuts caused a considerable slowing of activity at the CCR. After Pendleton's death, William Bradford Reynolds, assistant attorney general for civil rights, called him "a man who felt very deeply that the individuals in America should deal with one another as brothers and sisters totally without regard to race and background."