Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has just been named the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee - to replace Arlen Specter (?-PA). Much is being made of his none-too-subtle racist past.
As a U.S. Attorney he unsuccessfully prosecuted blacks for election fraud; reportedly said of a white lawyer who defended blacks in civil rights cases, "He's a disgrace to his race."; and reportedly described the NAACP as "un-American" and "Communist-inspired."
The Senate Judiciary Committee denied him a federal judgeship in 1986, his opponents citing his "gross insensitivity" on racial issues.
I know next to nothing about Senator Sessions.
Why I hesitate to write this post: in my ignorance, I'm going to defend him... sort of... by analogy.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was a member of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s. FDR appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1937.
As a Supreme, Black strongly supported First Amendment rights, often writing the dissent in anti-Communism cases (in favor of freedom of speech & freedom of assembly). He wrote the Court's opinion in Engel v. Vitale (1962), effectively removing prayer from public schools.
He joined the majority in Shelley v. Kramer (1948), which invalidated the judicial enforcement of racially restrictive covenants. Similarly, he was part of the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Court that struck down racial segregation in public schools. Black remained determined to desegregate the South and would call for the Supreme Court to adopt a position of "immediate desegregation" in 1969's Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education.A later wag commented:
[Wikipedia, Hugo Black]
"When he lived in Alabama," the saying goes, "he wore a white robe and scared the Blacks to death. When he got to Washington, he wore a black robe and scared the Whites to death."It IS possible for a person to change, to grow.
Perhaps Senator Sessions will exhibit that personal growth.