Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. As in Jefferson Davis and Confederate general Pierre G. T. Beauregard. Sessions is the chief interrogator of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court.Sessions’ nomination to the Federal bench was
… rejected by the very same committee twenty years ago for ‘racially insensitive’ statements asserting that he thought that the Klan was OK until he found out they smoked ‘dope’ and calling white civil rights lawyers ‘race traitors.’Nor did it help Sessions when he admitted to routinely referring to an African-American attorney who worked for him as “boy” — even once warning that attorney to “be careful what you say to white folks!”
And it wasn’t just talk, either.
Sessions, it was disclosed, had a disturbing record of indicting black civil rights activists as US Attorney in Mobile, Alabama. Invariably the cases were later dismissed. He was also accused of not investigating the spate of black church burnings that swept the state of Alabama the year he became attorney general.
Sessions further injured his own reputation when he prosecuted a black couple who suggested in a news article that US Attorney Sessions may have been less than diligent during his investigation of a jail lynching of a black man accused of shoplifting.
During his own confirmation hearings, Sessions at first lied but later admitted that “I may have said something about the NAACP being un-American and Communist, but I meant nothing by it.”
Sessions was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The year before his nomination to federal court, he had unsuccessfully prosecuted three civil rights workers–including Albert Turner, a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr.–on a tenuous case of voter fraud. The three had been working in the “Black Belt” counties of Alabama, which, after years of voting white, had begun to swing toward black candidates as voter registration drives brought in more black voters. Sessions’s focus on these counties to the exclusion of others caused an uproar among civil rights leaders, especially after hours of interrogating black absentee voters produced only 14 allegedly tampered ballots out of more than 1.7 million cast in the state in the 1984 election. The activists, known as the Marion Three, were acquitted in four hours and became a cause c?l?bre. Civil rights groups charged that Sessions had been looking for voter fraud in the black community and overlooking the same violations among whites, at least partly to help reelect his friend Senator Denton.
On its own, the case might not have been enough to stain Sessions with the taint of racism, but there was more. Senate Democrats tracked down a career Justice Department employee named J. Gerald Hebert, who testified, albeit reluctantly, that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labeled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” Hebert said Sessions had claimed these groups “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” In his confirmation hearings, Sessions sealed his own fate by saying such groups could be construed as “un-American” when “they involve themselves in promoting un-American positions” in foreign policy. Hebert testified that the young lawyer tended to “pop off” on such topics regularly, noting that Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases. Sessions acknowledged making many of the statements attributed to him but claimed that most of the time he had been joking, saying he was sometimes “loose with [his] tongue.” He further admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a “piece of intrusive legislation,” a phrase he stood behind even in his confirmation hearings.