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Press Release - U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions: Strong On Civil Rights

January 11, 2017

Praise And Support For Senator Sessions From African-American Leaders

Alabama Senate Democratic Leader Quinton Ross: "We've talked about things from civil rights to race relations and I think anyone – once you gain a position like that, actually partisanship has to go aside because you represent the United States and all people. So you just have to have a global view on various issues. So just through our conversations I feel confident [Sessions] will be an attorney general that will look at it from all different perspectives to just do what's right for the citizens of the United States." (Barbara Hollingsworth, "Democrat Leader Of Alabama Senate: Sessions 'Will Do What's Right' As AG," CNSNews, 12/8/16)

Gerald Reynolds, Former Chairman, U.S. Commission On Civil Rights: "During my discussions with Senator Sessions and his staff, it was clear the senator has a strong interest in ensuring our nation's antidiscrimination laws are vigorously enforced. Senator Sessions is a man of great character and integrity with a commitment to fairness and equal justice under the law. Based on these qualities, his deep knowledge of the Department of Justice from his time with the U.S. Attorney's office and his decades of service on the Judiciary Committee, I have no doubt he will be guided solely by fidelity to the Constitution and the laws of our great country. I am honored to give him my highest personal and professional recommendation."

Fred Gray, African-American Civil Rights Attorney In (Represented Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And Rosa Parks): "Our state of Alabama is noted for having outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to this nation. As a case in point, consider Mr. Justice Hugo Black, who was at one time a U.S. Senator from Alabama who was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Black became one of the greatest advocates for human and civil rights that has ever sat on the high court. We need such a person to serve as Attorney General of the United States of America. What would be more noteworthy for the State of Alabama than having an Alabamian follow in the footsteps of the late Mr. Justice Hugo Black? Previously I have expressed appreciation for your acts herein stated. I look forward to working with you in any future capacity in which the Lord permits you to serve."

Former Obama Administration Surgeon General Regina Benjamin: "I think he'll be fine. I consider him a friend. ... At least he will listen as attorney general. My hope is that he'll do what is best for the American people." (Seung Min Kim And Nancy Cook, "Sessions To African-Americans: Fear Not," Politico, 12/18/16)

Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson: "He doesn't have a racist bone in his body. I've been an African-American man for 71 years. I think I know a racist when I see one. Jeff is far from being a racist. He's a good person, a decent person." (Ellen Nakashima And Sari Horwitz, "Trump's Pick For Attorney General Is Shadowed By Race And History," The Washington Post, 12/24/16)

Willie Huntley, African-American Assistant U.S. Attorney Under Jeff Sessions: "He knows all of my brothers and sisters. He came to the hospital when my first child was born. He has come to birthday parties at my house." (Seung Min Kim And Nancy Cook, "Sessions To African-Americans: Fear Not," Politico, 12/18/16)

William Smith, Hired By Sen. Sessions As The First African-American Republican Chief Counsel To The Senate Judiciary Committee: "Jeff Sessions is a man who cared for me, who looked out for me and who had my best interests in mind. So, anybody who says anything different doesn't know Jeff Sessions." (Ellen Nakashima And Sari Horwitz, "Trump's Pick For Attorney General Is Shadowed By Race And History," The Washington Post, 12/24/16)

Donald Watkins, African-American Civil Rights Attorney In Alabama: "Jeff was a conservative then, as he is now, but he was NOT a racist. ... At the end of our conversation, I told Jeff that I had failed him and myself. I should have volunteered to stand by his side and tell the story of his true character at his confirmation hearing. The fact that I did not rise on my own to defend Jeff's good name and character haunted me for years. I promised Jeff that I would never stand idly by and allow another good and decent person endure a similar character assassination if it was within my power to stop it." (Stephen Dinan And S.A. Miller, "Amid Racism Accusations, Sessions Has Powerful Character Witness," The Washington Times, 11/18/16)

A Career Of Honor And Respect For Americans Of Color

Senator Sessions voted in favor of the 30-year extension of the Civil Rights Act.

Senator Sessions was one of the only 17 Republican senators to vote to confirm President's Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder.

Senator Sessions spearheaded the effort to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks, an Alabama native and Civil Rights icon.

Working with Cory Booker, Senator Sessions led the Senate effort to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama.

Senator Sessions publicly supported ongoing efforts to commemorate within the National Park Service the heroic actions of the 1961 Freedom Riders in Anniston and Calhoun County, Alabama.

A History Of Civil Rights Enforcement

Ku Klux Klan Murderer Henry Hays—In 1981, Sessions worked with DOJ attorneys, the FBI, county investigators, and the county district attorney to solve the murder of nineteen year-old African American Michael Donald. Sessions' U.S. Attorney's office prosecuted "Tiger" Knowles as an accomplice, obtaining a guilty plea and life sentence in federal court. After hard investigative work, Sessions shifted the case of KKK murderer Henry Hays to state court where he received the death penalty, which was not then available at the federal level.

USA v. Benny Jack Hayes—Sessions' office successfully prosecuted Alabama Ku Klux Klan "Great Titan" Bennie Jack Hays, who ordered his son, Henry Hays, to kill an African American, for attempting to defraud his home insurer in order to collect money to pay for his son's legal defense.

Conecuh County—In 1983, Sessions joined in bringing the first lawsuit in the history of the Department of Justice to stop the suppression of African American voting rights. In United States v. Conecuh County, the DOJ Civil Rights Division, along with Sessions, sued white Conecuh County election officials, including the Chair of the local Republican Party. The county settled the lawsuit through a consent decree that ensured election officials would not engage in racial discriminatory conduct designed to harass or intimidate voters, nor discriminate in the selection of election officials at polling places.

Marengo County—After the District Court found that the at large system for electing members to the county commission and local board of education diluted the voting rights of African Americans in violation of the Voting Rights Act, Sessions assisted the DOJ Civil Rights Division in working with private plaintiffs to craft a districting plan to ensure that African Americans had equal opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice. At the time of the suit, no African American had ever been elected to the commission or the board. DOJ, working with Sessions' office, secured a districting plan that resulted in 3 of the 5 members of both the County Commission and the board of education elected from districts in which the majority of voters were African American. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the plan, and the district court awarded attorney's fees, stating the United States "was indispensable to the plaintiff's success." 667 F. Supp. 786, 799 (S.D. Alabama 1987).

Dallas County—In 1978, the Department of Justice sued Dallas County, Alabama, to replace its at-large election system with a district system. Under the new district system, African Americans had a much better chance of electing the candidates of their choice. Supported by the ACLU, Sessions supported DOJ's Civil Rights Division's extensive litigation and appeals culminating in a 1988 decision from the 11th Circuit Court that created five single member districts for both the County Commission and the Board of Education. Three of these districts contained a majority-African American voter population, increasing the opportunity for African American voters to elect the officeholders of their choice. 636 F.Supp. 704, May 16, 1986; 791 F.2d 831, (11th Cir., May 23, 1986); 661 F.Supp. 955, May 21, 1987; 671 F.Supp. 1337 (11th Cir., Oct. 23, 1987); 850 F.2d 1430 (11th Cir., July 13, 1988); 850 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir., July 13, 1988). Though not required to do so, as U.S. Attorney, Sessions chose to join the filings with the DOJ Civil Rights Division.

Mobile County—After nearly a decade of litigation, a group of students, their parents and the Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County, Alabama, entered into a consent decree that integrated many schools in the county but also left untouched many single-race schools. More than a decade after the district court approved the consent decree, DOJ and Sessions—with the support of the NAACP—challenged the decree because it did not fully integrate all the public schools in the county. The District Court modified the consent decree, agreeing with DOJ and Sessions that the school district was not yet fully integrated. See Davis v. Board of Sch. Comm'rs of Mobile Cnty., 1986 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27519, at *2–3 (S.D. Ala., Mar. 27, 1986). In addition to joining the legal arguments made by the DOJ Civil Rights Division in the case and serving as DOJ's local face in the Southern District of Alabama, where the suit was prosecuted, Sessions also sent his children to attend the integrated public schools in Mobile.

Donald J. Trump, Press Release - U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions: Strong On Civil Rights Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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