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Statement on the Death of Clarence Pendleton

June 06, 1988

Yesterday, with the sudden death of Clarence Pendleton, America lost a leading apostle of a just and colorblind society. Clarence Pendleton early in life took up the banner of equal rights for all Americans and boldly carried that banner forward. It was my good fortune to have known Penny, to have shared his good will and good humor, to have traversed time and Earth with him on the path to a more just society for all Americans. With Penny's passing, I have lost a loyal friend and a compatriot deeply committed to my administration and its commitment to fight against discrimination wherever it exists. And the loss to our nation is no less.

In his uncompromising articulation of the ideal of a colorblind society open to all without regard to race, giving no quarter to either prejudice or preference, Penny insisted that the full brunt of the law should be brought to bear on discrimination. At the same time, he understood that the law must itself not deviate from the Constitution's mandate of nondiscrimination for any reason lest it become a double-edged sword, harming the innocent and poorly serving those most in need of protection. And it was in part through his participation in the public discussion of civil rights that the racial quota has been vanquished from our society.

Penny has been taken from us—and my heart goes out to his family and friends-but what Penny leaves us are fond memories of a man who loved life and made us love it more for his time among us, and a fuller confidence, because of his work, that one day all Americans will be judged not by stereotypes and prejudices but on their own merits, qualifications, performance—as Penny often quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., "not . . . by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Ronald Reagan, Statement on the Death of Clarence Pendleton Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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