Bakke Wins, Quotas Lose

But the divided Supreme Court endorses affirmative action based on race

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If a characteristic Caucasian male had to be invented, he would bear a close resemblance to Bakke. Just under 6 ft., blond and blue-eyed, Bakke has the looks of his Norwegian forebears. As the first faculty member to interview him at Davis wrote, "He is a pleasant, mature person—tall and strong and Teutonic in appearance." Bakke was born in Minneapolis; his father was a mailman, his mother a teacher. He majored in engineering at the University of Minnesota, where he had close to an A average. After graduation he joined the Marines and spent seven months in Viet Nam as commander of an anti-aircraft missile unit.

When he returned, he earned a master's degree in engineering it Stanford and went to work _t Ames. But he grew fascinated with medicine as he studied the effects of space flight on the human body. In his spare time, he took a job as an unpaid hospital volunteer, handling the mangled victims of auto accidents and street brawls.

In the fall of 1972 he applied to several medical schools, including Davis. Along with his solid academic record, he scored at the 90th percentile in most of his medical school admission tests. But he was turned down by every school, perhaps because he was relatively late in applying (there had been serious illness in the family), perhaps because he was already 33.

Told that he was almost accepted by Davis, he reapplied and wrote: "I know my motivation is as strong and honest toward a career in medicine as that of any applicant, more than of anyone else in the world." Once again he was rejected.

He sued and won on appeal in the California Supreme Court. Throughout the pressures of the court battle, Bakke refused to be interviewed or have his picture taken. He even stayed away from his wife and two children at their home in Los Altos, Calif., if he thought he would encounter reporters. When photographers finally tracked him down last week, they found him up in a tree, picking apricots.

And when one of his attorneys called to tell him of the Supreme Court decision, he was typically laconic. "Great," said Bakke. "You guys did it." Replied the attorney: "No, you did."

Was Bakke's victory a defeat for the nation's blacks? Some prominent blacks thought so. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of Chicago's Operation PUSH, considered the ruling a "devastating blow to our civil rights struggle, though not a fatal one. It is consistent with the country's shift to the right, a shift in mood from redemption to punishment." California Congressman Ron Dellums felt that "most Americans only want to know if Bakke won or lost. The fact that he won will underscore the attack on affirmative action. It is still alive and breathing, but with great difficulty."

Others took a more evenhanded view.

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