Rights: A Chairman's Odd Antics

A Chairman's Odd Antics

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Before Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission was a strong ally in the movement for racial equality. But under Reagan, the panel became more of a bystander. Now high hopes for the commission's revival under George Bush are in danger of being undermined by the antics of its chairman, William Barclay Allen. He refuses to resign despite broad hints from the White House that he should step aside.

In February, Allen and a former commission psychologist, acccompanied by a TV crew, visited an Arizona Indian reservation to interview a 14-year-old Apache girl, the subject of a custody battle between her natural mother and the white couple who had adopted her. Allen contends that the girl wants to leave the reservation, though the mother has formal custody. The commissioner and the psychologist picked the girl up for the interview on her way home from school. Although they then took her to her mother, the mother filed a kidnaping charge against Allen. He was arrested by local police and detained for five hours.

After word leaked that Bush wanted to replace Allen with Arthur Fletcher, a moderate black Republican, Allen said he intended to complete his term, which ends in 1992.