ViewPoint: Saluting Griffin Bell

January 6, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - We take this moment to salute a native son, a southern gentleman and a great statesman,  former U.S. Attorney General, Griffin Bell of Americus.

The man who served as Attorney General under former President Jimmy Carter,  is credited by some, for changing the face of the Attorney General's office.

In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Bell to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans where he served for 15 years.

When President Carter appointed him Attorney General in 1976, the appointment was the most controversial appointment because of complaints by  the NAACP and other civil rights groups that Bell, as a federal judge, didn't force Southern schools to integrate quickly enough and  because of his tenure as chief of staff for Governor Ernest Vandiver, who campaigned in 1958 on a segregation platform.

Carter, however, called Bell's civil rights record superb and many black Georgians came forward to support him.

While serving as Attorney General for 2½ years, Bell promoted judicial reform and supported the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which limits government spying on U.S. citizens.

He returned to private practice in Atlanta to his law firm, King and Spalding and remained a key advisor to Carter.  Bell continued to practice law, well after his 80th birthday, despite battling kidney disease and pancreatic cancer in recent years.

Bell lost his battle on January 5th - and we say Griffin Bell, you did South Georgia proud!