Griffin Bell, a Southerner who opposed racial segregation and led the Justice Department under President Carter, died today at age 90, the New York Times reports. Bell handled damage control as a post-Nixon attorney general, de-politicizing the Justice Department and the FBI. His earlier rulings as an appeals court judge, helping black urban voters in Georgia, helped ease controversy about Carter picking a Southerner as top lawman.
A staunch defender of the First Amendment, Bell was also an independent thinker, as comfortable co-managing JFK's Georgia campaign as he was counseling President George H.W. Bush during the Iran-Contra affair. He later sat on a panel opposing Washington "data mining" of personal information, and proposed limiting the presidency to a single 6-year term.