Bell, Carter's AG, Dead at 90

Bell defanged Jim Crow as appellate court judge
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2009 5:24 PM CST
In a Wednesday, Jan. 25, 1989 file photo, US President George H. Bush signs the federal ethics law reform at the White House as Judge Malcom Richard Wilkey, left, and Griffin B. Bell look on.   (AP Photo/Barry Thumma, File)
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(Newser) – 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.