Former Commission Chairman and Civil Rights Champion Dies

Washington, DC - The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights mourned the passing of Arthur A. Fletcher, one of its former chairmen. An ardent spokesperson for civil rights, especially in employment and contracting, he died at his home in Washington DC at age 80.

A decorated war veteran, Mr. Fletcher returned to college after World War II, and eventually earned both a law degree and a Ph.D. in Education. A gifted athlete, he became a professional football player before spurring a lifelong career in civil rights, which would become his legacy. Beginning in 1954, while an elementary school teacher in Kansas, Mr. Fletcher helped raise funds to support the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation suit. He served in numerous state and federal government positions, and in private industry, including membership on the Pasco City Council, special assistant to the Governor of Washington, and consultant to Hanford Atomic Energy Facility. In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Mr. Fletcher as Assistant Secretary of Wage and Labor Standards, a position in which he supervised enforcement of equal opportunity for minorities working on federally funded contracts. He also advised three other U.S. presidents, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. In 1972, as executive director for the United Negro College Fund, Mr. Fletcher coined the now familiar phrase "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

"Mr. Fletcher's deep dedication to his beliefs was manifested in everything he did, including his service here at Commission," said Gerald A. Reynolds, Commission chairman. "We'll remember and miss him for his tireless spirit."

President Bush appointed Mr. Fletcher to the Commission in 1990 where he served until 1993 as chairman. In 1996, he ran for president of the United States. He wrote many articles and a book, My Hour of Power. At the time of his death, he was an active teacher and speaker.