Author Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., wrote a scathing testimony against Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) when he was being considered for federal judgeship in 1986. In a letter sent to then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), King wrote that Sessions “lacks the temperament, fairness, and judgement to be a federal judge” and said that his appointment “would irreparably damage the work of my husband.”
Sessions, now the junior U.S. Senator from Alabama as well as President-elect Donald Trump’s U.S. Attorney General nominee, was denied the judgeship. King’s testimony matched other damning accusations against Sessions, including that he once referred to a black attorney as “boy.” He also joked about supporting the Ku Klux Klan.
But it was Sessions’ record on voting rights that inspired King to oppose him. She pointed to his 1985 attempt to prosecute three civil rights activists for voter fraud― accusations that were later proved baseless.
“I urge you to consider carefully Mr. Sessions’ conduct in these matters,” she wrote. “Such a review, I believe, raises serious questions about his commitment to the protections of the voting rights of all American citizens and consequently his fair and unbiased judgement regarding this fundamental right.”
King called on the Senate to reject his nomination.
“Based on his record, I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago,” she wrote. You can read her full testimony here.
Sessions’ relationship with minorities came up repeatedly during his first Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday. The Republican senator insisted that he’s not racist and even mused that his stereotypically Southern name― Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III― is why people think he might be bigoted.
His record on civil rights is the bigger issue, opponents of Sessions say. Sessions has a long history of opposing voting rights, saying in 2013 that the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act was “good news ... for the South” and denying that minorities were “being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.” On Tuesday, he called the landmark legislation “intrusive.”