Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr. (1930-1988) grew up in Washington, D.C., where his father worked as a swimming coach at Howard University. After graduating from Dunbar High School, he followed in the steps of his father and grandfather by enrolling in Howard, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in 1954. After a short term with the Army, Pendleton returned to Howard as a physical education instructor and student, and received his master's degree in education in 1961.
He was recreation coordinator, Model Cities Agency, city of Baltimore, Md., from 1968 - 1970, and then director of the urban affairs department of the National Recreation and Parks Association
Pendleton was recruited two years later by Mayor Pete Wilson to head San Diego's Model Cities program. He was also president of the San Diego County Local Development Corp., a nonprofit subsidiary of San Diego Urban League, Inc., and president of Building for Equal Opportunity (B.F.E.O.), a profitmaking subsidiary of the San Diego Urban League.
In 1975 Pendleton was named director of the San Diego Urban League, served on the Community Education Advisory Council, U.S. Office of Education, and the Governor's Task Force on Affordable Housing, State of California. During this time he began to shed his self-described "bleeding-heart liberalism." He made the switch to the Republican Party in 1980, coming to Reagan's attention when he was the only one of 150 League officers to support Reagan's bid for the Presidency.
He was named by President Regan as chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – its first black chairman – a position he held until 1988. As chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, Pendleton provoked criticism by taking stands against several established tenets of civil rights reformers. He opposed school desegregation through busing and believed that affirmative action programs detracted from the achievments of those who could have succeeded without them. During his time as chairman, congressional funding for the Commission was greatly reduced and many top staff members either lost their jobs or left in disillusionment over the direction of the agency. Pendleton was known to respond sharply to his critics and was unwavering in his approach. William Bradford Reynolds, Assistant Attorney for Civil Rights and a close friend of Pendleton's, characterized him in the New York Times as a man of candor who "felt very deeply that the individuals in America should deal with one another as brothers and sisters totally without regard to race and background."
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