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Head of Rights Commision Dies Unexpectedly

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Clarence M. Pendleton, the controversial chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on June 5. He was 57.

One of the most prominent blacks in the Reagan Administration, Mr. Pendleton had gained attention--and considerable criticism--for his combative style and outspoken remarks. For example, he once termed the concept of comparable pay for jobs of comparable worth "the looniest idea since Looney Tunes,'' and he called his critics in the civil-rights community "the new racists.''

Mr. Pendleton was a staunch opponent of mandatory busing to achieve school desegregation and of affirmative-action policies that give preference to minorities in hiring, promotions, and layoffs.

President Reagan appointed him to head the rights panel in 1981. Although the commission has no enforcement powers, its reports on a broad range of civil-rights issues in American society had traditionally been held in high regard.

But the commission's influence waned considerably in the 1980's, largely as a result of infighting between its new conservative majority, led by Mr. Pendleton, and members of a liberal bloc who had been appointed by President Carter. --TM

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