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Law-Enforcement Official Tapped for Key Civil-Rights Job

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Washington--In a move that has drawn a lukewarm reception from civil-rights groups, Attorney General Richard Thornburgh has recommended that the White House nominate William Lucas to the post of assistant attorney general for civil rights.

The Bush Administration is expected to officially announce the nomination shortly. The appointment would require confirmation by the Senate.

Mr. Lucas, a longtime member of the Democratic Party, is perhaps best known for switching parties in an unsuccessful bid to unseat James Blanchard, a Democrat, in Michigan's 1986 gubernatorial race.

Although he is a lawyer by training, the bulk of Mr. Lucas's career has been played out in the law-enforcement and political arenas.

In 1970, he became the first black sheriff elected in Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit. Later, he was elected to the newly created post of county executive.

Mr. Lucas has also served in the New York City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In the early 1960's, Mr. Lucas served a brief stint in the Justice Department as a lawyer working on school-desegregation and voting-rights issues.

Several civil-rights advocates last week expressed reservations about Mr. Lucas's lack of recent experience in the civil-rights field.

The Justice Department post is "the most important civil-rights position in the executive branch," said Ralph G. Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "It's not a position for on-the-job training."

But Mr. Thornburgh, in a statement accompanying the announcement, said, "Bill Lucas has a long-standing commitment to the civil- rights movement and a record of strong and fair law enforcement."

"These factors, I believe, make him an outstanding nominee for the sensitive position of ensuring that the civil-rights laws of our nation are equally and fairly enforced," Mr. Thornburgh added.

And William Bradford Reynolds Jr., who held the post during most of the Reagan Administration, said that Mr. Lucas "will be every bit as strong on civil-rights enforcement as we have been, and will strive to do it better if it can be done."

Other civil-rights experts said Mr. Lucas's rights record will be thoroughly researched before the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up his nomination.--ws

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