Lewis F. Powell Jr., the retired U.S. Supreme Court justice who was the court's ideological center in landmark cases involving affirmative action in education and government aid to religious schools, died Aug. 25 at age 90.
Justice Powell, who was appointed by President Nixon in 1971 and served until 1987, was the author of a critical concurring opinion in the 1978 affirmative action case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. His concurrence bridged two competing four-justice pluralities by barring the use of rigid racial quotas in higher education admissions but permitting race to be one factor.
In 30 religion cases, Justice Powell was never on the losing side. In 1985, for example, he provided the fifth vote to strike down programs aiding religious schools in New York City and Grand Rapids, Mich.
As the chairman of the Richmond, Va., school board from 1952 to 1961, hesuccessfully opposed calls by many white Virginia politicians during that time for "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's desegregation rulings in Brown v. Board of Education. He also was a member of the Virginia state school board from 1961 to 1969 and was the president of the state board from 1968 to 1969.
Vol. 18, Issue 1, Page 4Published in Print: September 9, 1998, as Milestone