Justice Dept. Nominee Quits Club Amid Concerns Raised by Adl, Others

Webster Hubbell, President Clinton’s old friend and nominee for associate attorney general, has resigned from a mainly white country club, in the wake of concerns raised by Jewish officials and others.

Hubbell’s membership in the Country Club of Little Rock, which only recently admitted its first black member, had troubled officials of the Anti-Defamation League, which raised the matter in a meeting with the nominee Monday.

As associate attorney general, the third-ranking position in the Justice Department, Hubbell would have responsibility for civil justice policy, and some wondered how his club membership would affect his job performance.

The Little Rock attorney told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he had resigned from the club because he was afraid the issue would detract from the work he would do in the Justice Department.

“I have come to realize that there remains in the minds of some people the perception that my continued membership in the club reflects some lack of sensitivity,” Hubbell said.

“I think it’s important that that perception not distract from the job that I hope you will allow me to undertake,” he continued. “Therefore, I have resigned my membership from the Country Club of Little Rock.”

ADL had been concerned about how Hubbell’s membership in the club might affect his discrimination-fighting responsibilities as a top official in the Clinton Justice Department.

TRIED TO END DISCRIMINATION

Officials of the organization wrote to the nominee last week requesting a meeting, and he promptly responded. On Monday, he met with Melvin Salberg, ADL national chairman; Meyer Eisenberg, chair of the ADL’s National Civil Rights Committee; and Jess Hordes, ADL Washington representative.

The ADL officials emerged from the meeting feeling reassured that Hubbell was working to end discriminatory practices at the club.

“Mr. Hubbell told us he was committed to ending the discriminatory practices at his country club and pledged his best efforts to addressing the cancer of discrimination from his leadership position in the Justice Department,” Salberg said in a statement.

Hubbell was praised Wednesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) for working to open the club’s membership to minorities.

“For some years he has made bona fide efforts, repeated efforts, to encourage African American members of the Little Rock community to join the club,” Biden said. “And last year, the first such member of the club was admitted, specifically with the recommendation of Mr. Hubbell, among others.”

Hordes said Monday that in the 45-minute meeting, Hubbell also described his efforts to get blacks and women involved on boards and commissions in Little Rock.

The ADL delegation did not raise the issue of Jewish membership in the club, Hordes said, adding that he thought the club did have some Jewish members.

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