Abe Fortas Nominated by President As First Jewish Chief Justice
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Abe Fortas Nominated by President As First Jewish Chief Justice

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Abe Fortas was nominated today as Chief Justice of the United States, succeeding Earl Warren who resigned last week. Mr. Fortas, 58, who was named an Associate Justice in June, 1966, is the fifth Jew to serve on the Supreme Court and the first Jew in U.S. history to be nominated as Chief Justice.

The Jews who preceded him on the High Court were Louis D. Brandeis, Benjamin Cardoza, Felix Frankfurter and Arthur J. Goldberg. Mr. Fortas was named to fill the vacancy created when Mr. Goldberg resigned at the request of President Johnson, to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Goldberg, whose resignation as Ambassador became effective Monday, has become a partner in the New York City law firm of Pauls, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Mr. Fortas, who was a prominent Washington lawyer before his Court appointment, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the time that he considered himself to be Jewish. He said this to clarify his conception of his religious identity in view of his lack of formal affiliation with Jewish institutions or organizations. Although he was not formally affiliated with any Jewish group, he was a contributor to the United Jewish Appeal in Washington. He has appeared as a speaker several times before Jewish organizations since becoming a Justice. He has consistently manifested a warm and friendly attitude toward Israel.

A fight in the Senate over confirmation of his nomination was expected in view of the opposition of some Republican and Democratic Senators to what they regard as a “lame duck” appointment by Mr. Johnson.

Senator Robert P. Griffin, Michigan Republican, is leading a Senate effort to block the confirmation of Mr. Fortas. He said yesterday that he had 11 Senatorial signatures supporting a move to prevent a “lame duck” presidential lifetime appointment. He said that such an appointment should be made by President Johnson’s successor in January. Senate Republican leader Everett Dirkesen of Illinois supports the appointment.

Mr. Fortas was born in Memphis, Tenn., on June 19, 1910, and was sent by his parents to study first at Southwestern University and later to Yale University. He came to Washington to work as an attorney in agencies of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Administration. Mr. Fortas, a close personal friend of President Johnson, served under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman as Undersecretary of the Interior. He was a member of the President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces and was a member of the National Citizens Committee for Community Relations.

Mr. Fortas was awarded the Stephen S. Wise award of the American Jewish Congress in 1966. He had been a member of the national advisory committee of the Congress’ Commission on Law and Social Action. Last April Mr. Fortas, who is known for his liberal views, addressed an American Jewish Committee dinner honoring Gustave Levy, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. At that time he said, “Jews must join Negroes in their struggle for more civil rights because both minority groups are trying to achieve the same goals.” He warned that Negro extremists are trying to turn the Negro against the Jew. Mr. Fortas appeared twice at B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League annual meetings.

He is among those who accepted invitations to attend an Israeli Embassy farewell reception in Washington tonight for Minister Ephraim Evron. He served as adviser to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in 1945. He was a professor of law at Yale University.

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