H.Res. 71: Acknowledging the lifelong service of Griffin Boyette Bell to the State of Georgia and the United States as a legal icon

H.Res. 71

Acknowledging the lifelong service of Griffin Boyette Bell to the State of Georgia and the United States as a legal icon

Date
February 10, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H. Res. 71 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  This resolution was introduced by Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) on January 28, 2009.

Bill Summary

H. Res. 71 resolves that the House of Representatives:

  • "Acknowledges the lifelong service of Griffin Boyette Bell to the State of Georgia and the United States as a legal icon; and
  • "Commends Griffin Boyette Bell for his tenure as Attorney General of the United States and his commitment to the American Civil Rights Movement."

Background

According to the resolution's findings, Griffin Bell was the seventy-second attorney general of the United States and a major figure in the American legal profession.  After being drafted into the army in 1942 and subsequently discharged from active duty in 1946 with the rank of major, Bell enrolled in the law school at Mercer University in Macon, where as a student he was employed by the firm Anderson, Anderson, and Walker.  While still a law student he passed the Georgia bar examination and was appointed city attorney of Warner Robins.  

In 1958, he was appointed chief of staff to Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver.  In that capacity Bell was influential in organizing the Sibley Commission, which mapped Georgia's approach to school desegregation.  He helped moderate state policy concerning civil rights and was instrumental in keeping Georgia's schools open during that turbulent period.

Bell served as a chair of John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, and in October 1961, U.S. president Kennedy appointed him judge of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he actively participated in the implementation of desegregation orders across the Deep South.

In 1976, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, nominated him to the position of Attorney General of the United States.  Bell was confirmed as Attorney General on January 25, 1977, by a Senate vote of 75-21.  Bell resigned the position in August 1979 to return to the practice of law in Atlanta.  In 1980 he headed the U.S. delegation to the Madrid Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and two years later served as a cochair of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Violent Crime.  In the late 1980s, President George H. W. Bush appointed him to a senior position on the Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform.  Bell died of kidney failure at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta on January 5, 2009.