He is fondly remembered as the father of Affirmative Action due to his active involvement in the creation of the Revised Philadelphia Plan, a piece of legislation that compelled federal government contractors to employ people from ethnic minorities.
Arthur Fletcher was born in Phoenix, Arizona but also lived in Kansas and Oklahoma. In 1943 he decided to enlist with the U.S Army and got to fight in the Second World War. He, however, was injured in the line of duty in 1945. When he came back home, Fletcher later joined Washburn University in Kansas under the G.I Bill which assisted war veterans to further their education. He graduated with a Sociology degree in 1950 and despite achieving higher education qualification he ended up going into professional football. He first joined the Los Angeles Rama and then became the first African American player in the Baltimore Colts line-up.
Fletcher’s career in politics began when he was part of a movement that helped rack-up votes for Fred L. Hall who was running for governor in 1954. Hall’s election as Governor guaranteed a position for Fletcher in the newly elected governor’s administrative structure. He was appointed for a position in the State Highway Department. While in his new position he gained plenty of insight into the issue of government contracts which he worked hard to make available for black-owned companies.
After re-marrying in 1964, Fletcher, his new wife and youngest children relocated to Washington where he secured a job at the Hanford Atomic energy facility. He also participated in self-help community projects in East Paco which earned him a spot on the Pasco City Council administration. He made a decision to run for the post of Washington State Lieutenant Governor in 1968 however, he lost the race narrowly to John Cherberg who was the incumbent. This was the first time that an African American had run for a state-wide position in Washington. His efforts were noticed by Richard Nixon who had just been elected as U.S president. Fletcher secured a position in Nixon’s administration as Assistant Secretary of Labor. Fletcher’s involvement in the Revised Philadelphia Plan did not seat well with the Nixon administration and he had to resign from the government in 1971.
He soon took up the post of Executive Director at the United College Negro Fund from 1972-1976. Other notable achievements in Arthur Fletcher’s lifetime include his challenging of Marion Barry for the Mayorship of Washington DC, taking up an advisory role in Reagan’s administration and his appointment by President George Bush as the chair of the U.S Civil Rights Commission.
Fletcher passed on at the age of 80 in Washington, D.C on July 12, 2005.
*Fred Hall was governor of Kansas.
Here is a recent tribute to Art Fletcher from the Seattle Times, looking in particular at his role in Washington state politics.
(Art was my next door neighbor from 1974-77 in Columbia, MD. We didn’t see him that often; he was on the go!)
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