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Read the Scathing 1986 Letter Coretta Scott King Wrote Opposing Sessions’ Federal Nomination

Coretta Scott King and her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., on Dec. 9, 1964, in Oslo, Norway, where the civil rights leader received the Nobel Peace Prize. AFP/Getty Images
Coretta Scott King and her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., on Dec. 9, 1964, in Oslo, Norway, where the civil rights leader received the Nobel Peace Prize. AFP/Getty Images

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, 1:02 a.m. EST: Elizabeth Warren attempted to read Coretta Scott King’s letter about Jeff Sessions on the Senate floor; but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) silenced her.



Coretta Scott King’s scathing letter in which she urged Congress to block the 1986 nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship has finally been released to the public after being obtained by the Washington Post Tuesday.


Earlier reports indicated that the letter existed but was reportedly missing because then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond did not put the letter into the congressional record, and the full contents were never made public.

As the Post notes, during the 1986 hearing, King’s letter and blatant opposition became one of the key elements that ended Sessions’ bid to become a federal judge. Only current Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had the sole authority to release the letter.

However, now, thanks to the Post, we can read King’s words of wisdom concerning the nominee, which may be timely now given that Sessions is working his way through his confirmation hearings as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general.

On the cover page accompanying the nine-page letter to Congress, the activist and civil rights leader wrote, “Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts.


“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship,” King insisted.

King blasted Sessions’ apparent behavior as a U.S. attorney, arguing that “his politically-motivated voting-fraud prosecutions,” and his apparent “indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights law, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgement to be a federal judge.”


King went on to voice her concern that Sessions’ nomination, if confirmed, would only prove to be a step backward for voting rights.

“The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished 20 years ago with clubs and cattle prods,” she wrote.


“I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court,” King said, finishing up her letter. “Based on his record, I believe that his confirmation would have a devastating effect, not only on the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over 20 years ago.”

Read King’s full letter at the Washington Post.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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