August 23, 2017

A Courageous Response to the Voice of Hate

James Tierney Former Maine Attorney General and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

*This piece was originally posted on

A bi-partisan group of 67 former Attorneys General of the states and jurisdictions today pointed to the example of one of their colleagues to remind us all of the moral imperative to respond directly to those who amplify the voices of hate. See the statement below issued by the former Attorneys General, and here is the link to former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley‘s response to the KKK: Did the Attorney General of Alabama Once Tell the Ku Klux Klan to 'Kiss My Ass'?

Statement by Former State Attorneys General

There are times in the life of a nation, or a president, or a state attorney general when one is called upon to respond directly to the voice of hate.

As former state attorneys general - we take the liberty of reminding Americans - as we remind ourselves - that events can call out the worst in us -- and the best.

In 1971 the twenty-nine year old attorney general of Alabama began his quest to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Birmingham church bombing which killed four little girls. It was a crime rooted in hate and his determination to prosecute the case gave rise to voices of leaders of hate. He faced political furor, lack of cooperation from federal and state government agencies and constant threats of physical violence and death. But he persisted. It took years but he obtained a conviction.

In 1976 when the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan wrote a threatening letter and demanded that Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley respond directly to his letter, he did.

We commend his response (see link above) to the attention of all who seek to equivocate in times of moral crisis.

Former Attorneys General,

Robert Abrams, New York
Ronald Amemiya, Hawaii
Jeff Amestoy, Vermont
Bruce Babbitt, Arizona
Thurbert Baker, Georgia
Paul Bardacke, New Mexico
Steve Beshear,  Kentucky
Bruce Botelho, Alaska
Margery Bronster, Hawaii
Charlie Brown, West Virginia
Richard Bryan, Nevada
Charles Burson, Tennessee
Bonnie Campbell, Iowa
Steve Clark, Arkansas
Walter Cohen, Pennsylvania
Robert Cooper, Tennessee
J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Maryland
Fred Cowan, Kentucky
Frankie Sue Del Papa, Nevada
Jerry Diamond, Vermont
Richard Doran, Florida
John Easton, Vermont
Rufus Edmisten, North Carolina
Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma
Tyrone Fahner, Illinois
Lee Fisher, Ohio
Karen Freeman – Wilson, Indiana
Terry Goddard, Arizona
Chris Gorman, Kentucky
Slade Gorton, Washington
Jennifer Granholm, Michigan
Scott Harshbarger, Massachusetts
Peter Harvey, New Jersey
Hubert H . Humphrey III, Minnesota
Drew Ketterer, Maine
Oliver Koppell, New York
Peg Lautenschlager, Wisconsin
Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut
Michael Lilly, Hawaii
Alicia Limtiaco, Guam
Bill Lockyer, California
David Louie, Hawaii
Robert Marks, Hawaii
Brian McKay, Nevada
Jeff Modisett, Indiana
Betty Montgomery, Ohio
Mike Moore. Mississippi
Jim Petro, Ohio
Jeffrey Pine, Rhode Island
Warren Price III, Hawaii
Hector Richard, Puerto Rico
Clarine Nardi Riddle, Connecticut
Dennis Roberts, Rhode Island
Stephen Rosenthal, Virginia
Stephen Sachs, Maryland
James Shannon, Massachusetts
Mark Shurtleff, Utah
William Sorrell, Vermont
Robert Spagnoletti, District of Columbia
Robert Stephan, Kansas
Mary Sue Terry, Virginia
James Tierney, Maine
Anthony F. Troy, Virginia
Jim Guy Tucker, Arkansas
Paul Van Dam, Utah
Bob Wefald, North Dakota
Grant Woods, Arizona

*Bill Baxley practices law in Birmingham, Alabama

Equality and Liberty, Executive Power, First Amendment, Racial Justice