Saturday, July 2, 2011

Truth from the NYT Obituary of Richard H. Poff, Retired Virginia Supreme Court Justice

Congressman Richard Poff
As a young man of this era,  I confess some embarrassment at not remembering Richard H. Poff a Virginia Congressman that Richard Nixon nearly nominated to the US Supreme Court in 1971 to replace Justice Hugo O. Black, Lewis Powell received the nomination instead.  Poff who died Tuesday at age 87, withdrew from consideration because he was ashamed of his anti-civil rights voting record especially his publicly-professed segregationist views.  Poff aggressively abandoned those views and engaged in a remarkable public mea culpa over his calculated segregationist politics which he shared with his generation of Southern republicans. 

Poff said, "I can only say that segregation is wrong yesterday, segregation was never right.  But is is one of the most lamentable frailties of mankind that when one's wrong is most grievous, his self-justification is most passionate, perhaps in the pitiful hope that the fervor of his self-defense will some how prove him right.  But this doesn't make it so.  And he doesn't foll himself."

Last week, I had the occasion to formally revisit some of my worst professional misconduct dating back to 2003-7 with precisely the same feeling of self-loathing.  No one, can punish you for a moral or ethical wrong more than you yourself can, if you have the capacity to be honest.   Richard Poff went on to redeem his error, I fervently hope to retain at least the hope that I might someday be able to.  We'll see.

1 comment:

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