Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Roger Baldwin - 95, founder of the American Civil liberties Union, dressed in business-suit gray - took a sip of his Manhattan and declared that he had never had a fight in his life.
"I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I wouldn't participate in violence," he announced in a firm tone. "I never hit anybody in my life and never was hit in my life. I was always that way - from the time I was a small boy. I was always a pacifist."
So when Baldwin was asked Wednesday night at the ACLU's Henry W. Edgerton Annual Dinner at the Washington Hilton - where he was honored with a testimonial salute - why he started the American Civil Liberties Union, he raised his eyebrows and said, "Oh, we had to. The war was on."
What he started after World War I was declared and after he himself had served a year in jail for refusing to serve, was a civil liberties union for people who "needed defense and needed lawyers."
The dinner was a gathering of so many "old and new liberals," many of whom had worked together in various pursuits, that Sterling Tucker, D.C.City Council chairman, said it was like "old home week."
In the past 50-plus years, the ACLU has lobbied for or legally defended those whose civil rights were felt to be violated, including both blacks and the Ku Klux Klan. "Well, we tried g both blacks and the Ku Klux win, "but they wouldn't accept our lawyers. They were suspicious."
But Frank Sneppto defend the KKK," said Baldwin, but they wouldn't accept our lawyers. They were suspicious."
But Frank Snepp, the former CIA agent whose book about the agency a court has declared violated his contract with the agency, accepted the ACLU's help recently, in the appeal of the decision.
Have you been vindicated yet?" asked Baldwin with a smile as he stopped at the dinner to speak with Snepp.
"It's difficult to rally liberal support, because I'm from the CIA," said Snepp. "It takes a great leap of faith for the ACLU to support me. But they're very concerned about the First Amendment implications of this case and they've rallied to my side. If the ACLU had not picked up this case I'd be in difficult strait. The money I may get (when this case is settled will be devoted to helping the ACLU."
The ACLU awarded plaques to three people instrumental in pushing the resolutions for full voting rights for the District of Columbia through the House and the Senate - Del. Walter Fauntroy, who introduced the bill in the House, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was not there; and Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.).