A. PHILIP RANDOLPH, the great labor leader and patriarch of the civil rights movement, was the titular director of the March on Washington that took place in this city 24 years ago this week. But the planner, the detail man and the organizer was his deputy, Bayard Rustin, who died Monday in New York. That gathering -- powerful, peaceful and persuasive -- was a triumph not only for the movement but for the man who made the massive demonstration work.
Mr. Rustin was a leading figure in the civil rights struggle, but he was not a lobbyist or the head of a large membership organization. He was an organizer whose talents were demonstrated in bus boycotts, antiwar marches, school protests and voting-rights demonstrations. He understood theater, but he emphasized that public protests had to be more than that. A demonstration should have a specific objective, he believed. The form of the protest should be related to that objective and ought to lead to negotiation. Trashing streets, blocking traffic and other acts designed simply to vent anger and frustration were not for him. Nor was violence in any form.
He had a talent for getting authorities to cooperate in demonstrations that were directed against their power. This kind of careful planning and, where possible, cooperation with government officials characterized the 1963 march and contributed to its success. He worked to involve whites and labor and religious groups so that the theme of protest was not "us against them" but "all of us against injustice."
In 1965, a controversy arose when he was invited to address a meeting of law-enforcement officers at the University of Maryland, and he refused to sign a loyalty oath then required of campus speakers. The university relented, and his subsequent talk was characteristically conciliatory. Instead of haranguing the police -- which might have been popular in those days -- he urged them to support the war on poverty and the drive for social legislation as a way of fulfilling their responsibilities as peace officers.
As a black American, a war resister and a one-time Communist, Bayard Rustin had to overcome prejudice of many kinds. He continued to work for racial and economic justice. He was an important force in bringing more of both to this country.