The Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings on Attorney Geneal-designate Griffin B. Bell continued yesterday with black leaders taking sharply differing positions on his civil rights record.
Bell has become the most controversial of President-elect Jimmy Carter's Cabinet choices because of disputes about his role in the South's desgregation battles when he was an Atlanta lawyer and a federal appeals court judge.
Committee sources said Bell will be recalled for further testimony Monday, and added that they hope to conclude the hearings then. The committee has still not made a decision about when it will vote on Bell.
During the fourth day of hearings yesterday, Georgia state Sen. Julian Bond recalled Carter's slogan, "Why not the best?" and added: "Judge Bell is not the best."
Although Bond stopped short of saying he opposes Bell's confirmation, he said: "I think Judge Bell could make a good Attorney General. But upon reading the testimony that has gone before, he's going to have to prove it to me."
In 1966, Bell, then a judge of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled against Bond, who had appealed the Georgia legislature's refusal to seat him because of his statements against the Vietnam war. The Supreme Court later reversed Bell, and, during the hearings, Bell has admitted it was a wrong decision.
Bond said yesterday that he bears "no malice" toward Bell over the decision. But he insisted that the case was an important one because it involved First Amendment issues of free speech.
"In those troubled days when critics of the war turned to the federal courts to protect their rights to express their views, most judges passed the test posed by that litigation," Bond said. "Judge Bell failed."
Bell won endorsement from Roy Innis, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, who said his organization does not agree with the attitudes of "the Washington-based barons" of older civil rights groups such as the NAACP.
Innis said he believes Bell would listen to the opinions of black groups other than the NAACP. He added: "CORE does not intend to live in the past on Bell. We are willing to take a chance on the present and the future."
Bond, who later talked with reporters outside the hearing room, called Innis "an apologist for segregated schools." Of Bell, Bond said, "I don't think he's a bigot. He's a turkey."
Bond, the president of the NAACP's Atlanta branch, said he decided to testify because he knew that many black leaders were angered by the Bell nomination but reluctant to speak out against it because they are hopeful of jobs in the Carter administration.
"Potomac fever has started to replace sickle cell anemia as the black people's disease," he said.