Brian F. Weber was trying to answer a reporter's questions and keep track of the blizzard of telephone messages on his attorney's desk.

When a photographer asked for permission to take pictures, Weber, 32, said, "Sure you can, but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to smile."

About an hour before, Weber had learned that he had lost his 1974 lawsuit against his employer, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Co., when the Supreme Court decided that employers sometimes may use racial quotas in helping minority workers.

The impact of what had happened - the end of nearly five years of legal work - was sinking in on Weber like a slow-motion knockout punch. As he talked, his head rocked back and forth. Sometimes he covered his face with his hands.

"I was really disappointed," said Weber, a white laboratory technician at Kaiser's Gramercy plant, about 45 miles upriver from New Orleans. "I was confident that we could win. Although I knew we could also lose, I knew we were right. I knew it was wrong to take someone else [in a training program] because of his race. . . . I think we fought a good fight.

"I believe this decision is going to have a negative effect on people all over the country toward blacks, and it shouldn't. It's not the blacks we were fighting, but the law. It was not a personal thing."

Weber doubted that he wil receive an adverse reception from his fellow workers. 'I think their reaction will be - at least, I hope their reaction will be that I did what I had to do, and now we have to live with it."

I'm kind of sick this morning," said Michael Fontham, Weber's lawyer. "I'm a little surprised at the decision but I was not really that optimistic. There were only seven justices [voting] and most of them were not inclined our way . . . Maybe we'll apply for a reahearing, but there's not much chance of that."

Within an hour of today's decision, 70 telephone calls had poured into the law firm from news organizations all over the country.

At first, Weber took the calls, but eventually the backlog became so great he was forced to take messages and return the calls.

Reporters and camera crews crowded into the building in New Orlean's central business district. After his interview, Weber went to a local television station to appear on a noon news broadcast. Then he flew to New York to be on the "Today" show Thursday.

Weber says he plans to return to work at Kaiser, where, while his case was pending, he had posed at the plant gate wearing a hard hat with a flag decal on it.