A presidential nominee to the federal bench was accused yesterday of making racial slurs, moving his children out of public schools to avoid court-ordered desegregation, and belonging to all-white private clubs.
The Senate Judiciary Comittee also heard conflicting evidence on whether L. T. Senter, nominated to the U.S. District Court in northern Mississippi, was at age 14 part of a mob that beat, shot and left for dead a black man suspected of raping a white woman.
Senter, a state circuit judge for 11 years, has said he watched as the mob attacked the black laborer outside Aberdeen, Miss., in 1947.
Yesterday, however, he told the Senate committee he recently discovered that this was incorrect. Instead, he said, the night before the attack he had briefly been on the fringes of a mob searching for the black, identified as "John the Baptist" Loyd .
Loyd, in an affidavit given the committee, said all the members of the mob were older men and Senter was not among them.
But spokesmen for several Mississippi civil rights groups said it was "common knowledge" in Aberdeen that Senter was present. They urged that Loyd and other witnesses, who they said had been intimidated from testifying, be subpoenaed to appear before the committee.
"The nomination of Judge Senter to the federal bench is an outrage and an insult to all black people in the state of Mississippi," and John Walker, southern regional director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers. "Not only has President Carter broken his promise to appoint a black to the federal bench in Mississippi before 1980, but he lacks sensitivity to minority and women's problems."
Senter was recommended for the post by Chairman John C. Stennis (D-Miss.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and has the support of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. Carter has been courting Stennins' support for the strategic arms limitation treaty now before the Senate.
Senter denied ever making racial slurs and pleaded loss of memory when questioned about the accusations that he belonged to all-white private clubs and had moved his children to an all-white academy 20 miles from home to avoid court-ordered desegregation.
On a questionaire filed with the committee, Senter originally omitted his membership in the all-white Aberdeen Country Club and when asked if any women and blacks were member of a foxhunting and fishing club to which he belongs, he replied, "Not known."
On the matter of racial slurs, Robert Clark, an attorney from Batesville, Miss., testified that as an intern in Senter's court he frequently heard the judge tell racial jokes and say things from the bench like "bring the nigger in" and "take that nigger from the courtroom."