William Bradford Reynolds (and other Reagan administration counterrevolutionaries who are subverting the original purpose of so many federal agencies) would appreciate this 19- year-old story.

Claire Crawford, a Washington journalist then with the old Daily News, learned that a White Citizens Council was being formed in Prince George's County, so she talked a colleague, Tom Kelly, into joining her in infiltrating the fledgling outfit. She was elected secretary, and Kelly became membership chairman. The two of them, in what today would be considered journalistic overinvolvement, recruited so many of their liberal friends that they soon constituted the majority of the putatively racist organization.

So rapidly did the Prince George's WCC gow that it was cited as a model by the group's national organizers -- until, at the propitious moment, the liberal infiltrators revealed themselves and voted to turn the local council into a chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality.

If what Crawford and Kelly did seemed reasonable to those who saw themselves as part of a civil rights revolution, then what Brad Reynolds, et al., are doing must seem reasonable to those who see themselves as part of a domestic counterrevolution designed to undo the excesses of the civil rights movement and the Great Society.

Reynolds is assistant attorney general for civil rights, an office created expressly to further the attempts of blacks to gain full equality. This was the office from which voting-rights enforcement was initiated; which was empowered, on its own, to bring fair-housing or public accommodations suits; which had, and frequently exercised, the authority to instigate school desegregation cases.

Reynolds the infiltrator has now filed a br in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit seeking the dismantling of a Norfolk busing plan, even though (he acknowledges) to do so would increase the degree of racial isolation in the city's public schools.

His two-pronged rationale is that (1)ending the busing plan is a legitimate means for stemming white flight and (2)since a court has already ruled that the busing plan effectively ended Norfolk's dual school system, school officials are now free to do whatever they wish, so long as its purpose is not discriminatory. His notion, which he says could affect "many, many other school districts around the country, is that since the medicine did what it was supposed to do, it is now all right to suspend medication -- even while acknowledging that the disease will return.

Reynolds might find it strange to hear his involvement described as devious by one who has argued that blacks have too freely spent time, money and political capital pursuing school integration, resources that might better have been applied to improving education for black children.

But mine was never a legal argument. It was a practical political one. My view is that, since it is on behalf of black plaintiffs that school desegregation suits are brought, blacks themselves might reasonably consider other approaches. It has long been obvious to me that getting black children into classrooms with white children is not synonymous with improving their education. But mine is an advisory opinion, suggesting to blacks how they might best further their interests. Reynolds' is a legal opinion that seeks to take from blacks the right to pursue their favored approach.

It is one thing to try to sell victims of discrimination on a different approach; quite another for the federal official charged with protecting their rights to opppose them in court.

If Reynolds had a record of genuine concern for the civil rights of black Americans, it would be easier to credit his good intentions. His actual record seems more in line with the 1965 tactic of Crawford and Kelly: an attempt to transform his office into the opposite of what it was designed to be.