Marianne Mele Hall resigned from the Copyright Royalty Tribunal yesterday after a week-long public outcry over her role in editing a 1982 book considered insulting to blacks.
A White House spokesman said Hall handed in her letter of resignation late yesterday after more than a week of discussion with Reagan administration officials. "Officials here thought it was the best thing for all involved," the spokesman said. The resignation was effective immediately, he said.
The book, "Foundations of Sand," said that blacks "insist on preserving their jungle freedoms, their women, their avoidance of personal responsibility and their abhorrence of the work ethic." The book also criticized sociologists, who, it said, "put blacks on welfare so they can continue their jungle freedoms of leisure time and subsidized procreation."
Hall said on a Senate questionnaire that she was the book's "coauthor." When The Washington Post printed excerpts from the book on May 1, Hall said she had only edited it. She at first refused to say whether she agreed with the opinions in the book, then later called the views "repugnant."
Publicity over Hall's association with "Foundations of Sand" became a major political embarrassment to the White House, which eventually pressured her to quit, informed sources said.
Civil rights groups, the Congressional Black Caucus, other House Democrats and Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) had called for Hall to quit, and panels in the House and Senate had launched investigations to determine how Hall had been nominated and whether she had made any inconsistent statements in her sworn testimony.
The controversy also proved an embarrassment to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved Hall after a cursory investigation.
Mathias, in a statement, praised Hall's decision to step down, but added, "the American people deserve an explanation as to how this episode was permitted to occur and a statement of what will be done to prevent a recurrence."
Mathias said an investigation by a subcommittee he heads will continue in an effort to determine "what went wrong with this nomination both at the White House and here in the Senate."
The episode also cast a spotlight on other problems of the copyright tribunal, leading some legislators to question whether the tiny tribunal -- now with two members and three vacancies -- should continue to exist.
Rep. Robert W. Kastenmeier (D-Wis.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the tribunal, said, "Her resignation raises two larger questions -- first, the quality of the nominating process, and second, reform and the future of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal."
Hall was confirmed April 2 to the $70,000-a-year job of chairman of the tribunal, which sets the rate cable-television operators pay for the right to rebroadcast programs.
When Hall was first confirmed, she promised to be a reformer for the troubled agency, and she said she had plans for beefing up its professional staff and improving its record-keeping system. In confirmation hearings in March, she told Mathias, "This is a job I have always wanted and would be happy to stay in indefinitely."
Since the tribunal is independent, Reagan could not fire Hall, but sources said the White House had been applying pressure to her since the controversy began. Hall could not be reached for comment.
"They wanted her out fast," said one informed source, "but they were faced with a very unique situation, because all they could do was push. They recognized that she was a liability to them."