Civil Rights Panel Chief Calls S.D. Racially Healthy

Times Staff Writer

Clarence Pendleton, chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, appeared before the San Diego Press Club on Tuesday to speak about racism in San Diego. It took 35 seconds.

"You want me to talk about racism in San Diego and I can dispense with that rather rapidly," Pendleton said. "I think San Diego has an extremely healthy racial climate." Pendleton, former head of the San Diego Urban League, is a controversial and outspoken black conservative who has questioned the need for the commission he heads. He moved to San Diego 15 years ago to work on a Model Cities program.

"I think I'm an example of one who could come to this town and decide you want to work hard and begin to mingle with those folks who get things done, whether they're the upper crust or the lower crust," Pendleton said.

"The avenues are open for you. This is not to say that San Diego doesn't have its racial problems. I encountered one one day."

Mistaken Identity

He went on to tell an anecdote--which lasted another minute and 20 seconds--about a party he and his wife attended at the La Jolla home of arts patron Danah Fayman. Several guests mistook him for piano player Bobby Short, a companion of clothing designer Gloria Vanderbilt.

"You know my wife is white," Pendleton said. "I said, 'Ah, I know what it is. It was impossible for a black man to be in Danah Fayman's house in a tuxedo with a white woman and not be Bobby Short.

"If one cannot laugh about that one really has some problems," Pendleton said. "I do get these kinds of moments."

For the rest of his 30-minute speech at the Horton Grand Hotel, Pendleton spoke about his dislike for affirmative action programs and civil rights legislation. Under his leadership, Pendleton said, the commission did a study that showed that no gains in minority status could be attributed to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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