Arthur Fletcher
Chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights
In office
PresidentGeorge H.W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Preceded byWilliam B. Allen
Succeeded byMary Frances Berry
Personal details
Arthur Allen Fletcher

(1924-12-22)December 22, 1924
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
DiedJuly 12, 2005(2005-07-12) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
EducationWashburn University (BA)
La Salle Extension University (LLB)

Arthur Allen Fletcher (December 22, 1924 – July 12, 2005) was an American government official, widely referred to as the "father of affirmative action" as he was largely responsible for the Revised Philadelphia Plan.


Arthur Fletcher, a Republican, graduated from Washburn University and obtained a degree from distance learning school La Salle Extension University.[1]

Fletcher moved with his wife, Bernyce, and two youngest children to Pasco, Washington, where he took a job with the Hanford Atomic Energy Project. He also organized a community self-help program in predominantly black East Pasco and landed a seat on the Pasco City Council. In 1968, Fletcher ran for Lieutenant Governor of Washington State and narrowly lost to the incumbent, John Cherberg. Fletcher was the first African American in Washington as well as the West to contest a statewide electoral office.[2] During the campaign, his driver and bodyguard was Ted Bundy, the serial killer who was active in Republican Party politics in the late 1960s through the early 1970s.[3]

Fletcher's close race for Lieutenant Governor got the attention of newly elected President Richard Nixon, who gave Fletcher a job in the incoming administration as Assistant Secretary of Labor. An African American, he served in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush administrations.[4]

In 1978, Fletcher ran for mayor of Washington, D.C., but was defeated by the popular Democrat Marion Barry.[5] In 1995, he briefly pursued a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.[6]

Numbers of his fellow Republicans were often at odds with the affirmative action policies which Fletcher initiated[7] and supported as the chairman from 1990 to 1993 of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

As head of the United Negro College Fund, Fletcher was rumored to have coined the famous slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."[8] In point of fact, however, the motto was created by Forest Long, of the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, in partnership with the Ad Council.[9]

Fletcher was a United States Army veteran during World War II and upon his death in 2005 was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[10]


  1. ^ Holley, Joe (July 14, 2005). "Affirmative Action Pioneer Advised GOP Presidents". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 11, 2008.
  2. ^ McGann, Chris (July 13, 2005). "Arthur Fletcher, 1924–2005: Mission was carving out opportunity for minorities".
  3. ^ Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me p. 15. 1980. Penguin Putnam. New York, NY.
  4. ^ NPR obituary, in RealAudio or for Windows Media Player. Accessed July 20, 2005.
  5. ^ "Barry Gets 71 Pct. for Mayor of D.C." Youngstown Vindicator, via Google News. Associated Press. November 8, 1978.
  6. ^ NPR commentary by his granddaughter, KUOW-FM reporter and producer Phyllis Fletcher. Accessed June 20, 2006.
  7. ^ Presidential adviser Arthur Fletcher, 80, dies, the obituary on MSN. Accessed July 20, 2005.
  8. ^ Arthur Fletcher Archived July 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine on Accessed July 20, 2005.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Hrenchir, Tim. "History Guy: Former Topekan Fletcher was 'father of Affirmative Action'". The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Further reading

Party political offices Preceded byJackson Champion Republican nominee for Mayor of the District of Columbia 1978 Succeeded byBrooke Lee Government offices Preceded byWilliam B. Allen Chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights 1990–1993 Succeeded byMary Frances Berry