Friday, January 2, 2009

Peacemaker Wood

Another tribute to Judge Wood:
The life of a giant peacemaker came to an end Monday with the death of Harlington Wood Jr., who attained the rank of federal appellate judge before health problems brought his remarkable public career to an end.

At 6 feet 4, he was a giant in height, matching precisely the stature of Abraham Lincoln, his lifelong hero and inspiration. He earned the title of peacemaker through his masterful work as head of the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Nixon administration.

A veteran of Army service in Europe in World War II, he was transferred to the Far East Theater late in the conflict. He was selected as one of the officers who signed surrender documents of Japanese forces in the Philippines.

He recognized and protected the right of citizens to protest, but he insisted on policies that avoided bloodshed.

His most notable and courageous service as peacemaker occurred in 1973 when he skillfully forced the Nixon administration to abandon plans to subdue by military force a Native American protest at Wounded Knee, an historic settlement in South Dakota.

When he entered the scene, hostile fire was being exchanged on a daily basis between Indians and local authorities. He told his superiors he would resign his position rather than be a party to forcible takeover by Army units. He was convinced a military assault would lead to a needless massacre.

Wood entered the hostile environment alone and unarmed, then followed through with negotiations that three months later settled the dispute without a shot being fired or a person injured.

As head of the civil division, he also directed plans that kept anti-war protests in Washington, D.C., and at national presidential nominating conventions in 1972 in Miami from becoming violent. He later brought about a peaceful solution of a Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island near San Francisco. . . .
from Paul Findley, "Peacemaker Wood had a remarkable career" State Journal-Register, January 2, 2009.

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