- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams welcomed friends and family into his Northeast Capitol Hill home yesterday morning to pay homage to pioneers of the black conservative movement.

The breakfast reception was in honor of seven black Republican presidential appointees from President Nixon to President Reagan, and each was presented with a commemorative coin honoring Crispus Attucks, a black man who was the first American casualty of the Revolutionary War.

“There is a lot of history in this room,” said David Smith, owner of Sinclair Broadcasting, who attended the affair.

Among the honorees were President Reagan appointees Sam Cornelius and Antoinette “Toni” Ford, President Ford appointee Lenora Cole Alexander and President Nixon appointees John Wilkes and Robert Brown.

“These are the people who are the architects and builders of the black conservative movement,” Mr. Williams said.

The honorees told stories about the days when a person could count on one hand the number of black Republicans in Washington.

“I came here with the ‘Kansas Mafia’ with Senator Bob Dole, and when I came into the party, they didn’t call us conservative — they called us radicals,” said Mr. Cornelius, who was deputy director of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise for Mr. Reagan.

“President Bush is on the right track with the ownership society, because that is exactly what we did creating 500,000 new businesses in the 1970s under Nixon,” Mr. Cornelius said.

Mr. Wilkes, who Nixon appointed as deputy secretary in the Department of Labor and assigned to create sound regulations for affirmative action, recalled how “nobody wanted to deal with us.”

“All of these job opportunities and business opportunities were a result of Nixon’s policies, and I am proud to have been a part of that,” Mr. Wilkes said.

Mrs. Alexander, who was director of the Women’s Bureau for the Department of Labor under President Ford, said the black conservative has changed since she first walked through the White House door. She said she is proud of their achievements but saddened that it is no longer a “close-knit” group.

“I come from a fourth-generation Republican family, but around here there were very few of us and we all were a family, but it’s not the same closeness now,” Mrs. Alexander said.

Miss Ford, appointed by Mr. Reagan as assistant administrator of the Agency for International Development for the U.S. International Development Cooperation Agency, said it is a shame that black Republicans don’t organize the way they used to.

“It pains us that with all the blacks working in this administration we cannot name anyone besides the ones who appear on television,” Miss Ford said.

Mr. Brown, dubbed the “godfather” by his peers, took time to thank Mr. Williams for the honor and to encourage him in his time of turmoil, rather than give a long speech.

“He has been close to my family and my political family for a long time, and I wanted him to know that he still has a lot of friends,” said Mr. Brown, who was a special assistant to Mr. Nixon.

Mr. Williams was accused of violating journalism ethics when it was discovered he accepted a $240,000 advertising contract from the Department of Education without disclosing it to news outlets that run his columns and his radio and TV show.

He has since apologized for the misstep.

Unable to attend were Art Fletcher, who was assistant secretary of the Department of Labor under Mr. Reagan, and Robert Wright, the first director of the Office on African American Outreach for the Republican National Committee, also under Mr. Reagan.

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